Meet the 2021 Leader of the Pack Nominees

Memorial Belltower lit up red

The Leader of the Pack program honors and recognizes students for outstanding contributions in leadership, scholarship and service. This program has long been a tradition on campus, dating back to the 1990s. 

While originally known as the Homecoming King and Queen Competition, the award transitioned to a more inclusive and equitable process — removing the gendered structure and focusing on scholarship, leadership, a commitment to creating an inclusive campus community, and service to the campus and broader community. Six students will be recognized as finalists and the Leader of the Pack will be named at halftime of the Red and White Week game on Saturday, October 30, 2021.

Student Leadership and Engagement is honored and excited to recognize its six finalists for 2021 below:

A graphic that reads "Leader of the Pack and contains photos of the six finalists
Top row, from left: Peyton Barrish, Sarah Hall and Grant Bernard; bottom row, from left: Lacey Malinsky, Lizzie Dunsmore and James Cooley

Peyton Barish (he/him/his) was born and raised in Cary, N.C. Peyton is a Caldwell Fellow majoring in political science with minors in history and philosophy. During his time at NC State, he has served as the outreach director for Pack United, a mentor at Neighbor 2 Neighbor, and a facilitator for the Campus Conversations Project. It has been the greatest joy of his life working with the fellow student-athletes who make up Pack United and the athletic directors who have supported them every step of the way. He hopes to inspire others to unite their purpose and passion to create change in their community. After graduation, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in public policy, focusing on education and criminal justice reform.

Sarah Hall (she/her/hers) is a Goodnight Scholar from Cary, N.C. in her fourth-year majoring in biomedical engineering with minors in French language and biological sciences. During her time at NC State, Hall has been a case design team leader and case manager for the Helping Hands Project, an ambassador and mentor with the Goodnight Scholars Program, an Ambassador with the College of Engineering, an undergraduate teaching assistant, and an undergraduate research assistant at the College of Veterinary Medicine. She has also participated in Alternative Service Break trips to Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago and studied abroad in Lille, France. She is passionate about combating global health inequalities and engineering solutions in medicine to increase access to healthcare. After graduation, she will be working full-time in vaccine manufacturing as a process engineer at Merck.

Grant Bernard Gibson (he/him/his) was born and raised in Charlotte, N.C. He is a graduate student working towards his master of management in marketing analytics. He is a recent May 2021 graduate of NC State, receiving his bachelor of science degree in business administration with a concentration in operations and supply chain management while also minoring in leadership with cross-disciplinary perspectives. During his time at NC State he has been a three-year starter on the NC State football team, a two time team captain, treasurer for Pack United, a member of the Student Athlete Advising Committee, founder of Pack Shop: Choppin’ It Up, and co-founder of Pack Talks. He is very passionate about making a difference and having an impact on the world so that it will be better for the next generation. He enjoys making a difference in the lives of the people around him by always bringing positive energy.

Lacey Malinsky (she/her/hers) is originally from the small town of Lumberton, N.C. She is a Goodnight Scholar and fourth-year majoring in biological sciences and minoring in biotechnology and nonprofit studies. Throughout her time at NC State she has served as a Service Raleigh committee member, TRIO Collegiate tutor, Social Innovation Fellow, as well as a Goodnight Scholars ambassador and first-year mentor. She has also participated in two service-learning internships at local nonprofits that focused on equity in healthcare and education. She is passionate about finding creative and sustainable ways to meet the basic needs of all people, and hopes to build a career at the intersection of healthcare and nonprofits. Upon graduation, she plans to take a gap year before applying to medical school.

Lizzie Dunsmore (she/her/hers) is a fourth-year majoring in chemistry with a minor in psychology from Blacksburg, Va. Her appreciation of the NC State community led her to serve as an orientation leader. She has also contributed to the Mental Health Ambassadors program and the Alternative Service Break program. She is passionate about reducing stigma and developing resiliency through forming community. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school in higher education, where she hopes to work with students to help them find connections on college campuses.

James Cooley (he/him/his) is from Rockingham, N.C. He is a fourth-year majoring in political science with a minor in social work. During his time at NC State, he has been a Chancellor’s Aide, Civically Engaged Scholar, GLBT student advocate, student engagement intern, general manager of College Mentors for Kids, two-time Alternative Service Break participant, and member of the State Chorale. He is passionate about social justice and racial equity. He served as a Black Lives Matter protest organizer and was instrumental in getting the Confederate monument in the center of his hometown removed. He is leading an Alternative Service Break trip to Puerto Rico this spring for hurricane relief and hopes to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer after graduation.

Voting is open to the student body through 8 p.m. on Tuesday, October 26 EDT at The student body vote will contribute to the overall score to determine the recipient of the Leader of the Pack award and scholarship on Saturday, Oct. 30 at the Homecoming football game.

This post was originally published in DASA.

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