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Finding Opportunities for Growth

a male undergraduate student in a greenhouse

Brady Farlow knew about the impact of scholarships before he even came to NC State. A scholarship afforded him the trip of a lifetime — a monthlong adventure in Spain the summer after high school. This experience made Farlow a big advocate for both study abroad and scholarships.

“You have to take advantage of the opportunities around you,” he said. One glance at Farlow’s NC State resume confirms that he has taken that advice seriously.

Farlow, a second-year horticulture and Spanish double major with a focus on plant breeding and biotechnology, is active on campus and the recipient of two highly sought-after scholarships, the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship and the Dr. Caroline Laundon Family Extraordinary Opportunity Scholarship.

Only 10 to 15 incoming students are chosen each year for the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship, which supports hardworking scholars planning to double major between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Additionally, Farlow is one of more than 140 students to receive a scholarship through NC State’s Extraordinary Opportunity Scholarship Initiative since it was announced in spring 2020.

Why Plants?

Farlow has known for a while that he wanted to work with plants.

“When I was little, I used to help my grandma plant flowers, like those big, bright, yellow smiling pansies with the generous black blotch in the middle. Then, I didn’t think about plants for a long time,” said Farlow, who grew up in Wallburg, a small town outside of High Point. “But in my freshman year of high school, they offered horticulture classes. I didn’t even know what that word meant.”

After figuring out what the class was about, Farlow decided to enroll. Horticulture quickly became a passion. His school had a greenhouse and even allowed the class to beautify their campus grounds with their favorite plants, including some grown from seeds purchased with grants he helped write. Farlow’s teacher had received a degree through NC State’s Agricultural Institute and urged Farlow to go to the same university.

“She told me, ‘You have to go there. That’s where all the people go who are just as crazy about plants as you,’” Farlow said.

With extended family who were also NC State graduates, the tally marks in the university’s favor started adding up. When Farlow saw how much plant research was being done, he knew NC State would probably be the right choice for him.

He was already considering a Spanish minor and he saw a fitting opportunity in the Thomas Jefferson Scholars program to turn that minor into a second major.

Although he didn’t get to tour campus before he started school because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Farlow says NC State has been the perfect fit.

The professors in his programs are passionate, supportive and knowledgeable, he said. The professor for his ornamental plant identification course, Brian Jackson, is the first to come to mind.

“It feels like you’re talking to an open book. [Jackson] is so enthusiastic about plants, and excited to help and teach you,” said Farlow. “I want to be that way for whatever I end up doing. I want to give people of all language backgrounds the opportunity to enjoy plants.”

“I think I want to do plant breeding, whether it’s with ornamental or flowering plants. I’ve also been thinking recently about grape breeding abroad, especially with my Spanish background,” he said.

He adds that while he would love to live abroad, he also knows Spanish is a useful skill in the United States. “I would love to help bridge the gap between Spanish and English speakers, specifically in the plant world here.”

Making NC State a Home

Since starting his NC State career, Farlow has found that while university enrollment is high, the campus community feels small and closely interconnected.

“New students have the opportunity of a big campus with plenty of small places for you to fit into. Don’t hesitate to do activities that interest you,” Farlow recommended. “At the end of the day, it’ll be time well spent: You either meet someone or learn something new.”

Farlow takes advantage of his proximity to everything across the university, especially while he lives on campus. He’s a dedicated member of the Horticulture Club, in addition to serving as an officer for VOLAR and a representative for the CALS Agri-Life Council. He also has been part of the Spanish Club.

With so many opportunities all around, Farlow has had to develop the valuable skill of time management.

“I had to kind of learn how to learn. College is very different from high school, and especially having to go between Spanish and the plant sciences, I’ve had to learn how to balance my educational and social needs.”

Scholarships Allow for Passion

Farlow is able to take fuller advantage of his time at NC State thanks to two generous scholarships — the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship and the Dr. Caroline Laundon Family Extraordinary Opportunity Scholarship.

Laundon was a 1976 College of Sciences graduate whose dedication to NC State never waivered. She was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi honor society as an alumna and served as a board member of the Alumni Association. She, along with her husband, was always a generous NC State donor.

I want to be able to continue giving the opportunity to others to pursue their passion the same way I can pursue mine.

Her family, including husband Thomas K. Laundon ’75 and sons Russell ’04, Kregg and Will ’14, established the Dr. Caroline Laundon Family Extraordinary Scholarship Initiative Endowment in her memory in 2021. The scholarship primarily supports North Carolinians studying in the College of Engineering, College of Sciences or in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, like Farlow.

“She sounds like someone who was incredibly knowledgeable and a huge mentor. Her story inspires me to be the best version of myself,” Farlow said. “I want to be able to continue giving the opportunity to others to pursue their passion the same way I can pursue mine.”

The Extraordinary Opportunity Scholarship Initiative was started during the Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign to bridge the gap between education and financial need, empowering more North Carolinians to successfully reach commencement. Donors rallied behind this initiative. So far, 62 endowed scholarship funds have been created through this initiative and annual gifts also contribute.

“If you’re thinking about supporting scholarships, do it. No matter who receives the scholarship, it’s going to a student who is passionate and hardworking,” Farlow said. “And to the Laundon Family, thank you a million times over.”

This post was originally published in Giving News.