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Group of Mackenize gap year fellowship students

Doug Mackenzie and Dean Terry Rhodes (third and fourth from left) spent time with students at a fellowship gathering in fall 2020. (courtesy of Doug Mackenzie)

Do you ever wish you could take time off to travel the world for a year?

Thanks to the Mackenzie Family Global Gap Year Fund, some Carolina students are doing just that before they even set foot on campus.

Carolina parents Doug and Shawn Mackenzie, through their family foundation, have enabled the College of Arts & Sciences to partner with the Campus Y to support the Global Gap Year Fellowship. This university-sponsored program, which began in 2011, allows admitted students to spend a year abroad performing public service. Students can select locations and service areas of their choosing or participate in existing programs through the organization Global Citizen Year.

“We work with students to help identify areas of interest and passion to find placements that align with those interests,” said Sarah Smith, director of the fellowship program. “Our students do a wide variety of service, including environmental preservation, animal care, teaching English, working on social innovation projects and entrepreneurship, art education — anything that gives back to the social good.”

The Global Gap Year Fellowship provides life-changing opportunities for students. It allows them to gain experiences, knowledge and maturity.

“Coming in fresh out of high school, a lot of students haven’t had a chance to explore and do things on their own, so this offers them the opportunity to do so with a support system in place,” Smith said. “For many students, this means managing their finances for the first time, trouble-shooting and resolving conflicts — all really important skills to have as adults.”

The program doesn’t stop once students complete their travels and begin classes at Carolina.  They continue to be supported through skill-based trainings, community-building events and social activities.

The students who participate in the program are outstanding, Smith said, and they arrive at Carolina energized and ready to make a difference. Simone McFarlane ’24, an environmental sciences major, spent 2019-2020 in Mexico and Colombia. While in Mexico, McFarlane worked in a health clinic, creating awareness campaigns around sexual health and gender violence. In Colombia, she taught English and developed a curriculum highlighting Afro-Colombian history.  McFarlane is now a Robertson Scholar and is involved with the program’s service committee.

“My gap year was the most exhilarating experience of my life,” McFarlane said. “Never before have I felt so close to myself; living in new environments enhanced my self-awareness and humility, and these traits have invigorated my curiosity about this world!”

Doug Mackenzie’s driving motivation for investing in the gap year fellowships stems from his commitment to students’ personal development.

“I have a strong belief in the value of an opportunity at a coming-of-age moment and being put in uncomfortable situations as a young adult — learning how to overcome obstacles, learning about oneself, developing a sense of self-reliance and the value of that knowledge at that point in life,” he said.

Mackenzie, a founder and partner with Radar Partners, a private investment firm, is no stranger to Carolina. His daughter, Alyson, is a 2011 graduate, and son, Andrew, graduated in 2014. The family’s commitment spans the breadth of the College — they also established the Mackenzie Family Eminent Distinguished Professorship in Applied Sciences, the Mackenzie Family Foundation Innovation Scholarship and the Mackenzie Family Foundation Fund for Excellence in Entrepreneurship. Last October, he received the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award honoring his support.

Through the Mackenzies’ vision and generosity, the Global Gap Year Fellowship is positioned to change the lives of deserving students for years to come.

Editor’s note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Global Gap Year Fellows have served in the United States due to international travel restrictions.

By Mary Moorefield (M.A. ’20)

Published in the Spring 2022 issue | The Scoop

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