A Change in Direction

Growing up in Shelby, Jess Errico was sure she wanted to be an astronaut.

In fact, the topic came up freshman year during her interview for NC State University’s Caldwell Fellows Program. She remembers being asked if that career path was non-negotiable for her, or whether she felt she could change direction.

“It sure was indicative of what was to come,” Errico said.

Now a senior, double-majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering, Errico has plans to graduate in May 2019 and go to law school instead.

She credits the Caldwell Fellows Program with setting the tone for that transition.

“The program teaches you that it’s OK to change direction. More specifically, the program encourages your personal development and the development of the community.”

The transition began as soon as Errico arrived at NC State. She applied and was accepted to the Student Conduct Board with the Student Government Association during her freshman year, and quickly learned she had a passion for student conduct and student-peer accountability. The Conduct Board is responsible for reviewing potential violations of the Code of Student Conduct and educating the university population about the rules, polices and regulations contained in the code, according to NC State’s Office of Student Conduct.

Errico worked her way up on the board, serving in a variety of roles. In February 2017, she was elected student chief justice. In that role, Errico served as the board’s primary hearing officer.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to serve in this role where it’s peers holding peers accountable – having conversations about what led them astray and what’s going to help them the most to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she said.

A few weeks ago, she was elected student body president. Errico is transitioning to the Student Government Association leadership role by bringing those themes of student advocacy and accountability along with her.

“I ran for student body president alongside my vice president, Meredith Spence Beaulieu, based on the idea of student advocacy as the central pillar of everything we do,” Errico said. “For us, that advocacy is achieved through professional, two-way communication while building community and kinship both within student government and as part of the greater Wolfpack community.

“Coming from the side of student government – judicial – where I was interacting with students on behalf of administration, I was ready to move to a role where I could utilize those connections to administrators and university leadership to begin talking to administration on behalf of students.”

Errico said the Caldwell Fellows Program’s leadership experiences helped equip her for the role she now holds.

“The great thing about Caldwell, and what I appreciate most, is the numerous opportunities it gives us in leadership development, personal development and mentorship,” Errico said. “It helped me develop as a person and has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to afford.”

One such opportunity was the opportunity to travel to the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro. Currently, each Caldwell Fellow attends a three-day capstone leadership training there during their junior or senior year.

“The leadership experience there helped equip me for the leadership role I have now,” Errico said.

She said her experience leads her to believe that incoming students should take advantage of the opportunities NC State affords, as soon as they arrive on campus.

“Come in and hit the ground running – both in academics and extracurriculars,” Errico said. “There’s a big difference between finding your passion junior year and finding it freshman year, when you can have all four years to experience it.”