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Cassidy McFadden, Riley Riggs, Jordan Gilchrist, Casandra Douglass and Cody Brandon reflect on their 2024 Homecoming Court nominations

The Seahawk met with the 2024 Homecoming Court Nominees to discuss their involvement about UNCW and their goals post-graduation.  

 

Cassidy McFadden  

For nominee Cassidy McFadden, being a Seahawk is the continuance of a family tradition. McFadden’s parents met during their freshmen year at UNCW, and she grew up visiting the university. Since her freshman year, McFadden has worked to cultivate her own community on campus by involving her friends in hands-on activities.  

McFadden is the daughter of two UNCW alumni and was nominated by Campus Life: Student Community Engagement. (Courtesy: Cassidy McFadden)

McFadden was nominated by Campus Life: Student Community Engagement. She worked as a project manager with Campus Life and served as the 2022 and 2023 MVP Hunger Ambassador. As the Hunger Ambassador, McFadden collaborated with different on-campus organizations to participate in the N.C. Collegiate Hunger Challenge. Before her experience with the challenge, McFadden was unfamiliar with the prevalence of food insecurity on college campuses. 

“I think a lot of people, including me before then, just kind of assume like—oh, if you can afford to go to college, you can afford to buy food, like there’s no worry, but that’s not that case at all,” said McFadden. “Everything is circumstantial.” 

McFadden is currently completing an internship in Richmond, Va. focused on adaptive sports. Passionate about providing opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in sports, she was actively involved in wheelchair basketball and attended The Warrior Games, an adaptive sports tournament for injured veterans. McFadden refers to her career goals as purposeful play, highlighting the intentionality that goes into every activity. Post-grad, she intends to continue raising awareness for adaptive sports and to one day open a community center.  

McFadden was involved in wheelchair basketball at UNCW and is passionate about adaptive sports. (Courtesy: Cassidy McFadden)

To students interested in finding new involvement opportunities on campus, McFadden recommends discovering what they are passionate about by trying new opportunities and being open to the process. She took part in several organizations and positions that combined her interests, like Crossway College and her role as a summer tour guide.  

“Figuring out what you love may look like doing a lot of stuff and getting involved in a bunch of places,” said McFadden, “but I do think it’s important to really try to narrow down into doing stuff that you’re passionate about.” 

 

Riley Riggs 

Riggs in front of the Eiffel Tower. (Courtesy: Reily Riggs)

Finding people with similar interests and getting involved is a big part of what makes UNCW home for nominee Riley Riggs. Riggs was nominated by the Association for Campus Entertainment (ACE) and currently serves as the Vice President of Marketing for the organization.  

Riggs served as the 2022 Homecoming Director. Her favorite Homecoming event is Battle of the Bands,  combining her love of live music with the opportunity to highlight local artists. She is interested in working in marketing for a music label during her career. 

During her time as a Seahawk, Riggs has been involved as a mentee in Cameron Executive Network, in the UNCW chapter of Phi Sigma Epsilon, and as a Campus Life Marketing Specialist. Her time at UNCW allowed her to find special interests and form her identity around qualities that make her unique. 

Riggs seeks to encourage fellow students to get involved on campus and recognizes there is a place for everyone. (Courtesy: Riley Riggs)

“What I want to do with my platform as a member of the court,” said Riggs, “is to promote the value of getting involved on campus. It changed my life.”  

Riggs believes there is a club or organization out there for every student at UNCW, whether it already exists or is formed due to shared interests. Joining ACE and other organizations was a confidence booster for her, and she values the impact she has on those around her. 

“Find your special little corner of weird,” Riggs said. 

Homecoming Week helped show Riggs how supported she truly is by her friends, parents, and twin sister. Throughout the week, she consistently received love and encouragement from those around her 

“Sometimes you have to remind yourself how amazing you are,” said Riggs, “and how much you are loved by people.” 

 

Jordan Gilchrist 

Gilchrist represents the Department of Housing and Residence Life and is in her third year as a Resident Assistant (RA). (Courtesy: Jordan Gilchrist)

Representing Department of Housing and Residence Life (HRL), nominee Jordan Gilchrist is excited to showcase her department on the Homecoming Court. She is in her third year as a Resident Assistant (RA) and helps students navigate college by coordinating programs and providing support. Gilchrist became an RA after noticing the isolation many students felt during the COVID-19 pandemic and aimed to foster connection and belonging among her peers.  

Gilchrist’s favorite aspect of being a Seahawk is the numerous opportunities available to serve people in the community. She volunteers at Rise Up Community Farm and works to serve food deserts in the Wilmington area. Gilchrist also helps others in her roles as Student Government Association (SGA) Chief of Staff and a leader with Delight Ministries. In SGA, she oversees the executive cabinet to provide support and organizes the annual State of the SGA address and Inauguration, while her position in Delight Ministries involves delivering a message and working to foster community.  

Gilchrist volunteers at Rise Up Community Farm, a community organization that provides produce to food deserts in the Wilmington area. (Courtesy: Jordan Gilchrist)

“I love to bring a smile to other people’s faces,” said Gilchrist. “I’m very busy within my organizations, but just knowing I’m doing good for students and then the community just really kind of boosts me up every day.” 

After graduation, Gilchrist plans to attend law school. She did not initially feel equipped to pursue a law degree but thrived once at UNCW due to the classroom experience. Gilchrist has interned with both the District Attorney’s Office and The Law Group to prepare her for her future. Her potential career paths include working in criminal law or representing children with disabilities through education law, though she is open to wherever her journey leads.  

 

Casandra Douglass 

Before attending UNCW, nominee Casandra Douglass was unaware of homecoming and all the traditions that make it unique. Now, she is grateful for the support from Student Ambassadors, the organization that nominated her, and for the opportunity to serve on the court.  

“[Homecoming is] that interconnectedness between generations of Seahawks,” said Douglass.  

Douglass currently serves as president of Student Ambassadors. She joined her sophomore year after learning about the Annual Oozeball Tournament. Oozeball is day-long mud volleyball tournament hosted by Student Ambassadors during the Spring Semester. 

Douglass participates in Oozeball, an annual mud volleyball tournament hosted by Student Ambassadors. (Courtesy: Cassandra Douglass)

She is also involved in The Helping Hands Project, a collaboration between UNCW, and outside partners to make 3D-print prosthetics. With her role in Student Ambassadors and involvement in The Helping Hands Project, Douglass prioritizes the wellbeing of others and enjoys the opportunity to serve the Seahawk community.  

The Helping Hands project began during the current school year. Douglass encourages upper class students to join new organizations and try different opportunities. 

“Even as an upperclassman, join [new organizations] because you’re interested,” she said, “but also join because you can build those connections with other people—you can help other people in the organization.” 

Outside of the university, Douglass enjoys figure skating to relieve stress. She began figure skating when she was five and competed prior to college. Figure skating is a lifelong passion for Douglass, who intends to continue with it as a hobby to stay active. 

While she no longer competes in figure skating, Douglass intends to continue with the activity throughout her life. (KrPhotogs Photography LLC 2018)

Douglass intends to go continue her education and become a physician’s assistant. While Wilmington may not be her forever home, she would like to remain on the East Coast and visit UNCW as an alumna. 

 

Cody Brandon 

During his first semester at UNCW, nominee Cody Brandon saved a Snapchat with several goals he wanted to accomplish during his four years. Some of his goals at the time included becoming an orientation leader, RA, student ambassador, Seahawk link and making the Homecoming Court. With his nomination for court, Brandon achieved all his goals and found a passion for higher education. 

During his first year at UNCW, Brandon saved a Snapchat will goals for his time at UNCW. He met all of his goals, including ones not featured on the Snapchat like being on Homecoming Court, by his senior year. (Courtesy: Cody Brandon)

Brandon was nominated by the Student Government Association (SGA). He joined SGA his junior year as Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion and was elected President for the 2023-2024 school year. During his time with SGA, Brandon hosted the first annual Second Chance Prom in partnership with the Mohin-Scholz LGBTQIA Resource Center 

As a first-year student, Brandon’s Residence Coordinator Teddy Howell and his RA Jacobi Lloyd were two Black men in leadership that he looked up to, and Brandon has sought to provide that representation to others during his time at UNCW. Brandon recognizes that other people look up to him and values inclusive representation in leadership. 

“Have your voice heard and make an impact,” said Brandon. “You should always go somewhere once [and] leave it better than you found it.” 

“Have your voice heard and make an impact,” said Brandon. “You should always go somewhere once [and] leave it better than you found it.” (UNCW)
When looking toward majors and potential careers, Brandon recommends finding what you are passionate about and pursuing it. His interests include women’s, LGBTQIA and Black rights, leading to his major in sociology with minors in Africana studies, English, leadership studies and women and gender studies. His role as an Orientation Leader inspired plans to work in higher education, and he recognizes that there is no linear path to success.  

“[Orientation leader] was just such a cool opportunity to be able to help students find themselves at a place that was able to help me find myself,” said Brandon.  

Brandon and fellow nominee Diandre’ Richie made history as the first two Black men voted as Homecoming Royalty in the same year. Brandon and Richie work together on SGA and received the news of their nominations while in the office together.  

“For both of us it is so special,” said Brandon, “because it’s something that we always wanted to be a part of since our freshman year.” 

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