Called to serve

Posted on February 06, 2023

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Two UNCG alumni have been named to Triad Business Journal’s 2023 “40 Under 40” class in recognition of their leadership and service.

Candace Martin, B.S. ’10, and Oliver Thomas, Ph.D. ’20, thrive on serving those around them, and their colleagues have noticed. Each was nominated by their co-workers for Triad Business Journal’s 2023 “40 Under 40” class. Based on those recommendations, the journal showcased them among this year’s outstanding young leaders in the Greensboro area.

Candace Martin

Although Candace grew up in Troutman, NC, she claims Greensboro as her hometown. “It’s not just where I live and work,” she says, “It’s a place I love.” As operations and communications manager for Action Greensboro, she is an enthusiastic ambassador for the area, where she is also active in community organizations and a member of UNCG’s alumni board.

UNCG was the only place Candace applied to for college. “I don’t know where I’d be today if I hadn’t been accepted,” she says. She majored in marketing and, as a student, worked in University Communications. On campus, she felt a “sense of belonging,” and, through the Bryan School of Business and Economics, found opportunities for networking and volunteering. “It really built me up as a leader,” she says. She went on to earn a master’s in strategic communication at High Point University.

In 2014, Candace joined Action Greensboro, a nonprofit that builds public-private partnerships to advance the city and create opportunities for residents. “The foundations that support us allow us to do so many different things,” she says, including programs that support small business and assist people in moving back to Greensboro after leaving. “I get to promote all the great things about our town. I can really see my impact on the community. I see now that I’ve always been a server.”

Oliver Thomas

Growing up, Oliver observed his mother’s life as a special education teacher as a life of service. Today, as director of external affairs at North Carolina A&T State University, he still sees no separation between education and service, as education builds relationships, nurtures growth, and betters people’s lives and communities.

While earning his Ph.D. at UNCG, Oliver found the program in Educational Studies with a Cultural Foundations concentration aligned with his personal philosophy — that education is not just for an individual’s edification, but equips students to benefit others’ lives and enhance the human condition. At UNCG, he taught in the classroom, as a senior graduate teaching assistant, and served as coordinator of the Preparing Future Leaders program for graduate students’ professional development and career preparation, in cooperation with academic departments at UNCG and UNC A&T. “I learned to create space where students could feel welcome and I could introduce them to new ideas and encourage them to think critically,” he says.

Oliver also holds a master of divinity degree from Wake Forest University and has found the church to be another fertile ground for service. He is currently the associate pastor for young adult ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Greensboro. “Wherever I go, I look for ways to serve and transform communities,” he says. “It’s a key part of who I am and how I live in the world.”

Story by Mary Daily for Manning Words, Inc.

Photography courtesy of Triad Business Journal


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