Meet Janina Millis

Story shared by the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP).

UNC Graduation: May 2021
Major: Environmental Studies,
Strategic Communications master’s
Partner Community College: Carteret

For Janina Millis, UNC-Chapel Hill was a “pipe dream.” A first-generation college student, Janina wanted to continue her education after high school, but wasn’t quite sure how. At Carteret Community College she discovered a passion for the environment as well as C-STEP, and her path to Carolina.

During a summer internship at the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve, a protected coastal region near Beaufort, NC, Janina connected with her internship mentor. Recognizing Janina’s merit, her mentor suggested that Janina should explore Carolina’s Strategic Communications Master of Art program, through which she could earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years. Janina applied and became the first transfer student accepted to the program, becoming a “test pilot” for future transfer students who will follow her.

In 2019, Janina had another magic summer, taking advantage of the C-STEP Summer Stipend to work as a sea turtle researcher. At Hammocks Beach State Park on Bear Island, N.C., Janina spent long nights searching for sea turtles and their eggs. Once she discovered them, Janina became their protector, covering nests with protective wire caging, relocating eggs when she needed to, and even “egg sitting,” staying at the nest to ward off predators as the eggs hatched.

“I realized that I want to build a career out in the field with marine life, or animals in general, rather than sitting behind a computer,” Janina said. She acknowledges that the path she’s traveled to find her passion has had obstacles. Janina struggled with imposter syndrome after coming to Carolina, especially during her first semester.

“I always thought to myself, ‘Wow, I bet that random passerby is super smart. She probably earns all A’s all the time.’” said Janina. “But I have to remind myself, I’m also here, I also got in to Carolina, and their diploma at graduation will say the same thing as mine and everyone else’s.”

Janina says that the guidance from C-STEP staff at Carolina and Carteret Community College and her mentor at the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve helped her pursue her life and career goals with confidence.

“Without C-STEP I have no idea where I would be,” she said. “I can’t put it into words.“

Currently, Janina spends lots of time at her work study position, providing class support and data configuration for the UNC Institute for the Environment. As an active member of the C-STEP Leadership Team, Janina runs the C-STEP Instagram account and serves as a C-STEP Peer Mentor for new students, helping them feel confident and proud during their years at Carolina.

Learn more about the C-STEP program here.