Coleman Neal, in commencement garb, stands on Chancellor's Walk as other students pass by.

May 13, 2019

Like many young people, it took Coleman Neal ’19 some time to discover what he really wanted to do with his life. 

“Prior to transferring to UNCW, I felt as though I was attending college without a purpose outside of obtaining a degree,” said Neal, who graduated May 11 with a degree in communication studies. “Throughout these past three years, I was involved in courses, student organizations and internships that were in line with my interests. That led to what I believe is a higher purpose in my life.” 

Neal’s parents encouraged their children to be well-rounded physically, academically and artistically. Growing up, he loved sports, played the trombone and set his sights on college. But, he confided, his teachers weren’t always so encouraging. 

Learning certain subjects was difficult for him, and he admits to harboring some “negative energy” and self-doubt that followed him to college. He attended Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville and Salisbury University in Maryland before enrolling at UNCW. It took the death of his grandmother, a widowed cafeteria worker who raised and supported five children, to realize that he need only look inside himself to succeed. 

Around that time, he took an introductory video production class with communication studies associate professor Bill Bolduc. 

“He saw in me what I really didn’t see in myself,” Neal explained. “So, I decided to dive deep and devote myself to the class.” Neal took his love for sports and combined it with his newfound passion for media production. Along the way, he discovered an aptitude for helping fellow students learn new techniques. 

His work ethic led to several applied learning opportunities, including work with UNCW Athletics, the Upperman African American Cultural Center, QENO and the Office of University Relations’ media production team. (See his interview with UNCW student-athlete Karen Woodworth here.)

Based on Bolduc’s nomination, Neal received the Mimi Cunningham Department Exemplar Award, presented to the communication studies graduating senior who exemplifies the department’s core values, including collaboration, leadership, critical thinking, confidence, intellectual curiosity, responsibility, problem solving and civility. 

“Without prompting, Cole has sought opportunities to guide and teach less experienced students,” Bolduc said. “Beyond simple instruction, though, Cole regularly offers guidance, motivation and inspiration. Importantly, he also holds his peers accountable when their performance is lacking. He is tactful, but honest and informed in his communication style.” 

Neal will leave UNCW with an ambitious set of goals: to work in collegiate or professional athletic media, get a master’s degree and eventually become a college professor. 

“My dad encouraged me to see the positive qualities in people,” Neal said. “Just seeing the spark when people realize they can do things they really didn’t think they could do – that’s just something.” 

-- Tricia Vance