Supporting the Pack from 3,000 Miles Away
Christie and Travis Peterson are proud NC State parents, volunteers and donors — staying involved with their daughter's university even though they live in California.
The United States’ famous wine country in Napa, California, is located about an hour north of San Francisco, roughly 2,800 miles away from Raleigh. That is nearly the same distance as New York City to Los Angeles.
And yet, NC State parents, volunteers and donors Christie and Travis Peterson haven’t allowed being all the way across the country to get in their way of going all-in for the Wolfpack.
Originally from Napa, both Christie and Travis went to college in Florida before returning to their hometown. When their younger daughter, Mia, began looking at colleges during the COVID-19 pandemic, she had her heart set on the East Coast — specifically North Carolina.
One day, Christie Peterson was talking to a work client who happened to be an NC State alumnus. She mentioned her daughter’s desire to go to school in North Carolina.
“I said, ‘Yeah, my daughter wants to go to North Carolina, she’s obsessed,’” Peterson recalls. “ . . . And he goes, ‘tell me what’s on that [college] list again?’ I mentioned a couple of schools and he’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. . . . she wants to go to NC State.’”
Not too much later, the Petersons found themselves parked near the Memorial Belltower at Henry Square. It was during the early days of the pandemic and the NC State bricks were largely empty of Wolfpack students. Even without the typical vibrancy of campus life, however, the tour proved a smash hit with Mia.
“The second we got done walking around campus, she said, ‘This is where I’m going.’” Peterson said.
Mia is currently a sophomore in the College of Natural Resources studying tourism and event management with a minor in dance.
As Mia was getting acclimated to the Wolfpack community and finding her group of friends through sorority rush and the Hunt Seat Equestrian Club, her parents were also getting plugged in. They hopped on a plane a few different times during Mia’s first year.
“For us it’s been really important to stay connected, and we wanted to be connected to her experience in whatever way we could, being from so far away,” Peterson said.
As the Petersons sought ways to get involved, they were asked to join the Division of Academic and Student Affairs (DASA) Board for Student Success by a mutual friend employed by NC State. They said yes.
With their new-found roles bringing them to campus at least once per semester, it wasn’t long before the couple found themselves catching “Wolfpack fever.”
“I thought I understood enthusiasm for a school, but I did not,” Peterson said. “How much people love this school 25 years after they’ve graduated, 30 years after they graduated . . . I will walk through the airport with my NC State sweatshirt on and I hear people all around yelling out at me, ‘Go Pack,’ and I’m just not used to it.”
Through involvement in their new roles, the Petersons realized that supporting their daughter could take many forms. One in particular has been feeling empowered to direct others’ attention to various campus departments and issues that they found personally impactful and important.
For instance, last year during a special fundraising drive during NC State’s Day of Giving, the Petersons chose to emphasize the dance department because of Mia’s minor.
At other times, they have helped spread the word about the incredible tools available for students in the Disability Resource Office (DRO). Their experience with the DRO was personal because, at age 17, Mia was diagnosed with dyslexia and auditory processing disorder.
After receiving some accommodations from a leading diagnostics testing center in California, Mia and her parents were surprised to find that NC State DRO staff had even more suggestions to offer her once she arrived on campus.
“We really thought we had a handle on it and then we get to NC State and they’re like, ‘You need this accommodation, too.’ And all we could say was, ‘Wow, that sounds amazing,’” Peterson said. “They really do go above and beyond to help these kids.”
As a result, the Petersons have found that simply getting the word out about the many ways NC State supports its students through entities like DASA and its affiliates has been one of their main ways of backing the Pack. Additionally, they learned, small financial donations can do wonders. They now urge others to follow in their footsteps.
“There’s a lot of resources needed just offering time, which doesn’t cost anything,” Peterson said. “But also on the philanthropic side, even $10 matters. It doesn’t have to be $2,000. Getting involved and finding out where you could help, there are just so many opportunities.”
She went on to describe how, as different departments connect with students, it’s also important for those departments to feel supported and to know how valuable they are.
“Because if it wasn’t working [with our daughter] we’d know pretty quick,” Peterson said. “ . . . It’s been great for us because we’ve been able to really help out those departments that have made an impact on our lives.”
And that’s something that overcomes all distances.