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Pack Reflections: JT Chappell ’24

JT Chappell standing in front of a pond in his cap and gown for graduation.

John Thomas “JT” Chappell graduated from the NC State College of Natural Resources in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sustainable materials and technology.

Chappell is a second-generation student. His mother, Dorothy Chappell, graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1996.

During his time at NC State, Chappell served as a laboratory technician with the Hodges Wood Products Laboratory in the Department of Forest Biomaterials.

Chappell was a recipient of the Jerry H. Fox Scholarship, the James B. and Mildred B. Wilkinson Endowed Scholarship and the Alfred. J. Stamm Memorial Scholarship.

Now that he’s graduated, Chappell plans to return to Hodges Wood Products Laboratory to serve as its temporary business director.

We recently spoke with Chappell to learn more about his NC State experience and how it’s contributed to his success. Check out the Q&A below.

What were some of your most memorable experiences at NC State?

My most memorable experiences at NC State involve participating in laboratory activities in the sustainable materials and technology curriculum. These activities offered us an informative, hands-on experience that allowed us to apply what we learned in the classroom to the real world. They also provided us with time to work on engaging projects. For example, in a sustainable composites and biopolymers class, we deconstructed remote-controlled boats, redesigned them using the various materials we discussed in class, then raced them at the Casey Aquatic Center. This project not only provided me with an opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-world applications, but it also offered me a way to connect with both my peers and professors. 

What motivated you to pursue a degree in sustainable materials and technology? 

I’ve discovered that I tend to develop a strong interest in exploring subjects that I don’t yet fully understand, and sustainability was one of those subjects. I had a general grasp of its significance and knew it was becoming increasingly important, but I lacked a deep understanding. When I discovered the Sustainable Materials and Technology program at NC State, I saw it as an opportunity to delve deeper into sustainable practices and principles. Pursuing this degree has provided me with an opportunity to develop a comprehensive understanding of sustainability and its applications in materials, design and technology. Although I have much to learn about sustainability, my experiences in the program have ignited a passion for the subject and provided me with a pathway to contribute to a more sustainable future. 

Why did you choose to pursue this degree at the College of Natural Resources? 

After exploring my interest in sustainable materials and technology, I found that the College of Natural Resources offered a great environment to pursue and further develop this degree. I was particularly drawn to the vast interdisciplinary environment the college offers. For example, the college offered numerous courses outside my degree that provided diverse perspectives on sustainability. Such courses explored the environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainability, which complemented my degree perfectly. This interdisciplinary approach not only broadened my knowledge base but also provided me with a more comprehensive understanding of sustainability.

How has the College of Natural Resources prepared you for your future? 

The college’s commitment to addressing global challenges by considering economic, social and environmental factors to develop sustainable solutions deeply aligns with my future goals and aspirations. Through its diverse, interdisciplinary education, the college has provided me with an excellent academic foundation and. equipped me with the skills and knowledge necessary to contribute to a more sustainable future. As a graduate of the college, I feel well-prepared to tackle a variety of challenges across various industries.

What advice would you give students entering your major or field?

A valuable piece of advice I would give to anyone who majors in sustainable materials and technology would be to connect with professors. Through my time in the program, I have discovered that they genuinely care about our success and well-being. Whenever I have a concern, whether it’s academic, professional, or personal, the professors have always been there to help me navigate through it. Overall, their mentorship and support have played a significant role in shaping the person I am today.

Tell us about something you are passionate about outside of your academic studies.

One of my passions outside of the classroom is music. I believe that music is something that can teach us valuable lessons about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Music has also played a significant role in facilitating connections with others, enabling me to create unique and meaningful relationships. Currently, my passion for music has inspired me to learn instruments such as guitar, piano and ukulele. Although I only know a few basic chords for each, I am confident that my passion for music will motivate me to become proficient in at least one of them in the future. Overall, music is not just a hobby for me. It’s a source of joy, inspiration and personal growth.