I’ve heard it said that the Morehead-Cain is the secret sauce of UNC.

I used to interpret that idea as emphasizing the fact that the Morehead-Cain experience attracts people to UNC who would have otherwise gone to more prestigious schools than this one.

It made me feel uncomfortable. Because although I was part of this secret sauce, I didn’t think I was consistently “better,” in any way we wish to define the term (e.g. academic excellence, athletic prowess), than countless other non-Morehead-Cain students. 

It seemed like we Tar Heels all had strengths, and we all had weaknesses. It seems to me that, at the time of selection, we Morehead-Cains were simply the best fit individuals (out of the pool of applicants) to take on the particular adventures and challenges of the Morehead-Cain. What a gift we were given!

Time went on, I continued hearing the “secret sauce” remark, and I continued to feel a sense of unease whenever I did.

But the Alumni Forum helped me reframe this “secret sauce” idea, and it has given me a new, and much healthier and rejuvenating, interpretation.

Salsa Lessons

During the salsa dancing lesson at the Alumni Forum, we were rotating through new partners. In meeting my new partner, she said her boyfriend is a former scholar who graduated a few years ago. I replied with something along the lines of, “Cool! I’m happy to meet you, and I’m glad you’re here!” She said, “Me too! This is such an inclusive community!” That struck me.

 We have a fancy hangout place on campus, and we are a small subset of individuals who get large checks written to us in order to learn. We go on incredible summer adventures for free. We attend some fancy dinners together, and we call each other cousins. Sometimes we even get free cookies at the Carolina Inn. And yet, we are an inclusive community. And people who know the community can feel it.

Salsa fun

That’s why the Morehead-Cain is so special: Yes, it is a life-changing gift for those who receive it. But, we also want it to be a gift to anyone whose life we touch. If the woman whose hand I shook had needed a mentor or a friend that weekend or beyond, she could have certainly found one in me. But she could have found those things in any one of the Morehead-Cain scholars—past or present. We would have all been not just willing to help, but enthusiastic to do so.

So, yes, I have this huge gift. But, I think, by extension, that means that people in my life also have that gift—in any way I can share it—whether that be through buying my friends dinner occasionally because I know I have the money to do so, or whether it be through someday developing an internship for cousins and non-cousins alike, thus further deepening or expanding our network of thought-leaders. The secret sauce, therefore, does not lie in any “betterness”; it lies in our burning desire to share the gifts we’ve been given with our communities and our world.


Zitney, Lauren V_005From the small mountain town of Burnsville, North Carolina, Lauren Zitney ’19 has danced her way to UNC, where she has picked up a fascination for (along with a major in) economics along the way. Thus, naturally, she has taken on the role of treasurer for Modernextension Dance Company on campus. Her focus has shifted to thinking about ways to stop (or slow? or reverse?) climate change, and she plans to explore this field immediately after graduation this spring.