A year ago, the Hopkins sisters were all studying at UNCG – Louisa in The Graduate School, Amelia as a senior and Bess as a freshman. Among them, they stand to earn at least five degrees from UNCG.

Here’s the thing. None of them was supposed to be here.

Sure, they have a long family legacy at UNCG – great-grandmother Lovie Howett; grandmother Flo Howett Wilkerson; great-aunt Thyra Howett Smith; aunt Drew Wilkerson McGee; and their mother, April Wilkerson Hopkins. But the sisters had different plans.

“The reason – the only reason – I said no to UNCG was because of my family legacy,” Bess says. “I didn’t want to do what everyone else had done.”

Louisa, the eldest, had chosen UNC-Chapel Hill. But it wasn’t the right fit, she says. “I was floundering. I didn’t know what I wanted or the direction in which I wanted to go. When I got to UNCG, I found my place.”

A few years later, Amelia also enrolled at Chapel Hill. She, too, ended up choosing UNCG instead.

Bess, who was accepted to every university to which she applied, researched as many options as possible. “The more I researched UNCG, I realized they had the majors I was interested in. Going here was 100 percent the right decision.”

For each young woman, UNCG proved irresistible. Maybe it was the family legacy. Maybe it was the strong bond of sisterhood. But all three women will tell you it’s something more.

“As a Spartan Guide, we talk about what UNCG is,” Bess says. “What speaks to our family and one of the reasons we’ve found happiness here is the fact that UNCG, in itself, is a family. That is much bigger than just being a university. You can go to any university and get an education and a firm feeling of devotion. But it’s rare that you find a university of this size where you sincerely feel connected in every capacity. That’s why we are here. It’s about becoming interconnected with our classmates and faculty and knowing that we have purpose amongst one another’s lives. It doesn’t matter who you are, you have something to contribute.”

All three are Lloyd International Honors College scholars, bright and dedicated. If you look at their fields of study, you’ll also notice a common thread in the kinds of contributions the Hopkins sisters hope to make, and are already making.

After graduating from the Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies department with a 4.0 GPA, Louisa landed a job with Kayser-Roth, one of the legwear industry’s most innovative companies.

“One day, I had a revelation,” she says. “I asked myself, ‘What good am I doing for humanity by sitting in this cube, designing socks?’ I just couldn’t figure it out.”

Last spring, two years after her epiphany, she earned dual master’s degrees in counseling and specialist in education from UNCG’s top-ranked program, which is 3rd in the nation. Now she spends her days counseling trauma victims at Help, Incorporated, Center Against Violence in Rockingham County. Her next step is to earn full licensure and a PhD so that she can become a private practitioner as well as a mentor in the field, supervising new counselors.

“Choosing UNCG was providential,” Louisa says. “The training I got here was the best training I could have gotten anywhere. It totally changed my path. Now I am in a helping profession, and there is no doubt in my mind that I would be a proficient therapeutic counselor.”

Like Louisa, Amelia also graduated with university honors. She majored in speech-language pathology and is currently pursuing a master’s in speech-language pathology, another highly ranked graduate program at UNCG.

Bess is on a similar academic path to Amelia, but possibly with a focus on audiology. She says UNCG pushes her very hard academically, even though she graduated first in her high school class. “My professors have high expectations and expect me to master the content. I am a different person because of them.”

It’s that kind of a challenging and supportive environment in which the Hopkins sisters have identified their future goals.

“All three of us have a strong conviction that we are living for more than just ourselves and for more than just education and knowledge,” Amelia says. “We believe in having individual purpose and not only finding that purpose, but helping others find their purpose. UNCG equips you to do that.”

Louisa agrees. “The work that we do and want to do more of is very purposeful. It’s therapeutic. It’s helping someone overcome difficulty. In all of our professions, that is what we will find a lot of satisfaction in. That’s our greater purpose.”

Amelia refers to it as “pouring into others,” something she learned from supportive faculty such as Honors College Assistant Dean Sarah Krive and Dance Professor Larry Lavender, who have advised, written recommendation letters, challenged them to do better on their papers, and even toured the campus with Bess when she was uncertain which university to select. “It didn’t matter if I wanted to come to UNCG or not,” Bess says. “It wasn’t about furthering UNCG or himself. It was about broadening my mind and helping me understand what I was able to achieve. Knowing that was the caliber of professors here made a huge difference. No other university poured in me, into who I am, except UNCG.”

“Those kinds of relationships are why I chose to stay here for my master’s,” Amelia adds. “They have shaped the way I approach therapy with the patients in my clinical study and the way I pour into people every week.”

Even though UNCG has grown and changed dramatically since Lovie Howett first arrived on campus in 1920, the line of women that came before Louisa, Amelia and Bess must have found something similar to what the sisters have discovered here.

People willing to pour into others to help them find their purpose.

Story by Andrea Spencer, University Relations

Photography by David Wilson, University Relations