From Trask to Nuclear Energy

 

From Winston-Salem to Wilmington. From walk-on to team captain. From intern to corporate leader. All part of a journey launched through UNCW for former student-athlete Darion Jeralds '10, '14M.

Darion Jeralds and family

Jeralds, who arrived on campus in the fall of 2006, is a two-time UNCW graduate and serves as General Manager of Sourcing & Chief Diversity Officer at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a Wilmington-based provider of reactors, fuel and services.

Basketball led the two-year starter at West Forsyth High School, near Winston-Salem, to Wilmington in the first place, but he departed campus with so much more than his 118 games played and 122 assists.

“I came to UNCW with one purpose – to play basketball,” Jeralds said. “Playing Division 1 basketball was always my dream. Although I was not heavily recruited, Coach (Benny) Moss gave me the opportunity to walk on. I was familiar with the campus and had some great experiences there from high school athletics camps, so it felt right.

“After I began my undergraduate studies, I realized the university had much more to offer than just athletics.”

Darion Jeralds

During Jeralds’ rookie year of 2006-07, he played 29 games, made six starts and dished out 20 assists. He capped his career in 2009-10 as a team captain with eight starts, 43 points and a .520 field-goal percentage.

“I have always prided myself in being a leader, setting the example and working hard,” Jeralds said. “When I was named captain as a walk-on, it validated to me the practice and discipline I put in was paying off. Eventually working my way to being a captain meant the world to me.”

His sophomore year of 2007-08, when he was an All-Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Academic first team selection for the first of three consecutive seasons, holds a memorable on-court moment.

“There are too many great memories from my basketball time to pick a favorite, but if I had to, I would pick Homecoming 2008,” Jeralds said. “During that game against James Madison, I stole a pass and had my first and only college dunk. It was an amazing feeling – seeing the excitement and hearing the cheers from the crowd in Trask!”

It was in his junior season of 2008-09 that Jeralds maximized the UNCW classroom offerings. That year, he was named the CAA Scholar Athlete-of-the-Year and received the league’s Dean Ehlers Award for Leadership, presented annually to a basketball player who embodies leadership, integrity and sportsmanship through academic and athletic achievement.

Also that year, Jeralds completed an exceptional lean Six Sigma project in a business operations class that opened the door to interview for an internship with GE Hitachi, jump-starting his eventual career.

“UNCW is the reason I am now with GE,” Jeralds said. “I landed the internship, and the rest is history.”

Jeralds graduated cum laude from UNCW with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and was named the Cameron School of Business Outstanding Graduate for Operations Management in 2010. He began his career as a Sourcing Specialist with GE Hitachi.

Jeralds did not stay out of the classroom for long, though, reenrolling at UNCW and earning his MBA in 2014.

“After a few years in the workforce, I felt like there were a few financial concepts I needed to develop,” he said. “Ultimately, I wanted to be a leader in the company. In order to do that, I knew I would have to strengthen my financial acumen. I was confident UNCW and the Cameron School of Business could help me get there. The Executive MBA program was also flexible enough to work around my family schedule.”

And lead he does. Today, Jeralds is working to create a more diverse and inclusive community. This effort begins with a four-pillar strategy: culture, employee resource groups, partnerships and development. An initiative within these pillars is to actively seek, train, develop and support diverse talent so that GE Hitachi’s workforce reflects the community in which it operates.

UNCW is the reason I am now with GE,” Jeralds said. “I landed the internship, and the rest is history.”

“When I joined GE I was introduced to the African American Forum, an employee resource group that is focused on the professional development and career advancement of African American employees,” Jeralds said. “This group gave me opportunities to develop skills and leadership outside of my day job. After having those experiences early in my career, I continued to participate and prioritize these efforts as I took on larger roles in the company. As the Chief Diversity Officer, I am still learning daily, but enjoying the process of moving our company culture forward.”

As he has grown in diversity roles at GE Hitachi, Jeralds has also noted the positive changes his alma mater has made with diversity issues.

“While on campus I always felt valued and included,” Jeralds said. “As an underrepresented minority, I felt like I had an equal opportunity to succeed. On the other hand, during my time at UNCW I noticed representation of minorities was not strong outside of athletics. Over the past several years, I have seen significant action by the university to make improvements and promote greater diversity such as hosting Minority Enterprise Development Week, promoting the Upperman Center (Upperman African American Cultural Center) and creating scholarships targeted at attracting minorities.” 

As part of Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW, more than $1.9 million in gifts and commitments has been received to support diversity initiatives.

Giving back to UNCW has also been a priority for Jeralds, who is a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and Seahawk Club, as well as part of the 2022 Clocktower Society. He returns to campus regularly to participate in events like Cameron School of Business Business Week, Student-Athlete Etiquette Dinner and Minority Enterprise Development Week.

“I give back to the university because I am inspired by the next generation of Seahawks,” he said. “I know how much my UNCW experience helped to shape my life. I want to invest in the same opportunities for current students.”

In 2017, he was named the UNCW Distinguished Young Alumnus of the Year.

“UNCW is a beautiful campus that invites students to chase their dreams while interacting with nature and engaging in activities that support their interest,” Jeralds said. “UNCW is also evolving like no other. The growth and development of crucial programs and initiatives is tremendous. UNCW is becoming more advanced, more diverse and more inclusive.”

UNCW and Jeralds have much in common – continually evolving and finding success. Jeralds’ career with GE Hitachi has closely matched his UNCW career: modest beginnings with tremendous growth, resulting in lasting impacts.

Creating student, and student-athlete, experiences like no other is a key priority of Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW. To learn more or make a gift, visit uncw.edu/give.

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