FMO leader Carson snags prestigious Illinois award

Jessica Young

When Weinberg senior and For Members Only Coordinator Tracy Carson learned she had been named Northwestern’s Lincoln Laureate for 2003, she was both happy and confused.

“I got a call saying, ‘Congratulations, you will be honored as Northwestern’s Lincoln Laureate!’ and I was like, ‘Great — what’s that?'” Carson said.

Awarded by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, the Lincoln Laureate Award recognizes outstanding seniors from each four-year college and university

in Illinois. Student Laureates are honored for overall excellence in academic and extracurricular activities. Gov. Rod Blagojevich will present each winner with a certificate of achievement, medallion and $150 stipend at a ceremony to be held Saturday in Springfield.

Carson was nominated for the award by Carretta Cooke, director of African-American Student Affairs, and James Britt, the assistant director.

“Tracy is that rare student — vibrant, wellrounded, social, innovative and academically strong,” Cooke said.

Carson’s mother, Sharon, and Britt will accompany her to this weekend to attend the ceremony and luncheon. Carson said she probably will return Saturday night for her sorority chapter meeting Sunday; she is vice president of Delta Sigma Theta.

“I can’t afford to miss it,” she said. “As much as I’d like to enjoy Springfield, I have to get back to reality sometime.”

And reality for this Chicago native is packed with activity.

Carson serves on several university committees, including the committee for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which organizes campus events for the holiday, and the Black History Month Committee, which plans campus events for February. As well as coordinating FMO, Carson writes for the African American Times on the South Side of Chicago and works 10 hours a week at the Office of Fellowships.

She was a member of the NU Debate Team, which won first place at the 2002 National Debate Tournament, but she gave up competing to devote more time to her other commitments.

“I promised myself that if I became coordinator of FMO, I would quit the team,” Carson said. “I didn’t want to put half of my effort into any project I took on. If you commit yourself to doing something, you have to do it well, and I didn’t think it was fair for either group to have to share my attention.”

She still is a debate coach for the Chicago Urban Debate League, a debate commission for more than 400 high school students, for 10 weeks during the summer.

Carson is also involved in Delta Academy, a math and science tutoring program created by her sorority to help local middle school girls. For the last two years, she has volunteered for the North Shore Retirement Hotels.

“I’ve had an epiphany that my time at Northwestern and as a college student is running short,” Carson said. “I want to experience everything, even if it means I don’t get a lot of sleep.”

Carson said balancing grades and activities is a tricky feat.

“I’m entirely dependent on calendars and I have to account for every minute,” she said. “I also try to surround myself with goal-oriented people because it helps me feel motivated.”

Carson said she hopes to take a year off to travel abroad after graduation. When the year is up, she said she will dedicate herself to law school. Civil rights law and international-dispute resolution are the areas that interest her most.

But at least for the moment, Carson will take a breather. Now that Homecoming is over and the FMO “American Idol” float and the Delta Sigma Theta “Real World” float ran smoothly, she said she will take some time out to celebrate.

“Being named Lincoln Laureate is a culmination of my years at Northwestern,” she said. “It’s great to be recognized for doing stuff I love to do.”