Connections – Episode 27

Jodie read about those who questioned the value of college, she had a ready answer. She was making a lot more money than she ever expected. But as she read these emails, her answer changed. The value of college to her was learning what it meant to live a purposeful life. She had long forgotten much of the course content, but the life lessons stuck with her. The following memory was evidence that she wasn’t alone in having that same experience.

My first semester sophomore year, I took a study abroad opportunity and towards the end I had some time to travel. For part of my journey, I was alone and just as anyone else might when they are alone, I started reflecting. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going in an academic/career direction that I wanted to, but I really didn’t know what else to do. As I got lost in my own thoughts, my mind kept going back to that day in your class. I made the hasty decision to change my major or at least try (I wasn’t doing too hot academically). At this point, it was quite literally halfway across the world in Bursa, Turkey. I sent an email to you announcing that I wanted to pursue your major. Unfortunately, all of the core intro courses were filled up at this point. You helped me work through some other courses I could take that would get me some requirements. I cannot think of many other faculty that would give me the time of day that you did for an underachieving and naïve student.

About a year and a half later, I found myself sitting in your office. I was struggling to find an internship, as my GPA was getting me auto rejected at most places. I had one offer on the table though, in the IT department of a heavy manufacturing company in Roanoke, VA. I was hesitant about accepting because it was a 9-month rotation. I didn’t want to be pigeon holed into IT, and I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of moving to Roanoke. You helped guide me to a decision to take it and some strategies for shaping the role to what I wanted. I ended up executing projects that I would still be proud to talk about in a job interview and come back with experience that would end up shaping and launching my career.

A month into my last semester, I had an interview lined up for what I thought would be my dream job. You coached me through some interview questions and strategies during your super early morning “unofficial” office hours. I ended up coming in late (it’s a miracle if I show up anywhere before 8AM), but you didn’t appear to hold it against me. I ended up getting the job. It turned out that job was really awful though. There were many moments where I would be the only one with integrity. In those moments, I always referred back to what you taught me.

In my career so far, I‘ve helped turn around a struggling manufacturing operation, helped launch a multinational corporation into the United States market, and am now working on the team planning a $3 billion expansion in an industry I never thought I could enter (semiconductors). It would be hard to imagine myself taking this or even a similarly successful path without your guidance and instruction at some key points along the way. I don’t think I ever really took the time to say thank you but I hope the way I’ve lived my life is my way of saying thanks.

Thanks for your time, compassion, and commitment to your students, including myself.

Kevin – Class of 2016

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