Last weekend, I earned my master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing at Averett University!
It took two years and countless hours of coursework, class time, and courage, but I made it. And I’m glad.
Pursuing higher academic goals is a lofty ambition–one that is rewarded with a greater sense of personal accomplishment and respectability. I look back at these last several years and I can honestly say that I regret nothing about the decisions I’ve made regarding my own pursuit of personal and professional development because I know that the diploma I received on Saturday is so much more than a simple sheet of paper. It is a symbol of every moment, every sacrifice, and every triumph–small or large–that I have experienced in my journey through academia.
On Saturday, December 10, I stood, surrounded by my accomplished peers, steady in the knowledge that the choices we had made were leading us to brighter tomorrows–and that those tomorrows were closer to us on that day than they had ever been for any of us. The reality of that brighter future has taken time to settle on me. It happened in moments–once in the hall as we lined up and prepared to enter the auditorium, once (or twice) during the ceremony, and once more tonight, as I write this and reflect further on everything it has taken to get me to where I am today.
I wrote the following bio for a pre-graduation interview. I want to share my story with all of you tonight.
I was raised in a small community in Pittsylvania County known as Whitmell. In 2007, I graduated with an advanced diploma from Tunstall High School in Dry Fork, Virginia. I went on to attend Danville Community College’s liberal arts – humanities specialization transfer program, earn an associate’s degree, and a certificate in digital imaging and photography. At DCC, I was very engaged in campus life and launched the DCC Photography Club, which I led as president for two years, and served my sophomore year as president of the college’s Student Government Association. I transferred to Averett University as a junior in fall 2010, majoring in communication studies and journalism. I ran for and won the office of senator with the university’s SGA during my first semester there. By spring 2011, I was assistant editor of the university’s student news magazine, The Chanticleer. During my senior year, I served as editor-in-chief. Later that year, I started working as a graphic designer for a local magazine. Continuing my education was always a part of my plan and, in 2014, the timing was right for me to begin my studies in Averett’s Graduate and Professional Studies MBA program. The program was tough, but the rigorous curriculum and course pacing makes the achievement feel all the more important for me as part of my development as a valued professional in Danville and Pittsylvania County. The professors represent vastly diverse backgrounds and experience bases and the value of learning from them and benefiting from their practical wisdom afforded me invaluable exposure to aspects of business administration I would otherwise not have encountered prior to my own professional experiences. I believe that exposure gives me and my cohort an edge in our own professional endeavors. Looking back on the past two years, I must say my strongest takeaway from the MBA program has been to make sharp decisions more quickly. The program has left me with a stronger, more refined sense of discernment and I am thankful for that and the innumerable other lessons I will take with me as I walk across the stage next week.
While studying in the MBA program, I worked as assistant editor of the Star-Tribune, a weekly newspaper in Chatham, Virginia. This fall, I was hired as public relations and marketing specialist at Danville Community College. I am thrilled to promote higher education in the region and I have been met with equal enthusiasm from my superiors and colleagues, who have all complimented me on my work and the improvements evinced in the college’s internal and external communications. This position also affords me opportunities to cross promote both DCC and Averett, two institutions I personally hold in the utmost esteem.
Through my academic and professional achievements, I honor the people who have believed in me and my dreams and the beautiful region of Southern Virginia that I am proud to call my home. I would like to extend special thanks to my parents: Mark and Debra Roach, my sister: Laurie, my niece: Ceilidh, my grandparents: Roger and Margot Mayhew, Sarah May, and Bobby Lee Roach, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone else who has been a voice of encouragement or served as a sounding board for my thoughts, ideas, and musings. I thank the professors of my undergraduate and graduate studies for their guidance and, in some cases, tough love. I thank the college staff and administration for running a smooth show–for their commitment to excellence, which inspired me daily to increase my personal commitment to that same value. To them all, I say: Thank you for sharing this adventure with me.
Thank you, thank you. You’ve always been with me and in my heart you will always remain.