08/30/09 — 297 turn tassels at Mount Olive College

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297 turn tassels at Mount Olive College

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on August 30, 2009 12:26 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- "Non-traditional students" -- the ones not earning degrees in two- or four-year blocks -- had their moment in the sun Saturday as Mount Olive College graduated 297 students with associate and bachelor's degrees.

N.C. Secretary of Com-merce J. Keith Crisco, key-note speaker for the event, said many "non-traditional" students are people who realized they had to adapt to a changing environment.

"I'm so impressed how you have adapted to the needs of your lives, and have adapted to the market of today," Crisco said.

The world has changed, the commerce secretary said. No longer can people languish in careers for decades, secured by stagnant business models.

Globalization has made the world more competitive for employees, and students who expand their skill sets to match the needs of their communities will prosper, the speaker said.

"That concept of continuing to grow will serve you well as you continue your journeys, because it's a changing world. It's a world that no longer has (economic) models that last 50 years. The economic model of the future is one of change."

The commerce secretary also said Mount Olive College, a ministry of the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, had embraced a model of change.

One of the best indicators of that was Mount Olive's willingness to expand, putting satellite learning facilities in Goldsboro, Jacksonville, New Bern, Durham, Washington and Wilmington.

Praising those campuses as propelling Mount Olive College to the rank of second-fastest growing private college in the state, the secretary said the branch openings showed Mount Olive College was both "agile and nimble."

Throughout a storied career, Crisco had his rejections, too -- one from Johns Hopkins, where he sought his master's in business administration.

But the school had a 3.0 minimum average, and his Pfeiffer University GPA, with a double-major in mathematics and physics, was well below the minimum, the speaker said.

He was rejected from Johns Hopkins, but later was accepted at Harvard Business School, after what turned out to be a funny exchange with a recruiter.

Crisco said the Harvard Business School enrollment staff told him they had only one problem with his application -- no one at Harvard had ever heard of his alma mater, Pfeiffer.

Hastily, the commerce secretary said he told the Harvard admissions officer that at Pfeiffer, no one had heard of Harvard.

Crisco called his wife and told her he had "blown" the interview. Three days later, he received notification he had been accepted to business school, and he believes his snide remark might have helped get him accepted.

The commerce secretary hoped the graduating students would use the story as inspiration to not be too discouraged by failure.

Jessica Hines, who attends the Raleigh-Durham branch of Mount Olive College, said her goals were clear.

She's already got a job as pre-kindergarten teacher in the Durham Public Schools, something she credits to her Mount Olive degree.

"I'm excited about it," Miss Hines said.