UMO alumni offer insight on career success

By: By Rhonda Jessup - University of Mount Olive

MOUNT OLIVE — Six University of Mount Olive alumni recently shared tips and insights into their career success. The event was planned by the Tillman School of Business.

The panelists included 2009 graduate Gwen Babson, vice president of Compliance and Risk Management with Acuity Healthcare; 2014 graduate Mikayla Braswell, senior human resources specialist with Lear Corporation; 2009 graduate Trent Lassiter, owner of The Farm entertainment venue and co-owner of Springhill Outfitters; 2007 graduate Brandon Mills, vice president of the SIA Group; 2002 graduate Brad Piner, attorney with Colombo, Kitchin, Dunn, Ball & Porter, LLP; and 2010 graduate Shawn Wilson, CEO/general manager of the Greater Kinston Credit Union (GKCU).

Braswell encouraged students to hone their leadership skills.

“You should know the difference between managing and leading,” she said. “Your knowledge might get you in the door, but your leadership skills will help you climb the corporate ladder.” She also advised, “Don’t be afraid to ask ‘why’. The more you ask, the more you know, and ultimately the greater your mobility and job security.”

After graduating from UMO, Braswell earned her MBA from Campbell University. Babson, who entered UMO as a nontraditional student, encouraged students to periodically reset their goals.

“Challenge yourself to reach beyond your borders,” she said. “You will be a better person, a better employee, and a better community member. Don’t be afraid to try something new and expand your horizons.”

After earning her degree from UMO, Babson entered law school at the age of 44. She is now passionate about her career and thankful she followed her dreams.

After graduating from UMO, Lassiter became co-owner of Springhill Outfitters in Selma, where he had worked since the age of 16. In 2013, he started The Farm entertainment venue. Lassiter spoke about the value of taking classroom knowledge and experiences and applying them to real work situations. He also told students that they needed to be flexible and stay abreast of current technology and trends.

“Be willing to learn new things,” he advised. “And when people tell you ‘no,’ then that should be a challenge for you to work harder.”

Mills joked that he came to UMO to play soccer and have fun. However, while at the institution he found his purpose in life. After graduation, Mills joined the family insurance agency as a benefits consultant. He has worked his way up to his current role as vice president and directs a group of property/casualty insurance specialist and also specialist in bond sales.

Wilson attended UMO at New Bern, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in management and organizational development. Although his career within financial institutions started in 2006, he credits much of his current success to the knowledge and degree he gained at UMO.

“UMO has definitely had a role with the ‘transformation’ of my career. My degree has served as an exponential springboard into the corporate and operational side of the credit union industry. I am very thankful for that.”

Wilson urged students to not only work hard, but also to surround themselves with good people. “I believe people should work hard towards their goals and dreams. I enjoy what I do every day. I make life a classroom — where I am learning something new all the time. I truly enjoy the people I work with. I am a people person, and I see a little good in everyone.”

After graduating from UMO in 2002, Piner went on to graduate in 2005 from Wake Forest University School of Law with a Juris Doctorate. He is a member of the North Carolina and Pitt County Bar Associations and practices law in Greenville, N.C., in the areas of estate and trust planning and administration, estate and trust disputes and fiduciary litigation, and guardianships.

His advice to students was to be involved, to keep their grades up, to make connections, and to always be a positive example.

Doug Ward, UMO assistant professor of management, summed up the event, “It is a powerful statement for students to hear graduates share stories about their college and career challenges and what skills the panelists view as being needed to be successful in today’s business environment. This was truly an inspiring event for our students.”

University of Mount Olive alumni, from left, are: Brad Piner, Brandon Mills, Trent Lassiter, Gwen Babson, Mikayla Braswell and Shawn Wilson. They spoke recently about their career successes following life at UMO. of Mount Olive alumni, from left, are: Brad Piner, Brandon Mills, Trent Lassiter, Gwen Babson, Mikayla Braswell and Shawn Wilson. They spoke recently about their career successes following life at UMO.

By Rhonda Jessup

University of Mount Olive