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Summer 2018 Wofford Today
Key header

Reaching back

Alumni return to inspire and open doors for current students

When Margaret Key graduated from Wofford in 1996, she kept her eyes fixed on opportunity:

+ Graduate school at Yonsei Graduate School of International Studies in Korea.

+ In-house marketing with Hyundai.

+ A brief stint in public relations for Hilton.

+ Crisis communications, brand promotion and general management for Edelman Japan.

+ Leadership as COO and CEO for Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific (and now CEO of Zeno Asia Pacific as of March 31, 2018).

Key has transformed workplace environments, juggled global business and family, and advised international leaders, such as Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s first female president. She even consulted on recent elections in Iraq, which meant multiple trips to Baghdad, an opportunity she never could have predicted.

This spring Key seized another opportunity — an invitation to return to Wofford as part of a lunch and learn series through The Space in the Mungo Center — and she’s quick to explain that her successes started by exposing herself to opportunity right here at Wofford.

“The beauty of going to Wofford honestly is the opportunity to be able to travel through semester study abroad and Interims,” says Key. “Fundamentally, studying abroad and the influence of educators such as Dr. Gerald Ginocchio had a huge impact on me. If it weren’t for my experiences at Wofford, I would be in a completely different space.”

Curt McPhail ’96, executive director of The Space in the Mungo Center, invited Key to campus as part of a strategic approach to bring graduates back to Wofford to interact with students on a regular basis. Key was one of seven who returned during the spring semester; nine also came back to speak in the fall.

“We tried to present a diverse set of opportunities and paths after Wofford,” says McPhail. “We encouraged speakers to be journey specific, not necessarily work specific … more this is what I did at Wofford, this was my path after graduation, and this is how Wofford uniquely prepared me to do that.”

After sharing her journey, talking about building her Burson-Marsteller team in South Korea and offering to stay in contact with students, Key offered a few tips:

“Get out of your comfort zone. Do things that make you feel uncomfortable. That’s when the magic happens.”

“Don’t waste your abilities. I wanted to be pre-med when I came to Wofford, but I learned that I hated physics and bio, but loved writing and thinking and traveling and learning about people. Ask yourself if what you’re doing in terms of your career really suits you. Ask yourself some hard questions.”

“Work hard. I add this because I work with a lot of millennials. In Indonesia, 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25. They want to know when they will be CEO of a company or get a salary increase. That’s not something they should ask. You’re not entitled to anything. Work hard. No one owes you anything. ”

“For me Wofford was a basecamp from which to do other things and go other places. Push yourselves to the edge,” Key advised the students, “and the magic will happen.”

Tania Drahun ’19 was one of the students listening in the audience. She lucked into the first alumni speakers series event but made a point of attending the remaining sessions. The free food didn’t hurt either.

“You never know what you will learn about,” says the finance major and accounting minor from Greenville, S.C. “The opportunities are out there if we are willing to dream big. I’ve liked the diversity of speakers. Some are from here in the Upstate. They stayed to help our area grow. Some are from Washington, D.C., helping run our country. One came to Wofford all the way from Korea.”

Drahun, who works breakfast and evening shifts as a bistro server at a Marriott in Greenville, particularly enjoyed Corry Oakes ’89 because of his work in the hospitality industry. Oakes appreciates the opportunity to return to campus. He says it allows him to recruit and better understand the perspectives of college-age students.

“The world continues to evolve,” he says, “and spending time in an academic environment is a wonderful learning opportunity for me. It’s critical that Wofford offer these non-classroom enrichment experiences for students. They will enter into a highly competitive world after Wofford, and these opportunities to hear working-world perspectives from former students can be a tremendous part of their education.”

When Wofford’s head baseball coach, Todd Interdonato, discovered that Chad Reed ’97, a graduated student-athlete on the baseball team, was coming to talk about his path to a career in financial services with Live Oak Bank in Wilmington, N.C., Interdonato required the entire team to attend the event.

“Chad’s visit to campus this fall was a great learning experience for our players and an opportunity we did not want them to miss,” says Interdonato. “His direct connection with our program makes his success story even more relatable to our players. As they progress through their careers at Wofford, they begin to understand the true value of our education and brand as they enter into postgraduate life.”

Over spring break, Reid took his family to watch the Terriers play in Wilmington, continuing the reconnection.

“We recognize that students need to build their networks,” says McPhail. “What we’ve discovered is that the alumni who have come back are enjoying the experience as well. That’s one of the things that makes the Wofford community so special.”

According to McPhail, in addition to discovering potential career paths, students who attend the series have learned how to interact with people and how to ask questions. They have learned about networking and the importance of both breadth and depth of educational experiences. They have learned that major does not necessarily define a career path and that they need to recognize and be ready and willing to seize opportunities — whether at a tailgate or a job fair. 

“All 16 speakers and their stories articulated the fact that life after Wofford takes a proactive approach,” says McPhail. “That’s a critical lesson and why we’re here at The Space in the Mungo Center.”

 

FALL speakers

Chad Reed ’97, business advisory group manager of Live Oak Bank, Wilmington, N.C.

Corry Oakes ’89, president and CEO of OTO Development LLC, Spartanburg, S.C.

Jim Merklinger ’88, president of ACC Credentialing Institute, Charleston, S.C.

John Bauknight ’89, owner of RJ Rockers, broker with NAI Earl Furman, Spartanburg, S.C.

Matt Masten ’96, co-owner of Foothills Brewing, investment counselor with BB&T, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Pearce Fleming ’96, proprietor and CEO of Commonhouse Aleworks, North Charleston, S.C.

Heather Onstott Perrygo ’92, CFO of Freight Farms, director of Launch Capital, Cambridge, Mass.

Meg Morrison Peebles ’07, operations associate with Global Endowment Management, Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte Atkinson ’10, public investment coordinator, Global Endowment Management, Charlotte, N.C.

 

SPRING speakers

Margaret Key ’96, CEO of Asia-Pacific, Burson-Marsteller, South Korea

Madison Walter ’15, health communications specialist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Global Health Protection, Atlanta, Ga.

Hunter Miller ’07, senior vice president of Wells Fargo Bank, vice president of institutional clients group, Wells Fargo & Co., Charlotte, N.C.

David Moore ’14, analyst for environmental products, Element Markets, Houston, Texas

Lyn Walsh ’90, access specialist, Amgen, Columbia, S.C.

Tramaine Brown ’11, diversity initiatives, Apple and Thurgood Marshall Institute, Washington, D.C.

Ayden Meyer ’01, director of foreign exchange, PNC, Charlotte, N.C.

By Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ’89