Catawba College's first two Business Scholars, Gail Murray of Brunswick County and Josh Owens of Cabarrus County, were not considering Catawba until late in their decision-making process about where they would enroll after high school graduation.
Owens, who had been in a summer biodiversity camp at Catawba as a fifth grader, initially had his sights set on Western Carolina University where he planned to major in sports management. However, he went to a workshop at his high school (Mt. Pleasant High School) to learn the "ins and outs" of how to pay for a college education.
By sheer coincidence, the day after the financial aid workshop, Owens was back on the Catawba campus for an open house for prospective students. "Everyone was so incredibly helpful and friendly," he recalled. "Everyone seemed like they wanted me to come here. It was just like a family atmosphere. God really just opened up doors and I have found the perfect place for me."
Murray did not have Catawba on her radar screen as she planned her college career. In fact, she had not heard of the college in Salisbury until she received an e-mail from Catawba which offered her the opportunity to apply without paying an application fee. "That was a big bonus because applying to college can be expensive." She viewed the website a lot and that convinced her to put Catawba on her list. She was accepted and was interviewed for the prestigious First Family scholarship. She received the Presidential scholarship, in addition to the Business Scholars award.
"When I visited here, I got so excited," she said. "The campus is so pretty and everyone was so welcoming and so friendly." The only other campuses she visited were Wake Forest and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, which is near her high school, West Brunswick High outside of Shallotte. She is the daughter of Lana Piedra of Shallotte and John Murray of Wilmington.
Actually Owens and Murray are exactly the calibre of student the new Business Scholars program is designed to attract to Catawba ... good students, interested in majoring in business, and undecided about where they want to enroll. Each Business Scholar receives a $5,000 scholarship for each of four years. Professor Pam Thompson, chair of the Ralph W. Ketner School of Business, and the Admissions Office are in the process of recruiting five Business Scholars for 2009-10.
Business Scholars have the opportunity to experience one-on-one conversations with business leaders such as Ralph W. Ketner, co-founder of Food Lion, and Phil Kirk, Vice President for External Relations at Catawba and former President/CEO of North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry, the state's chamber of commerce. They also attend and often assist with variousEvents sponsored by the Ketner School of Business, such as the Business Hall of Fame, the Distinguished CEO Lecture Series, and meetings of the Business Advisory Board for the Ketner School of Business.
"We are very excited about our first Business Scholars and the ways they have participated in business programs as first-year students," Thompson, who directs the program, said. "Next year, with the addition of five more Business Scholars, we will continue to expand the number of activities they will be involved with as a group."
Murray still talks about her experience as a freshman Business Scholar when she sat with the Ritchie family which owns and operates Cheerwine, and Fred Corriher, former president of Catawba College, at the Business Hall of Fame ceremony last fall. "It was really cool for me to be around people who have accomplished so much and who have meant so much to Catawba."
The son of Tammy Vanover of Mocksville and Jerry Owens of Concord, Owens has felt "right at home" at Catawba since he came to Discovery Day last year. "I know I am supposed to be here. It feels good to be here, and I love it," Owens said. He plans to major in business administration and to minor in sports management. In fact, he is a work study student with Catawba's Athletics Department.
Summing up her freshman year, Murray said, "I feel like I have learned more about myself. I have developed a lot of new friends and I am learning a lot. I love how close knit the Catawba community is." She enjoys attending theatre and musical performances to see her friends perform.
Both were very positive on the impact the Freshman Retreat played in getting them off to a positive start at Catawba. "The Freshman Retreat helped me to learn to know people and to feel comfortable about the beginning of the year at Catawba," Murray said.
Owens added, "The Freshman Retreat helped me to form a network of people I knew early in my education at Catawba. The fact that so many upper classmen and professors attended was really a plus and I am glad that I went." In fact, Owens is so enthused about Catawba that he hopes to become a part of the Ambassadors program next year so "I can provide prospective students with the kind of information which got me here."
Murray plans to return to a waitressing job this summer. Owens will be working with the same child care program he has been involved with since beginning his junior year in high school.
Both are anxious to return to Catawba next fall where they will be sophomore Business Scholars and more importantly, mentors to Catawba's second group of Business Scholars.