Twenty years ago, Leigh Donadieu ’15 postponed her dream of a business degree. At the Bryan School, she brought that dream home.
The first time Leigh Donadieu ’15 set out to earn a bachelor’s degree, her plans were derailed. She was well into a bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University when congenital spine defects led to a series of reconstructive surgeries—and a tough decision to leave school.
With an associate’s degree in hand and a bachelor’s degree deferred, Leigh never lost her desire to complete her formal education. For two decades, she’s enjoyed a successful career, holding key sales and marketing positions for category-leading consumer brands, media enterprises and retailers. Still, Leigh was eager to take on the next great professional opportunity that presented itself. She had a nagging feeling, however, that some of the most ideal positions might be out of reach because she lacked a bachelor’s degree.
“The reality is that in today’s business environment—coming out of the recession with a still-struggling economy and the sheer size of the available talent pool—it’s more important than ever for any professional to have the strength, power and validity of a strong degree from a respected educational institution behind them,” she says.
In 2009, she enrolled in an online-only institution, though says she decided quickly that “it was not the best investment for my education and career in the long run.”
When a promotion at Electrolux came with a relocation to Charlotte in 2012, Leigh was introduced to the University of North Carolina system and began making plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration—finally.
“I briefly looked into other schools in the UNC system, but I chose to apply only to UNCG based on what I’d learned about the strength of the reputation of the school and its programs. After the 12 months required for residency in North Carolina (almost to the day, in fact!), I applied to UNCG so I could continue the pursuit of my dream to finish my degree at a highly regarded institution,” she says.
For professionals like Leigh who return to school full time, the ability to find creative, effective ways to meet new challenges—a central mission of the Bryan School—is honed not just through specific courses, but via the educational process itself.
“Because of my schedule and other commitments, the entire process of earning my degree at the Bryan School has been the ultimate problem-solving task,” Leigh says. “Many of my friends and colleagues ask, ‘How can you go work and go to school?’ My life is a prime example of solving problems every day to meet my overall goals. I admit it’s been tiring, stressful and difficult sometimes, but knowing how this degree will benefit me always put the wind in my sails.”
Driven and ambitious, Leigh is now a senior account manager of buying groups for Electrolux Major Appliances in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her Bryan School education has had timely, practical applications in countless ways.
“Every day, my job is to sell appliances to my customers and then help them market and sell those appliances so they can achieve greater profitability. It’s very sales and marketing oriented,” she says. “My Bryan School coursework has given me a greater depth of knowledge in finance, forecast planning, organization behavior—concepts large and small—that help me interact more effectively with my customers and even more so with my internal colleagues cross-functionally.”
Earning her bachelor’s degree is more than a dream realized; it is a tremendous boost for Leigh as she positions herself both for promotion and for making meaningful contributions through her career.
Article by Julie A. Palm
Photographs by Mynda Bullock