Things have changed a bit since Bryan Wynns attended UNC Greensboro in the late 1980s. For one, he says, you can no longer drive down College Avenue. Another change — he and his wife, Kimberly, have had two children, both of whom decided to attend the Bryan School of Business and Economics.
Though his son, Hunter, and daughter Eliza say it wasn’t part of a master plan to follow in their father’s footsteps, they attribute much of their success to him.
“He’s a helper,” said Eliza. “He likes to help people as much as he possibly can.”
Originally from Raleigh, Bryan recalls first visiting UNCG on a cold, rainy day, falling in love with the campus nonetheless.
“I was looking for a medium-sized state school,” he said. “I toured other campuses but they didn’t have the feel that UNCG did. UNCG just felt special the moment I stepped foot on the campus. Knowing they had a good business school sealed the deal.”
Bryan chose to major in finance, planning to follow his own father’s path in the insurance industry.
He says his post-graduation journey into insurance lasted a little more than a year before he started looking for something new. He found that in Information Technology with First Union National Bank and now has a career in software sales.
When it came time for Hunter to begin looking at colleges, he had already developed a relationship with UNCG, attending Spartan basketball camps when he was younger.
“My dad wasn’t really that involved in swaying me in going to UNCG,” said Hunter. “They were very supportive wherever I was going to go. I just liked the fact that the campus was small but had a lot of opportunities, a lot of ways I could fit in with the community there.”
His dad’s impact on his college decision may not have been overt, but Hunter saw a path through the Bryan School into his father’s world of software sales. He took that path, studying marketing and eventually landing a job in Austin, Texas with Oracle.
“It’s been great,” said Hunter. “I think that a lot of the things I’ve gone through have been a lot easier because I’ve been able to talk with him. He’s gone through a lot of the same things: gritty cold calling, front lines stuff. Working with clients and sales, there are a lot of downs and ups and he’s been able to talk with me and coach me through a lot of that. To have him there has been helpful whether it was college stuff or my own job and looking to get promoted to the next opportunity. It’s been extremely helpful.”
Being the younger sibling, Eliza knew UNCG quite well by her senior year of high school, having tagged along with Hunter during his search. With an interest in fashion and a desire to remain in-state, the choice to pursue Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies at the Bryan School seemed clear-cut.
“I heard personal stories about how the Bryan School treated Hunter and I liked that personal approach,” said Eliza. “I only applied to UNCG.”
She and Hunter overlapped during her first couple of years in Greensboro.
“We didn’t hang out all the time, we’d say ‘Hi’ if we saw each other on campus,” said Eliza. “It’s such a perfect size. If I ever wanted to find him I knew where to find him but never felt pressured. College is such an important time to spread your wings and become your own person.”
While spreading her wings, Eliza made the decision to switch to an accounting major.
“She had to make her own decision,” said Bryan. “But she’s always had a head for numbers.”
Now heading into her senior year, Eliza has an eye on a post-grad internship with the large accounting firm RSM. Just as she felt supported in her switch in majors, she knows the Bryan School will be there for her should she pursue a Master of Science in Accounting on her way to becoming a Certified Public Accountant.
His sister’s time at UNCG is certainly a reflection of what Hunter believes the Bryan School offers students.
“I think you find your way,” he said. “Whatever it is, you can either go there and go through the motions and get a lot out of the college experience, or you can make the most of your opportunities and get out there and talk to people and ask questions and be engaged with the curriculum and the faculty and extracurriculars. It’s up to you. Put in what you want to get out and you can absolutely make your own way.”
Bryan is the first to admit his children have engaged with the school more than he did during his time as an undergrad. But that, too, is something that has changed for him since the ’80s. Along with being a father and unofficial career coach for his own children, Bryan has begun giving back to the school in a myriad of ways by participating in Destination G, the Spartan Showcase, Bryan School MBA mentorship program, Back to Business and Suit Up, as well as conducting mock interviews with current students.
Bryan’s core advice is simple.
“Intern early and often,” said Bryan. “That’s the No. 1 piece of advice. Secondly, find a mentor.”
In addition to resources within the Bryan School, Bryan says to look within your own network for internship opportunities. Your professional network may be larger than you think. Where do members of your extended family work? Who do you know from church or civic organizations working in your field of interest? Eliza says her dad once found her a connection at RSM while sitting next to them on an airplane.
Bryan says he tries to provide value where he can, and seems to find real joy in relaying his wisdom to students.
“I’ve learned a lot from the mistakes I’ve made over the years,” he said. “There are a lot of things I wished I had a good mentor for as I started my career. If I can impart some of that learning to others, all the better.”
Ultimately, however, sharing an alma mater with his children has proved to be a truly special experience.
“I’ll always be their dad and we have that bond,” he said. “But having them attend the Bryan School has given us shared experiences you typically do not have with your kids. As students, we’ve walked the same halls and have had classes in the same rooms, albeit 30 years apart. It’s fun going to homecoming and games with them as fellow alumni. It’s a great shared experience that has strengthened our family bond.”