L.N. White has been working on the railroad, full-time, six and sometimes even seven days a week.
She’s also been going to school at Francis Marion University.
That’s not the normal mix for student success, or even just for students, period. But it worked out for White, who graduated on Dec. 17 with an FMU degree and a double major in Finance and Supply Chain Management.
Despite the rigors of balancing (more than) full-time work with full-time school (White always attended summer school, as well as the Fall and Spring semesters while earning her degree), White finished as was one of the top students in the School of Business the past few years.
Now she’ll return to just being one of the top dispatchers for the CSX railroad’s Florence Operations Center. That means that when she gets off work at 7 a.m. each morning, she won’t have to swallow her breakfast whole and rush off to school.
“It will be good to only have work,” says White, “but my time at FMU has been great. No matter where my career goes, this has been a good investment.”
White is a military veteran from Louisiana who wound up in Florence because of her career with CSX. Moving up the ladder in the railroad business often means following the tracks to a new locale, and that’s what happened to White. She came to Florence because of a career opportunity.
But several years after moving here, White realized that she’d topped out in the non-management side of her department (as a dispatcher, she serves as sort of an “air traffic controller” for trains in CSX’s busy southeast corridor between Rocky Mount, N.C. and Savannah, Ga.). If she wanted to continue to advance, to move into management, she’d need a baccalaureate degree.
Francis Marion was nearby and White’s co-workers all spoke highly of the university, so she enrolled.
It was everything she hoped it would be, says White. The curriculum was rigorous and the faculty was more than willing to accommodate a hard-working, fully employed, “non-traditional” student.
“From (former) Dean (Barry) O’Brien) to Dean Hari (Rajagoplan) to just about every professor I’ve had, they worked with me to keep on track,” says White. “I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Rajagopalan, FMU’s Dean of Business and one of White’s instructors, says faculty at the School of Business was eager to help White reach her goals.
“The first time I met her I noticed her sitting in the front row and meticulously taking notes,” says Rajagopalan. “That makes a difference. When she came to us asking for some help because of her work situation, we were happy to respond.”
The School of Business moved one class normally offered in the afternoon to the morning one semester to accommodate White. White also altered her schedule another semester to be able to take an afternoon class.
Rajagopalan says his experience with White and other non-traditional students has led to the exploration of a completely online undergraduate Business degree program.
“We know that will be of interest to some of our working, adult students,” says Rajagopalan.
White says obtaining the credential implied by her degree will help her career, but she didn’t invest her time and money just to pick up a piece of paper.
“I wanted to acquire knowledge that would actually help me in my career, in life,” says White. “The courses I took at FMU have done that. I’ve already put some things I learned in Finance to good use outside of work, and the rigor of the classes challenged me to learn and to learn how to think. I had a few classmates complain about how hard some of the courses were, and I’ll admit, I struggled some myself. But that’s the way it ought to be. The degree really ought to mean something.
“At FMU, I think it does.”
For more information, contact Tucker Mitchell, executive director of public affairs, at 843.661.1332 or (cell) 843.409.5587.