Erin West knows the value of a scholarship can go well beyond its dollar sign.
A senior in the College of Business, West has received slightly more than $17,000 in WCU scholarships since her sophomore year. But besides helping to pay for her education, the financial support has helped to position her as a student with some cachet, a good bet, a smart cookie who knows a thing or two.
“Scholarships have given me the ability to make connections through scholarship dinners and banquets,” said West, who is double majoring in sport management and marketing. “They have made me known as an individual in the College of Business.”
Yes, they have. West, a 2014 graduate of Andrews High School, was the only undergraduate selected by the College of Business staff to serve on the College’s dean search committee, which is a “huge job and requires a tremendous amount of hours,” said Ken Flynt, associate dean of the college. But, it was obvious West was up to the task, Flynt said.
“Erin is a really mature young lady. She has shown herself to be a great leader in the college and university. She’s really dependable, has a really good compass about where she wants to go and how she wants to get there, and she works really, really hard,” he said.
For West, serving on the search committee is more of a labor of love than hard work. It’s also a real-time lesson in human resources. She works with senior administrators, evaluates resumes, reads and analyzes documents and helps to conduct interviews of highly accomplished people.
“I’ve learned a lot of valuable skills through that search committee that will help me in the future,” she said.
After she graduates in May (summa cum laude — with highest honors) with a marketing degree, West hopes to work in the development office of an intercollegiate athletics program, a career path she stumbled upon working one football season for the WCU Catamount Club. West had just wanted a job when she applied to work game days during her junior year. What she got instead was a taste of a possible career, and she loved it. She set up tailgating events, decorated the field house and worked with donors during the game, helping them with tickets and refreshments and talking to them about their pasts at WCU, their careers and her future after college. “I loved talking to the donors and sharing that love of the same school,” she said.
During those game-day events, something clicked. West saw herself with a career in fundraising. She had been a student-athlete herself at WCU, participating in track and field for two years on scholarship and was a member of the 2015 Southern Conference outdoor track-and-field championship team as a triple jumper. “Because I came in as a student-athlete and scholarship winner, fundraising appeals to me,” said West, who was a three-sport athlete in high school and her high school class valedictorian. “I like the idea of providing scholarships and funds to student-athletes, some of whom are first-generation college students. Many of them couldn’t attend college without it.”
To boost her chances of getting the job she wants after college, West added a second degree, sport management, which she’ll complete in August. She also spent several weeks last May in a sport management study-abroad program, where she learned about her industry from an international perspective. She and other students from WCU and a Pennsylvania college traveled to seven countries, meeting with various sport industry experts, visiting soccer stadiums and seeing the French Open’s famed Roland-Garros tennis stadium in Paris, where they got to watch a French Open qualifying tournament.
“If I hadn’t gotten the scholarships, I would have had too much debt to study abroad,” she said. The scholarships West applied for and received were the C.S. Madison Academic, Freda Russell Rayburn, Chad M. Flynt, and Bronce and Betty Ray scholarships.
The value of the trip was in seeing how the world of sport operates in a different light, she said, and it was her first time to fly in an airplane.
“It’s just a different atmosphere,” she said of her experience. “It’s a different kind of fan base. Their fans are really supportive. They stick with their team regardless [of if they win or lose]. And, whereas Americans love their football, over there it’s soccer.”
When West graduates, she will do so with a 3.98 GPA, one degree and a second soon after. She has a study-abroad program under her belt, real-life experience and an internship lined up with the Deacon Club, Wake Forest’s university athletics development department. She’s ready, she said, to make her dream a reality, but preferably not too far from Catamount country.
“I hope to eventually move back to work at Western, a place that’s given me so much,” she said.
For more information on how to provide scholarship support for WCU students like West, visit LEADTHEWAY.WCU.EDU or call 828-227-7124.
By Melanie Threlkeld McConnell