Charles Volz is a business administration and law major from Granite Falls. Volz will graduate this May and then attend law school in the fall. The jury is still out on which of his several acceptances he will take.
Volz is a non-traditional student. He initially attended the University of North Carolina at Pembroke straight out of high school on a wrestling scholarship, where he subsequently suffered a career-ending injury. Volz transferred to Catawba Valley Community College and then Brunswick Community College near Holden Beach. He ultimately put school on hold for a while and started bartending.
Volz began bartending at Mermaids, a restaurant on the beach, then moved to Charlotte where he tried his hand at several different styles of bartending including fine dining, dive bars, Irish pubs, karaoke bars and soccer pubs. Volz also spent a year in New York City bartending in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“Being in constant communication with other people, as bartenders are, makes you more confident and helps you be more conversational with different people from different backgrounds,” he said. “Moving back to Western Carolina into the school system, it made me a lot more outgoing than the first time going in at UNC Pembroke. It's helped me become more of a leader on campus in the activities I'm involved in. I’ve found ways to be a mouthpiece or a voice for a group, and that’s definitely a result of bartending.”
He wants other students on the non-traditional track to know that this part of his story was important and necessary for his success at WCU.
“Me leaving school was very important. At the time it seemed like maybe the wrong decision. You’re supposed to graduate, go to college, graduate again, get a job. I kind of changed that program up a little bit,” Volz said. “I think the time I spent in the hospitality industry was very necessary. It really helped me understand who I am and what I want to accomplish in my life.”
The pandemic was a turning point for Volz, as it was for many people. “Bars closed, restaurants shut down and it made me evaluate what I want to do for the next 20 or 30 years. What impact would I like to make? What career am I happy to do?” he said. “I wanted substance – to create something that affects other people. But I also wanted to stay in contact with other people because as a bartender that’s something I really enjoyed.”
Volz re-enrolled at Catawba Valley Community College, completed his associate’s degree, and then applied to WCU. Volz was attracted to WCU because of the affordability, the location and the positive experiences of his brother, Brian Volz, an alum and former WCU football coach.
Volz grew up in the Boy Scouts of America program and is an active eagle scout, which is part of what fostered his love for the mountains of Western North Carolina.
“One of the benefits to being in Cullowhee is definitely the surrounding area. As someone who grew up in the boy scouts and who is an eagle scout actively volunteering with the scout program, I like to be in the woods. I like to backpack and I like to go to waterfalls and ponds and rivers and creeks and do all those fun water sport activities,” he said. “I’m able to experience all that Western has to offer, from academia and our clubs and organizations to the environment surrounding us. It’s very therapeutic and that balance is important to me.”
Volz is team captain for the WCU Mock Trial Team and president of the Business and Law Society. He commends assistant professor Andrew Emerson for starting WCU’s first-ever mock trial team this year.
“Professor Andrew Emerson is an experienced litigator out of Dallas, Texas. He has great energy and he’s passionate about students achieving academic success. He introduced the mock trial out of his enjoyment of law,” Volz said. “This was our first year having one at Western, so none of us really understood what we were getting ourselves into. It is a lot of fun and quite a bit of work. Mock trial simulates a fictitious case, either criminal or civil. This year we had a civil case. We learned how to write direct examinations and cross examinations, and we learned how to do opening statements and closing arguments.”
Volz majored in law to find the substance he had been looking for. “Law gives me an opportunity to involve myself closely with individuals who are in desperate need of representation and in desperate need of justice,” he said. “What fires me up is the idea of being able to help other people, to be able to leave impacts on people’s lives. Whether they remember my name or not, they will remember that they were helped and maybe they will pass that along to someone else.”
While some graduating students may be anxious about that next step, Volz is ready.
“I’m excited that I’m trying something different and I think that excitement comes from the fact that I feel ready,” he said. “When I came to Western, I knew the direction I wanted to go but I didn’t know how to get there. This school helped me learn the steps and processes to move forward. I’m ready and excited to use what I’ve learned.”