WPCC Business Graduate Remembers Positive Experiences


Elias_Bryant_05-03-16_webElias Bryant grew up in Burke County during the civil rights movement and experienced the desegregation of the Burke County school system as a high school student. Despite the fact that the civil rights movement was still resonating throughout the US when Bryant enrolled at Western Piedmont Community College (WPCC) in 1967, he shared that his time at the college was positive, supportive and enabled him to focus on his academic and career goals.  “In my personal experience, we were all just working and studying,” he said on a recent visit to campus.

Bryant’s home room teacher in high school first encouraged him to consider furthering his education at Western Piedmont. The college was relatively new at point, having been chartered in 1964. Bryant ultimately decided to attend WPCC because it was close to home, affordable, and met his academic needs.

During his time at WPCC, he enjoyed the small class sizes and how his courses were arranged in sequence; allowing him to build upon previously learned concepts. Bryant also appreciated the quality of the faculty.

“They were good instructors who understood that community college was a place where people could get their footing,” he said.  “They would work with you to help you get there.”  Bryant shared that while the instructors were supportive of working students like him and many of his classmates, they still held up high academic standards.  “You didn’t get a pass just because you were working and going to school. My instructors told me that I would have to earn my grades in their classes,” he said.  “I was really appreciative of college and the opportunities it gave me. It was very important to my life”.

He also shared that, from the beginning, he had mentors who encouraged him to further his education and improve himself. Bryant graduated from WPCC in 1968 with his associate degree in business administration and then served in the army from 1969 to 1971. After his service, he married and had two children. In 1975, he enrolled at Appalachian State University with the assistance from the GI bill.

He initially considered becoming an accountant until he took his first accounting class. Ultimately, he found his career path with vocational rehabilitation. After earning his four year degree, he became a vocational rehabilitation counselor and worked in that capacity until he retired.

“I think I’ve helped a lot of people in my career, but it’s not about that,” he said reflecting upon his career.  “Some people you can help and some people you can’t. I tell young people at my church that the only person responsible for you is you.”

Bryant, a humble man, is quick to say that his ability to succeed and gain an education was due to much more than himself.

“It’s not about me. It’s about what I do in life.  Even if you struggle, that’s how you learn in life. If I’ve been successful, it was because many people were involved. My story is really about all the people who were there to help me. It’s about always challenging yourself to do better.”

Bryant continues to see the value in community college and expressed his hope that it will always remain an affordable optionand he recommends WPCC for those who are unsure of their future.

“Western Piedmont is a good place to start and find out what your goal is in life. When I first came here, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Through this process and this journey, you will find your way.”

The Business Administration program is designed to introduce students to the various aspects of the business world. Students are provided with a fundamental knowledge of business functions, processes, and an understanding of business organizations in today’s global economy. Through these skills, students have a sound business education base for lifelong learning and can pass these skills on to their respective jobs. Contact San Vegter, business instructor, for more information at 828-448-6053 or svegter@wpcc.edu.