WPU Alumni support alma mater as adjunct faculty
For many alumni, senior year is the last time they step foot in their alma mater’s classrooms. However, dozens of WPU Alumni have been drawn to come back to the classroom as adjunct faculty.
These alumni want to pass on the education they received to the next generation — impacting students at the university that shaped them.
Here are four stories of alumni who found their way to becoming WPU adjunct faculty:
Olivia Gray ’15
Three times a week, Olivia Gray ’15 arrives at 7 a.m. to her job at the architecture firm, LS3P, where she works as an urban environment marketing manager. A few hours later, she then rushes to WPU’s campus to teach a communications class at noon. After that, she heads back to her office to finish her day.
While Gray has two jobs, “work at WPU doesn’t feel like work,” she said. Her passion for impacting students makes being in the classroom worthwhile.
Gray recalls how WPU impacted her as a student — she discovered the University when looking for a school to transfer to after her sophomore year at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. WPU was both close to her family in Knightdale and offered a tight-knit community. She knew she could build lasting relationships with the school’s professors and students.
At WPU, she found a love for design while studying communications. She then went on to receive her master’s degree in integrated media at Elon University.
Gray stayed in contact with professors when in 2022, Roger Christman, Department Chair of Art, Communication, and Simulation and Gaming Design, asked her to come back to campus to teach – the answer was easy.
Now, she hopes to inspire students by utilizing her experiences at WPU and to find a love for their own design work.
“I am looking forward to seeing students’ progress in how they apply design elements to their work. I want my students to be excited about the work they create,” she said. “I always wanted to give back to WPU. Even if I can’t financially, this is my way of giving back. I want to show appreciation for what WPU did for me. WPU set the foundation for who I am today.”
Will Christy ’17
While at WPU, Will Christy ’17 was often found in his professors’ offices. He would pop in with a homework question, ask for advice on how to balance classes while playing wheelchair basketball or query how he could grow his career.
Regardless of the question, his professors were always there for him.
Christy came to WPU because he was drawn to the student-professor relationships. Because of the 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, he knew he could find professors who would pour into him. Christy transferred to WPU from Wake Technical Community College to study English his junior year.
After WPU, he went on to receive his master’s degree in English literature at North Carolina State University.
“Even when I went to grad school, my WPU professors gave me advice on how to build my career,” Christy said. “They were – and are – always there for me, whether I was a student or afterward.”
When Corinne Andersen, WPU Department Chair of Humanities and Professor Of English, reached out to him in 2021 to teach at WPU, Christy eagerly applied for the role. He was thrilled when he got the job.
“I want to be like my WPU professors and be the person who is there for their students academically and personally,” said the Memphis native. “I never had a bad day at WPU because of the quality of people there.”
Christy feels a bit old being on the other side of the classroom at his alma mater, he joked.
He hopes his English course will teach students that English can relate to their interests. It isn’t about only grammar and mechanics but about the content and the ideas.
“Teaching at WPU makes me feel like all the hours I put in listening, taking notes, being in class, participating in discussions — it makes me feel like all those hours meant something,” Christy said. “I can’t even begin to tell you how appreciative that I am living my dream, that I am teaching in the school I have always wanted to teach at.”
Kathy Corley ’02
From attending college to working in corporate to attending college again to becoming a full-time professor and finally, to becoming an adjunct professor — Kathy Corley’s career path has had some unexpected twists and turns.
Originally from Florida, she first attended college for three years at the University of Florida in Gainesville in the 1970s. However, life circumstances prevented her from completing her degree.
So, Corley pursued a career in the corporate world. In 25 years, she worked her way to be the Vice President of Human Resources in two different companies. Her career took her to Cincinnati, Ohio, Indianapolis, Indiana, Charlotte, and eventually Raleigh.
After leaving the corporate world in the early 2000s, Corley heard about WPU’s Human Resources Major Degree Program and her interest was piqued. She went back to school at WPU to earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources (HR), which took her about two years to complete her undergraduate degree.
While a student at WPU, she spoke in several classes as a guest lecturer because of her extensive career experience. Through this, she uncovered a passion for teaching. “I discovered that I love working with students and seeing them grow and succeed,” she said.
She went on to Meredith College to earn her Master of Business Administration with Honors and became a full-time WPU professor of HR in 2004. She was later promoted to the Head of the Department. During her full-time tenure at WPU, Corley was awarded the Bingham Award for Campus Excellence in 2008 and the coveted McCormick Teaching Award in 2009.
In 2011, WPU leadership shifted and the HR degree was removed. However, Corley still wanted to teach at her alma mater. She stayed on as an adjunct professor, teaching various courses in business and career development. In 2017, Professor Christman invited her to teach Public Speaking in the Communications department.
Through all the changes, Corley supported WPU because of the community and the people. “The people have kept me here. WPU has a great community with incredible faculty and staff to work with,” she said.
While at WPU, she discovered another passion — leading WPU student study abroad trips. Corley has personally traveled to 68 countries and has led eight WPU student Study Abroad Programs, the first one in 2008.
She has seen countless students truly transformed by the trips.
“I want to help introduce students to this incredible world we have,” she said. “I have taken students overseas who have never even left North Carolina. Their jaws drop when they see 2,000-year-old buildings, see artwork from centuries past, partake in incredible cultures and interact with amazing people from all over the world.”
Taylor Shaw ’12
Ten years ago, Taylor Shaw ’12 was nervous and anxious to graduate from WPU. The communications major was unsure what her future held.
A few months after graduation, she became a reporter for a community newspaper in Durham, her hometown. Taylor later decided to pursue a master’s degree in journalism from the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C.
After, she established a career working in newsrooms, leading social media strategies, and later serving as the social media director for the University of Virginia. Now, she is a professor at Shaw University and an adjunct instructor at WPU.
“2012 Taylor would be so proud of 2022 Taylor. I would have never guessed where I am now,” she said. Her career was recognized in 2022 when she was awarded Young Alumni of the Year by the WPU Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Teaching a public speaking course at WPU, she aspires to be an example to her students of how WPU can impact them and their careers.
“It’s not every day that your instructor went to your school. I’ve been in students’ shoes on the other side of the classroom,” said the Alumni Board president-elect. “As an instructor, I hope I can be a mentor and coach — I have had so many people in my life pour into me as a student and this is my way of giving back.”
Since graduating from Peace, Taylor has been a guest speaker for several communication courses and a career mentor for current students. This is Taylor’s first semester teaching at WPU. She is so thankful for the close community and long-lasting relationships with professors and staff that afforded her these opportunities.
She continues to give back to the University that gave so much to her and encourages alumni to do the same.
“Give back in whatever way fits you best — volunteering your time, mentoring students, donating financially — so many ways to give back to WPU,” Taylor said.