My Winthrop Experience

Browse the following profiles to read more about the life-changing Winthrop experiences of our graduates, students, alumni, donors, faculty and staff: 

    Ali Pizza '22 (pronounced like Italy's Leaning Tower and NOT the food) is pretty sure her colleagues at the Gaston County Museum are growing tired of hearing her say, “Well, actually, I just read that in class!” Since enrolling in Winthrop University's Master of Arts Administration (MAAA) program, she's discovered real-life applications from her coursework. Click here to learn more about how Ali is putting her degree into practice. 

    Tony Chau '21 started playing video games as a child and parlayed those talents into esports scholarships to pay for his college education. After graduating from Winthrop in May 2021 with a Master of Business Administration, Chau returned home to Canada. As he looks for a management job, he is using his expertise with League of Legends to coach other players online. Click here to learn more about Tony and his story.

    Jean Paul Dushime '18 has always had a love of learning, so when he left Rwanda five years ago, he sought additional educational learning opportunities. This searching led him to enroll in the Master of Business Administration in Finance program at Winthrop with a concentration in finance. Click here to learn more about Jean's belief in being intentional learning and to hear his financial advice.

    More than a decade after studying circadian rhythms in worms in the M.S. in Biology program at Winthrop, Daniel Stanton '09, '15 continues to learn about the complexities of circadian biology. While working as a microscopy lab manager and biological scientist at the University of Florida (UF) IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Stanton is pursuing his Ph.D. in animal molecular and cellular biology in the Animal Science Department at UF under the direction of Peter Hansen. Click here to hear Daniel's story.

    Nationally syndicated radio personality Sheri Lynch '13, co-host of "The Bob and Sheri Show," has enjoyed immense success in radio, as a two-time author and as a motivational speaker. But several years ago, Lynch decided it was the perfect time to add another accomplishment to her resume — Winthrop Master of Social Work graduate. Click here to learn how Sheri put her love of social work into action by earning a graduate degree at Winthrop.

    Lisa Knox '10, '12 met some of her first friends in the basement of Wofford Hall as a freshman at Winthrop and even more during her time in our Master of Music program. She is now the choral director and piano teacher at Indian Land High School in Lancaster County and was recently named the 2019 Lancaster County District Teacher of the Year after being selected from 200 nominees to receive the Celebrate Great Teaching Awards. Click here to learn about how, for Lisa, teaching is music to her ears.

    Being an advocate for women with disabilities, specifically women of color with disabilities, is nothing new for Vilissa Thompson '08, '12, Master of Social Work graduate. She started her blog, Ramp Your Voice, back in 2013 as a way to educate professionals and lay people about that different world. Click here to learn how Vilissa doesn't let anything hold her back.

    Moved by Christian teachings to help one another, third-grade teacher Heyward Murray'08, '10 donated one of her two kidneys to a man she did not know. Click here to read more about Heyward's story.

    M.A. in Teacher Education, Music K-12 graduate, Chris Hathcock '05, '09 considers his life saved by—and through—music. “That fact fuels my commitment to teaching music and equipping students with the ability to use music to do the same in their lives,” said the Durham, North Carolina, resident. Click here to hear about how Chris used a grant to provide that same comfort to his students through music. 

    M.S. in Biology graduate Ernest Allen '03, '07 may not carry a badge, but don't let that fool you — he and his team work hard to police the many seed packets found on store shelves nationwide. Click here to learn more about Ernest and his team "The Seed Police".

    Master of Business Administration graduate Pierre Wooten '02, ‘05 hardly ever takes the easy route to his goals. Instead, the unsurmountable faith he has in God has taken him on a journey through many experiences. From Ohio, he landed in South Carolina playing basketball at Winthrop, then he played professional basketball overseas in different countries and eventually came back to the states to launch his own non-profit. Click here to learn how Pierre uses his competitiveness and faith to serve others.

    As a child, Rock Hill native Derrick Alridge '88, '92 didn't have to look far for role models. In fact, he looked no farther than his home, his neighborhood and the schools he attended. Click here to learn how Derrick sees teachers as the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.


Browse the following profiles to read the testimonies and stories from other students and alumni: 

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    Name: James C (Jimmie) Williamson, Ph.D. '80, '85, '21
    Degree: Bachelor of Visual Arts, M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling (Now Counseling and Development), Online Master of Social Work
    Occupation: Chief Behavioral Health Officer, South Carolina/Georgia House Calls



    "You're NEVER too old! Second Master's (and third career) all after age 60! First Master's was the precursor for my Ph.D.; that degree sustained a full career in higher education. Second career was in long-term cared, fueled by research interests in the Ph.D. Third career in Social Work is proving to be the best yet! On the road to earning an LISW-CP because of the foundation of the Winthrop degrees and the flexibility afforded in the on-line program. Fourth career? Yet to be decided! NEVER stop learning!!"

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    Name: Jordan Warren '15
    Degree: M.A. in Arts Administration (Now fully online)
    Occupation: Administrative/Development Associate, Heifetz International Music Institute



    "I really enjoyed our Summer Sessions; my favorite was as a year-1 student going to Charleston. During that time, I felt the cohorts really became close, especially the cohort I was in. We learned a ton that week about our futures as art administrators, leaders, and people. I still communicate with my cohort to this day and would recommend Winthrop to everyone! I am always bouncing ideas and asking questions to my cohort friends. They're always willing to help and honestly have been key in my future planning."

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    Name: Erin Curran '07, '09
    Degree: B.S. in Physical Education Teaching, M.S. in Athletic Administration (Now M.S. in Sports and Fitness Administration)
    Occupation: Assistant Principal, Swofford Career Center



    "Graduate school at Winthrop helped prepare me by giving me opportunities to get out and experience the field I wanted to work in. As an Athletic Administration student I got to do internships with sports teams, interview Athletic Directors from around the state and country, and learn about what it would take to be a success in the industry. No job was below me as I did anything from working with the sports marketing team, to filming during games, to attending press conferences, to dressing up as the mascot. I truly experienced it all and felt 100% prepared for the next step upon graduation."


    Name: Dick McCoy '04
    Degree: Executive Master of Business Administration
    Occupation: Retired Pediatrician 



    "My Winthrop experience is definitely in the 'non traditional' category. After I retired from 21 years in private pediatric practice, I opened a new chapter in my life by starting the E.M.B.A. program at Winthrop in 2002. I can happily report that it was a joyous 2 years. I was at a point in my life where I needed a new challenge, and wow did this program fill it. I have such warm feelings about the Winthrop staff and faculty - genuine interest in doing what was best for me. To top it off, my class was small which led to a tight brother/sisterhood. I continue to maintain contact with several of my classmates 19 years later. 

    Also, my time at Winthrop opened my eyes to many opportunities to give back to Winthrop and the larger community by serving on several of the University advisory boards. My wife and I have begun our philanthropic journey thanks to my experience at Winthrop. We look forward to many more years ahead."


    Name: Steven M. Cansler '02
    Degree: Master of Arts in Spanish
    Occupation: Financial Crime Investigator (Retired)



    "[After starting this program] I quickly talked a few of my fellow grad students into forming a study group for each course. Not only was it extremely helpful, but it also resulted in the formation of a bond between us that was comparable to the bonds that I formed with people who I served with in the military."


    "My academic journey to Graduate School at Winthrop University was somewhat unique and anything but a straight line from college. Considering the fact that the military played such a surprising, but significant role in setting me on the path to Winthrop, I feel that a little bit of a back story is required.

    My Vietnam War Era graduation from high school coincided with the reinstatement of the military draft lottery system, which was based on every young man's birthday, registered with the Selective Service System. Registration was required within 30 days of turning the age of eighteen. The lower your number, which could range anywhere between 1 and 365, the more likely you were to be drafted into the Army the coming year, which generally involved the numbers from 1 to about 240. If your number was above 240 or so, you had no obligation for military service and could plan your life accordingly. However, in my case, I received a draft lottery number of 76, which indicated that I had a definite obligation to serve in the military. Accordingly, instead of waiting to be drafted into the Army infantry, which guaranteed a tour of duty in Vietnam, I enlisted in the Air Force. It wasn't until after basic training, while I was going through the military law enforcement academy, that I learned that the Security Police were the infantry of the Air Force with a combat mission to protect the air base. So, I accepted the fact that I was on my way to Vietnam one way or the other.

    In fact, a short time later, while working in nuclear weapon security at a base in Montana, no one was more surprised than me when I got orders to Europe. My fellow cops, who all had orders to Vietnam or South Korea, were convinced that I had an uncle or some family member who was a senator or congressman pulling strings for me. However, nothing could have been further from the truth. During what turned out to be a three-year tour of duty in Spain, I did police work not only on base, but also off base with Spanish military and civilian law enforcement agencies, conducting dual investigations regarding any criminal or civil issues involving American G.I.'s from the base. Although we were provided with interpreters, any Spanish that I could pick up really enhanced my ability to interact with the Spanish national authorities. Consequently, I made a real effort to get into the language and along the way, met my wife, and went through the entire courtship process in Spanish. 

    After completing four years of active duty, I went to college full-time on the G.I. Bill, while also working full-time at just about any job that would allow me to go to school. However, as time passed, while working on an Associates in Arts degree at Central Piedmont Community College, I was eventually able to parlay my military law enforcement experience and bilingual ability into better jobs.

    When I eventually earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a minor in Spanish from Limestone College, via their off-campus night school program in the early 1980's, I assumed that would be the end of my academic endeavors. However, 20 years later in the late 1990's, while working as a Criminal Investigator and Security Consultant for an energy company, I was sent on a short assignment to Argentina. Just like English accents and terminology can vary greatly from one country to another, the same is true with Spanish. 
    I definitely found that to be the case in Argentina, but was able to complete my mission without any major problems. However, I saw a real need to improve my Spanish. 

    It took a little salesmanship, but I was eventually able to convince company management, that perfecting my Spanish would directly enhance my ability to do my job while working in the Spanish speaking countries where the company had operations and facilities. Accordingly, management agreed to reimburse me for my tuition expenses in connection with my pursuit of a Master of Arts degree in Spanish at Winthrop University. So, at age 49, I found myself in Graduate School.

    The skills that I had developed in the military to improvise, adapt, and overcome had served me well in the corporate world. So, I was hoping that skill set would also be a plus in Grad School. Aside from being the oldest student, the first thing that I noticed was that everyone of my classmates were Spanish teachers at either public or private schools ranging from middle schools to high schools. In fact, a couple were even native Spanish speakers. Although I was not a teacher, most of my jobs had required me to conduct a certain amount of training classes from time to time in the areas of fraud detection and white-collar crime prevention. So, I wasn't exactly a novus when it came to the concept of teaching.

    The degree required the completion of 10 courses. The lecturing, textbooks, exams, and required presentations were all in Spanish. The students even spoke Spanish with each other during the short breaks that we received during our classes. Feeling that I was somewhat in over my head, I quickly talked a few of my fellow grad students into forming a study group for each course. Not only was it extremely helpful, but it also resulted in the formation of a bond between us that was comparable to the bonds that I formed with people who I served with in the military. Sharing intense stressful situations tends to do that.

    Although I was working full time, a combination of taking night classes during the Fall and Spring semesters and using my vacation days to take multiple classes during the Summer semesters allowed me to complete the degree in a year and a half. I actually finished the last courses at Salamanca University in Salamanca, Spain, via Winthrop's study abroad program. That required a combination of vacation days and a short paid educational leave from my company.

    After graduation I was offered the opportunity to teach undergraduate level Spanish courses at Winthrop a couple nights a week. I accepted the position and was a part-time faculty member for several years. Following some reorganization and management changes at the energy company, I began working as a bilingual Financial Crime Investigator with an international financial institution. It was an ironic twist of fate, which resulted in Winthrop University and an international bank becoming the primary beneficiaries of the knowledge and expertise that I acquired while pursuing my graduate degree, instead of the energy company that actually paid for it.

    After almost a decade with the Bank, I was able to workout an early retirement. The early retirement afforded me the opportunity to give back to the community. I have done volunteer work for years with Family Court as a bilingual Child Custody Advocate and from time to time, I have taught English as a second language.



    Steven M. Cansler, Class of 2002"


    Name: Dr. Lincoln E. Sigwald '92, '98
    Degree: Bachelor of Arts, Master of Liberal Arts
    Occupation: English Department Chair, Charlotte Catholic High School



    "After searching high and low for the perfect graduate program, I realized I had a pearl of great price right in my own back yard! The Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) program allowed me the flexibility to build an interdisciplinary program that was challenging, engaging, and thought-provoking. I am forever indebted to the Winthrop visionaries who created this graduate school option for motivated, self-directed adult learners. Winthrop Ever Stand!"

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    Name: Beatrice (Bea) Coté '80, '88
    Degree: Bachelor's in French and Communication, M.Ed. in Counseling and Development
    Occupation: Founder and Executive Director, IMPACT and Step Up Family Violence Prevention Services



    "Dr. Sanders! When I attended there were only 2 advisors in that department; I was assigned Dr. Sanders, much to my dismay! I wanted the fun guy. Dr. Sanders, however, was the best thing that happened to me then. More than academics; more than structure, more than theory; he taught me LIFE lessons that I carry to this day. "Balance is more important than straight A's" is one lesson I carried forward as an adjunct instructor. He believed in me; gave me the nicest recommendation letter I've ever received."


    Name: Mitrofanis Papathanasiou '82, '85
    Degree: B.S. in Biology, M.S. in Biology
    Occupation: Product manager, Vocate Pharmaceuticals S. A. - Athens, Greece



    "Favorite memory: The time spent in Dr. Ralph Gustafson's Microbiology Lab.

    The program prepared me for having a successful career in the Pharmaceutical sector. A career that has so far lasted 35 consecutive years in both the U.S. and Greece"

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    Name: Cynthia Plair Roddey '67
    Degree: Master of Arts in Teaching in Library Science
    Occupation: CFO/Minister, Special Needs and Family Empowerment Catawba SC



    "Earning an M.A.T. from Winthrop College opened an opportunity for a 52-year career in education. I had tenure as a classroom teacher and administrator at every level from Head Start to university. I taught one summer class at Winthrop and was Director of Information Services and professor at Clinton College for 23 years. Skills I acquired at Winthrop also assisted me in matriculating at Harvard and other highly rated institutions as well as earning a D. Min. in Church Administration from Mid-Atlantic Seminary. It has been about ten years since I began a second career as a neurodiversity advocate with a nonprofit organization. Besides the benefits of the academics, I have the good fortune to have an extensive network of Winthrop alumni and associates. These experiences have given me many cherished memories."