When Jim Shoff '12 MACOMM donned his cap and gown at Commencement it was the third time he'd walked across the stage to accept a diploma.
He earned a bachelor's degree in economics from UVA and an MBA from Southern Methodist University. Then he went into banking, "on the trading floor," and worked in that capacity until 2008 in Dallas, Houston, Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Chicago. He moved back to Charlotte and decided to retire early at age 48.
He was walking by campus one day and saw a sign for the master's in communication program and stopped to get information.
"The program offered an entirely new type of knowledge and skills that I didn't have," he remembers. "Up until I enrolled I wasn't even on Facebook. The program changed everything about me from helping me discover my love for writing to sparking an interest in teaching."
So how did a former managing director at JP Morgan settle into a program that focuses on creativity, innovation and theory?
"It was extremely challenging," he says, laughing. "Communication and the foundation of an MBA are two different paths, in my experience. I'd done a lot of math and business strategy before, and suddenly I was forced to write and think critically. It's exhausting to be in school. When I left work each day I left it there. When you're in school you're thinking about it constantly. Around the clock you're focused on doing well. "
He says he threw himself into the program and spent a lot of time "reading, digesting and writing."
Looking back he says he wishes he'd had this new knowledge before, in his career in business - specifically the ability to relate to people on a deeper level, examining his own intentions and how they informed his behavior. "I was so busy doing the work when I was working in finance that I didn't spend much time examining how I was doing the work," he says. "The MACOMM program taught me to be more strategic in my approach."
He's not sure what's next on his path, but he believes it will involve education in some capacity.
"I did my Capstone on social capital and the idea of a 'third place' and how churches should do more to be that in our lives," he said. "Now I can explore that even further, how church can be a buffer between work and home for more people."