WCU graduate credits College of Business for immediate success

Graduating from college is a scary thought in itself, graduating college and having a family to support is even scarier. That is the position Ryan Barnhardt found himself in when he graduated this past May. Barnhardt and his fiancé, Amanda Johnson, welcomed their son Brody into the world during Barnhart’s last year at Western.

He graduated in May with a business degree with a concentration in Management. With the current recession and lack of job openings for college graduates, Barnhardt was faced with extra stress to be able to support his new family; he rose to the occasion and immediately began searching for jobs. With hard work, and the support of his family, Barnhardt landed a job with Liggett Victor Brands Inc, the fifth largest U.S. based tobacco manufacturer, as a Retail Account Manager. Barnhardt is responsible for maintaining retail and wholesale accounts, as well as land new clients to further the growth of the company.

Western gave Barnhardt the skills that he felt was, “necessary to reach immediate success within my career.” He affirms that WCU’s College of Business prepared him to “undoubtedly” be able to receive an offer from a major corporation. Barnhardt is extremely thankful for his most influential professor Dr. Edward Wright.

According to Barnhardt, “Dr. Wright taught me to have passion with whatever it is you choose to do in life. His hands on style of teaching also benefited me far greater than any theoretical course I was enrolled in. Although Dr. Wright has said ‘I always had it in me,’ I still give him immense credit for providing the motivation and professional guidance for success I used during my time at Western, today in my professional career, and that I will continue to use for the rest of my life.”

While at Western, Barnhardt was an avid intramural participant, and was also enrolled with the College of Business Student Leadership Council, as well as the Management Club. The 2.5 years that he worked for the Residential Living Paint Crew helped by giving him experience in the work force to prepare him for life after Western.

Barnhardt and his family currently live in Savannah, GA, but during his freshman year at Western, he lived in what used to be Leatherwood Hall; he remembers his dorm and joked, “Rest in peace.” He spent two years living at the University Suites, and then moved to a house right outside of campus with his fiancé and son for his senior year.

Barnhardt offers advice to the individuals in the Management department within the College of Business, “hands on training proved invaluable to me and the opportunity should be taken advantage of in order to learn and grow from such projects.”

His advice to Catamounts in general is, “Enjoy your years at Western Carolina University, take pride in being a part of a very well ran and highly creditable university. Always remember, how you handle yourself in the classroom is almost certain to reflect how you engage in your professional life after school, take every opportunity to learn that you can.”

Since graduation in May, Barnhardt has not yet returned to campus but is looking forward to visiting the campus with his family for some tailgating and football for Homecoming weekend.

Even though Barnhardt is already successful with Liggett Brands Inc. his long term goal is to continuing excelling and become a Chain Account Manger and hopefully be promoted to management in order to fully utilize the degree he earned from Western. Barnhardt has several things to look forward to in the future, he said, “I look forward to my future with Amanda and our son Brody. It is a very exciting time for our family; Brody has begun to crawl now and is growing more and more every day. I am very proud of them both and how well they handle my career and how often I have to be away from home. Amanda deserves most of the credit of how well we are doing as a family as she takes care of us all. I also hope to purchase our first home in Savannah within the next year.”