Before They Were Educators: Hollye Moss

Dr. Hollye Moss is the department head for the Global Management and Strategy Department here at Western Carolina University, and has been since she got here in 2002.

Moss was born in Martinsville, Va., which she describes as “a little bitty town halfway between Greensboro and Roanake, Va.,” It was a textile and furniture-based town that was “probably a lot like Hickory or Morganton.”

Moss has four academic degrees in the fields of chemistry, business administration from three different colleges, because she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do with her life for a while.

However, she stated, “When I was 24 years old, I took a Meyer’s Brigg test. In one of my moves… probably twenty years later, I found the results – this is your personality type, these are the careers that you might be interested in. I remember when I found that, being amazed at how right on that was, as far as describing me. When I read it, I was amazed at how dead-on it was at describing Hollye. It said that for a profession, I should either be a nurse or a teacher, and that’s where I ended up. That’s just kinda cool.”

Her first degree was a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C.. Converse was an all girls college, which Moss said she liked. “You could just roll out of bed and go to class, focus on the academics and leave the social life for later.”

When asked why she chose chemistry, Moss said, “Science was always interesting and fun, and I’d had a really good chemistry teacher in high school.” Graduating with her bachelor’s at the age of 20, Moss elected to stay in school for another two years and get her master’s in chemistry from Clemson University before joining the workforce in 1985.

Moss went to work at Milliken Magnolia Finishing Plant in Blacksburg, S.C. The Magnolia Finishing Plant specializes in dying and finishing woven products, according to its Facebook page. She was a shift supervisor for about two years, though she thought it was definitely not the best fit for her, saying, “Oh, it was a disaster. I was probably the disaster.”

She remembered that out of the 10 or 15 shift supervisors on her shift, she was the only woman there, so her uniform there was a pair of blue jeans and a pink T-shirt, saying it was her “way to stay feminine.”

Her next job was with Virginia Narrow Fabrics, which was later purchased by the Elastic Corporation of America. It was a very small start-up company that had just moved out of someone’s garage the year before, according to Moss. Since it was such a small company, Moss did all sorts of things during her time there, from customer service to scheduling to loading and unloading trucks, as well as going to school at Wake Forest University at night to get her Masters of Business Administration.

Moss enjoyed her time there, saying, “I learned a lot there, and they paid for most of my MBA while I was there. They had an education partnership.”

After getting her MBA, she worked for a division of Sara Lee in a distribution center in Kings Mountain for five years. Moss thoroughly enjoyed her time there, saying, “Every day was a puzzle. It was great.”

She left the company in order to return to graduate school at Clemson University to get her PhD in industrial management.

Moss described the degree as being “a lot like an industrial engineering degree, but in the College of Business.”

She wanted to be a consultant in industry, and “I wanted to stay in the Southeast, and I figured a woman in the southeast in manufacturing, I needed the initials behind my name to give me some credibility, so that’s what I went back to graduate school for.”

As she started teaching in graduate school, she realized that she liked it. One of Moss’ friends, Monique, was offered the teaching position here at WCU, which Moss had been urging her to apply for, saying “It’s gonna be great, you’re gonna be happy there. You’ve gotta go to Western!” but Monique turned it down, and then urged Moss to apply for the position, citing the same reasoning.

After discussing the options with her husband, John Huffman, who was a professor of Organic Chemistry at Clemson University, Moss decided to apply for the job and obviously ended up with the job.

For the first year, Moss lived in an apartment in the basement of a house and later bought a house near campus. All that was furnished was the kitchen, and Moss spent evenings and weekends painting the entire house, which then became their home. Huffman rented an apartment near Clemson and did the traveling to and from Cullowhee for the next few years. Huffman retired three years ago from Clemson after 50 years of teaching, and they now live together in their home here.

Moss teaches classes such as undergraduate and MBA-level business statistics and undergraduate operations management. Operations management, according to Moss, is “anything that takes inputs and turns it into output.”

Undergraduate business statistics is her favorite subject to teach because, “I get to go into class and it’s like playing, because statistics is everywhere, and it’s amazing how much students know that they don’t know that they know.”

In her spare time, Moss enjoys cooking, gardening, and making jams and jellies during the summer. She also enjoys reading, although she generally waits until the summer or winter breaks in order to have time to fully embrace the novels she reads.

Moss has a great relationship with her family, which anyone can see when they walk into her office, from the various pictures of her nieces and nephews, as well as a plaque from her mother that sits on her bookshelf.

The other thing that you’ll see on her bookshelf, aside from books, is a crow named Roy.

Roy is a pretty good piece of taxidermy who is named after Roy Bailey, a former organic chemistry professor at Clemson University. He was passed to Moss’ husband when Bailey retired, and when Huffman retired, Moss knew she had to have him as her office companion.

Moss really seems to love her job as a teacher, and I can definitely understand why she has such rave reviews from her students.

She said, “You have no idea how cool it is when you can show somebody that they can do something that they thought was gonna be hard. You show them they can do it, it’s the coolest thing in the world. They walk in there, and they think it’s gonna be really hard. They’ve dreaded it, they’ve put it off . . .but then you show them how smart they are. It’s so cool!”