Shelby Watson has had a very unique journey through college. Shelby, 20, not only graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in a record two and a half years (instead of four), she did so while working as a full-time staff member in the Thomas College IT department. Her job was to help fellow classmates, staff, and faculty with computer problems and updates.
From Skowhegan, Shelby has many interests. At first, she wanted to study environmental science, but she majored in management at Thomas. She has a dream of working in the music industry and owning her own music venue one day. And, she’s found she is also extremely good at working with computers.
It all began with a work-study position in the Thomas IT department. Her job as office assistant for energy was to document the College’s energy usage.
When she ran out of tasks to do, VP of Information Services Chris Rhoda gave her new things to learn. Shelby ended up helping other work-study students and some of the full-time staff members with the projects they were working on. When an IT position opened up, she was encouraged to apply.
“All of a sudden, I was a student and a staff member,” she said. “When I am on the clock, I do try to act more like a staff member and not joke around with my friends as much. And when I’m in student clothes, I am more conscious about what I do and say.”
“I do feel really young,” said Shelby. “But people treat me with respect, and it’s really an awesome job.”
“Business has always been a big part of my life. My uncle and his eight siblings run their own business – Northeast Coffee in Skowhegan,” she said. “And since I was young, I’ve observed what they do and helped them run it.”
“Most of the time, I did a lot of filing. But, I sometimes worked in their warehouse as well. It was cool to see a successful small business run by family and friends.”
Shelby said she also comes from a long line of entrepreneurial-minded people.
“My grandfather and my dad own a storage building they rent out,” she said. “And, my parents have real estate they rent to people. They’ve been buying and selling antiques, antique cars, and flipping houses my entire life.”
Shelby has enjoyed studying something so general like business because she’s been able to take courses in a little bit of everything – accounting, marketing, management, event planning – and even entrepreneurship.
Shelby is excited about the newly announced Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation.
“I think the Institute will be great for students like me who came to Thomas with an interest in running their own business – or maybe don’t know they have an interest in owning one yet. And, maybe it’s born into them and they want to bring it back to their family business.”
“I like the community here because it feels like since day one that everyone here is interested in my success – not just mine, but students’ in general,” she said. “If you are willing to share your dreams and interests, people will find a way to help you.”
On May 13, with her business degree in hand, Shelby was the undergraduate Commencement speaker. She continues to work full-time at Thomas College and is making progress toward her MBA through the accelerated program.
*This was originally published in the Spring 2017 Thomas Magazine.