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Newberry College celebrates August master’s graduates

by Jay Salter '19 | External Communications Coordinator - August 28, 2023


NEWBERRY — Nearly one year since conferring its inaugural master’s degrees of the 21st century, Newberry College is celebrating its fourth cohort of graduates in organizational development & leadership.


The graduates include: Jackie Aldrete ’21 (Oxnard, California), Nicole Borowinski (San Diego), Olivia Diggs ’22 (Titusville, Florida), Dre Harris ’21 (Greenville), Ryan Heriot ’22 (Fort Mill), Kody Varn ’22 (Clinton) and Jon Williams ’22 (Irmo).


While the versatile online program is open to anyone, it so happened that each member of this cohort is no stranger to Newberry College, having earned their Newberry bachelor's degree or having coached for Wolves athletics.


The graduates, like those before them, have experienced professional and personal growth as a result of their academic achievements in this program.


“I would say that something that I wish I would have known at the beginning of this journey would be how much of a growing process I would go through within the year,” said Borowinski, who was recently promoted to assistant head women’s soccer coach at Newberry College. “This program really pushed me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to grow.”


Borowinski said her research, “Finding Identity Beyond Sports: A Journey of Transition and Transformation,” has immediate, real-world applications in her career.


“I want to utilize the knowledge that I have gained and truly help athletes and their families before the retirement process,” she said.


Harris — who led Newberry’s football team to consecutive South Atlantic Conference championships in 2021 and 2022 — finished his master’s degree from Germany, where he plays American football professionally with the Regensburg Phoenix. His research, “The Building of Team Camaraderie Overseas,” went beyond academic theorizing for the rookie chasing his dreams across the pond.


“The task of taking on a major capstone project in the beginning stages of being a pro athlete has honestly been one of the best things that could've happened,” said Harris. “Getting to experience how a functional organization operates gave me insight that I will be able to carry on for the rest of my leadership journey.”


Two of Harris’ teammates, Heriot and Varn, will finish their final seasons on the Wolves football team this fall. Each of them also focused their research close to home, dealing with safety practices for community athletic facilities and stress of college football players, respectively. Heriot will take his newest leadership and communication skills back home, going into business in neighboring Charlotte. Varn aspires to a career in athletic administration.


Aldrete completed her degree from her home in California. After earning her bachelor’s in chemistry and playing forward on the Wolves women’s soccer team, her master’s studies allowed her to combine her passions for science and sports. Her capstone project examined the role leadership and communication play for athletes when choosing a college.


“Leading involves making well-informed decisions and implementing constructive changes, and action research offers me a systematic approach to achieving these objectives through a structured framework,” she said. “Having such a supportive staff and faculty was very nice and I would highly recommend this program to anyone who's looking to seek further education, or just willing to learn more about how leadership goes beyond being in an authoritative role.”


Aldrete plans to pursue forensic chemistry in a crime lab unit, with aspirations to join the FBI.


“One of the many things that I love about this program is that I can apply it anywhere I go and with anything that I choose to do,” she added.


Williams aligned his graduate research with his undergraduate studies in health care management and accounting. His capstone was titled, “Enhancing Small Business Growth in the Post-COVID Era: Strategies for Navigating Government Contract Bidding.”


“This program has taught me a lot about myself, what I'm capable of, and it taught me what kind of leader I am and want to be,” he said.


Diggs, an alumna of the Wolves volleyball team, researched pay equity in sports. She plans to continue her Newberry education even further with an internship as an athletic communication assistant.


“My biggest takeaway from the MSODL program is being able to take the leadership skills I learned throughout the program to better myself and understand how to lead different people,” she said.


The seven graduates will be formally recognized at fall commencement on Dec. 8.


The August cohort brings the total number of Newberry’s master’s-level alumni to 15, with that number expected to double by summer 2024. At press time, there are 47 students currently enrolled across both graduate programs.


Newberry’s second master’s program, in sport management & leadership, has begun its inaugural classes after achieving approval in January. Other graduate programs are in development, including criminal justice, education, public policy, and teaching.


Photo: Fall graduating class of 2022 on Commencement Day, Dec. 9, 2022.

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