A Debt-Free Degree Is Within Your Reach

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For Madi McDougald, the road to a rewarding job has definitely not been easy.  But at just 25, McDougald has the career of her dreams, a great education and no student loan debt.

McDougald works as the Business Development Manager at the River Landing Companies, in Wallace, NC.  “Madi is the public face of a company with $100 million in assets,” says Rich Phaneuf, General Manager at the River Landing Companies and Senior Vice President of its parent company, Murphy Family Ventures.

Madi began her education by being concurrently enrolled in CFCC classes while attending Pender High School.  At CFCC, she completed her associate degree as well as certificates in customer service and office systems technology.  Madi excelled, graduating from CFCC with a 3.77 GPA.  Not only did Madi maintain a full course load, she also worked full-time. Madi decided to continue her education with UNC-Pembroke, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Interdisciplinary Studies.

A partnership between UNC-Pembroke and Cape Fear Community College allowed Madi to complete her four-year degree through a combination of distance learning and face-to-face classes.   Madi continued to commute to take classes at CFCC in the evening, but was also able to complete a large portion of the course work online.  “There were some hurdles to make it work,” says Madi, “but it was definitely worth it in the end.”

In addition to the long commute and the busy class load, Madi worked two jobs while completing her degree. “I put myself through school, so I had to work.  I didn’t have any loans, but fortunately, I did receive several scholarships. I worked to pay the bills, and I interned to explore what I really wanted to do in my career.” Amazingly, Madi graduated with no debt.

Madi began her career at the River Landing Companies in 2009.  She truly knows the company from the inside out.  “I’ve been a server, a beverage cart attendant, and a banquet assistant.  In fact, at one point, I had eight different roles here within the span of a month.  I was flexible and took on whatever River Landing needed me to do.  Those experiences taught me a lot about the company as a whole.”

“I met Madi before I ever came to work for River Landing,” says Phaneuf.  “I lived at River Landing and became acquainted with Madi because she worked at the clubhouse.  Even then, I could see that she was an exceptionally hard-working person with lots of energy.  I encouraged her to explore her options and to pursue a career that she would truly enjoy.”

But the first time Madi applied for the Business Development Manager position at River Landing, Phaneuf turned her down.  “Madi had an amazing attitude and had been working hard for us.  I knew that it hurt her to not be hired into that position at that time, but we felt like she needed additional experience.  She could have walked out the door at that point, but instead, Madi buckled down, and learned more about the business.  The next time the position was available, we readily offered it to her and she was equipped to take on the challenge.  She’s done an amazing job.”

Phaneuf thinks that Madi’s choice to pursue her education at Cape Fear Community College was a smart move.  “I think if Madi would have gone to a 4-year school initially, she might not be in the position she’s in now.  All of the experience she gained with us while going to CFCC was relevant for the position she has now, and the time and commitment it took for her to work and go to school full-time showed us how responsible and ready she was for this challenge.  I think Cape Fear Community College really helps folks who don’t take the traditional path. Madi made a series of good decisions and CFCC was definitely part of that process.”

Now, Madi is helping the next generation of CFCC students.  In fact, she has recently joined the Cape Fear Community College Foundation Board of Directors.  “I hope to be able to help students like me.  My experience at CFCC gave me the time and flexibility to figure out what I wanted to do without all the expense.  I think Cape Fear Community College is a wonderful place, and I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to go there.”

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