With an MBA at 21, Coles College Grad is Just Getting Started
KENNESAW, Ga. (Aug 23, 2018) — Jamie Gall won’t predict which paths she will take in her career, but she should have plenty of years to pursue whichever opportunities interest her.
At just 21 years old, Gall received her Master of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University this summer, after having graduated from high school at age 15 and earning her undergraduate degree in accounting at 19. Gall completed the online MBA program in the Michael J. Coles College of Business while working full time at Shaw Industries in LaFayette, Ga., first as an accountant and now as an industrial engineer.
“I don’t feel that I’ve done anything special. This is just my life,” Gall said. “I do feel accomplished and proud, but I’m more thinking, ‘What’s next?’”
Gall already has taken a unique path to earning her two college degrees and starting her career. She finished high school early after her doctors diagnosed her mother Cindy with cancer. With the support of her principal and guidance counselors, Gall’s local school board in LaFayette allowed her to graduate at age 15 as long as she passed a series of tests, earned a certain score on the ACT and was accepted into a college. Gall met the requirements and began pursuing an accounting degree close to home at Dalton State College.
No longer having a rigid high school schedule gave Gall the flexibility to take college classes at “whatever time could fit in the schedule,” she said, while helping care for her mother and driving her to and from doctor’s appointments and cancer treatments. Gall also worked third shift at an assisted-living facility while her father Robert supported the family as a building contractor.
“I wanted to accelerate my situation, just to be there for my mom and to take some pressure off my family,” she said. “It was just something that I felt had to be done.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree and taking her first accounting job, Gall decided that having a Master of Business Administration would create more career opportunities for her. While continuing to live and work in north Georgia, she enrolled in the Coles College’s WebMBA program.
“I had heard a lot of good things about KSU. It was always on my radar,” Gall said “When you don’t live near Kennesaw and you work full time, KSU’s online program is a good option. Also, my group members in my cohort all were at least 10 years older than I am and, due to their extensive real-world experience and related knowledge, they taught me many things and offered great advice as I started my career.”
Gall didn’t spend any time on campus while earning her MBA online, but she made sure to be in Kennesaw for her Commencement ceremony on July 27. In attendance at the Convocation Center for her big day were her grandparents, her father and her mother, whose cancer is in remission.
“It’s been a long struggle for the whole family to get through everything with Mom being sick and Dad having to work a ton to take care of everybody, so my graduation day was emotional for us,” Gall said. “My parents are proud of me for being the first person in my family to go to college.”
After working in corporate accounting with Shaw Industries, the world’s largest carpet manufacturer, Gall now is utilizing her skill with numbers in a different role for the company. As an industrial engineer, Gall is tasked with maximizing efficiency and reducing waste, such as by analyzing Shaw’s manufacturing plant data to determine why any wasted yarn or machine malfunction occurred.
Gall enjoys working for Shaw Industries, but, with her MBA in hand, she is open to future possibilities such as returning to the accounting field or earning her doctoral degree and becoming an accounting professor. She said her ultimate goal is to teach business principles to inmates in correctional facilities.
“I feel like a lot of people in corrections are good, talented people who made a bad decision,” Gall said. “Most employers will look at that background and say ‘no’ to hiring them, but, if I’m able to teach them business and accounting and how to be an entrepreneur, then they could start their own kind of job and not be in this constant cycle of in and out of the corrections facility. Then they also can give back to other people who are in the same shoes.”
Whatever paths she winds up taking, Gall is confident she can overcome any hurdles along the way. She feels well prepared after dealing with the stress of her mother’s illness and growing up quickly while working full time and earning undergraduate and graduate degrees at a younger age than her classmates.
“No challenge seems too big,” she said. “Everyone goes through things, but you can’t let any situation keep you down. You just have to take life as it comes and have a good attitude about it.”
Photos by David Caselli