WORTH THE WAIT
William Rodman has found his focus. But it took him awhile.
He first enrolled at U.Va. in 1986, but the timing just wasn’t right. He finished the academic year, but realized that apart from reaching college, his goals were fuzzy. So, he took a year off to find himself — and that year turned into 13.
Rodman, now 37, will graduate this month from the McIntire School of Commerce with a major in marketing. He already has started a new job as a marketing project manager for PBM Products Inc., a manufacturer of baby formula and nutritional products based in Gordonsville. He sees life more clearly now.
After first leaving the University, Rodman worked as a landscaper for four years in his hometown of Winchester. He moved to Charlottesville in 1992 and joined Watkins & Co, a small landscaping business. He enjoyed the work, got along with the owner and moved up through the ranks until the owner offered him a partnership in 1998.
“I knew that that decision would affect the direction of the rest of my life,” Rodman said. “The idea of getting back to U.Va. had always been close to my heart. I knew [returning to school] might lead to a new career. And I thought I might learn something new. So I decided to go back to school.”
He re-entered academic life with two years at Piedmont Virginia Community College to pick up some college credits, then entered U.Va. again — in the fall of 2003.
“At first, when you’re a transfer student, you can be intimidated by the other students,” he said. “You think they must know stuff you don’t. But then you realize there are always going to be kids who know stuff you don’t. And that’s OK. You’re still on the same footing with them.”
At McIntire, his years in business initially inclined him toward accounting. He took some classes in the field, but a chat with his adviser, assistant professor of marketing James Burroughs, persuaded him to take a different direction.
“It’s more important to like what you do than to do what you think you should do,” he recalled Burroughs telling him. He suggested that Rodman look into marketing as a discipline and a possible career track.
Rodman completed a summer internship with marketing area coordinator Jack Lindgren, the Consumer Bankers Associate Professor of Retail Banking, and fell in love with marketing. His outgoing personality and winning smile were well-suited for the field.
To feed his developing interest, he joined a team of McIntire students who prepared a mock advertising campaign for the National Student Advertising Competition, sponsored by the American Advertising Federation, a trade association for advertising industry professionals. His team swept a tough regional competition in Charlotte, N.C., in April and is headed to Nashville, Tenn., to compete for the national title on June 3 and 4.
Rodman believes transfer students need to take responsibility for the shape of their experience at U.Va. His advice?
“Get out and meet as many students as possible,” Rodman said. “Get out and look around, join the clubs. Use all the resources — they’re here for you to use — if you want to get the most out of your experience here.”
Now that he’s found his focus, Rodman is looking forward to being able to go to work and ease his wife’s worries about the bills.
“U.Va. has really lived up to my expectations,” Rodman said. “I wanted to maximize my investment here. And looking back now, I feel that I’ve done that. Learning business-speak, contributing in class, my education has been a gradual process, but I’ve gotten there. I’m really happy.”
2005 by the Rector and Visitors