It takes a lot to graduate from university. You must apply yourself to the demands of the program. Intelligence is all well and good, but dedication is key too. In all my time in education, I have encountered fewer more determined students than Paunise Pierre. Since we last spoke, I’m delighted to announce that Paunise is officially an MBA graduate from Nova Southeastern University.
How does it feel to be a graduate with an MBA?”
It feels surreal because I left Haiti nine years ago with no knowledge of English. I graduated high school within a year of entering the USA. Shortly afterward, I started my college career. I completed my Bachelor of Science in economics, and now I am done with my MBA. Words aren’t enough to express how I feel about completing my education.
It has always been my dream, since I was younger, to attend university, although I am only halfway through my dream. Having completed my masters’ degree, now, I am impatient to serve my community. One of my main goals after graduation is to educate others, especially underrepresented groups, about financial literacy. That is because it is often a subject people overlook.
What has been the most challenging part of this degree?”
The most challenging part for me was that I had to balance both going to school full-time and working full-time. After my first full-time semester on campus, I was offered a new full-time position at the FSU Counseling Center as a Clerical Assistant while I was attending school. I took FSU up on their offer and moved back to Tallahassee. Therefore, I had to transition from being fully on campus to taking classes online. I started virtual learning before Zoom was a thing, lol.
What will you take away from your experience at NOVA?”
The thing that I will keep from my experience at NOVA is the importance of hard work. Time management was crucial due to the high volume of coursework and conflict of schedule. My time there taught me that hard work pays off in the long run.
What are the major differences you’ve noticed between private and public universities in the USA?”
There are plenty of differences between private schools and public schools. One major difference is cost because private universities are more expensive than public universities. They also have smaller class sizes than public universities, and they have limited social activities compared to public universities. However, the main difference between private and public schools that stood out to me was that private universities are more focused on discipline and time management. Meanwhile, in public schools, you have to put yourself out there, which can be intimidating for someone shy.
What is the most important lesson you learned while studying for two degrees back to back?”
The most important lesson I learned while consecutively studying for two degrees was that you have to keep going. Not only for yourself but also for the people looking up to you and the ones that already left their marks. In my case, I have my younger siblings who look up to me and an older sibling who has already traced the path we are supposed to take. My siblings have been my biggest motivation to not give in despite all the adversity that I faced. I was lucky to have God, my parents, and especially my siblings by my side as motivation when getting my MBA.
What did your study abroad experience in Asia teach you?”
My experience studying abroad in Asia taught me how to be independent in a foreign country where you don’t speak their languages. It is challenging when you are forced to have conversations with strangers to ask them basic questions such as directions or trying to purchase something.
How has the pandemic affected your studies?”
The pandemic has not affected my studies much because I was already a distance learning student. If anything, the pandemic has brought me closer to other students in the same program as me. A team member from one of my group projects was living in Antigua while completing her MBA. The pandemic has brought us closer through applications such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, as well as WhatsApp (a Caribbean favorite messenger app).
What are your short-term plans after earning your MBA?”
My short term is to find an immediate employment opportunity. Thankfully, I was offered a position at the FSU Financial Aid Office, and I am currently working there as an Enrollment Management Officer focused on students’ financial documents.
How about your long-term ones?”
In the long run, I will continue to enhance my financial knowledge. I will keep on building up my resume and exploring different career paths within finance. This way, I hope to find my dream job. Even though I have an MBA, I will continue to make myself more marketable considering how competitive the job market is. Therefore, I plan on studying for the CFA and/or the CPA exam. I want to become a CPA because I would not mind exploring a career as a public accountant and/or an auditor at some point in my life. While I know that’s quite ambitious, I am an overachiever at heart.
Where will you travel next? What’s your dream location?”
Considering I have just completed my degree, it would make sense that I only focus on finding a new career and adjusting to adulthood. Although those are certainly my priorities, as an avid traveler I already plan on taking my next adventure in the next two years. This time I will not be alone; my two younger sisters will accompany me to Europe in summer 2023. We are hoping all will be alright by then.
This will be their high school graduation trip as well as a new adventure for me. I have always been fascinated by Slavic culture, especially Russia. Just like my other trips in the past, I have been preparing for visiting Russia by learning their culture from my Russian friends in the Tallahassee area. In addition, I have read a few books about the Russian Royal Family. My most anticipated locations to visit in Russia are St. Petersburg in the hope of seeing the historic Alexander Palace, Moscow to visit the Kremlin, and Crimea for the Black Sea.
My dream location is to travel to Egypt to see the pyramids. I would love to visit them because I enjoy learning about ancient history, and the pyramids of Egypt are rich in history.
You said that one of your dreams was to see a united Korea in your lifetime. How optimistic do you remain about this happening?”
I am still optimistic about seeing the two Koreas united. That dream never dies because of the progress made in the past few years between the two nations. For instance, when the two countries competed as one in the Olympics in recent years. Seeing the two countries represented by one flag did nothing but make me even more optimistic about the two Koreas uniting during my lifetime on Earth.
Haiti has been in the news recently; how does someone born and bred in the country make sense of the headlines?”
Unfortunately, Haiti has been in the news a lot in recent days and it is not for great causes. As someone who was born and bred in Haiti, that could negatively affect me in terms of how differently people will see me. However, I do not let the negative headlines about Haiti define who I am. If anything, I used those unfortunate events as one of my main motivations to become successful. I want to prove to others that where you come from does not define the person you are and your ability to be successful.
As an optimistic person who always sees the good, even in bad situations, I have faith in the Haitian people that they will rise above all odds and break all stereotypes one day. I believe they are stronger and more courageous than they realize. My hope for them is to start focusing on important issues such as education, economic development, and, more importantly, health issues considering the current public health crisis going on around the world. I believe that the Haitian people are much more than the headlines in international news.
When you have been away from Haiti, what (apart from family and friends) have you missed most?”
Church has always been a big part of my life when I was growing up in Haiti. To this day, I still practice my religious faith. Growing up, I used to be part of church activities and I have missed this part of my life since I have been away from Haiti. Even though I still attend church here in the United States, my experiences in the Haitian church community were different because I was home and I already had friends. It was hard making friends and adjusting to life in the USA, especially in the church where every church member was foreign to me. To this day, I still miss my church in Haiti.
Catching up with Paunise, I was struck by her single-minded devotion to go the extra mile in getting her MBA. Paunise recalled returning home after studying late and feeling exhausted. But she never gave in as she wanted to finish what she had started. In a crowded job market, Paunise is intent on standing out. She told me of being a role model to her younger sisters who live in Haiti and looking up to her older sister who works as a doctor in Lamont, Florida. So, if you are ever tempted to slack off, I would urge you to think again and embrace the work ethic of committed professionals such as Paunise Pierre.