First Generation College Student Set to Graduate May 7

First Generation College Student Set to Graduate May 7


MOUNT OLIVE- Graduating senior Michael Munoz has experienced tremendous success throughout his four years at the University of Mount Olive. Despite being admired for his awards in academics, athletics, and community service, Munoz admits that his road to a college degree was a challenging one.

“My collegiate journey started when I was seven years old in second grade. I had been in the U.S for only two months, and my English was awful,” Munoz recalled. “I was behind in my academics and couldn’t communicate with a lot of my classmates. I desired to return home to Toluca, Mexico, however my parents encouraged me to learn English. That was really the beginning of my work ethic to become the best I can be, which is something I have carried with me throughout my childhood, education, and now into my adulthood.”

To further adjust to his new American lifestyle in Whittier, California, Munoz immersed himself into sports. His middle school PE teacher Mark Taylor encouraged him to participate in track.  He developed a passion for soccer and running. As he transitioned into high school, Munoz began thinking about how his love for athletics could help him advance to college with scholarship assistance.

“Throughout the first two years of high school, I was balancing a busy schedule with running cross-country and track and playing soccer. My high school running coach talked to me about the opportunities to run in college and how it could cover my finances,” said Munoz. “UMO head coach Matt van Lierop contacted me and offered me a financial package which provided me with the necessary resources to achieve my goal of attending college.”

Munoz began his journey at UMO in the fall of 2012 and immediately immersed himself in campus life. He decided to double major in sports management and exercise science and got involved as a student ambassador, student-athlete advisory committee (SAAC) member, Honors student, appellate board member, and the freshmen common read selection committee member.

“UMO has given me the opportunity to gain the education that I always dreamed of and it has introduced me to opportunities that have transformed me as a student,” noted Munoz.

His passion both inside and outside of the classroom led Munoz to experience great success in academics and athletics. He has been named to the Conference Carolina’s Presidential Honor Roll and to the Conference Carolinas All-Academic team. Munoz also was a three-time NCAA division two cross-country national championship qualifier and helped the men’s cross-country and track and field team to win eight Conference Carolinas Championships and two Southeast Region Championships.

“Being a part of a team and interacting with all of our diverse members has been really rewarding,” said Munoz. “I can’t thank them enough for becoming my family here in Mount Olive.”

Vice-President of Athletics Jeff Eisen witnessed the contributions that Munoz has made to UMO athletics and academics and decided to nominate him for the NCAA postgraduate scholarship. Munoz was one of the 29 men’s student-athletes nationwide to receive this scholarship.

“Winning this scholarship means a lot to me in regards to my family. Due to my parents’ continuous support and teaching me to always improve and not settle, I was able to get to the point where I am today,” smiled Munoz.

On May 7, Munoz will be the first in his family to graduate from college.   His future plans include pursuing a master’s degree in sports management, and ultimately having career in athletic administration.

“The UMO faculty and staff, as well as Dr. and Mrs. Kerstetter, have all been very influential and helpful in guiding me towards the correct path for my academics and profession. I am so thankful for the resources that the institution provided me, and I hope to inspire other students, especially my little brother, Charlie, to follow their dreams and pursue higher education,” concluded Munoz.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit