Returning to College Set Phillips on Course for Success

Returning to College Set Phillips on Course for Success

June 25, 2022
Contact:  Rhonda Jessup, Director of Public Relations

MOUNT OLIVE – “Going back to school is like a baby first learning how to walk,” said University of Mount Olive (UMO) Alumnus Matthew Phillips of Princeton, NC.  “Taking that first step is the hardest and you may fall down, but keep getting up and moving forward. It gets easier.  When you feel like it is getting too much, turn to God, ask for His strength, His wisdom, and His guidance.”

Born in Kentucky, Phillips moved with his family to North Carolina in 1993.  He graduated from Princeton High School in 2007.  He then completed a course in phlebotomy, after a good friend peaked his interest in the subject.  “That friend helped me get a job with WakeMed Health and Hospitals, where I spent the next 12 ½ years,” Phillips said.

Friends and mentors urged Phillips to return to college.  “The people I worked with said that I had a very particular skillset with computers and leadership,” he recalled.  “Never giving it much thought, I did find myself taking on projects that required me to build databases and reports quite often. I also completed the WakeMed Leadership Academy and received an award from my peers for unsurpassed service.”

After researching various universities, Phillips chose UMO for its flexibility and convenience.  “Although the program was tailored towards working adults, it was still very challenging,” he recalled.  “During my time in the program, I found the love of my life. Determined to keep moving forward, I stayed on track.  While working full time, I completed my degree, got married, built a home, and became a dad for the first time.  It was tough, but I knew I had God with me to help carry me along.”

In 2016, at the age of 27, Phillips graduated from UMO with his bachelor’s degree in Management of Information Systems (MIS).  “I am a believer in the UMO tagline which is, ‘transforming education and transforming lives.’  Without UMO, I would not have transformed my life. With UMO’s successful adult program, I was able to continue to provide for my family, as well as move forward in my life.”

Once Phillips completed his degree, he was promoted to a supervisory position with WakeMed. As things sometimes happen in life, Phillips took on an additional part-time job helping some church friends take construction photos for their real estate development company. “I realized that I had a passion for being in the real estate development environment,” he said.  “There are so many aspects in this field and you get to wear many different hats all the time.”

Like any hard decision in his life, Phillips turned to God for wisdom and guidance. “After much prayer and patience, my part-time job became a full-time job,” he said.   Phillips is now a tenant coordinator with Adventure Development.  “I have great mentors in my life that are helping me move forward, and I am excited to see where this next chapter takes me.”

Phillips and his wife, Mirinda, have been married for eight years.  They are the parents of Rhett and Kaylee.  The family resides in Princeton.

Phillips’ story is not unlike that of many adults who return to college to reimagine their careers and their futures.  According to Dr. Lisa Nuesell, UMO Associate Vice President for Adult and Graduate Program Enrollment, most working adult students are juggling work, family, and other responsibilities.  “Their budgets and time are limited as well,” she said.  “We have been successful in helping adult students achieve their educational goals by working strategically to offer an exceptional student experience, being flexible to their needs, and providing more diverse program options.”

“My degree program at UMO was intense, but very worth it,” Phillips said. “I tell people my story all the time.  If you set your mind to something, you will achieve it. I now have a new career that I am passionate about and one that brought me closer to home. I will always be grateful to UMO, it truly changed my life.”

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists.  For more information, visit