Giving Back Comes Full Circle
By Tiffany King
Coastal Georgia alum Shawn Boatright believes in giving back to the College that has given him so much. He describes his time at the College of Coastal Georgia as being truly transformative—setting him up for success and helping to shape him into the person he is today.
Boatright graduated in 2016 with a bachelor's in public affairs and a minor in economics. Before he enrolled at the College, he served in the Marines for eight and a half years. He started the process of applying to the College before enlisting, but it wasn't the right time. Boatright said he wasn't a good high school student, and vowed that after he left the military, he would do his best in college—and he certainly lived up to his promise.
After serving in the military, Boatright came back to Brunswick. He saw the expansion of the College, how it transitioned into a four-year institution, and wanted to be a part of the new chapter in the College's history.
"I wanted to be a part of a college that was new and growing so I could leave my mark—not only educationally, but in how the institution was growing," Boatright said. "The four short years I was here went by really fast, and the College really grew."
Some of Boatright's favorite experiences at the College include co-founding VALOR (Veterans Academic Learning Opportunities & Resources) in 2013, for which he later served as president, and networking. He defines networking as making long-lasting, meaningful relationships—many of which he still cherishes to this day.
"Having the ability to meet fantastic and amazing people, and making those connections that you carry beyond the classroom is valuable. There a number of faculty and staff here that I still talk to on a regular basis. The people here transform you in the classroom, but they can also help transform your career and your life—if you allow them. The professors and staff really left a mark on me. I tell them all the time that I'm not here based on my ability, but also on what they've done for me," he said.
In Boatright's opinion, if he chose to attend another college, he doesn't think he would have graduated with the same level of knowledge that he received at Coastal Georgia. He attributes this mostly to the small class sizes that allowed him to connect with his professors. Several faculty and staff members have impacted his time at the College, such as School of Business and Public Management Dean Skip Mounts, Professor of Economics Dr. Don Mathews, Coordinator of Academic Services Niki Schmauch, former Personal Counselor Cheryl Van Dyke, Lecturer of Criminal Justice Cynthia Atwood, and Campus Police Lieutenant Johnny Davis. One person who directly helped Boatright with his career was Assistant Professor of Public Management Dr. Mary Eleanor Wickersham. He only had Wickersham for one class and continued to work with her on projects outside of class. As his time at the College was winding down, he shared his concerns with Wickersham about finding a job.
"I gave her my resume, and she got in contact with one of her professional peers, who was the interim county administrator in Charlton County," Boatright said. "She sent him my resume, he looked at it, and gave me a call a few days later asking for an interview—which I gladly accepted."
As a result, Boatright became the Charlton County administrator for one and a half years, giving him his start in local government. In 2017, he took the position of deputy county administrator in Camden County.
One way Boatright is giving back is by serving as a new College of Coastal Georgia Foundation trustee. He considered being nominated to the Foundation an honor and is looking forward to once again contributing to the College's growth.
"I have a vested interest in Coastal Georgia, not only because I am an alum but also because of what the College has done for me. I want to make sure that it continues to happen for future students," he said.
Tuesday, December 1 is Giving Tuesday, a global movement that encourages people to do good and give to organizations that are dedicated to transforming their communities. For the second year, the College is hosting Giving Tuesday where contributions—no matter how big or small—will help to provide scholarships, state-of-the-art facilities, athletics, student programs, and faculty development opportunities. Boatright is encouraging friends of the College and alumni to give back for a special reason—to pay it forward for other students.
"If an alum had a wonderful experience at the College, or did not, and felt there was something missing, here is a great opportunity to make sure you are providing a future for the next generation and giving them the opportunity you had or missed," he said. "If there was a missed opportunity here, give back to see that opportunities are afforded to everyone. These are our future business leaders. Why not help them be successful here so that they can be successful tomorrow. Without the Foundation's support and people giving out of their hearts, I wouldn't have had the experience I enjoyed. We wouldn't have such beautiful facilities and new features. What an opportunity to be a part of something where you can leave your mark."
Boatright considers an investment in the College to be an investment in the state of Georgia and local region. Many students continue to live and work in Georgia after graduation, thereby impacting local economies and contributing to their communities.
"It's amazing the amount of progression, diversity, inclusion, and the amount of prosperity the College has been able to produce—not only for Brunswick but for the majority of Southeast Georgia. To me, Coastal Georgia leaves one of the biggest marks," Boatright said. "We're making national headlines with our golf teams and have great, new programs and initiatives. The partnerships we have with the community, federal, state, and local agencies is amazing. I think people miss how much the College is doing through the students and faculty in the community."
His main advice to current students is "network, network, network" with their peers and professors to make meaningful connections. Coastal Georgia students have the potential to be legislators and successful businessmen and women, he said, that one could one day lean on for advice and direction.
"Build those networks with professors and staff too. I can't tell you how many times I've consulted with professors. It sets you up for success—if you take it, but you have to give it your all," he said.
Boatright also advises students to participate in campus activities and be present in the moment, because you never know if you'll have another chance.