Tara Hardison, vice president of BankCard Services at BB&T Financial and Marybeth Eason, product and channel manager for Merchant Services at BB&T

Remembering professors who made a difference

Business graduates and MBA holders Marybeth Eason and Tara Hardison agree that all of the professors at ECU are top-notch. Two faculty members in particular, Dr. Rick Niswander and Dr. Roy Simerly, really had lasting impacts on Eason and Hardison’s lives.

“I came out of the workforce to pursue my MBA at the College of Business after being a teacher for four years. I realized teaching was not the career I wanted to stay in,” said Hardison, who is the vice president of commercial card product and sales support manager at BB&T Financial/BankCard Services. “I did my research and found that my skills were suited to the product development/marketing side of business. I visited a couple of other universities, and they questioned why I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in business when my original field was education.”

Hardison had not yet visited East Carolina University. Here, she met with Dr. Rick Niswander, the then assistant dean for graduate programs of the College of Business.

“Dr. Niswander educated me about the college, the flexibility of their MBA program, and the graduate assistantships that they offered. It didn’t take me but a few minutes sitting with him to see that ECU was the place I wanted to go to pursue my MBA,” said Hardison. “Coming back to school after being in the workforce was a difficult transition, but Dr. Niswander encouraged me along the way. I truly appreciate that.”

Eason agrees that Dr. Roy Simerly made a lasting impression on her life. During a summer, Simerly took Eason and a group of other College of Business students to Germany on a study-abroad trip.

“Dr. Simerly really gave us a lot of time to plan out our trip. He made us responsible for what we were going to be covering and who we were going to be meeting with,” said Eason, the product and channel manager for merchant services at BB&T. “We toured multiple manufacturing plants including Mercedes Benz, and we met with Americans who were working for either American or European companies. It was interesting to talk with them about how the culture was different, getting used to that culture, and the differences in how those businesses operate. That summer was one of my best memories at the College of Business.”

Keeping the university technologically savvy

Lately, it seems as though individuals have really begun to recognize the importance of technology and the influence it has on every aspect of our lives. However, Richard Kerns, the former associate dean of computer services and current professor in the Department of Management Information Systems, knew of technology’s importance from the very beginning. He has imparted his wisdom of technology to the students he has worked with over the years, including Paal Kaperdal, College of Business graduate and senior vice president of the Online Channel, TD Bank Group.


Paal Kaperdal, senior vice president at Online Channel TD Bank Group and Dr. Richard Kerns, professor in the Department of Management Information Systems

Kaperdal, who is originally from Norway, said that working in the lab with Dr. Kerns truly impacted his life.

“The lab here at ECU is truly advanced, and I realized pretty quickly that the driving force behind this success was Dr. Kerns and his ability to get the funding and the support for building computer services for the College of Business and how important he thought the education aspect was for business students,” said Kaperdal. “My experiences in the lab really helped me along the way. When I left and got my first job, I already had several years of experience and had been exposed to technology from the business standpoint that many companies were not yet using.”

Kerns agrees that his best memories at ECU involve the people he met while working in his lab.

“My favorite time was interacting with the students,” said Kerns. “Today, it is the best feeling when students come up to me remind me of things I said to them or projects we worked on. It’s been a great joy to establish those relationships in the lab.”

Kerns and Kaperdal encourage students to continue to stay informed on technology, as it will help them tremendously in both their careers and lives.

“The more students know about technology, the better off they will be, no matter what career they go into,” said Kerns. “All of our innovations in society today are technology-based, and paying attention to that technology is a strong source of success for anyone in any field.”

By Meagan Williford- University Marketing

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