KSU grads improve careers by earning degrees

14 Jan 2015  Written by  Donna Harris Published in News While many recent…

Georgia (Jan 15, 2015)While many recent college graduates are scrambling for the few jobs that are out there, Chris Watson and Brad Nivens are two grads who can breathe easy.


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That’s because the pair already had full-time employment when they graduated from Kennesaw State University in December.

Watson, a Cartersville resident who has worked for Shaw Industries since 2006, and Nivens, who has worked for Doehler USA since last June, both wanted to further their education so they could advance in the full-time jobs they already had.   

“It is a great feeling not having to go job hunting once I graduated,” said Watson, who graduated Dec. 16. “I already have eight years vested here at Shaw, and for now, I am going to use the knowledge and skills I’ve learned to continue to grow myself here and advance to more challenging positions.”

To say Watson, 29, had his plate full while going to college would be an understatement: full class load all three semesters each year, full-time job of 50 hours a week, Navy reservist drills two weekends a month and a wife, Amanda, and three daughters, Cayley Grace, 6; MaKina Elyce, 4; and Trinity Reece, 11 months, at home.

“So to paint a picture of my life during school, Monday through Thursday, I would work from 8 to 5 and then go to class from 6 to 10,” he said. “I would get home around 11 that night. When I wasn’t doing my military duties on the weekends, I was at Shaw doing my normal job. I would use the evening times to complete any homework or online work I had to do and use the other spare time to spend with my family, do yard work, housework, etc.”

But the sacrifices he made to get his degree were “well worth it,” he said.

“I like to look past the present and look toward the future,” he said, “and by making this sacrifice now, in the early years of my marriage and the raising of my children, I am able to position myself and my family in a way that will keep us from struggling financially while allowing me to spend that extra time with them while they are growing up by going to school events, basketball, cheerleading, gymnastics, etc.”  

But the sacrifices he made to get his degree were “well worth it,” he said.

“I like to look past the present and look toward the future,” he said, “and by making this sacrifice now, in the early years of my marriage and the raising of my children, I am able to position myself and my family in a way that will keep us from struggling financially while allowing me to spend that extra time with them while they are growing up by going to school events, basketball, cheerleading, gymnastics, etc.”  

After joining the military and completing a deployment to Iraq, Watson enrolled at Georgia Northwestern Technical College in Rome in April 2010 but transferred to KSU fall semester 2011 to major in criminal justice. 

“While I was deployed, I would always think about my wife and first daughter and about all of the opportunities I wanted to give them throughout their lives, and by using this positive motivation, I decided furthering my education was the only possible way to do that,” he said. “I decided that I wanted the chance to give my family the best future possible by opening up new doors of opportunity to allow myself to grow professionally.”

Criminal justice is an area that has “always been very interesting to me beginning when I was young,” Watson said, and his life experiences up through his deployment gave him “a lot of insight” into what would be possible for him if he earned a criminal justice degree.  

“I got to work with a lot of interesting people while being deployed, and this got me even more interested in law enforcement,” he said. “I chose [a concentration in] forensic behavioral science so I could learn how to look at crime using tools learned through criminology, victimology, the social aspects of violence and how to look at and profile a person who is potentially a serial offender. By looking at crime from these methods, it’s not only easier to narrow down the suspect but also look at why and how it was committed.”  

Watson currently works as the raw-material coordinator for the finishing department at Shaw, which means he purchases and coordinates the raw materials needed for the backing of carpet tile. 

While it might seem like he wouldn’t be able to use a criminal justice degree in his current job, he said “the major does not always have to go hand in hand with how you decide to use the degree.” 

“Within the Shaw Industries Corp., there are many positions open that are not degree-specific, whether it be management, sales or operations,” he said, “but instead they look at the organizational skills, communication skills, work ethic and the willfulness to excel and achieve in reference to their mission and core values.” 

Watson, who plans to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA), said graduating from college is “one of the best feelings I could have ever imagined.”

“It’s something that I never thought was possible for myself because no one in my family has ever been to college, [much] less graduate,” he said. “I am thrilled beyond belief and am very proud of myself for achieving this unimaginable feat.” 

Nivens, 31, took a long, winding road to get to his Dec. 17 graduation from KSU.

His off-and-on college career spanned 14 years, beginning with joint enrollment at Georgia Highlands College (then Floyd College) during his senior year at Cartersville High School and continuing in fall 2001 at the University of Georgia, where he first majored in computer science but converted to management information systems a year later. 

But he ended up quitting school.

“Mostly financial reasons, but ultimately, I wasn’t concentrating on anything but having a good time,” the Kennesaw resident said. “It wasn’t the right time for me. I had so much potential; however, having fun was my No. 1 concern. Immaturity took over.” 

Nivens said he went to work for a local information technology servicing company and eventually took over the entire operation. 

He bought the business when he was 23 and was “alone in that decision” as well as in the work and back-end business operations, he said.

“It only took a little over a year for me to become completely overwhelmed,” he said. “The business and workload grew, but the solitude stayed constant. I ultimately lost the business within three years, with only a few loyal customers staying with me.”  

This failure “brought me to a turning point,” he said.

“So many wrong decisions and so much loss could only lead to two conclusions,” he said. “I chose the better. I decided to grow up, go back to school and work as much as possible. I started a new business with a concentration in my passion, InfoSec [information security].”

Nivens enrolled at KSU in fall 2011, attending school at least 12 semester hours a week and working 40 to 60 hours a week at his business, NIV Securities. For about two years, he said he worked at a local restaurant on weekends and days he wasn’t in class.  

“I knew that there was so much more that I was capable of doing,” said the information security and assurance major. “It was a major regret of mine to leave school in the first place, but when I decided to finally go back, I knew it was the right time. I was passionate about my future and what I wanted to study. Computer systems and their security have always been a major interest of mine. I want nothing more than to help make this world a better place; however, not everyone shares the same sentiment. If my knowledge and skills can help prevent some of the inevitable, then I will know that I have made a difference.”

Nivens got a job with Beverage House Inc. in 2010 and worked there until last summer, when the company was bought by The Doehler Group. He became the senior systems administrator in mid-July.

Rather than selling his business, he opted to find alternative IT servicing companies for his clients and to only provide consulting services occasionally on nights and weekends.

Earning a degree “shows the desire to better oneself and take initiative,” he said, noting he is pursuing an MBA. 

“It has opened many doors through the availability of networking within my field and provided fundamental knowledge that would not have otherwise been learned without the degree program,” he said. “Finally, the degree positioned me to move up within the organization.”

Nivens said “words could never do justice” to how he feels about being a college graduate. 

“After 13 years of off-and-on schooling, 150-plus hours of earned education for my bachelor’s and so many ups and downs, it feels almost like a dream,” he said. “It is a complete dream-come-true. I cannot put into words how hard I had to work. But that’s what makes this accomplishment so much more meaningful. I am so much of a better man and person because of the challenges that I have overcome. I am so hopeful for the future, one that started with my decision to go back and make more of myself.”

Nivens said it felt “amazingly awesome” to already have a full-time job when he graduated.

“Honestly, the fact that I was working all through college, I was hopeful that I would have a better chance of future employment; however, I did not know I would have the position I have now until a month before my last semester,” he said. “Then again, my business was doing well, and there was great potential so I felt confident that I could make it grow to the business that I originally dreamed that it could be. On the other hand, I desired and ultimately knew I needed high-level enterprise IT and information security understanding to truly reach the level of knowledge and experience that is required for the direction I wanted to take. The position with Doehler was and is a wonderful opportunity for just that.”


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu