Commencement Spotlight: Carol Flynn, BBA
Every morning, 51-year-old Carol Flynn wakes up at 5:45 a.m. She lets the dog out, makes lunch for her teenage son and herself, and is on the road by 7:00. Sounds like typical wife-and-mom routine so far.
But here Flynn’s journey takes an unexpected turn: she’s heading to class at UT’s McCombs School of Business, where she is a fulltime undergraduate student, surrounded by people less than half her age who live in dorms and buy food with Bevo Bucks.
When Flynn, a native of Ireland, was their age, she was already working full-time. After finishing high school she was offered a prestigious position at the Bank of Ireland and chose not to attend a university. When she and her family settled in Austin in 2008, she decided it was time to get her degree and start a new career. After her previous banking experience, business seemed like the natural choice.
“I have worked in a variety of different industries, but I realized that if I wanted a career, I would have to get a degree,” Flynn says. “I could have a job but not necessarily a career. I was told that UT and McCombs had a phenomenal reputation and I thought, ‘If I am going to do this I may as well shoot for the stars.’”
Flynn, who is majoring in MIS and supply chain management, spends her days at McCombs, studying and taking classes and then returns home to make dinner for her family before more studying and homework. She has spent the last three years balancing class assignments with cooking, laundry, and shuttling recent college freshman Fintan and high school junior Conor to typical teenage activities.
This year, Flynn’s eldest son Fintan started as a freshman at Texas Tech. Fintan had observed his mother balance an almost-perfect GPA with being a wife and mom, and after attending her 2011 Honors Day ceremony, he realized she would be a tough act to follow.
“Initially I was afraid I sent the wrong signals by waiting this long [to attend college], but if anything I’ve taught [my sons] a lesson,” Flynn says. “I’ve convinced them of the importance of going to college, and going as soon as you can.”
While she was nervous about returning to school, as a McCombs student she tried to have as normal a collegiate experience as possible. She joined extracurricular clubs like the MIS Association and the Supply Chain Management Student Organization. Her favorite class was Business Communications with management lecturer Ellen Morrison.
“Coming back to school had a lot of uncertainties, but my GPA shows that I can handle it,” Flynn says. “I have to say that the faculty and students have been very welcoming to me as an alternative student. They really embrace me as one of their own, which has been very positive. My attitude has been, ‘I’m a student, and I’m one of the class.’”
She even spent last summer completing an out-of-state internship. She worked for Amazon in Delaware, and says the time away from her family was the toughest part of her undergraduate experience.
As graduation approaches and job applications start, the end of her undergraduate career is bittersweet. Her time at McCombs, she says, has taught her that she can do anything she sets her mind to. While she isn’t certain what industry she will work in, she hopes to find a job in Austin while her younger son finishes high school.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I could. To take this stress load on and the amount of work and sacrifices my family had to make, I really felt I would be letting them down if I didn’t try as hard as I could,” Flynn says. “Now I can take a step back and say, ‘Look how far I’ve come.’”