Education and Endurance
Life Lessons from Montreat College Alumna Myra Rowell ’00, ’09, ’14
By Jessica Evans ‘19
Myra Rowell has a long relationship with Montreat College’s School of Adult and Graduate Studies. She earned her associate degree from Montreat in 2000, her Bachelor of Science in Management degree from Montreat in 2009, and her Master of Business Administration from Montreat in 2014. She completed all of these degrees while maintaining a full-time job and other responsibilities, steadily working her way towards her current position as a senior vice president for cybersecurity at Bank of America in Charlotte, N.C.
Myra had started a degree in computer science at another school before setting her education aside to do consulting. But eventually her professional goals led her back to the classroom. “I decided I needed to finish my degree and that’s where Montreat College came in,” she recalls. “They had a Charlotte campus and, because I’d already started my career, I didn’t really want to go back to a traditional college environment. With Montreat Adult and Graduate Studies, everyone is already in their career, and it seemed like the right fit.”
Myra credits the community she shared with fellow Montreat students for giving her the focus and endurance to complete her education. “Building relationships allowed me to power through and stay on track with the curriculum in the MBA program,” she says. “Because we work in groups and teams, that allows you to understand how teams work best and it allows you to have real live experience in leading teams and being on teams.”
One strength she recognized in the teams she was a part of in the MBA program at Montreat College was their diversity. “The MBA program is how I gained experience and knowledge about how important diversity and inclusion are,” she says. “Diversity and inclusion are a number one priority; you have to have diverse perspectives to build anything of quality. And you have to be inclusive of other people’s cultures and ideas or it’s not sustainable.”
"Tenacity is important because you have to want it, whether you are going for a first degree or a second degree or whether you are in your career and you are looking to advance."
Myra currently works with several organizations that encourage diversity, the most prominent being the National Center for Women & Information Technology, which seeks to address the longstanding gender bias in the technology field. She also believes that including voices from different cultural perspectives is particularly important within the cybersecurity field. “Cybersecurity is no longer just a technical role,” she says. “Cybersecurity involves assessing business risk and other factors. We need to have a lot of different cultures and diversity in cybersecurity to be able to recognize and defend against the threats we face… Perception is relative. Perception has to do with where your seat is at the table. We all do ourselves better justice by sitting at different seats of the table and looking at things from different angles.”
The vision of diversity the Myra aspires to also extends to a diversity of ideas and approaches. “Some people on a team want to go 24/7 the first few days, then they burn out,” she explains. “And others are there for the long haul and they are more consistent over time. You have some that lead the conversations; you have some that observe the conversations. You have to have all of those to meet the objectives that you need to meet.”
Myra believes diversity lends itself to long-term sustainability, but diversity isn’t the only factor for enduring success. Myra says that endurance also requires tenacity and flexibility. “Tenacity is important because you have to want it, whether you are going for a first degree or a second degree or whether you are in your career and you are looking to advance. Whether the advancement you’re looking for is vertical or lateral, you’ve got to have tenacity. You have got to be determined and believe that you are going to accomplish your goals.” But Myra says it’s also important to be flexible. If you trust in who God is and what He has for you, then you can adjust your attitude and stance to better serve the team or community that you are in. “God has a plan for everybody and you have to work your plan and not somebody else’s,” she says.
Perhaps above all, Myra appreciates Montreat College’s focus on ethics and character. “Character and ethics is the culture of Montreat,” she says.” As soon as you walk in, you know the bar is being raised and that’s what is expected.” It’s a standard that has served Myra well in her career path. “Montreat College definitely builds the right kind of character, and character and ethics are extremely important in all businesses or in life in general,” she says. “I think that, in the corporate environment, your character shows… People see it and they understand it and they know what it is. And that’s important.” ■
Jessica Evans ’19 is an environmental science major at Montreat College.