As the College of Charleston’s Class of 2020 crosses the finish line, The College Today will highlight how some of our graduating seniors spent their time at CofC, and what the future holds.

In terms of life experiences, Jeff Ballard has had more than his share. Although he was thriving in high school, family matters caused him to drop out at 17 and get his GED. At 18 he joined the Army, where he spent time at the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea. When he returned to the U.S., he held a series of jobs including firefighter, car salesman, medical logistics coordinator, sanitation supervisor, horticulture foreman and director of a redevelopment service for adults in need.

Ballard was busy, but he always felt something was missing.

“I always knew I wanted to pursue a college degree,” says the professional studies major with a project management concentration and a minor in psychology. “I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.”

Ballard first went to Trident Technical College to obtain his associate’s degree. It had been a number of years since he had been in a classroom, but he decided to take what for him was his most difficult class in high school — English.

“I ended up making an A, and then there was no stopping me,” he says. “I now had the confidence to make it. I focused on general studies so I would have a transferable degree. Still, when I applied to CofC, I had to take a few more courses at Trident before attending the College.”

Because Ballard was working full-time, the School of Professional Studies (SPS) made the most sense.

“It gave me the flexibility I needed,” says the recipient of the Sue Sommer-Kresse, School of Professional Studies and Exchange Club of Charleston scholarships.

Then an opportunity opened up to work with Graeme Coetzer, director of the Professional Studies Program.

“Our students become very integrated with the SPS program,” says Coetzer. “Jeff jumped right in. Before he started working with me, he established the first student chapter of the Project Management Institute. I knew I had the right person for the job.”

“It was great,” says Ballard, who wanted to get all he could out of his CofC experience. “I really enjoyed being in the thick of things and helping both students and professors. I also got to do some fun projects.”

Ballard conducted comparative benchmarking of online and adult learning programs, assisted with the SPS external review and supported the development of the strategic plan. He also researched how to increase enrollment to the College through the technical college system — something for which he had intimate knowledge.

“There are definitely opportunities for people to transfer in from technical colleges,” says Coetzer. “Jeff’s firsthand experience at a technical college led to new ways of capturing information about how we link the concentrations we offer. Now we are helping to create criteria for specific majors so that students know what courses to take in order to transfer into CofC.”

Through his experiences with Coetzer and his CofC degree, Ballard is ready for the next step on his professional development map.

“I’ve served my country; I’ve served my community,” says the veteran and former Charleston firefighter. “Although proud to do so, I never felt I was applying my skills in the best way possible. The idea of being of service to individuals and helping those in need keeps running through my head.”

And, now he feels empowered to pursue that goal.

“I plan to focus on clinical psychology, something that has been a passion of mine,” says Ballard. “I’ve applied to graduate school for the fall and maybe I’ll go on to get my doctorate. There is no reason to stop now.”

As a trained organizational psychologist, Coetzer couldn’t be prouder.

“Through our work Jeff became very aware that successful decision making is as much about handling the traditional decision-making process as it is about managing the psychology of the participants,” says Coetzer. “He understands how psychologically complex many management roles are.”

In a nutshell, Ballard is ready to make a difference.