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Prior Learning Credit put RCC’s Ashley McLaughlin on the fast-track to earning degree

Throughout the day, you might find Ashley McLaughlin training new tellers and customer service representatives at one of the 14 branches with Lumbee Guaranty Bank, but for the last year, she’s been hard at work after hours studying to complete her degree in Business Administration at Robeson Community College. 

“I remembered seeing her at graduation last year,” said Sherry Martin, the Registrar for RCC. “She was excited to see her sister graduate.”

Martin knew McLaughlin from when she had previously been a student. McLaughlin had stopped attending to focus more on her career in banking. Martin told her about how she might be eligible to earn credit for prior learning thanks to her work experience. McLaughlin was intrigued by this and immediately went to work to find out more and to complete the necessary steps needed to fast-track her degree.

Suddenly, becoming a college graduate didn’t seem as far away as she had always thought.

“The process was very easy,” McLaughlin said, who thought she would have to start over from the beginning. “I prepared a portfolio and presented it to Mr. George Pate. It included my resume and a few other pieces to show my work experience.”

The portfolio she presented was approved, and McLaughlin received credit for two classes – Principles of Management and Customer Service –  meaning she would not have to take those courses, saving her time and money.

 “She aggressively started working towards her degree,” Martin said. “She followed through to get all the documentation completed and she stayed on top to pursue her career and complete her degree.”

Diligent and determined, McLaughlin completed her program of study in just a year and a half, beginning in the Summer of 2022. Last year she attended her sister’s graduation, but this year, her sister will be attending hers, becoming the second person from her family to graduate.

“My sister has two small kids and she works full-time,” McLaughlin said. “I thought if she can do it, I can do it too.”

She adds, “Mr. Pate constantly told me to come back, and I finally did.”

McLaughlin says that online learning made it possible for her to achieve her dream of becoming a college graduate. Without it, she would not have been able to attend saying, “I wouldn’t have had time go.”

With online classes, McLaughlin had more flexibility.

“I was able to work ahead as my schedule allowed,” McLaughlin stated. “It helped not having to go face-to-face. I did as much as I could do every semester, and there was no stress… if you want a degree, you have to push yourself and that’s what I did.”

“I absolutely loved the program being 100% online… there were some wonderful people that helped me along the way,” McLaughlin said.

As the head of training at the bank, McLaughlin hopes to continue to grow in the banking industry and further explore management options. She plans on attending UNCP this fall to earn a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in management.

“I have several years of management experience over several people,” she said. “I absolutely love, love, being able to form relationships… when I started at the bank, I just fell in love with it. We are like a small family… I know this is a good career that I can grow in and one day retire from.”

With just hours until she receives her degree, McLaughlin says she’s beyond happy that she’s about to walk across the stage.

“Getting a degree has made me feel more qualified for my position and it has been a good confidence booster. I feel very accomplished like a big relief that I have earned a degree that supports the work that I’m in,” McLaughlin says.

“I can’t wait to hang it in my office.”


Photo above: Ashley McLaughlin represented Lumbee Guaranty Bank recently at the job fair held at Robeson Community College in April, seeking to fill positions as the head of training. “It was actually exciting,” said McLaughlin who has attended the job fair the last three years in a row. “The past couple of times wasn’t as special as this one, as it was the same day I picked up my tickets for graduation.” 

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