The Educational Path Less Traveled

By John Walsh '01

Life is full of experiences, and Mark Knight has had his share.

From serving in the military to traveling the world for business, Knight has led a life of adventure and learning. Now a nontraditional student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at the John L. Grove College of Business, his diverse background is playing a key role in his educational experience.

Mark Knight in front of the John L. Grove College of Business.

Mark Knight in front of the John L. Grove College of Business.

Knight holds dear a philosophy that his grand-mother taught him as a young boy: “What you learn and know can never be taken from you. Knowledge is the one thing that you will own throughout your life.”

This philosophy led him back to the classroom with the aspiration of a degree in management. With thirty-two years in manufacturing as a contract engineer, he has compiled a full and impressive resume. Knight had the opportunity to work with many companies and individuals around the world. He even was in Saudi Arabia on business as the Desert Shield campaign first began.

Over three decades, it became evident to him that “numerous managers make engineering decisions in which engineers have to turn around and justify.” He said this realization made his job quite frustrating at times. So, Knight decided to fix it by taking his experience as an engineer and utilizing it as a manager. His overall goal is to complete his management degree and use this knowledge at a mid-sized manufacturing company.

Knight is continuing his education through the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA) program. Although NAFTA directed much of his course schedule, Knight had some leeway to choose a university and courses that piqued his interest. He selected Shippensburg due to its size and reputation.

“At Shippensburg, students can stay connected. It is not so big that they get lost,” he said. “Grove College of Business has a very solid reputation. It is very well thought of, not just regionally, but nationally.”

Knight not only learns but also teaches by example while attending Ship. Various professors have utilized his manufacturing experiences and used his knowledge as real-life examples in class. He especially enjoyed having discussions in microeconomics in which he related what he has witnessed in the business world to younger students.

“I bring life experiences in a lot of areas. Not just in the classroom, and not just the area you want to make your career, but in a variety of different things.”

In anything in life, the one thing you have to have is focus. You are either all in or you are not. If you are not going to be all in, don’t even bother trying.
— Mark Knight

It’s not an easy venture to take the plunge back into the classroom. In addition to his courses, Knight devotes nearly thirty hours a week to his internship. Juggling classes, an internship, a career, and family can be challenging. He said time management helps him keep his overall goal in focus and promote his determination to succeed.

The key is balance between school and personal life. He devotes as much time as he can to his wife and often texts with his two adult daughters, one in Texas and one in Kentucky. His daughters often inquire about school and offer advice.

Knight believes one of the biggest obstacles for individuals contemplating going back to school is the fear of failure. “People are afraid of failing, even embarrassed of failing, but in the end you have to remember you learn from your failures.”

He’s often asked how higher education has changed since his first stint thirty-six years ago. He said the main difference is not just the technology utilized for online assignments, but also the mindset he has as a more experienced student. “I have more knowledge of the world around me. I know the direction I want to go and what my goals are. Because of this, I am more focused on the task at hand.”

Long term, Knight hopes to graduate from Shippensburg in the next three semesters and possibly attain an MBA with a teaching certification. He said he would enjoy the opportunity to teach in a high school setting, most likely as a substitute after his retirement.

Knight’s advice to others who are considering returning to school: “In anything in life, the one thing you have to have is focus. You are either all in or you are not. If you are not going to be all in, don’t even bother trying.”

Pretty solid advice from a man with a wealth of experiences.

John Walsh ’01 is a language arts teacher in northeast Pennsylvania.