Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

First generation graduate Chris Norman has plenty to smile about


It’s easy to be sold on Chris Norman.

Chris Norman, standing in front of Tillman, is a first-generation graduate
Chris Norman is a first-generation Clemson University graduate.

Whether you gauge the 24-year-old senior marketing major by his sincerity, scholarly achievements, or the infectious and ever-present smile on his face, it’s a good bet a bright future awaits him following graduation this month.

Chris is a first-generation college graduate who is pondering either a career in sales, or pursuit of an advanced degree. Whichever path he chooses, the Powdersville native will be driven by an experience he witnessed as a 10-year-old.

“My sister, Krysalynn, was born premature and was very sick for quite a long period of time. She was on a feeding tube and was cared for by a physician’s assistant named Rachel,” Chris said. “Experiencing that and seeing how Rachel helped her, changed the course of Krysalynn’s life. I’d like to make a difference in my career in a way that Rachel changed my sister’s life.”

Today, Krysalynn is living the life of a normal 14-year-old, but her struggles as a newborn made a lasting impression on the soon-to-be College of Business graduate.

“Her fight for life taught me how not to take things for granted and reinforced my belief that I’ve been very fortunate in many aspects of my life,” Chris added. “A career that I will find rewarding must be one that benefits people long term.”

Chris Norman and sister, Krysalynn, clown around
Chris and sister, Krysalynn, 14, enjoy a lighter moment during the holidays.

An honors student, Chris is contemplating a career in medical equipment sales, or pursuing a doctorate. The latter gained more steam on a recent trip to Chicago with his Department of Marketing mentor, Delancy Bennett.

“Two of the most influential people in my life have been my grandfather, Randy, and Dr. Bennett,” Chris said. “I wouldn’t be the student I am today without having met Dr. Bennett. He took me under his wing and taught me how to be a good student. He showed me that being a professor involves more than teaching. It’s about making an impact on people’s lives that lasts long after graduation.”

Bennett introduced his protégé to the PhD Project on the Chicago trip. A non-profit, the PhD Project is a catalyst for African American, Hispanic and Native American professionals to return to academia, earn their doctorates and become business professors.

“Dr. Bennett was in business before he was introduced to the PhD Project. He wanted to expose me to the opportunities available through the program at their annual conference where colleges recruit Ph.D. candidates. It was eye-opening, and I heard a common theme from some of the recruiters, that they wish they had left business for academia sooner.”

Chris Norman helps sister with breathing device
Chris helps his then-infant sister with her breathing apparatus.

Chris clearly made good use of his time at the PhD Project conference. So much so, that he may be making a career decision sooner than later.

“Several universities expressed an interest in me, and one Big Ten school was very sincere in offering a research opportunity,” Chris said. “So, I may need to decide a direction sooner than I thought. Dr. Bennett was right about the value of events like the PhD Project conference. It was enlightening and has caused me to seriously consider looking into pursuing a doctorate.”

“Behind that megawatt smile, what you see, hear and get in Chris is an intelligent, genuinely nice person who brings so much to the classroom and to anyone who comes in contact with   him,” Bennett said. “He’s one of those students any educator would enjoy teaching. He’s smart, eager to learn, and accepting of any challenge.”

Added associate marketing professor Jennifer Siemens: “Chris always brought insightful questions and comments to my consumer behavior class. And, he was skillful in getting focus group participants to open up in a Creative Inquiry. That smile, and his engaging personality opens doors, but there so much more about him that tells you his opportunities and levels of achievement are without limits.”

Bennett said Chris’ many assets will be redeemable no matter the career path he chooses.

“The only thing that overshadows his intellect and brilliant smile is that Chris is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Even among his peers, Chris is described as ‘the nicest person ever.’ All of his attributes would serve him well in the workplace or graduate school.”

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