Alumnus Robert A. Niblock, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Lowe’s Companies Inc., provided a $2.5 million donation to UNC Charlotte to support and name the Niblock Student Center in the Belk College of Business. The Niblock Student Center provides transformative coaching and professional development to nearly 4,000 undergraduate business students in one of the largest business schools in the Carolinas.
In January, the center celebrated its grand opening, at which two students shared their personal stories of how the center has made a difference to them, and they expressed their appreciation to Niblock for his gift.
Lydia Cote, a senior majoring in accounting, transferred to UNC Charlotte during her sophomore year and learned crucial skills about landing an internship.
“During my first few weeks on campus, I was encouraged by my macroeconomics professor to attend the fall semester career fair. I took her advice and attended. While I did not receive any internship offers that year, I did manage to speak with a few Lowe’s recruiters,” she said.
After more professional development preparation, she applied for an accounting internship with Lowe’s the next year and was accepted.
“Through the Lowe’s internship, I was able to immerse myself into Lowe’s culture and interact with Mr. Niblock during my first week as an intern, when he spoke with the interns through a question-and-answer session. Over the summer, I pushed myself far out of my comfort zone and grew professionally. At the end of my internship, I was offered a full-time position in Lowe’s Finance and Accounting Rotational Program, and I happily accepted. I know that without the resources made available to me by the Belk College of Business, I never would have had this opportunity,” she said.
Berenice Lopez-Garcia, a senior majoring in accounting, transferred to UNC Charlotte after completing several years at a community college. She is a first-generation college student from a large family in Robbins, North Carolina.
“As I watched my parents work endless hours to provide a brighter future, I thought to myself, if they have the will and power to work so hard, what’s stopping me from going the extra mile to better my education and potentially better our lives? I picked up two part-time jobs to finish my degree at UNC Charlotte. I finally left my small town in fall 2016 and joined UNC Charlotte. Today, I am proud to say I am one semester away from obtaining my bachelor’s degree and have applied for admission into the Master of Accountancy program. There are no words to describe how proud my parents are to see me achieve my goals,” she said.
“Being a first-generation college student made me hesitant to ask the simple questions, which in turn made it harder to ask the tough questions. One of those tough questions was how do you get an internship? Thanks to the professional development team at the Niblock Student Center, I learned about internships for credit and have been able to have two internships in public accounting. Utilizing the professional development services within the Niblock Student Center, I have been able to improve my communication, interviewing and networking skills, all of which helped shape and prepare me for the internships. It’s exciting to know that future students will have the opportunity to benefit from the Niblock Student Center as much as I have, thanks to the generous donation of a UNC Charlotte alumnus,” she said.
Niblock completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting from UNC Charlotte in 1984. He was the inaugural speaker of the UNC Charlotte Belk College of Business CEO Speaker Series in fall 2015. He received the Belk College of Business Distinguished Alumni Award in fall 2016 and was recognized as one of 30 change-makers worldwide in the 2016 AACSB Influential Leaders Challenge.
“I am proud to call myself a UNC Charlotte alumnus, and I’m proud of my accounting degree from the Belk College of Business. I know that UNC Charlotte provides a quality education for students, and I believe the Student Center provides the opportunity to enhance that education with coaching and personal skills that can help ensure success. The center provides UNC Charlotte graduates with the opportunity to develop career competencies as they enter the workforce while helping them stand out and reveal themselves as well-rounded, capable and creative leaders before leaving school and looking for that first job. The center sets our next generation of leaders on a path to do something of significance and meaning with their degree and to excel professionally, leaving a lasting contribution to our community and world around us,” Niblock said.
The center’s grand opening in January 2018 included a celebration of the new facility and expanded programming. The center features a new flex space for student events and meetings; an executive conference room for students; and expanded professional development programs, tools and staff.
Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and Belk College of Business Dean Steven Ott announced the gift and naming of the center in fall 2015.
“Robert Niblock’s support is making a tremendous difference for our students. Many are first-generation college students, and many are working while studying in order to afford their education. The Niblock Student Center provides personal and career guidance to prepare students for lifelong success,” Dubois said.
“Robert Niblock’s personal history empowers students with the idea that if they enroll in the Belk College, work hard and pursue their goals, they will also have the potential to achieve unlimited success. He is truly an inspiration to our students and our entire college,” said Ott.
The center was established within the Belk College of Business in 2012 to help undergraduate business students discover, plan and achieve their career goals while building professional life-long competencies essential for success in the 21st century. The center’s initial activities were made possible with seed money from the Belk Foundation and the MetLife Foundation, supplemented by gifts from alumni and friends. These financial contributions have supported center creation, career special events and professional development outreach activities. With Niblock’s gift, the center has expanded significantly.
“In today’s business world, you need more than technical skills to land a job. Employers and recruiters alike are looking for the complete package when hiring. How you present yourself, express enthusiasm for the work you’re doing, and interact with others are some of the soft skills employers are seeking in new graduates. These are the skills that the Niblock Student Center builds,” Ott said.