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Interview with Misty Penry

Penry, Misty
Griffin, Ruth Faye
Date of Interview: 
UNC Charlotte; History; Salisbury, NC; Charlotte, NC
Misty Penry, a student at the University of North Carolina of Charlotte, talks about her four year experience at UNCC. Misty talks about her academic, social, and family life during her University career.
Charlotte, NC and Salisbury, NC 2000-2004
Interview Setting: 
In a study room at J. Murrey Atkins Library at UNC Charlotte
UNC Charlotte Memories
Collection Description: 
The interivew was conducted as part of a series of interviews recording UNCCharlotte students' reflections on their college experiences, campus lifeand their educational and career goals.
Interview Audio: 
RG (Ruth Faye Griffin): The date is February 5, 2004. My name is Ruth Faye Griffin. I am the interviewer and I am with UNC Charlotte Atkins Library. The interviewee is Misty Penry, a student at UNC Charlotte. Hi Misty.
MP (Misty Penry): Hi.
RG: Hi. Misty, I want to know about your experience as a student at UNC Charlotte, for future generations to look back and understand. So I want to begin with where were you born and what date were you born?
MP: My birthday is July the 29th 1982. I was born at Rowan County Hospital in Salisbury, North Carolina.
RG: Where did you grow up?
MP: I've been all my life in Rowan County. I actually grew up in the little town of Cleveland, which nobody knows where that is. It's in between Salisbury and Statesville. It's just really tiny, out in the middle of nowhere.
RG: What was your parents' education?
MP: Neither one of my birth parents went to college. They both graduated from West Rowan, which is where I also graduated high school. And my step-dad who I really consider my dad, he did go to vocational school, in Nashville.
RG: How has their education affected your educational goals?
MP: Well I mean I always knew that I wanted to go to college. And my mom kind of, she wanted me to go too, but there wasn't a big push for it or whatever.
RG: What schools did you attend before you came to UNC Charlotte?
MP: I did go to Cleveland Elementary when I was younger. And I had a little while at a private school called Believer's Faith Center. And then I went to West Rowan High School where I graduated from.
RG: What made you decide to come to UNC?
MP: I don't really know. I was looking at Asheville and Appalachian, I kind of wanted to get away, but I kind of didn't. I guess in the end I decided I wanted to stay closer to my family and friends. It's just like a 45 minute drive, so-
RG: So, family played an important part in your decision.
MP: Yeah, yeah definitely.
RG: What major did you choose when you came here?
MP: Well I spent my first two years here undecided, just taking all kinds of courses. And then I took a course by Dr. John Hancock, History Since 1932 in America, or something like that. And I decided that I wanted to be a history student. And now I'm actually a double major in History and Political Science and I'm a Women's Studies minor.
RG: What are your living arrangements?
MP: I spent my first semester here on campus living in Holshouser [laughs]. I didn't really dig that, I was on the tenth floor, sharing a bathroom with like 10 other girls. And I wasn't about it, so [laughs] I moved to an apartment that was right around here. And I lived here in Charlotte for about 3 years. And then I ended up just moving back home and so that's where I'm at now, just with my mom and dad in Salisbury.
RG: Why did you move back home with your parents?
MP: I was just tired of working that much-- to pay my, I mean because I was like working to pay my rent and car insurance and everything. And as I was coming into my senior year I really wanted to be able to put all my effort into my studies and concentrate on getting good grades and stuff. And it did pay off because I made straight A's last semester for the first time. I was really excited, and some of my hardest classes ever. So that was good, I could definitely tell that I had benefited from doing that, I was glad.
RG: With all the studying and being a double major, do you get involved in any student life or extra activities here at the school?
MP: I have been a little bit, somewhat. I used to be more involved than I am now obviously, with my senior level courses and all that. But I am a member of Golden Key Society, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and I'm also a member of the Feminist Union, and Phi Alpha Theta, which is the history department's honor society, so that's really good. Which, we haven't been that active this year we've been more active in the past than we have this year. But that's pretty much all the extras I've, I've really been involved in.
RG: What do you think of the student life at UNC Charlotte?
MP: I think it's really good for people who have time to like really participate in it. I mean there's like a really big variety of organizations. I mean everything from honor societies and you know the feminist union and there's all types of things for whatever you're interested in. There's definitely a group here for you. So that's, that's a good thing.
RG: Knowing that you've lived both on campus and off campus, and you've seen both areas, do you see any problems that maybe need to be addressed at this school?
MP: [laughs] Well, I guess parking is a big issue for all commuters. I mean even when I lived just around here it's always been a big deal. Which, they're building more parking decks and stuff, so, I guess that is getting better. But I do actually see like a big difference between living in Salisbury and living around here. When you live here its like, you know, everybody's in college and there's just so much more of like, you know, the academic community when you live here. And everything is like so accessible. And, you know, downtown is just right there and there's like a whole bunch of cultural life that you just don't get, you know, in Salisbury, North Carolina. But, I mean, Salisbury isn't a bad place. It does have its good points and bad, I guess.
RG: When you first came here as a freshman what were your initial feelings when you came onto this campus?
MP: I guess I, I guess I was confused. I couldn't find my way around very good. I think they need to give maps to everybody that comes on campus. Which, you know there's a lot everywhere. And students are always really helpful with that I guess. But I guess my initial feelings about the campus and UNC Charlotte; I was just excited to be, you know, furthering my education in general, because, I mean no one in my family has a four year degree. My sister went to Rowan-Cabarrus and got a two year early childhood education degree there. But I'm the first person to actually go to a four year school and so, I feel, really like, I felt really excited about that and just all the opportunities that I was gonna have here.
RG: What were your expectations when you came here? What did expect from yourself, the school?
MP: I guess I just expected to move beyond a small town mentality and, I mean, here there's so much more diversity and people really respect that. And its, its very different than Salisbury. I mean Salisbury is growing but there's still a lot of bigotry and racism and all that stuff and here I expected not to find that as much. And I haven't found it as much but I have been surprised at some of the stuff that I have found, you know. But I guess I expected it to be more open and it is. I think the stereotypes about partying at college and stuff, I kind of expected people to be more rowdy or whatever. But I think, I mean, this is a very, I mean there are the partiers that go here, but, this is, I found it to be a very scholarly campus. I mean some, some, some people take what they're doing seriously and the professors will really engage with you and help you along in that if you are serious about your studies.
RG: You mentioned earlier that you're going, you're into your senior year. Now that you've been here four years and you've had a chance to think back on your initial feelings and your expectations, how do you feel now about the school?
MP: I feel like it was a, it's been a really good experience for me. I think its growing a lot. I mean, the raises in tuition over the years, I guess,which is bad for me personally, but I guess that means good things for the campus because they are adding parking decks, and buildings, and professors. So, I mean I guess I actually feel better about it now than I did initially. Because I've been here and I have experienced interactions with, you know, the students and faculty and it's been, it's been really good.
RG: What, where do you see UNC Charlotte over say the next few decades?
MP: I really have no idea. [laughs] I think, I think it will continue to grow. I think, I don't know about the whole name change thing to Charlotte University, I don't know how I feel about that. I think that being affiliated with the University of North Carolina system is really one of the better things the campus has going for it. I do-- I'm not sure that I see a Law School here though, I mean I think I can but I mean it's gonna be awhile, you know down the road. But I think, I think there's a lot of potential here and I think that as, you know, other people in other states, you know, they recognize us and see us as a good school. And we are. Hopefully people around here will catch that a little bit and you know start to realize what we have here and it's a really good resource.
RG: If you could, looking back on your experience here are as student, is there anything that you would have done differently?
MP: [sigh] I really, I really do wish I had been more one of the more fortunate students I guess who didn't have to work to pay for their books and their tuition and all that. You know, a better financial situation would have been nice. Which, you know, we can't do anything about that. But I would have liked to have been more active in the organizations that I'm with. And had more time to really fully engage in all the many projects that they were doing, and a, things like that. And of course, I would have spent more time studying. [laughs] I mean I have good grades but I feel like if I would have pushed a little harder those border line B's could have been A's. But I do feel like I got my money's worth I guess. Yeah.
RG: Do you see-- I know you've mentioned the fact that you do need the loans to pay for school and at the same time you have to keep your grades up, but many students do have to work to meet ends meet in school, do you think that's a problem that needs to be addressed? Maybe by future students.
MP: Well, I don't really know how you would address that problem; I mean other than like a federal overhaul their system. Because you know my parents didn't qualify for their aid when, you know, they had their own house payment and car payment and things like that and they can't afford to pay for my education. I do have a scholarship to go here that covers part of it, but I have to work to make up the difference. And I do think that maybe the federal government does need to look at what they're doing and really see where the problems are. I mean I know there's only so much money to go around but I think they're missing out a lot of people who would really take advantage of the opportunity if, you know, they could just work a little harder and make their system a little better.
RG: Misty where do you see yourself in 20 years now that you've with this college education?
MP: Well I do plan to go on to graduate school. I graduate in May from here, and I'm gonna take a year off; so I'm gonna be starting in August of 2005. And I'm not really sure whether I want to go to graduate school for History or for Women's Studies. I think I'm actually going to try to do both that way I can increase my valuable ness I guess as an employee to anyone who would want to hire me. But it is my goal to be a professor at a University somewhere or maybe a private college. I'd probably make more money. [laughs] But that is my goal, to go on in the world of academia and set myself up a nice little office with my book collection I've started. And hopefully I'll be working on a book by then and I don't know but there's lots of possibilities. RECORDING INTERRUPTED
RG: Misty, I'd like to back up for a moment now that you've told about your overall experience at college and now how it's affected you. I'd like to back up for a moment and find out a bit about your everyday life at school. First of all, what classes where the most helpful or interesting to you?
MP: Well I think that all classes inform what you do in your other classes. I mean of course I think that you know America in 1932 was one of the formative ones, you know it's the impetus for me deciding to be a history major. So I think that was really important. And very interesting because it was very much more in depth than you know any other history class I'd taken and it presented, you know, so many more viewpoints and aspects than you get in high school. Another class I think was very interesting was my first women's studies class I'd ever taken. I'd never been exposed to any kind of feminist viewpoints or true feminist viewpoints. Of course you've seen stereotypes and heard all that before but-- it was Changing Roles in Women's Lives was the first women's studies class that I took. And that was just very informative and it gave me like a whole different viewpoint on my life. Another interesting class for me was History of Poverty. That was with Dr. Thompson. Just, I mean, in such a consumer culture, everybody has their big houses and nice cars, to see what, you know, to learn in the class about the other side was just really interesting. I mean because nobody wants to talk about it and everybody just pushes them off as welfare or whatever. But it was like a really objective look at what poverty looks like in America. And you know is exists alongside this affluence or whatever. [pause] I think, I think that's probably the most important classes.
RG: How has the faculty been influential in your life?
MP: Of course, Dr. Hancock was important. He just is so intelligent and he is just a very easy going, nice to talk to, you know, kind of guy. And I think that we have a lot of good professors here. Somebody who isn't actually a doctorate is Carol Gay and she's a part time teacher in the women's studies department. And she does such a good job really reaching out to her students and really explaining and working with them. She's just very accessible and really nice, a nice person. I think that's, that's about all that comes to mind right now.
RG: What is your favorite place to eat on campus?
MP: [laughs] Well, being a commuter I don't really eat here that much, or I try not to. But I guess if, you know I'm stuck here for awhile and I have to grab something it's definitely probably Chick-Fil-A. I remember when I lived at Holshouser I'd have to eat at the RDH all the time and that was just a bad experience. [laughs] I think they need, they're working on improving their food services so, I definitely think that's a step in the right direction. But, yeah, Chick-Fil-A, I guess that's kind of sad but-- [laughs]
RG: Where do you study?
MP: Here and there I guess. I feel like, I mean the library is an ideal place just because it's quiet and everybody else is studying here. I do study at home some, but I have distractions, washing clothes and dishes and all that. So I think the best place for me to study is on campus probably in the library, just hole myself in a corner.
RG: What do you do for fun, outside of school and work?
MP: I guess I spend so much time doing that, that anything to get away form school or work is always nice. I like to spend time with my friends and family. I like to try to go visit my grandparents as much as I can because my Grandma and Grandpa are just really influential people in my life, all my life. And they're just really special to me. So I try to spend a lot of time with them. And, I mean I guess I just like to socialize and maybe have a drink with friends and play cards or go bowling or dancing, which I don't really do that as much as I used to, I broke my ankle so that kind of inhibits how much I can do that. But I still definitely love to go out dancing, that, that's really fun for me. But like I said, just anything really, even if its just vegging on the couch to get away from school or work is nice.
RG: Have you had any relationships over the past four years that have meant a lot to you?
MP: Yeah, definitely. When I started here I was dating someone and we had been together for awhile. That didn't really work out in the end, although we're still really good friends and we still talk and hang out. But one of my best friends in the world I met here halfway through my first year here, and that's Tiffany Wilkins. She is just like an awesome motivator. She's actually an MIS, finance major, which just blows my mind because that's like a totally other language to me. But she, she also cheered here and she's in Alpha Kappa Psi, which is the business fraternity here on campus and she also works. So me and her have very busy lives in common. But we do always make time for each other. She's a really good motivator and she's been like a constant study buddy for me throughout. We get a lot of work done together when we study, so that's been really good.
RG: Is there anything else that you would like to leave on this record for generations or anything you would just like to add?
MP: Well, I mean being the first in my family to go through the four year experience, I mean I just feel like I-- very privileged to, I mean I guess it's not even privileged I mean I've worked my butt off for it. But I mean it's so important that people get and education. I mean what you get in high school, it's not a drop in the bucket to what reality is. And so many people are so media focused these days and that's such a narrow view of the world. I mean, I think college education is crucial and I think that its something that everybody needs to experience. I mean it will really enhance your life and your understanding of the world, and you know, the way things work. So I think it's just really important that people do go through this and I'm really glad that I got that opportunity to do it.
RG: Well Misty, thank you for your interview.
MP: Thank you.