Georgia State graduated more than 5,700 students on May 9 at the Georgia Dome. We want to highlight just two of the talented Robinson students who crossed the stage and walked into a new realm of possibilities.
Jovonni PharrGrowing up in a poor area of the Bronx, the odds Jovonni Pharr would grow to help run a company while in college weren’t good.
He dropped out of school at age 15. He was hanging around the wrong people.
Pharr, a computer information systems major at the Robinson College of Business, needed to hit a “reset button” in his life.
He got in touch with his father in metro Atlanta, who he hadn’t seen since he was a small child.
“I called him that night and we just had a crazy conversation,” Pharr said. “He said, ‘you should come visit.’
“I said ‘if I come visit, I don’t want to come back,'”
Four days later, he left for Georgia, enrolled in South Cobb High School, and excelled academically, eventually making it to Georgia State.
As a college student, he’s busy running two companies. Nuracode is an app development firm he cofounded that develops apps for a host of clients, including Sprite, Fox, AARP, Samsung and HBO.
The other company, Sayroom, captures customer voices for in-the-moment analysis of emotional sentiment and trends among what customers say about a product or service.
After growing up in an impoverished area, a lingering sense of his own mortality is his motivation.
“I always thought I was going to die early,” Pharr said. “People die randomly, all the time…if you’re going to go out so sporadically like that, you might as well put a lot of effort toward doing things that are memorable.”
And he has a constant reminder to keep pushing, a tattoo on one of his hands reading “make a way.”
“Regardless of what’s going on, there’s always a way to make something happen,” Pharr said.
Victoria WallaceVictoria Wallace is driven.
She’s also a risk-taker who has flown into her academic career by winging it, putting together her own education and pushing ahead without a safety net.
She always wanted to go abroad for business, but couldn’t afford existing programs.
Wallace put together her own program, traveling to Brazil, where she had never been before. She scraped together the money through scholarships and work, and she hosted private events such as a wine and cheese tasting.
People tried to dissuade Wallace, a managerial sciences major, from going. It actually made her more determined to go.
“I was a senior, and a lot of people said, ‘You can’t do it,’ ‘Why are you doing it?’ ‘Why would you delay graduation?'” she said. She wanted to push further and be more prepared for the future.
She had her academic program in place in Sao Paulo, the business capital of South America, at Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado, a higher education institution.
But when she boarded the plane to take a 10-hour flight, she was truly winging it when it came to the basics of living.
She had no place to live in Sao Paulo, didn’t know the Portuguese language and didn’t have much money.
“I got on the plane, and everything was fine,” Wallace said. “My momentum was going, but when I got on there, I just started crying uncontrollably.”
She ignored the voice of doubt that urged her to get off the plane.
“It’s determination, and faith, that at the end of the day, I always knew I could come back home, that I would always be welcome, and that whatever comes my way, I will figure out what to do next,” Wallace said.
Living without a firm roadmap isn’t easy, but it’s been worth it. During her trip, she met the person who would later become her full-time employer and developed a confidence that will benefit her in the business field.
“If you do little things that are uncomfortable and you keep going, you can build more confidence with small steps,” Wallace said.