New Agreements Guarantee South Piedmont Students Admission to Mars Hill University

Mars Hill University President Tony Floyd and South Piedmont President Dr. Maria Pharr on Monday signed agreements guaranteeing qualified South Piedmont graduates admission to Mars Hill.


South Piedmont Community College and Mars Hill University on Monday celebrated the signing of the Mountain Lion Promise, a program that creates new opportunities for South Piedmont students.

Mountain Lion Promise: A Direct-Entry Admissions Program guarantees qualified South Piedmont graduates will be admitted to Mars Hill University.

“We often say at South Piedmont that our students can start here and go anywhere — and this agreement has given our graduates a wonderful opportunity to make ‘anywhere’ Mars Hill University,” said SouthPiedmont President Dr. Maria Pharr. 

Added Mars Hill President Tony Floyd:

“The Mountain Lion Promise Program is an exciting step forward in welcoming students of Anson and Union counties to Mars Hill, with a clear pathway for graduates of South Piedmont Community College to earn their bachelor’s degrees.”

Students wishing to take advantage of Mountain Lion Promise must meet certain criteria, including:

  • Students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 at South Piedmont.
  • Students must earn an associate degree from South Piedmont in a college transfer program or in an applied program with an existing articulation agreement.
  • Students must enroll at Mars Hill within one academic year of graduating from South Piedmont.

Presidents Pharr and Floyd, along with representatives from both institutions, gathered at South Piedmont’s Old Charlotte Highway campus on Monday, Oct. 23, to officially sign the Mountain Lion Promise agreement.

Also at the signing event, Presidents Pharr and Floyd signed a separate articulation agreement that guarantees graduates of South Piedmont’s Human Services program admission to Mars Hill’s Bachelor of Social Work program.

“We are very excited to have this opportunity to partner with South Piedmont and their Human Services program. South Piedmont Human Services students will bring skills and a strong foundation to the BSW program at Mars Hill,” said Dr. Beth Vogler, chair of Mars Hill’s Department of Social Work.

South Piedmont has numerous agreements guaranteeing graduates admission to four-year institutions. Learn more about South Piedmont’s transfer opportunities here: https://spcc.edu/areas-of-study/university-transfer-programs/

Mars Hill University is a private, four-year liberal arts institution located in the mountains of western North Carolina. Founded in 1856 by Baptist families of the region, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in western North Carolina on its original site.


South Piedmont Alum Is Proof of Education’s Power to Change an Entire Family’s Trajectory

A college degree changes the trajectory of the graduate’s life and sets a new standard for the entire family. Just ask South Piedmont Community College alumna Rene’ Viser. 

“My whole life is about breaking patterns, about not accepting what I know and what I was surrounded by,” said Viser. “I try to instill that in others now. Just because you grew up one way doesn’t mean you have to accept that’s the way it is.”

In May, Viser was named center director of Daymark Recovery Service’s FBC Union Detox Center. It’s a position that’s a long way, both physically and figuratively, from where she started in life. 

Viser grew up in a poverty-stricken area of San Francisco, one of six siblings raised by a single mother who struggled with both substance abuse addiction and mental illness.

“The environment I grew up in was crime-ridden. It was the norm to be on drugs, to not finish school, to be a single teen mom, to not go to college, for males not to live past 21, to live in low-income housing and be on public assistance,” she said. 

From a young age, Viser refused to accept any of those things as her fate.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but school and sports were my coping mechanism. I played basketball, softball, did gymnastics and was on the swim team. I played the saxophone. I did anything to keep me busy and away from my home.” 

Her myriad activities weren’t enough to keep Viser in school. She dropped out of high school, she said, because she was bored and because she felt like she didn’t have the resources she needed to be successful. 

“I had raggedy clothes. I didn’t have any money and often went hungry,” Viser said. “I just didn’t feel like I belonged.” 

Still, she refused to become a statistic of any sort. She earned her high school equivalency diploma and became an insurance agent, managing her own insurance agency for five years. To have more time with her kids, she sold her business and went to work for a major insurance company, which eventually brought her to North Carolina.

Her work allowed her to buy her own home and provide her family with the stability she’d lacked as a child. Yet, she longed to return to school and build a career through which she could use her own life experiences to help others. When her oldest son graduated high school and headed to college, she decided to return to school as well.

Viser enrolled at South Piedmont in 2008 at age 45. Three years later, she graduated with her associate degree in human services. She went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well.  

Her children were watching — and supporting—her every move. 

“I think I changed their perspectives on what’s possible in life. One of my sons has his bachelor’s degree now. The other runs his own business, and my daughter has a professional license. My children have lived in Japan, Florida, and New York. They’ve learned that just because they were born in a place doesn’t mean they have to die there, or just because they grew up one way doesn’t mean it has to always be that way,” Viser said. 

Now at 60, as the new center director at Daymark, Viser oversees a team of approximately 20 employees that includes a physician, nurses, medical technologists, an after-care coordinator, crisis workers and medical records administrators. Daymark is a nonprofit organization that provides mental health and substance abuse treatment options. 

Her new position represents the culmination of her life experiences to this point. As center director, she and her team help patients change the trajectories of their own lives. 

She recalled a patient who after leaving Daymark went on to complete a yearlong sobriety program and is now working and leading a stable life. 

“That’s success,” she said. 

“My motto is l love what I do, and I do what I love. Making a difference for others is what I love to do.”

Learn more about South Piedmont’s Human Services program at spcc.edu/human-services.

For New Habitat for Humanity Executive Director, South Piedmont Was the “Key” to a Fulfilling Career

Photo of Keturah Key standing at the door of the Union-Anson County Habitat for Humanity building.

South Piedmont Community College alumna Keturah Key is the new executive director of the Union-Anson County Habitat for Humanity.

We’re going to use the word “key” a lot in this story. 

For one, it’s the last name of our subject, Keturah Key, the new executive director of the Union-Anson County Habitat for Humanity

Secondly, she likens the education she received at South Piedmont Community College to a key that unlocked her future. 

And finally, since the day she graduated, her professional mission has been to put the keys to homeownership — literally — in deserving families’ hands. 

“I drive by South Piedmont on my way to work, and every day, I have such a feeling of gratitude for where my education took me,” said Key, who started as executive director on May 1.

Originally from Brooklyn, Key relocated to Union County with her husband and son in 2008.  

Up to that point, she had worked in retail to help support her family. But in a new place and amid the 2008 economic downturn, Key struggled to find work. In 2011, when her son was entering kindergarten, Key decided it was time to further her own education.

Seeking a career helping others, she enrolled in South Piedmont’s Associate in Applied Science in Human Services program. The degree prepares students for entry-level positions helping individuals and families improve their quality of life by accessing community services. After earning her associate degree, Key completed a Bachelor of Science in Human Services at East Tennessee State University.

During her second year at South Piedmont, Key began interning at Habitat for Humanity.

“From my first day as an intern, I had in the back of my mind something that Fedder Williams, the Human Services program lead, told us. She would say, ‘Be so good that they give you a job,’” Key said. 

That’s exactly what Key did. 

In the decade since she started with the Union-Anson County Habitat for Humanity, she’s worked in every aspect of the operation. She’s swung a hammer, started and managed the agency’s social media channels, counseled families on how to improve their credit in order to receive a home, and helped to increase awareness of the Habitat mission. 

“It is an awesome mission. I love talking about it. We are the only Habitat for Humanity affiliate that services three counties in two states — Union and Anson in North Carolina and Chesterfield in South Carolina. We build eight to 10 homes per year and do about 40 repairs per year,” she said. 

Individuals and families find their way to Union-Anson County Habitat for Humanity through a variety of ways. Some are referred by agencies such as the Department of Social Services or Monroe-Union County Community Development Corporation. Some come by way of word of mouth. 

Regardless of how they come to the agency, future Habitat homeowners must meet certain income and credit requirements and put in “sweat equity” — helping to build others’ homes — before they receive their own keys. 

“We serve people who would otherwise be denied a loan,” Key said. “Our homeowners still take out a mortgage, so they have to show they’re going to be able to maintain the house and make the payments.”

When the moment comes to finally hand over the keys to a new homeowner, Key is reminded all over again why she chose her career. 

“There’s no way to describe that feeling when a family is finally able to move into their new home. It changes everything for them,” Key said. 

“We have families who are still living in their homes years later. We have families who have sold their homes and moved into something bigger. All their lives, they’ve been told they aren’t good enough, or that they’ll never be able to afford a house. When they receive those keys, that’s the start of a life change for them.”

As executive director, Key will continue Habitat’s life-changing work while steadily increasing awareness and the number of families it serves. 

“I want to keep building on the foundation we have in our communities. I would love to see us have greater visibility, start an online store, and help more families in our area,” she said. 

As she begins this new phase of her career with Habitat for Humanity, as she has since her first day as an intern, Key is quick to thank South Piedmont for its role in her success. 

“Everything started to fall into place for me when I chose South Piedmont.” 

Learn more about South Piedmont’s Human Services program at spcc.edu/human-services.


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