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Long journey leads to degree, new career

December 14, 2011 12:00AM

Brian Morrell’s educational journey offers hope for college students who struggle with finding their passion in life. When Morrell, who is 37, receives his bachelor’s degree from Pittsburg State University on Saturday, he will look back on a long and sometimes difficult educational journey that now has him headed to one of the top accounting firms in the country.

Brian Morrell portraitWhen Morrell graduated from Iola High School in 1992, he was like many new graduates, in that he knew he would continue his education, but he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. He started at KU and then spent two and one-half years in Emporia, where he took classes at Emporia State.

“I took classes, but there wasn’t a lot of focus,” Morrell said.

That continued after Morrell moved to Pittsburg in 1995. He got a job at Miller’s Professional Imaging in 1996 and was soon working long hours and, except for a break between 2003 and 2005, taking classes at PSU.

Then something changed.

“I was a math major,” Morrell said. “I was sitting in my calc II class thinking, ‘When am I ever going to use this? When am I going to need to know how to calculate the volume of a kidney-shaped pool?’”

It was then that Morrell began to explore options in PSU’s College of Business.

“I discovered that I have a passion for anything business related,” he said.

After a while, he settled on accounting because he realized “businesses are always going to need accountants.” Morrell also understood something else. His GPA, which reflected his previous lack of focus, was going to be a handicap in getting a job in the accounting field.

“I realized that grades are the metric by which you are measured,” Morrell said. “If you don’t have the grades, you can’t even get your foot in the door.”

With that, he focused relentlessly on improving his GPA and finishing his degree. Amazingly, he did so while continuing to work 40 to 80 hours a week and helping raise the three teenagers that he and his wife of seven years, Michelle, have between them.

“I couldn’t have done it without Michelle,” Morrell said of his wife, who is pursuing a master’s degree in social work from KU. “I give her the credit.”

Morrell’s hard work paid off with an interview and eventual job offer from BKD, a top-10 U.S. accounting and advisory firm, where Morrell begins in January.

This weekend, friends and family will come to Pittsburg from far away to share this important moment with Morrell. Some of them, he said, may not have believed this day would ever come.

“I’m just glad my grandmothers are still around to see this,” Morrell said.

©2011 Pittsburg State University