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City of Norfolk employee graduates ODU after 10 years of hard work

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Posted at 11:22 AM, Mar 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-01 11:22:06-05
Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Norfolk, Va. – A 57-year-old City of Norfolk chief waterworks operator has graduated from Old Dominion University after ten years of nonstop work.

Mike Smith earned a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering.

Smith decided to go back to school shortly after moving to Norfolk for a job in Norfolk’s Department of Utilities in 2002.

“When I came to work at Norfolk, the opportunity was there since ODU was close by,” Smith said. “(The curriculum) matched what I was doing at the waterworks.”

Smith decided to take one or two classes each semester–even during the summer months–while he was working the night shift from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Enrolling in one or two classes at a time helped Smith finish school without debt and worked well with his schedule. He left his 12 hour shift at the water plant, slept for four hours, headed to an afternoon class at ODU for around two hours and then studied for a while at a coffee shop or on campus.

“At the plant, we work three days on, three days off,” Smith said. “On my days off, I could really spend time hitting the books. That work cycle was really conducive to going back to school.”

Smith admits that he didn’t think he could accomplish his goal. He says his faith in the Lord and the faculty in ODU’s Engineering department helped keep him motivated.

“It was pretty rough. And you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Smith said. “If you believe in miracles, then that was one. Miracles do happen, that’s all I can say.”

Smith said his next goal is to find a position in the field.

He also has a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.