Following His Own Path: Ron Kiernicki

When he was younger, Ron Kiernicki’s plans were set: graduate high school and run track and play football for Indiana State University. Plans change, however, and instead, Kiernicki ended up in a band, skipping college, and traveling around the United States, working in various restaurants along the way. He had a lot of fun, to be sure, but as he got older, going back to school was always on his mind. Thanks to Excelsior College’s partnership with NPC International, Kiernicki could fulfill the goal of completing his education.

Kiernicki, of Terre Haute, Indiana, has been an employee of NPC International (Pizza Hut) since 1998, when he decided he needed a full-time job to care for his wife and their young son. He is currently an assistant restaurant general manager and over time has been given more opportunities, including traveling for the company and running multiple units. Kiernicki says he wants to stay with NPC International either in the HR department or as a people development leader, but he wouldn’t mind exploring other areas. To do that, he realized he needed to pursue his education.

“Going back to school was always on my mind, but financially I simply could not afford it. That being said, the partnership program essentially made returning to school a financial reality,” says Kiernicki. Through the partnership with Excelsior, employees of NPC International receive tuition discounts and other financial benefits. He says he was nervous about returning to school, recalling his 50+ hour workweeks and responsibilities as a full-time soccer coach, founder of a non-profit organization called Clay Youth Soccer Club, and co-founder of a music festival. “My plate was full to say the least, and I had to be a full-time husband and father,” says Kiernicki.

“But I made the phone call and the Excelsior administration team really made me feel like I was making the right choices,” he says, adding that receiving four Pizza Hut Scholarships have meant a lot to him; “they have kept me going,” he says. He notes Excelsior was the best choice, saying, “For anyone contemplating returning to school at Excelsior, I would say do not hesitate! No matter what challenges life has for you, you can do it, and Excelsior has the resources to make it happen.” Kiernicki will continue in the dual BS in Business to MBA program in fall 2019.

Kiernicki says online learning has been the “only option” for him, and so far, he has learned a lot from Excelsior’s courses and faculty. The most influential courses to him have been microeconomics, macroeconomics, international economics, global marketing, international finance, quantitative analysis, and ethics. Kiernicki ran into some tough challenges, however. His youngest son was born prematurely in January 2017; in 2018, his cousin passed away, followed by his aunt; and in 2019, his brother passed away. “Thankfully the professors have all been very supportive along the beaten path,” says Kiernicki. He also adds that learning how to create study habits was a key to his success and managing all the setbacks and challenges. “I am not sure I can tell you exactly how I made it through it all. My wife has been extremely supportive, and again, the professors; I cannot say enough about each and every one of them,” he says. He adds his driving factor has been his wife, kids, and his parents.

Next up for Kiernicki is two semesters of foreign language, a capstone, and then finishing his MBA. He has also been researching jobs. “There are many roads I can travel down, but at the end of the day, I need to make sure it is a path that my family can prosper from,” he says, adding that first and foremost, he wants to be the best father and husband he can be.