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Imel bound for Russia with Fulbright Award

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    “Morehead State was always concerned with more than my education. They were concerned with me as an individual and they are still concerned with me as an individual.” – Phillip Imel (80)

Many people have a place they refer to as their “home away from home.” In the case of Phillip Imel (80) that home happens to be thousands of miles away in a country whose history and relationship with the United States has been difficult.

“I just truly love Russia,” Imel said. “The people are so vibrant. Once I got the language down and I got the culture down, it’s been like my second home.”

The relationship Imel has formed with Russia is one that he has cultivated over the years during his time as an accounting professor at Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) and more recently as the associate professor of accounting at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), Annandale Campus, near Washington, D.C. That relationship will continue to flourish, as Imel is a recipient of the Fulbright Award, a grant from the Fulbright Institute. The grant will allow Imel to teach accounting and finance at Urals State University of Economics in Yekaterinburg.

Prestigious awards and trips across the Atlantic were probably the last thing on Imel’s mind growing up poor in Greenup County, Ky. His family didn’t have indoor plumbing and his father only held a fifth grade education. However, his mother made sure Imel knew the true value of school.

“Mom always wanted us to get an education,” Imel said. “Even though I came from a poor background, the sky was the limit and education could take me there.”

After graduating high school in 1976, Imel attended Ashland Community College before transferring to Morehead State University in 1978. On the way to earning bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and agriculture and later his MBA at MSU in 1998, Imel made great connections with faculty in MSU’s welcoming and caring environment.

After working for a CPA firm as a staff accountant, Imel became an accounting instructor at Southwest Virginia Community College. It was here that he began his Russian relationship. SWCC became the second community college in the nation to be awarded funding from the U.S. Department of State for an exchange program with Russian universities. The scholar exchange program led to Imel making multiple trips to Russia for up to several months and hosting half a dozen professors who traveled stateside.

Now in his fourth year as a member of NOVA’s faculty, Imel and his family departed for Yekaterinburg for a full academic school year this summer. It’s a far way from his humble beginnings, but through Imel’s career and his time at Morehead State, he’s learned to be a well-rounded and inspiring example of what you can accomplish with the right dedication.

“This is so important to me and not just from the standpoint of the Fulbright Award. I want to give back to Eastern Kentucky,” Imel said. “I want for kids to understand that stuff like this IS possible for them. Education can take them to places only their minds can dream of.” 

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