University of Charleston

University of Charleston

Josh and Andrea Huggins

Josh and Andrea Huggins met in 2017, married in 2020, and by the end of 2023 will have four University of Charleston degrees between them.  This couple is a wonderful example of how UC can provide opportunities to earn a degree beyond the traditional four-year programs.

Andrea is a 2003 graduate of Buffalo High School, WV and earned her Regents Bachelor’s Degree in 2007 from Marshall University.  She then entered the work force and was employed with Manpower Staffing and Gestamp before being hired at the Toyota plant in Buffalo, WV in 2015.  She had only been working in the human resources department for a year when the opportunity to attend UC was presented.

Toyota offered tuition reimbursement to their employees, so Andrea thought, “why not”, and started the Master of Science in Strategic Leadership (MSSL) program in 2016.  Continuous Improvement is one pillar of Toyota’s mission and Andrea took that as motivation to continue her education.  “If I wanted to be a leader, then I needed to learn how to be one and learn from other leaders, too,” said Andrea.  Getting her master’s degree did not guarantee professional advancement, but she wanted it to be part of her personal development journey.

In 2018, Andrea graduated from the MSSL program, but she is not finished yet.  Dr. Ruth Wiley and Dr. John Barnette were instrumental in encouraging her to push herself and enroll in the Doctor of Executive Leadership program.  “I am a shy person, but these professors challenged me to be a leader and put myself out there,” said Andrea.  She will finish the DEL program in 2023.

Now on to her husband, Master Sergeant Josh Huggins, a 2003 graduate of South Charleston High School, WV.  MSgt Huggins has served seventeen years in the Air Force, starting in Arizona in 2004.  He is currently working with the WV Air National Guard as a Fuels Craftsman.  “As a leader with the guard, I often tell my airmen and NCOs, you have to stand apart from the crowd,” says Josh, “I often ask them, ‘What sets you apart?’”  This became his motivation to enroll at UC.

“I wasn’t a big believer in higher education, but if I’m going to be a leader, then I’m going to have to set the example,” said Josh.  In 2019, he enrolled in UC’s Organizational Leadership Program, with the help of Dr. Shelly Roy.  “I had looked at other programs at other schools, but this program applied directly to what I do, helping to develop those ranked below me,” he said.

“I am the first person in my immediate family to earn a college degree, and I am very proud of that,” says Josh.  “Now that I have it, there is no guarantee of a promotion, but it gives me an advantage on my resume and strengthens me as a leader.” Josh has now been accepted into the MSSL program and will be starting this summer.

The Huggins have been overwhelmingly impressed with the personal connection the faculty and staff make with their students, even with the programs being online based.  High praise was given to Josh’s adviser, Angela Hilton, and if it were not for Dr. Ruth Wylie’s encouragement and personal phone call, Andrea may not still be enrolled to complete her DEL. “I can’t thank Dr. Wylie and Dr. Barnette enough for encouraging me and I’m grateful for the confidence I’ve gained,” says Andrea.

The Huggins live in Dunbar with their daughter, Olivia (13), and dog, Zeus.  Both Andrea and Josh live out their UC core value of community involvement by dedicating their time to ‘Got Stuff?’, a clothing charity program run through the Dunbar Presbyterian Church.

They are proud Golden Eagle alumni and cannot wait to celebrate the next accomplishments when Josh graduates from the MSSL program in 2022 and Andrea graduates from the DEL program in 2023!