Committed to Service: Jenkins Dual Degree Program Alumni Spotlight
Since completing the Jenkins MAC/MBA dual-degree program in 2017 and retiring as a Lieutenant Commander from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2019, Eric Spragins has worked as the Managing Member of Coastie Financial, LLC – with the goal of creating mobile careers in tax preparation and bookkeeping for military spouses.
“At Coastie Financial, our plan is to bring military spouses on as employees initially for training – and then releasing them to open franchises when they’re ready,” Spragins says.
Spragins found that the Jenkins MAC/MBA program gave him everything that he needed to succeed in his career. “Each course I took challenged and encouraged me in various ways,” Spragins says. “My research course, in particular, gave me excellent preparation for my current role at Coastie Financial.”
Growing up in Littleton, N.C., Spragins spent his childhood fishing by the lake and working behind the cash register of his family’s hardware store. His love for the water and counting money, both developed at a young age, shaped his life and his career.
In 1999, Spragins reported to Cape May, N.J. for basic training for the U.S. Coast Guard. He moved on to become a communications watchstander, boat crew member and Federal Maritime Law Enforcement Officer at Fort Macon in Atlantic Beach, S.C.
“We executed hundreds of search and rescue missions and law enforcement boardings to keep the boating public safe,” Spragins says.
Later, Spragins reported to Honolulu, Hawaii, as a telecommunications specialist in 2001. “We left on September 10, 2001,” Spragins says. “As a telecommunications specialist with a top-secret security clearance, it was our team that received the message about the devastating events that took place in our country.”
He returned to Honolulu to close the port and inspect boats requesting entry alongside special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For the remainder of his time in Hawaii, he completed two South Pacific fisheries patrols, three Alaska patrols – during which his team was featured on “Deadliest Catch” – and one large bust of a Chinese Fishing Vessel for illegal high seas driftnet fishing.
“The bust landed me on their boat for nine days and eight nights protecting evidence until we could turn them over to Chinese law enforcement,” Spragins says.
After transitioning to the Coast Guard Reserves in 2004 to work in the Command Center in Atlantic Beach, Spragins made another big transition. He went back to school to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration and managerial finance from East Carolina University. While there, he advanced to the role of Chief Petty Officer.
Following his graduation, he worked at Edward Jones Investments, Fidelity Investments and in his dream job – a personal finance teacher and football coach at Garner Magnet High School.
He was also deployed three times. “By that point, I had spent so much time in the Coast Guard that I applied and was accepted to be retained on active duty,” Spragins says. Before retiring in December 2019, he served as senior program manager for the Reserve Forces and as chief financial officer of the largest Coast Guard district of nine located in Honolulu, helping manage part of the Coast Guard’s $12.2B dollar budget.
Still, despite all of his experiences, Spragins admits that he was intimidated to enter the Jenkins MAC/MBA dual-degree program.
“It had been 10 years since I had taken an accounting course,” Spragins says. “But I found that the faculty, staff and student body were all there for one reason – to work together to achieve our goals. And we did.”
Moving forward, Spragins plans to pursue executive leadership roles for a municipality, state or federal government.
“Wherever my career takes me, I know I’ll always have a passion for serving others and creating jobs,” Spragins says. “When you start with the end in mind, you will accomplish more than you ever imagined – in any line of work you choose.”