Nur Onvural

Title:
Associate professor of Economics and Finance, Pfeiffer University; general contractor and owner of SilverCrest Homes

Lives in:
Cary

Hometown:
Ankara, Turkey. Her father was in the Air Force, so the family moved frequently before settling in Ankara when Onvural was in high school.

Family:
Two sons, Melih, 31, and Doruk, 26, and three grandchildren

Education:
Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Middle East Technical University; master’s in business administration and doctorate of economics, N.C. State University

Community involvement:
Cary Chamber of Commerce, Cary MacGregor Rotary Club, American Turkish Association of N.C.

First job:
Lab assistant sorting mainframe printouts in a computer lab

Hobbies:
Ballroom and Latin dancing, cooking (She published a Turkish cookbook as a fundraiser.)

Although she has held many jobs, Nur Onvural has never strayed far from the classroom.

Since arriving in the United States to pursue graduate studies in 1983, she has been a project manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield, a builder of luxury homes and a volunteer with several civic groups. All these experiences have fed her passion for teaching.

“I have gained so much exposure and experience to improve myself so I can be a better teacher for my students,” she said.

The associate professor of economics and finance is inspired by her students at Pfeiffer University, where she has taught since 2002, full-time for the past six years. She has also taught at N.C. State University and N.C. A&T in Greensboro.

“When I see that students learn, that’s what keeps me going,” said Onvural. “I could be extremely tired, and when I get in the classroom, I get energized. I could teach, and go on and on. My students tell me all the time that I care. If they don’t learn something, I spend more time until they learn that concept.

“Then there are the emails that tell you you’re their favorite teacher. ‘They learned so much from you. You made it so much easier for them to learn.’ When you get that email, it makes your day.”

Her enthusiasm for passing on knowledge is paired with a studious curiosity. When her family built their home in the early 2000s, her schedule as an adjunct professor allowed her to spend hours at the job site. She quizzed the designers and craftsmen about the best products and techniques.

“Building my own home was a two-year process,” she said. “Having part-time jobs, I was able to allocate a lot of time to work with the builder, work with the suppliers, and pick all the features.”

In 2004, Onvural put that knowledge to work when she and a partner started SilverCrest Homes, building luxury residences.

“I’m proud of the houses I built; they were like my babies,” she said. “They were all custom homes, where you pay attention to every little detail.”

While building homes was rewarding, Onvural says it was difficult to run a small business and keep up with a demanding teaching job. When the Great Recession hit, it was time for a change.

In 2010, she accepted a full-time position teaching economics and finance at Pfeiffer University.

“Between 2008 and 2014 there was absolutely nothing happening in the housing market,” she said. “I built seven homes with an average price of $1.5 million, average size of 5,500 to 6,000 square feet. But I think I made the right decision to return to academia.”

In her classes, she draws on her experience as an entrepreneur. She encourages her students to be what she calls “intra-preneurial,” to bring creative problem-solving and an entrepreneurial spirit to their existing companies.

This is particularly true of her students in the Masters of Health Administration program, many of whom work at area hospitals. Onvural pushes them to come up with innovative ideas for real workplace issues such as how to improve efficiency.

“That works really well, especially in health economics,” she said. “These days in the health care industry, we always have to look for cost reductions.”

Onvural is delighted to be back in the classroom, but she hasn’t shut the door on SilverCrest yet. Her company is still active, and her general contracting license is current.

“I want to build one last project,” she said. “I want to downsize my home that I built several years ago. The kids are gone; it’s time to downsize. That way I can complete the cycle of the construction company, and look into another entrepreneurial initiative.”

Onvural says her next business will be something related to education, in order to better integrate with her teaching career.

In addition to teaching, Onvural has long been committed to volunteering and involvement with civic groups. For many years she has been involved with the American Turkish Association of North Carolina and the Cary Chamber of Commerce. In July, Onvural was named to the chamber’s board, and is “honored and excited” to serve.

Onvural says she has gained much from her years of service. She remains thankful for the support she received in the three years she volunteered with the Women Business Owners Network.

“Actually I was going through a difficult time in my life, and they turned out to be energizing for me. Being around such a wonderful group of women who were dedicated to their businesses and their families, it lifted me up,” Onvural recalled.

As Onvural looks back on her career, she is proud of her accomplishments — earning advanced degrees while caring for small children, starting a business, continuing to teach while running that business.

“We place limits on ourselves sometimes; we forget how capable we are,” she said. “We all go through certain types of fears, and those fears sometimes hold us back. If we could get over those fears, we would realize we can do it.”

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