Nanoengineering Master’s Alum and NCFC Midfielder Jacori Hayes Touts Distance MSE Graduate Program

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By Jordan Crammer, WNCN CBS17 Sports Reporter

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — In life, it’s natural to question if you’re truly where you’re meant to be. North Carolina FC midfielder Jacori Hayes was certain that in early May of 2024 that he was. 

“You never know how God is going to work in your life and I was just supposed to be here at this moment,” Hayes said, reflecting on his journey. 

Hayes had signed with North Carolina FC during the offseason as a free agent after spending last season in San Antonio, and several seasons before that in Major League Soccer with Minnesota United. It was there during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that he began to think about life after soccer more seriously.

“It was always a dream of mine to be an engineer,” Hayes explained. “I’ve always loved math and science growing up and it was something I talked about after getting my degree in Wake Forest.”

The pandemic turned that talk into action for Hayes, embarking on a journey to pursue a master’s degree in nanoengineering. With the uncertainty of where he’d physically be due to soccer, one of his top priorities was a program that could be completed online.

“I applied to NC State, UCLA, Arizona State, they all had programs,” Hayes said. “NC State was just the best for me personally just because I could take my time with the degree, I could take one class a semester and get it in four or five years.”

Hayes completed his degree in the spring of 2024, and as fate would have it, soccer had brought him to NCFC, whose home field is located roughly ten minutes from NC State’s campus. The convergence of NC State’s Materials Science and Engineering graduation ceremony with NCFC’s schedule initially caught him by surprise. 

“It really didn’t connect that I could be on campus for graduation until the staff here were like, ‘Oh, you’re finishing up this year… are you going to graduation?’” he recalled. “It took an embarrassing long time for me to realize I could go on campus and be part of the school.”

The Materials Science and Engineering Department held its own graduation ceremony on May 3, conveniently NCFC was home that weekend playing a game against Rhode Island the next day. Hayes realized around the time his finals were due it was possible to attend both—roughly two weeks before the graduation ceremony—and asked his family to come to town. 

“I could have done a better job planning,” Hayes joked. 

Hayes missed his undergraduate ceremony at Wake Forest due to his soccer schedule, and didn’t realize how special the moment was until he walked across the stage in his cap and gown to receive his master’s degree. 

“You don’t realize how special of a moment it is until others kind of emphasize it or celebrate it with you,” Hayes said. “Looking back, I’m so glad I told people about it and celebrated an important moment in my life.”

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