Before I went back to earn my Bachelor's Degree from the University of Tennesee-Martin, I had not stepped one foot into a classroom since 1999. It was now 2012. I had an eleven year old daughter and one son on the way. I was working at the same job I had since 1996 and my options of moving higher in the company were limited without a degree. My career was stagnant.
Of course the thought of returning to school was intimidating. I was used to turning in assignments in pen or, for extra credit, typed. When I found out how many hours I had and subtracted them to the total hours I needed to graduate, I was discouraged by the amount of time left. It seemed infinite. When would I ever find the time? In addition to that, when I visited my former university to inquire about returning to school, I was pointed in the vicinity of where I needed to go and was assigned to a teenager who was earning credit in a class to help an aging man like me. It was very impersonal and turned me off even more.
It wasn't until the University of Tennesee-Martin was suggested to me by my wife that I thought of returning to college to complete my online degree. I contacted probably the greatest student counselor ever who assured me I could do this. She suggested certain classes that would not be overwhelming to me and helped me navigate through the website. Even though I was 38 years old and brought 80 hours with me, she assured me a reasonable goal of graduating in three years while I worked my full-time job was possible. I began this journey in January 2012. As each semester went by, we talked about the upcoming classes and her suggestions were always helpful. Two classes a semester eventually became three and then pretty soon I was taking advantage of the summer classes. In December 2014, I received my bachelor's degree from the University of Tennesee Martin. Although I had to make the grades on my own, I couldn't have done this without the support from my family, and especially from my student counselor, Beth Edwards.
Since earning my degree, I have been promoted and I am earning more money at my full potential. More important, my teenage daughter knows that anything is possible because of what I was able to accomplish academically. She knows now that nothing is too tough for her. In a world of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, I got to share time being a role model to her. My degree has instilled a sense of pride for my alma-mater along with filling a hole in my personal goals. When I'm among my friends, I'm no longer the "what could have been" or "what should have been" guy in the room. My degree proudly hangs in my office and it inspires me every day I come to work to be my best. I'm a Skyhawk now and there's nothing else I'd rather be.
UTM BIS Graduate Fall 2014
It may hit you quickly, or it may sneak across you slow: “It’s time I finished my degree.” Things will never be perfect - there will always be bills, or the kids need you, or that demanding job - but if you don’t start today, time will run by so fast that you’ll never get to it. So start soon, apply today, and see how close you really are!
I’m probably not the only one out there who’s taken classes here and there but then had to stop again. The demands of work or family became so much that I could no longer do it all, and classes were put on the back burner yet again, another “someday” dream. And so I had this long trail of classes out behind me, from different schools and in no useful pattern. When I’d start again my friends would joke that I’d be 90 before I finally finished. I laughed with them, but cried a little too…
But that was where UT Martin really helped - in particular the Interdisciplinary Program, and the online classes.
The Interdisciplinary Program allowed me to put together a program that combined my own interests (in my case it was Business & Psychology, but there are certainly other combinations you could choose.) This program also made amazing use of my previous coursework, giving me elective credit for some classes I had pretty much written off as useless. UT Martin also accepts a wide range of CLEP and DSST tests, so you can think about testing out of some classes if you’re already familiar with the subject.
The online aspect of the classes meant I did the weekly homework when it fit in with my schedule. I read the chapters during my lunch hours; listened to lectures over dinner (instead of watching some worthless TV show!); and took tests and wrote papers on the weekends when I felt the most awake and energetic. The asynchronous classes are far better for busy adults who may not want to drive across town and sit in some classroom for 3 hours a week, but who DO have the self-motivation to set goals for themselves and then do what it takes to meet those goals.
And that’s the key: to succeed in this you must be self-motivated. The professors and the staff will do a lot to help and encourage you, but at the end of the day it’s us - the students - who must do the work.
With the interesting classes available through the Interdisciplinary Program, and the convenience of them being online (and asynchronous!), I was able to finish a lot sooner than I ever dreamed. I graduated the day before my 49th birthday, and started grad school just a few weeks after that.
And if I can do it, so can you. Try it. I bet you can…
UTM BIS Graduate May 2015
I enjoyed the time and challenges I faced at the University of Tennessee at Martin. The BIS Program is a great program for working adults. The workload, along with my busy schedule was demanding at times. This only helped to make me a stronger person. There are some wonderful people in the BIS Department that will be your biggest supporters. Derrick Head took the time to tutor me in order to see me succeed. Beth Edwards was always there to answer questions or to be a shoulder to lean on. Beth gave me the strength and courage to finish my degree.
I learned many skills that prepared me for the next chapter, while attending the BIS Program at UTM. Since graduation I have gotten a job promotion. I am now in the Master of Business Administration in Construction Management Program at Norwich University in Vermont. Much of the knowledge I gained in the BIS program at UTM has been of great benefit in these classes. Because of the BIS program I have been prepared for the subject matter and workload. I am scheduled to graduate in June of 2016. Will there be yet another chapter? Only time will tell. The staff at UTM BIS Program is still there encouraging me to succeed. Who knows one day I may be teaching at UTM.
UTM BIS Graduate Fall 2014