The decision to go back to school can be difficult, especially for those who have families and/or already established careers. Tiffany Carpenter, however, found a master’s program that fit into her life and her family – right here at UT Martin.
Carpenter, a Bristol native and University of Tennessee, Knoxville, alumna, crossed her first graduation stage in 1996 and began a career in public relations by helping launch the Predators hockey team in Nashville. She recalls trying to teach Nashvillians about hockey – a non-traditional sport in the south.
“We compared it to NASCAR on ice,” she said, “and I really think that resonated with some folks.” Carpenter helped establish the new team in Nashville and plant the seeds for a thriving NHL presence in the area. “It was a great opportunity to really learn all the aspects of marketing and public relations and to really get the chance to feel like you were embedding something great in the community,” she added.
After leaving Nashville, Carpenter began working with her alma mater as assistant athletic director for public relations in the university’s athletic department, and found herself developing relationships with Volunteer legends, including head coaches Phillip Fulmer and Pat Head Summitt.
“It was a huge opportunity for me to get to work with some people that I really grew up admiring,” she said. “It was very surreal when one of them would call and congratulate you on the birth of your child or give condolences when your mom passed away. It’s really a family environment.”
Carpenter is currently serving as assistant vice president for marketing for the UT System, a position she calls both rewarding and challenging.
“In my position I get the opportunity to work with all of our campuses and institutes across the state to really talk about what the impact of the University of Tennessee is on the state and on every Tennessean,” she explained.
With such a high-stress career and two children at home, earning a master’s degree seemed like an impossibility for the better part of two decades. “As a working mom, I needed something I could do on my schedule that didn’t impact my kids any more than my work schedule already impacted them.” Then she looked into the online Master of Business Administration degree offered through the UT Martin campus.
“The UT Martin program fit my needs. …It was something I could do after (my children) went to bed or when they took naps on the weekends or during my lunch break,” she said. “It was something that I felt like I could check it off my bucket list and accomplish something I had always wanted to do without making a huge impact and making my kids and my husband pay a price for it.”
Having been away from the academic scene for 20 years, Carpenter had some normal concerns about starting a second degree and asked herself if she could really juggle work, family and graduate school. “What I learned was that I was actually better at all of that because of it,” she said. “I actually ended up graduating with honors.”
Carpenter believes the experience has helped her professionally as well by helping her better understand the various aspects of the business world and how they interact to create a successful enterprise.
Carpenter turned her tassel for a second time during UT Martin commencement exercises Dec. 12.
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