Union City, Tenn.
Many students begin their college years with a set career field in mind. However, some, like Mason Parker, find their true passion somewhere else along the way.
Parker, a Union City native, began his freshman year studying pre-physical therapy at the University of Tennessee at Martin, with a minor in music. Then, after struggling in some of his courses, he sought advice from his professor during a voice lesson.
“I was talking to my teacher about some things I was struggling with. … He said, ‘Ok, your dream job in 10 years, no financial restrictions, what would you be doing?’” recalled Parker. “I told him it would be awesome to be able to conduct a choir and coach football. … He looked at me and said, ‘So, what are you doing, man?’ I changed my major soon after that.”
Parker is now a junior studying vocal music education and says that change has made all the difference.
“It’s just where my passion is, both in teaching and in music,” he said. Parker hopes to one day work with middle or high school-aged students and help them find their creative outlets.
“I think it’s really important to have an outlet to not be so focused on homework and on a certain level of achievement with a grade. Music is cool because your success is found more in what you can create with it,” he said.
Parker is also part of UT Martin’s University Scholars organization, a four-year honors program requiring a specialized course curriculum and a two-year undergraduate research project. He is just beginning the research portion of his studies but hopes to examine and better understand the questions behind racial division.
“I am very interested in the concept of race and why it is such an issue. Eventually, I would like to write a novel discussing race and focusing more on a solution,” he said. “I think change happens when we make it personal.”
He hopes this study will one day help him make informed decisions in his classroom and help individual students reach their potentials, regardless of their personal backgrounds.
“If I can better understand the problem, then I will know how to better solve it. If I’m a teacher … then I would better know how to handle different situations and focus on treating people like people,” he said.
After three years of college experience, Parker has some advice for members of the newest freshman class.
“One of the biggest things I hear is to go get involved with everything possible … but I think freshmen need to be wary of that kind of advice because, at the end of the day, you’re coming to school hopefully to learn more about whatever you are passionate about,” he said. “If you are so focused on spreading yourself thin … you’re just going to end up running yourself into the ground faster than anything, and you may end up hating what you love. … Be focused on picking and choosing, instead.”
Parker would also advise keeping an open mind when it comes to career fields and options. Your true calling might not be what you thought it was, and a willingness to change your mind can make all the difference.
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