You can return to UTM to complete your degree. Tina Sullivan came back …
Not everyone's higher education timeline is the same. Some people know exactly what career they want to pursue before attending their first class, and some need time and experience to find direction.
In 1997, Tina Sullivan, a Fayette County native, was a bright-eyed 18-year-old freshman at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Sullivan wanted to study biology but faced some difficulties in her coursework and changed her focus to psychology. After experiencing additional setbacks, Sullivan made the decision to step back from higher education and look for a job, instead.
"My mother and father made me see that I needed to get a job that would help me go forward with a career. So, I became a flight attendant," Sullivan recalled. "After being on academic probation from UT Martin, I was not eager to go back to school at that time. I guess maturity-wise, I wasn't ready to commit to a career path."
After working as a flight attendant, Sullivan was offered a position in 2001 with Ring Industrial Group, part of Ring Companies, located in Oakland, Tenn. In 2006, she began working with another branch of the Ring Companies, Rapac, which supplies environmentally friendly products for sustainable packaging. Not long after accepting this position, Rapac reopened the door to higher education and asked Sullivan if she'd like to go back to school.
She initially enrolled at Southwest Community College in Memphis, which helped her step back into the role of a student. After marrying UT Martin alum John Sullivan ('05), Tina began researching ways to balance life as wife, mother, full-time employee and student.
While researching flexible and convenient degree programs, Sullivan rediscovered UT Martin and contacted Dr. John Overby, department of management, marketing and information systems chair and professor, about the online business program. Finally, she knew exactly where she wanted to complete her degree.
"[UT] Martin was a comfortable environment for me," Sullivan said. "It was also convenient and reasonable (cost)."
When Sullivan began work on her business degree from UT Martin, she learned she had mentors available to help her. "I had a student assigned to me as an advisor, and I asked Dr. Ed Knight to take me under his wing. He told me, 'You didn't need guidance. You needed support.' That's what kept me positive in the whole experience," she said.
"I loved that the online program was easy to follow, but it was also challenging. You have to be self disciplined because it's up to you to get the curriculum," she added.
Sullivan recalled many nights when she and her kids were doing homework at the same time, an experience Sullivan said she would not have traded for anything.
In May 2012, Sullivan completed her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She considered skipping her chance to walk across the stage at the spring commencement ceremony, but her husband changed her mind. "If anything, do it for your kids and do it for me. You've worked really hard. You need to appreciate the degree you worked for," he told her.
In June of that same year, Sullivan was offered a promotion at Rapac and became the customer service coordinator. She received another promotion to customer services and logistics manager in October 2014.
As Sullivan continues to look to the future, she is considering returning to UT Martin again, this time to pursue a Master of Business Administration, which is available either on campus or online.
Sullivan is proud of her accomplishments at UT Martin. "I have a solid degree that people will recognize," she said. "It's never too late. I'm glad I finished it."