From the womb to commencement, the five sets of twins who graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin May 2, have spent very little of their lives apart from each other. However, one pair is about to embark on their own journeys to graduate schools over 800 miles away from each other.
Emma Fieser, a UT Martin philosophy graduate, will be attending the University of Illinois at Chicago’s philosophy Ph.D. program with the aspirations to teach, while her sister Michelle Fieser, a UT Martin history graduate, will be attending the University of South Carolina’s history Ph.D. program to work in public history. Even though this is the farthest apart the sisters will have ever been for an extended period of time, their experiences together at UT Martin have prepared them for their respective adventures ahead.
For the Martin natives, if they ever doubted their decision to stay at home and attend UT Martin, the opportunities they received through multiple departments on campus reassured them UT Martin was the right college to build their educational foundation, Michelle said. From participating in multiple travel studies, playing in the UT Martin Orchestra, being presidents of multiple organizations, to finding support for their goals from friends and faculty alike, Emma and Michelle believe UT Martin has fostered their academic creativity through their studies and extracurricular activities.
“It’s been a very good experience. I don’t think we would have had such a positive experience at any other university,” Emma said. “We’ve always had very good interactions with different departments around campus. The professors in our department, especially, are all so generous and kind with their time and really supportive of everything you do.”
One of those professors even happens to be their father, Dr. Jim Fieser, professor of philosophy, who has always encouraged all four of his children to capitalize on opportunities like the ones offered at UT Martin. Jim also had the chance to teach Emma in his upper-division philosophy courses this past semester, making the classroom “feel homey” to him.
“We did indeed want them to attend UTM since we knew exactly the quality of instruction here and the variety of character-building opportunities such as travel studies, internships, skilled campus employment, and club leadership,” said Jim.
Emma and Michelle participated in multiple organizations, such as the League of Striving Artists, Philosophy Forum club, the International Honor Society for Philosophers, French club, History club, and Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society, many in which the pair served as organization or club presidents; attended travel studies to France, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, and along the coast of New England; and completed internships through UT Martin and the state.
“If you reach out into your departments, you can really kind of craft what kind of education you want,” Emma said.
“We were able to really do well in the (Department of History and Philosophy), we put a lot of effort into it and we got out of it what we put into it,” said Michelle. “… It is really one of the highpoints of UTM: it’s really flexible and it depends on you. You can make out of it what you want. There are just endless opportunities at UT Martin if you look for them.
Both sisters expressed their confidence in their respective undergraduate degree programs, saying their upper-division classes prepared them for their next step toward graduate school and their future careers.
“As they leave UTM, I hope they will seek out rewarding opportunities the way that they have here,” said Jim. “Also, after living for so long within UTM’s small yet diverse community, I hope that they will take with them an appreciation of the uniqueness and value of each person that they encounter within their future professional lives.”