Turning in the uniform for a cap and gown

Charlie Childers, a sergeant with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, fulfilled a dream on Saturday, Dec. 11, as he earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Tennessee at Martin. A non-traditional student, from Pickwick, Tennessee, he has spent the last few years at the UT Martin Selmer Center working toward this goal.

Childers joined the Savannah Police Department in 2006 and spent almost six years with the department before joining the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Even after years of service to his community and state, he wanted to keep doors open and be a positive influence for his three children.

He made the decision to return to school for his bachelor’s degree. “I think an education is a very good thing to have. I just thought I’d be setting a pretty good example for my kids, that if they do choose to attend college, that it’s better to get it done early than to procrastinate like their old dad did,” Childers said.

“I think an education is a very good thing to have. I just thought I’d be setting a pretty good example for my kids, that if they do choose to attend college, that it’s better to get it done early than to procrastinate like their old dad did,” Childers said.

Being a non-traditional student, he knew earning his bachelor’s degree would look quite different from the typical college story. With a full-time job in law enforcement, he enrolled at the UT Martin McNairy County Center/Selmer and accessed the Tennessee state employee waiver fee to complete one class per semester. “UT Martin was very accessible to me in my area of work because I work in the Chester, McNairy and Hardin County area,” he recalled.

Being able to utilize the Selmer Center offered convenience for Childers while he continued to work. “Their classes were very convenient, and I personally knew some of the instructors,” he said. His high praise for the Selmer Center included how accommodating his faculty members were with his hectic work schedule. He valued the professor-student relationship he was able to establish while working toward his degree.

Childers also had something to offer the Selmer Center. He brought real-world experience to the classroom. “There’s a generational gap between me and the customary college student, but I felt that I actually contributed a little to their learning experience,” he said.

The educational journey does not end here for Childers. He plans to enroll in the new criminal justice graduate program at UT Martin. “I feel like there’s more opportunity now for higher education than ever,” he said. In a few years, Childers could be crossing the commencement stage again – to receive his master’s degree.

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