Former MTSU students find surprising degree path t...

Former MTSU students find surprising degree path through Graduate MT program

As MTSU’s new academic year rolls along, the university has been successfully reaching out to former students who haven’t been on campus for a while yet didn’t realize just how close they really were to earning that elusive bachelor’s degree.

The Graduate MT program administered by University College targets former students in good standing with the university who have earned at least 60 credit hours or more toward a degree, but have not been enrolled at the university for at least one year.

“Students drop out of school for various reasons and life happens in the process,” said Dr. Peggy Carpenter, assistant dean of MTSU’s Adult Degree Completion Program, which includes Graduate MT.

Dr. Peggy Carpenter

“Many of these students are now professionals and doing well in their careers, but never finished that degree, and they’ll need it to take the next step (professionally). And that’s what this program can help them do.”

Through a summer outreach campaign that included direct mail, email and a four-week phonathon, University College received more than 400 evaluation requests from former students interested in pursuing Graduate MT — with 15 completing the process and graduating at Summer Commencement with degrees in Liberal Studies.

Betty Rinaudo, assistant coordinator for academic outreach and distance learning, believes the direct outreach by Graduate MT staff, which included more than 4,500 calls, has been highly effective in getting a degree back on personal radars of these former students.

In addition to the 12 summer graduates, she said several more students are on track to earn degrees this fall, with more than 150 former students readmitted for fall semester through Graduate MT.

“I know how it’s going to help you personally, I know how it’s going to help you career wise,” said Rinaudo, an adult learner herself working toward her Liberal Studies degree.

“The passion to help these students graduate … those things are really the drive behind this, to be able to help those students reach that goal and understand how that can change their lives … it’s a big motivator for this.”

Betty Rinaudo, University College, assistant coordinator for academic outreach and distance learning

Betty Rinaudo

University College provides a prior learning assessment that allows prospective students to earn college credit for learning acquired through work, certifications and other training. The university also provides specialized advisers for adult learners as well as free tutoring and academic support online or on campus.

Liberal Studies is designed to be a completely online degree, but students can also take courses on campus.

“They can do it around their work schedule and around their family,” Rinaudo said.

Carpenter noted that Graduate MT supports Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, which has a goal of having at least 55 percent of Tennesseans with a college degree or advanced certification by 2020.

Rick Sluder, University College dean, and Andrew Oppmann, vice president for marketing and communications, pushed for the latest direct outreach through Graduate MT, Carpenter said, adding that in light of this summer’s success, similar outreaches will happen annually.

For more information about Graduate MT, call Carpenter at 615-494-7712.

— Jimmy Hart (