By Patsy B. Weiler
Lyndsey Bennett doesn’t wear a hard hat for her job as senior graduate analyst in the MTSU College of Graduate Studies but the quiet leader uses her skills to help build a blueprint of success for the student from application to graduation.
The Murfreesboro native, who is also a MTSU student herself in the Fermentation Science program, juggles multiple responsibilities. She processes applications and admissions decisions, ensures students are taking courses that count toward their programs and oversees graduation audits so they can be awarded their degrees.
“We want to make the decision to get their master’s degree from MTSU an easy one and as seamless as possible,” said Bennett. “I care (for the students). I will bend over backward to help in any way I can with a smile.”
An avid outdoor enthusiast, Bennett, who likes to camp, bike and kayak with her young family, first came to the university 10 years ago as a temporary employee scanning old documents in the College of Graduate Studies.
“I learned more about the process and worked my way up to the position of a senior analyst,” she said. “I have loved every minute of it regardless of how hard it gets at times. My extensive knowledge of this office helps me train and communicate with others. Also, since I have made the same mistakes before, I know how to help fix them. Everyone plays a big role in the success of our students.”
One of the greatest challenges she faced working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic was not being able to physically be around her co-workers.
“You don’t realize how much you miss human interaction until you are stuck at home for a few months,” Bennett said, adding she felt the experience made the Graduate Studies employees stronger as a team and appreciate the challenges their students were facing.
And, in addition to adjusting to the changes in their work routines brought about by COVID-19, their office saw a substantial increase in graduate student enrollment.
“Seeing our community struggle with the pandemic opened our eyes and made us realize that the decision to go back to school and get your degree was the only option for some. So, why not make that the best decision? We wanted to get them excited about making that choice and know that we are all here to cheer them on through the process.”
One of the main steps the department needed to address with the growing numbers was making sure all of their systems were smoothly integrated and students could upload everything they needed in one place, resulting in less confusion. The technical upgrades provided real-time updates on their status moving forward from the moment they submitted their application.
“We also made more things automated so when a student connects with us, they get an instant response from someone in our office,” Bennett said. “We want them to know that we are all here for them. The new, streamlined process gives us the ability to handle larger numbers of applicants and frees up time to communicate more with our programs and current students in order to help them with their issues and get them graduated on time.”
Bennett added she and her co-workers are also creating communication plans targeted to prospective students via social media with exciting offerings that can lead to research opportunities and life-changing career growth. One example was the $1 application fee that was offered for a limited time during 2020 and early 2021.
“I can’t praise this office enough on the transformation we have gone through and being able to see it now,” Bennett said. “We value each other and our ideas, and I think that is what makes us a great team.”
An MTSU team that is building future successes one graduate at a time.
– Patsy Weiler (Patsy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)