MTSU Adult Degree Profiles: Sherry Mayo

by Freya Cartwright

Meet Sherry Mayo. Sherry is a manager at Bridgestone Operations Center, a mother and grandmother, a best friend and role model . . . and a soon-to-be True Blue alumna. She’s done it all with the help of her friends in the adult learning community, and has inspired others to follow her lead and pursue the next phase of their education.

You’ve done an amazing job of juggling a career, family, and going back to school! What advice do you have for adult students struggling with the balancing act?

That was probably the biggest challenge for me, and I think it is for everybody. Try to sit down with an advisor and talk through what’s manageable for you. I’ve found that a three-hour class might take 10-12 hours of work per week, and it’s harder because we [adult students] don’t get to dedicate large chunks of time to things. You’re going to stop and start a lot, so try to outline your schedule and figure out where you can fit things in. Also, utilize the Prior Learning Assessment class to the fullest extent you can. I received over 50 credit hours for my own work experience, so it’s incredibly helpful in pushing your forward towards your degree. Sometimes people struggle with taking their daily work experience and equating it into learning credit, so I’ve helped several people figure out how to make it fit.

What’s one of the most common skill sets that counts for PLA hours?

If you’ve ever managed people, that’s a huge source of experience for PLA hours. Things like training people, hiring and firing, and writing instructions all equate into credit pretty easily.

What classes did you find most useful for real-world situations you’ve encountered? 

One class that I absolutely loved was sociology. I cannot tell you how much I wish I’d had that class a long time ago, because so much of sociology relates to most work environments. It’s a study of group dynamics, social interactions, and how people relate to each other. It really helps you understand the diversity we have in our work environments today, with different languages and cultural expectations. For example, I recently had to transfer some of my team’s work to another team in a center in a different country, which involved some difficulties with the language barrier and understanding the different system structures. I’d say that it’s becoming increasingly more important to be able to navigate situations like that in today’s global work environment.

Is there any particular person who inspired or encouraged you in going back to school?

I’d have to say my grandchildren!

Is there anyone you’d hope to serve as an inspiration for?

I guess I was an inspiration for my best friend, because after three tries she’s finally come back to school and is going to finish. And she’s in the same program with me! It’s funny because I was one of those people who initially thought that I was never going back to school, that at my age it would be ridiculous. But I’m so glad that I did, and that she came with me!

What was the biggest motivating factor in going back to school for you? 

Longevity and the ability to enhance my options within the company. I’ve been with Bridgestone for 31 years, but I reached a plateau in management where I couldn’t go any further or do anything else without a degree.

Would you say that’s a more common problem now than it was twenty or thirty years ago?

Definitely. I tell people now that you can’t go anywhere without a degree. You have to have it. Even if you’ve worked your way up within a company, you’re going to hit a ceiling where you can’t go any further without your degree.

Finally, why did you choose MTSU?

When our company partnered with MTSU for the Adult Degree Program, that first opened my eyes to the possibility of going to MTSU. But also, Peggy Carpenter, the assistant dean of the adult learning program, is a personal friend of mine. If it hadn’t been for her, I probably would have never gotten through the signup process. For my entire group, she and her team really held our hands and helped us through that process. She directed her group fabulously for everybody that has gone to school there; we’ve all talked about how wonderfully she’s mentored us and helped all of us greatly. She’s a great example of MTSU’s mission to welcome and help adult learners however they can.