Tara Jones knew she wanted to finish her degree someday. After 29 years away from a classroom, she’s on her way to accomplishing her goal.
Jones, a Murfreesboro resident, came to the Finish Your Degree event hosted by MTSU’s University College in October already planning to apply for spring semester classes. The day after the event, she won a scholarship. She said that was the “icing on the cake.”
“I was geared up and I knew this was my opportunity,” she said. “I’m definitely going to get this going.”
She admittedly was a bit nervous walking into her first class on a chilly Friday morning; it was the first one she’d attended in almost three decades.
The class is one of four intensives for the university’s popular Applied Leadership Program. The program offers adult learners already on the job a chance to earn additional job certifications — and even a bachelor’s degree — through online courses and short, intensive on-campus instruction.
Jones, who is a licensed massage therapist, said she had to take some deep breaths before walking into the building, but once she was inside the class — made up entirely of other working adults — her professor immediately put her at ease.
“It was honestly life-changing for me,” she said. “Our instructor Jim Bast is amazing. He was personable and made the information very easy to follow along with.”
Like many other participants in the program, Jones said her fellow students alleviated some of her nervousness, too. Since the class is tailored to working adults, many say they find it comforting that everyone has a similar goal when they start the class.
“They have children that are growing up, they’re working and in a similar place in their lives as I am,” said Jones. “In the class there’s a stay-at-home mother, other small business owners like me, and people who have been in the corporate world. It’s amazing to hear how they perceive things and problem-solve.”
The class includes two consecutive Friday-Sunday sessions as well as some online coursework. Jones said she felt, after just three days of classes, that she’s already applying class concepts in both her professional life and personal life.
“This class teaches you about being a leader in life. Period. In the perspective of work, I’ve definitely taken a lot from this class (and) even just in my everyday life of being a mother (of two teenagers) and a wife,” said Jones.
The two weeks of online classes were done before Jones ever stepped in the classroom. She said she felt intimidated about those because she had never completed online coursework before, but she said it was very simple to navigate.
After she finishes up this intensive, Jones said she’s planning to take a class this summer and complete the Prior Learning Assessment course in the fall.
Those interested in the Applied Leadership Program can still register for upcoming intensives: two in March and another in May. To learn more, visit MTSU.edu/FinishNow or call 615-898-5236.
— Hunter Patterson (Hunter.Patterson@mtsu.edu)