KINGSPORT – A little more than a year ago, the University of Tennessee partnered with the city of Kingsport and four other East Tennessee colleges and universities to extend its reach through web-delivered degree and certificate programs.
Since opening in August 2009, more than 70 students from northeast Tennessee have come through the Kingsport Center for Higher Education to enroll in UT’s online programs.
“UT’s involvement in the Kingsport Center is another avenue for meeting the changing demands of students and accommodating an influx of adult learners,” said UT Interim President Jan Simek. “The partnership also helps drive economic development in northeast Tennessee.”
Charlie Floyd, vice president and mill manager of Domtar Corporation and Kingsport Chamber chair, believes UT’s presence in Kingsport helps address the area’s critical need for a diverse and educated workforce.
“Our community has been involved in a lot of visioning work,” Floyd said. “We need to supply a ready, willing and able workforce to achieve our goals – and that’s where UT became a natural fit.”
Each of the University’s five campuses offers a variety of degrees and professional certificates in disciplines such as business, engineering, nursing, education, information science and agriculture.
The Kingsport Center provides on-site access to computers, equipment and study areas to students enrolled in UT’s more than 40 web-delivered programs.
This method of non-traditional education serves a growing need, and several students in northeast Tennessee agree.
“Having a University of Tennessee education, here, is something I wouldn’t have been able to do without the convenience of the online format,” said Jeff McCord, manager for learning and performance improvement at Eastman Chemical Company.
“I wanted a program with academic integrity but distance had always gotten in the way,” said McCord, who is now enrolled in UT Chattanooga’s education doctorate in learning and leadership.
Similarly, Cathy Clawson was looking to balance work and home with school when she selected UT Health Science Center’s web-based master of health informatics and information management program.
“The ease of having the courses online and the affordability were two very big components of why I wanted to go to UT,” Clawson said.
UT’s online offerings also help improve transitions between Tennessee’s two- and four-year colleges and universities.
“By partnering with area schools, we can evaluate courses to ensure credits transfer and students progress from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree and beyond,” added Katie High, UT interim vice president for academic affairs and student success.
Building on an associate’s degree, Megan Neeley is working to complete a bachelor’s degree from UT Martin in business administration.
“I am able to bring new ideas to my job that help me grow professionally,” said Neeley, a Northeast State Community College employee.
While UT’s educational presence in Kingsport is through online instruction, staff representative Gloria Gammell offers a local connection.
Gammell oversees UT’s day-to-day involvement with the Center. She assists prospective students with their academic exploration and application processes and is responsible for marketing University degree and certificate programs and serving as a liaison with UT’s campuses.
“Having Dr. Gammell in the Center and the community to help guide me through this process has been a tremendous help,” McCord said.
Neeley also said it’s important to have someone available face-to-face, should she have any questions.
“One thing I love about UT is it’s been an easy process,” added Christy Hall, a Northeast State Community College faculty member pursuing a Ph.D in nursing from UT Knoxville.
To hear more about the educational experiences of these Tri-cities residents, a video interview is available at http://www.tennessee.edu/system/ut_online/kingsport.html. UT’s online offerings also can be found on the site.
Gloria Gammell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (423)354-2498 to answer questions or to schedule an appointment.