Q+A with 4 recent ChattState grads

ChattState offers a number of pathways to achieve your academic goals. | Photo provided by Chattanooga State Community College

Last week, 870 students received their diploma from Chattanooga State Community College, aka ChattState. (Congrats, grads!) We caught up with four of these recent graduates to see what brought them to ChattState, what they’ll take with them when they leave, and why they think prospective students should consider applying. Here’s what they had to say.

Meet Joseph Evans 

Q: What did you earn your degree in?
A: Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

Q: What brought you to ChattState?
A: I chose ChattState because I had attended some classes at the Main Campus several years ago. The satellite campus, located in Kimball, TN, is very convenient with me living in Marion County.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to an incoming freshman, what would it be?
A: A piece of advice I would give incoming freshmen would be to take time to pick their degree. Take General Education classes first. This will give you some time to see what direction you want to go. 

I would also tell them that even with the bumps in the road that you will endure during college, when you reach the end of the road, you will look back and have enjoyed the ride.

Q: What was a favorite thing about ChattState that you are going to miss?
A: The people. Those that I’ve had for Professors and the staff, in general, have always been welcoming, and very helpful. I never had a problem speaking with any of them or getting information.

Q: Tell us your Chattanooga story.
A: When I graduated high school in 1990, I was an average student at best. I started at ChattState and wasn’t really sure what my direction was, so I withdrew from school after a few semesters. 

Since then, I have continued to work a full-time job and have a family. I always regretted not finishing my college education. After learning about the TN Reconnect program, I applied and re-enrolled in ChattState in August 2019. Since then, I have completed at least two classes per semester while still working full time. In May of this year, I will graduate with my degree in Criminal Justice.

Meet Megan Barrott

Q: What did you earn your degree in?
A: Exercise Science

Q: What brought you to ChattState?
A: I chose ChattState for a couple of reasons. The first being it is my local community college. More importantly, I learned about the TN Reconnect program — that I could return to school tuition free and part-time. I felt relief from the fear of a financial burden and excitement about being able to realize my dream of gaining a formal education.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to an incoming freshman, what would it be?
A: Don’t hesitate to reach out to your professors for help, suggestions, support, etc. They have one goal in mind: your success. They are excited and anxious to help and support you in whatever capacity they can offer. They made all the difference in both my experience and success at ChattState.

Q: What was a favorite thing about ChattState that you are going to miss?
A: I loved my professors and the relationship I was able to create with each of them. I will miss interacting and receiving invaluable advice and sincere encouragement from them. Returning to school as a non-traditional student can feel awkward and isolating at first, but I always felt valued and supported at ChattState.

Q: Tell us your Chattanooga story.
A: After a ten-year hiatus, I returned to school as a mom of three young children in January 2020, right before the pandemic hit. I quickly found out I would be learning from home alongside my three children for the foreseeable future. During this time, I also found myself helping my mom through a new cancer diagnosis, multiple surgeries, and radiation treatment. 

Two and a half years later, I am graduating Summa Cum Laude. I attended full-time for two semesters, making the Dean’s List, while also working full-time at ChattState as a student worker.

Many times I was pushed beyond what I thought was possible. My kids were quarantined numerous times, and there were some nights I thought I needed to throw in the towel. With support from God, family, friends, professors, and the TN Reconnect Grant, I have finally obtained a formal education, one of my greatest childhood dreams. 

Meet Dominique Thompson

Q: What did you earn your degree in?
A: International Relations

Q: What brought you to ChattState?
A: I chose to come to ChattState after looking at reviews and what the school had to offer. Other universities in my area did not compare. From my first interaction with the enrollment department up until now, [my experience] has been very good. It feels like people have gone above and beyond to make me comfortable — nothing compared to other experiences I have had with other schools.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to an incoming freshman, what would it be?
A: I would say, “If you give these people your best, they will give you their best.”

Q: What was a favorite thing about ChattState that you are going to miss?
A: I am going to miss seeing pretty much everything about the school. This school has really helped me overcome some things. I feel like maybe I can actually succeed at something now.

Q: Tell us your Chattanooga story.
A: I will say that, like a lot of other people in 2020, I lost everything in a literal sense. I had to live with my parents and start over. I had major surgery and recovery took a bit longer than the typical two weeks — it was about a year at best. I did not think I would be able to get back to a normal life. I knew that the type of needs I had would be hard for a normal school to meet. I had to find a school that was different. ChattState was that school. 

I hope to go into UTC’s Honors program and further my education in International Relations. My end goal is to work for an organization that aims to prevent homelessness. After getting my own second chance, I want to give someone else that chance as well.

Meet Nicole Potgieter

Q: What did you earn your degree in?
A: Biology + Pre-Health Professions

Q: What brought you to ChattState?
A: I chose to enroll at ChattState because they offered me a way to begin my journey toward medical school at an affordable cost. I’m proud to say that I am graduating as an Honors student with absolutely no student debt.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to an incoming freshman, what would it be?
A: I would say, “Don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors. Go to office hours, ask questions during class, and send emails if you have questions. Your professors want you to succeed. One of the best choices I made was to go to office hours rather than just struggle through subjects on my own.”

Q: What was a favorite thing about ChattState that you are going to miss?
A: My favorite thing about ChattState that I will really miss is the amazing professors I had —  especially my Chemistry professors: Dr. Shay Bean and Dr. April Royer. I never thought I would even remotely like Chemistry, but I have walked away loving Organic Chemistry.

Q: Tell us your Chattanooga story.
A: I am the first person in my family to attend college in the United States, so the whole system was alien to me. I didn’t have anyone I could ask for advice. I just tried to figure it out as I went. Thankfully I have awesome advisors, Rhonda McWhorter and Juan Antonio Alonso, who answered all my mundane questions and emails. Thanks to their guidance and my hard work, I’ve had straight As. 

Being a Global Honors student at ChattState has given me access to resources and opportunities I could have only imagined, like the chance to study abroad this coming summer. I’ll be transferring to the University of Arizona to complete my bachelor’s degree in Biology. After that, I’m hoping to attend The University of Arizona – College of Medicine in Tucson. I may be a “non-traditional” student, which some may see as a disadvantage, but ChattState saw past that and set me up to pursue my dreams.

Interested in becoming a ChattState Tiger? Learn more about enrollment here.

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