Vols Online grad continues studies with online PhD program

Author: Kealy Moriarty

Last Updated:

Category: Feature Story | Educational Psychology

UT’s online Educational Psychology program with a concentration in Adult Education prepares students to advance in careers in adult learning and provides a pathway to continue higher education.

online student Nathan Vann holding orange Tennessee flag

Passion for adult education ignited

Lifelong learner Nathan Vann grows his career in occupational health and safety by specializing in adult learning through two of UT’s online educational psychology programs. Nathan’s first higher educational focus was the online educational psychology program with a concentration in adult education, which he graduated from in the fall of 2021.   

Nathan found the master’s program enjoyable and invigorating, increasing his knowledge base in educational psychology aspects of adult education as well as his professional circle of influence.  

I was constantly challenged and always learning new and amazing things. I met some of the most interesting people, many whom I continue to have some of my closest relationships with today.

— Nathan Vann, ‘21, MS, Educational Psychology, Adult Education

Nathan found that the Educational Psychology online MS program really offered a lot in combining his professional work experience with his educational goals.  

“As a safety professional, a large portion of my responsibility is training employees, organizational leadership, and other parties,” Nathan said. 

After securing his MS in Educational Psychology, Nathan enrolled in UT’s online doctorate program in Educational Psychology and Research with a concentration in Adult Education of which he is currently a student. (This program was renamed and is now known as Education Major, Adult and Continuing Education).

I was so happy with what I learned through the program I decided to pursue my PhD in the online Educational Psychology and Research program with a concentration in Adult Learning.

— Nathan Vann, doctoral program student

Although Nathan lives in Maryville, Tennessee, which is within commuting distance to UT’s campus, he finds that the online program enables him to continue to meet his full-time work commitments. Nathan is currently the Director of Safety for Cleveland Utilities. 

Q&A with Nathan Vann on his experience with online classes 

What brought you to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville? 

I was searching for a program in workforce development, industrial/organizational psychology, or a related field. I found two programs which I felt would be a good fit. One at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and one at the University of Alabama. Once I met with Dr. Mary Catherine Hammond, I knew the Educational Psychology online program at UT was the choice for me. 

What led you to pursue a Master of Science in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Adult Education at UT? 

This program offered me an opportunity to expand my knowledge and capabilities in performing my best as well as growing my understanding of how adults learn and how to design programs to cultivate lifelong learners. 

What personal circumstances led you to pursue online learning as opposed to a traditional in-person program?  

Between trying to maintain my career as a safety director, my obligations to my children, and the location I was living (Cleveland, TN), my options for furthering my education were very limited. UT’s online program offered me an opportunity to pursue my academic and educational goals while still maintaining my other responsibilities and obligations. 

How was your experience as an online student in UT’s MS, Educational Psychology program? 

I thoroughly enjoyed the program. I was concerned an online program would be lacking in rigor and unable to help me connect with others in the program. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I was constantly challenged and always learning new and amazing things. I never thought I would be where I am, and I owe a great deal of it to the Ed Psych Online program, the faculty, and my fellow students. 

What did a typical day/week look like for you while balancing your classwork, personal life, and career? 

Most days I would go to work from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. I would come home, eat dinner, and either get ready for class or work on homework. Often, I would read textbooks or articles for the courses. I generally spent 6 hours in class and about 14 or so hours reading/working on schoolwork per week. Generally, the program did not interfere with my professional life; however, I had to cut out a significant portion of my personal activities during the semester. 

What advice would you give to future students pursuing an online MS degree in Educational Psychology, Adult Education? 

I would encourage students to go into the program with an open mind. The format is not as unique as it once was (largely due to COVID-19), but the faculty and staff do a better job than anyone I know of executing graduate-level learning online. The program is rigorous and workable due to the faculty being cognizant of the typical struggles of adult learners. You will get out of it what you put into it. The most important thing is to approach this program with the attitude of a lifelong learner. 
How has securing your master’s degree helped you advance your career? 

I have a much better understanding of the adult learning process as well as the theories of adult learning. This has enabled me to develop better and more effective training programs. Additionally, the program strengthened my research skills which have aided me in delivering original research at several conferences during my PhD program. 

What are your future career plans, and how will this master’s degree help you achieve your long-term goals? 

This degree introduced me to the field of educational psychology and adult learning theories and philosophies. It encouraged me to pursue my doctorate in the same field. Since I have graduated, I have presented original research at multiple conferences across the US and internationally. I have been able to connect with various professionals in the field as well as have drawn the attention of several organizations in my professional field. The skills I gained, coupled with the theories and philosophies I learned in the program, have helped me to be a better researcher and adult educator. I plan to continue on my path, hoping to become a professor at an R1 institute and continue my research to help adult learners in the future. 

orange Tennessee sign reads Jane & David Bailey Education Complex

Learn More

Would you like more information about the doctoral program in Education Major, Adult and Continuing Education? Take the first step by completing and submitting a Request Information form on the program page.