Full-Time working mom lands perfect job with online Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology

Author: Kealy Moriarty

Last Updated:

Category: Feature Story | Educational Psychology

The online program in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Applied Educational Psychology allows full-time working mother to continue advancing her career goals while pursuing a master’s level in education, ultimately landing her the ideal position.

online student Rebecca Harkins holds her daughter wearing Tennessee orange shirts

Online education helps advance career

While completing her master’s degree in Educational Psychology during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rebecca Harkins also faced the challenges of bringing a newborn into the world at the height of the pandemic. She was pleased to find that her professors were more than willing to provide the additional support and flexibility she needed in order for her to complete the program.

It was such a relief to have professors that understood that family comes first.  

— Rebecca Harkins, ‘20, MS, Educational Psychology, Applied Educational Psychology

Distance group work brings students together

The asynchronous format of the Educational Psychology program with a concentration in Applied Educational Psychology allowed Rebecca to grow her family and continue advancing her career. An additional unexpected benefit was the relationships Rebecca was able to build while in the program due to the interactive student group work.     

“During my time in the program, I managed to create lifelong friendships with classmates that I still communicate with weekly,” said Rebecca. 

Originally born and raised in Franklin, Tennessee, Rebecca moved to Chattanooga to earn her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. Growing up, her passions were playing sports and volunteering at local community centers and serving underrepresented populations. Today, she continues to reside in Chattanooga, where she is the Education & Training Coordinator with Cherokee Health Systems, a role in which she can fulfill her passion to help others. 

Now I have the perfect job for helping students enhance their learning by making major contributions to underserved populations.

— Rebecca Harkins, ‘20

Q&A with Rebecca Harkins on her experience with online classes 

What brought you to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville? 

It took a while for me to find the right master’s program that would fit my needs and schedule. I went through multiple meetings with other schools, but nothing felt right. Then I came across the Educational Psychology program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and knew it was exactly what I wanted to pursue. Dr. Hammon made me feel welcomed, and I had the sense that the faculty really cared about their students.  

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

First and foremost, I needed a program that would fit my schedule and allow me to continue working full-time. While I was in the application process, I was working for the Chattanooga Family Justice Center serving victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I needed an evening program. 

I have always been passionate about advocating for underserved populations, especially in educational settings. This program allowed me to enhance my knowledge surrounding different learning environments and better understand how to serve any learner from any background. 

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

I didn’t have the option to attend school without a consistent income. I wanted to be able to continue working towards my career goals while advancing my education.  

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

During my time in the program, I managed to create lifelong friendships with classmates that I still communicate with weekly. Being an online learner didn’t impact the ability to create friendships or learn from classmates. I would highly recommend this program to anyone!  

You shared you had your daughter in your last semester (congratulations!); what advice would you give to future prospective students who also have families to care for who want to pursue an online degree? 

I had my daughter in May 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic and at the beginning of the Summer 2020 semester. I still had to complete the Summer 2020 semester and the Fall 2020 semester. I remember emailing Dr. Misawa after my C-section because I was scared I was going to miss the first week of the summer semester, which went by so quickly! He reassured me that I would get caught up when I returned and to not worry in the meantime. It was such a relief to have professors that understood that family comes first.  

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

As the Education and Training Coordinator with Cherokee Health Systems, I am also the East Tennessee Regional AHEC Scholars Coordinator. I was lucky to find a career that allows me to use my education almost daily! I am proud of myself for making it through two years of school while in the beginning stages of my career. Now I have the perfect job for helping students enhance their learning by making major contributions to underserved populations.  


Tennessee's torch bearer behind orange and white tulips

Learn More

Would you like more information about the master’s program in Educational Psychology? Take the first step by completing and submitting a Request Information form on the program page.