Online master’s degree benefits human resources career
As someone who specializes in human connections, choosing a master’s in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Adult Education was easy for UT alum, Jecobi Swafford. Knowing her specialty involved a great deal of interacting with adults and teaching adults, Jecobi knew that this program would benefit her full-time career as a human resources professional.
As a Human Resources professional, I am constantly in contact with employees at various stages of their career and life. I had a deep desire to take my expertise and enhance the learning experience for adults in the workplace.— Jecobi Swafford, ’19, MS, Educational Psychology, Adult Education
Having this program available online enabled Jecobi to continue working full-time and return to school to earn a master’s degree through distance education. Now a human resources professional with a solar and construction business administering employee benefits, Jecobi is able to apply her knowledge from the MS Educational Psychology program to all aspects of her current position. Jecobi has worked in the human resources field for several years and is committed to continuing her career in this field.
“I have always sought out employment, education, and training opportunities that would continuously enhance my knowledge as it relates to human resources and employee benefits,” shares Jecobi. “I’ve worked in employee benefits for several years, including employment at UT Chattanooga. In addition, I’ve worked in benefits for the United States Department of Defense both domestically and abroad, supporting our military and their families.”
In addition to finding a program that aligned with her passions and her schedule, Jecobi also achieved her dream of becoming a UT student.
Attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has always been a dream for me since my youth. I’ve always associated UT with excellence. I felt this would give me an opportunity to have a rigorous curriculum and be part of an institution that is greatly regarded.— Jecobi Swafford, ’19
When asked what advice she would give to future UT students pursuing an online degree in Educational Psychology, Adult Education, Jecobi said, “You must believe in yourself and believe that with hard work and dedication, you can accomplish your goals. You will definitely want to have good time management skills as it relates to all your responsibilities, but you must take time to care for yourself. Be sure to set aside time or activities that bring you joy.”
Q&A with Jecobi Swafford on her experience with online classes
What led you to pursue a Master’s of Science in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Adult Education at UT?
I consider myself to be a lifelong learner. I enjoy not only learning but helping others learn. I chose the adult learning path because adults come with many life experiences. As a human resources professional, I am constantly in contact with employees at various stages of their career and life. I had a deep desire to take my expertise and enhance the learning experience for adults in the workplace.
What personal circumstances led you to pursue online learning as opposed to a traditional in-person program?
I pursued online learning due to my various responsibilities as an employee at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, a wife, and a mother. Completing the courses online provided me with the convenience and flexibility in my schedule to maintain those responsibilities. For me, online learning also made me focus better and increased my self-discipline. I could also attend the institution of my choice without the commute from Chattanooga to Knoxville.
How was your experience as an online student in UT’s Educational Psychology program?
My experience was awesome from the beginning. I remember my initial consultation with Dr. Hammon. I credit her for making that first impression on what I could expect from the program. Dr. Hammon, along with all of my professors from the program, provided an inclusive and encouraging atmosphere. Their dedication, expectation, and belief in their students are second to none. In addition, the online format and resources were very user-friendly.
What did a typical day/week look like for you while balancing classwork, life, and your career?
Typically, I woke up early and went to bed late. I had to manage the upcoming class assignments in addition to new and upcoming responsibilities at work. I had to set aside time to read and complete classes, reading assignments, and discussion boards. Often, I would also use my lunch break to work on class assignments. The end of the week always came but my responsibilities for class work extended into most every weekend during the course of the program. I also had to prepare dinner, so I often made pre-planned meals that were relatively easy to cook.
How were you supported by the University, professors, advisors, mentors, etc., throughout your online program?
First, everyone was welcoming and passionate about the program. The team provided not only encouragement and support but a very inclusive environment. In addition, they seemed to care about the students and often met with students to answer questions. They also created an atmosphere for teamwork and collaboration.
How has securing your master’s degree helped you advance your career?
First, I think earning a master’s degree enhanced my professional credibility and solidified my expertise within Human Resources and in general. I’ve developed new professional relationships and networks in the process of pursuing higher education. The master’s degree has also sharpened my research, problem-solving, and writing skills.
What are your future career plans, and how will this master’s degree help you achieve your long-term goals?
My career plans are to become a Director of Employee Experience. I’d love to help organizations create inclusive work environments that recognize and reward their top talent and hopefully avoid turnover. In other words, how do we make our environment so positive that employees want to stay long-term? The master’s degree in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Adult Education has equipped me with the tools to more clearly understand the unique and diverse perspectives of adult learners. I want to be part of the team ensuring we meet employees where they are and support them with the tools they need to be successful.