Earning a Master of Professional Studies degree at Tennessee Tech University while already engaged full time in a chosen profession is possible. Alexis MacAllister, a Cookeville native, is proof. Individuals who traverse that journey exhibit many qualities, not the least of which are bold, fearless, and confident.
MacAllister graduated from Tech in 2017 with a degree in communication. She is now pursuing her MPS with a concentration in project management and will graduate in the summer of 2023. After seeing some of her colleagues in the office where she worked pursuing their master's degrees, she realized that it would be a wise decision to advance her professional career as well. The fact that this could be accomplished in a familiar place was a bonus.
“I work here, I received my undergrad here, I live in Monterey and I love being on campus,” MacAllister said.
She currently works in the iCube, a grant-funded office on Tech’s campus, that was originally known as the Business Media Center. iCube is a leader in using technology to solve complex public policy problems. They use marketing strategies and emerging technologies to advance collaborative solutions for education, training, public policy campaigns, and other statewide, regional, statewide, regional, and national initiatives.
“I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to gain extensive experience working with leaders in the state on social marketing initiatives,” MacAllister said.
MacAllister specifically works on the TN Together project which focuses on addiction, mental health and suicide awareness.
“What's really neat about it is it's more focused on social marketing and injury prevention. The difference between social marketing and commercial marketing is that commercial marketing is for profit where social marketing is for the social good,” MacAllister said. “It makes me feel good that a lot of the projects we work on are about awareness and injury prevention and changing the mindset of a lot of these risky behaviors.”
The TN Together Project is funded by the Tennessee Department of Health and has 95 Tennessee counties participating. It highlights eight activity categories - schools, recovery, policy, organizations, healthcare, first responders, family and community.
“Managing these projects has been an exciting journey for me, and I am enthusiastic about continuing to do so in the future,” MacAllister said. “I've acquired additional skills and knowledge by pursuing my master's degree which has really helped to strengthen my skills and stock my toolkit as I move forward in this field.”
MacAllister said she is enjoying the master's program at Tech because it offers more specialized courses that are directly relevant to the career that she is passionate about. The classes allow her to incorporate real job experience into homework assignments and projects, which she said makes the coursework even more engaging and applicable to her future career goals. It has increased her confidence in her abilities.
The online format has been convenient, according to MacAllister, and she is grateful for the opportunity to pursue a degree while still maintaining her professional career.
“I appreciate the flexibility of being able to take my master's classes online while still working in my current career,” MacAllister said. “This allows me to balance both aspects of my life effectively and chip away at assignments during nights and weekends.”
The program is preparing her well for her desired career path, according to MacAllister, and “her favorite part has been the feeling of excitement as she approaches the finish line.” She said it has allowed her to work on her professional skills in project management, has given her more tools for her toolbox, and has helped her organize her thoughts.
At times the process has been challenging, according to MacAllister, but the sense of accomplishment she feels now has made it all worthwhile. She credited Sydney Beaver, Amanda Powell and the iCube office with supporting her through this process, encouraging her to not give up, and “being proud of her accomplishments.”
“I am very satisfied with my experience in the master's program and would not change anything about it. The professors were excellent and understanding of the fact that many of us have busy lives, and they always encouraged us to ask questions when we needed clarification,” MacAllister said. “I appreciated their support and guidance throughout the program, and I feel that their efforts contributed greatly to my success in the program.”
Project management is one of several MPS concentrations and certificates that are available. For more information visit https://www.tntech.edu/cis/sps/index.php.
“If you're thinking about furthering your education, do it. Time flies by so fast and you will be so proud of yourself when it's over. I would encourage anyone who's thinking about going back to get a master's degree to investigate the Tennessee Tech program, the process is very simple,” MacAllister said. “The professor's here at Tennessee Tech are awesome. They're good at reaching out, and they're really good at supporting you through this process.”