Crawford Alumni Center

Tech Took Us There

From felony to 4.0, two-time graduate says Tennessee Tech gave him a second chance 

Rob Frazier in his regalia holding his degree from TechRob Frazier (`23 professional studies and `24 M.S.) says Tennessee Tech gave him a second chance. Now, he’s doing the same for others as the director of development for This is Living Ministries, a program led by Executive Director Lindsay Holloway that gives women from Tennessee state prison systems the skills necessary to reenter society free from trauma and addiction.  

“We bring justice-involved females out of our prison systems, and we give them a chance to turn their lives around,” Frazier said. “I get to see women who thought they were worthless – who were told they were worthless – get a second chance. Each time I graduate from Tech, I bring my cap and gown to the ministry house, and our staff encourage the women to put them on and look in the mirror. We tell them, ‘You thought you didn’t have a future, but now everything is open to you. This can be your life.’ And they know they can have a second chance, too, as long as they are willing to put forth the effort.”

Frazier knows what second chances can do for a person. In 2019, he turned his own life around, and he credits much of his success to Tech.

Frazier’s journey to Tech actually started back in 2007. He enrolled at Motlow State Community College and planned to transfer to Tech after earning his associate’s degree. But Frazier struggled with addiction.  

“My transcript tells the story of a rough time in my life,” Frazier said. “What started out as Bs turned into Ws and then eventually Fs. I ended up dropping out. I continued in my addiction and cycle of criminality. I was in and out of jail including a felony drug charge with a 10-year sentence.”

Frazier fought hard to participate in the Adult and Teen Challenge of Memphis, a faith-based program for men struggling with addiction. He says thanks to the program and his newfound faith, he turned his life around and has been living and serving as a law-abiding citizen for five years.  

Frazier completed his associate’s degree at Motlow and applied to transfer to Tech as originally planned. There was just one problem: his transcript. All the poor grades from before were still on his record.

Frazier met with administrators in Tech’s College of Interdisciplinary Studies and Office of the Provost and learned about Academic Fresh Start – a plan of academic forgiveness offered to students who have done poorly in a previous educational experience.

“They reviewed my file, and it was a thick file,” he said. “They listened to my story and agreed to give me a fresh start.”

Since returning to Tech, Frazier has earned all As. He received his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership in 2023 and, just a few weeks ago on May 3, received his master’s in strategic leadership.

“It’s because of people like Dean Mike Gotcher, Mark Stephens, Jeannie Smith, Kandy Smith, Dennis Tennant and others,” Frazier said. “They believe in second chances. They came alongside of me in my journey. They were so encouraging, and the biggest takeaway that I would really like to convey is how Tennessee Tech was behind me. They didn’t condemn me. They saw that I had changed my life.”

Jeannie Smith, director of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies Student Success Center, recalls her first meeting with Frazier.

“Rob visited with me and outlined his goals,” she said. “Tennessee Tech programs for adult learners such as Academic Fresh Start, Fast Track to Master’s Degree, Prior Learning Credit and the Professional Studies Online Degree helped provide a way for him to return to school and complete his degrees. I love working with adult learners, especially students like Rob who have a goal and the determination to complete it.”

Today, Frazier is the director of development for This is Living Ministries in Cookeville, a lead pastor and owns his own company. He is also pursuing a Ph.D in organization and management.

“My ultimate goal is to be a professor here – at a university that believes in second chances,” Frazier said. “I know a lot of people are going to read this who have been through a similar struggle. I want to say to them, if you have changed your life and are walking in a different direction and are putting forth effort, this university is behind you. Your criminal background does not exclude you. I’ve never seen Tech turn anyone away who was trying – ever. I am so proud to be a Golden Eagle because of what Tech instilled in me. I didn’t just get a degree. I received knowledge, values, integrity, service and leadership skills. That’s why I want to work at Tech. I want to be a part of what they shared with me.”

For more information about Tech’s Academic Fresh Start program, visit the Fresh Start webpage.