TCAT McMinnville’s outstanding student of the year personifies a popular term in higher education. But to call Mary Arthur nontraditional is an understatement and tells only part of her persistent story.
Nontraditional means different things to different people. Most of the student body at Tennessee College of Applied Technology-McMinnville is considered nontraditional because they are working adults, many with children.
Arthur certainly did not come to TCAT straight from high school. She’s supported family business, earned her GED, homeschooled her own children, and previously made a stab at higher education. Now she is completing a diploma in administrative office technology and representing TCAT McMinnville against winners from other colleges of applied technology.
January has been a whirlwind of activity for the admittedly shy, nontraditional student. Arthur practiced her speech numerous times before students in her own program and other students on the TCAT campus. She fielded questions from the expected to the off-the-wall in preparation for the competition.
She got up early Tuesday morning, arrived at TCAT well before 7 a.m. and then wowed McMinnville Breakfast Rotary. On Wednesday, she faced a panel of judges in Nashville.
Waiting now is the hardest part as Mary anticipates a decision next week from judges on whether she will represent Midstate TCAT’s in the statewide competition for outstanding student of the year in April at Chattanooga. The statewide winner receives honor, prestige and a new car.
Mary tells her story in her speech and begins by saying, “My dad could neither read nor write so by doing job invoices and payroll for him I learned the value of a technical education early. I quit school in the 11th grade and went to work to add to my mom’s income, after my dad had open-heart surgery he just never recovered from. Ten years later, I decided to obtain my GED.”
With her GED in hand, Arthur wanted to choose a career path that would allow her to get to work.
“My goal is to be working in my career field as soon as possible and that’s why I applied for the administrative office technology program at TCAT McMinnville,” she said. “My Medical Administrative Assistant diploma will allow me to start working immediately.”
Arthur received TCAT McMinnville support from Mike Garrison, coordinator of student services, and Sharon Barnes, administrative office technology instructor. She is a Cannon County resident and expects to complete her diploma April 21.