Tennessee Reconnectors share student experiences at inaugural roundtable
More than 50 new and current Tennessee Reconnectors gathered for the first time for a roundtable discussion Jan. 12 at the Bert Bornblum Library. The students were invited by Southwest’s Tennessee Reconnect Committee to discuss their concerns about the Reconnect process, their college experience so far, and the types of support services available.
Second semester student Wanda Harness came back to school after six years away. “After seeing my husband and children earn their degrees, I set the goal of earning mine before my 60th birthday,” Harness said. Interested in business administration, she jumped at the chance to return with Tennessee Reconnect (TNR). “I love Tennessee Reconnect and Southwest,” she said. “I’m very happy here.”
TNR is a last-dollar scholarship for adults who do not have an associate or bachelor’s degree that enables them to attend Southwest tuition-free.
Jennifer Chaffin-Gregory is a second semester Reconnector pursuing a degree in finance to compliment her professional career. She attended the event with her husband. “It’s been an interesting experience going back to school as an adult, especially since I work full-time, am a mother, wife and grandmother,” she said. “I came today because I had a couple of roadblocks in applying, but the program has been financially beneficial to me and I like the fact that it caters to adults.”
Program Specialist for Retention and Student Success Alma Hernandez had the idea to organize the roundtable on a Saturday morning so that students would have ample time to meet one another, enjoy a continental breakfast from A Taste of Southwest, and present their feedback regarding their experience as a Tennessee Reconnect student at Southwest. Sixteen dedicated faculty and staff were present to collectively show their support, stationing themselves at each table to address any concerns and help lead discussions.
Executive Director for Retention and Student Success Jacqueline Taylor said the event was one of the ways Southwest is taking an active role in providing intentional Adult Learner supports. “The student-centered focus grew out of the work of the Equity and Inclusion committee and Student Success Council as a result of Southwest joining the Achieving the Dream network in 2016,” Taylor said.
“We are a college focused on academic excellence and caring for our students and we are here to listen to your questions, challenges and aspirations and have a team of representatives ready to assist you in your academic journey,” Taylor told the crowd.
When it came time for the open question and answer session, many hands went up. “How many times can I apply for the TN Reconnect scholarship?”, “Can my scholarship transfer to a 4-year college?”, and “How can I apply for a book scholarship?” were among some of the questions raised. Southwest Reconnect staff provided information, resources and a personal guarantee to resolve any issues students may have encountered along the way.
Associate Director of Advising and Academic Support Ronald Claxton, a 34-year Southwest veteran, reaffirmed the College’s commitment to provide Reconnectors all the support they need. “I remember returning to college as an adult learner many years ago,” Claxton shared. “I was lost and felt intimidated – knowing you have a support system helps alleviate many fears and anxieties.” Claxton informed the students of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s vision in creating Tennessee Reconnect, the first scholarship program of its kind in the nation. “The continued success of the program hinges on the success of the students,” he said.
Hernandez was pleased with the students’ participation. “Considering this was the first time we held a roundtable, we had a great response,” she said. “The students were engaged and we walked away with valuable feedback.”
According to the survey’s results, 100 percent of the 26 participants who responded to the overall satisfaction question gave the event the survey’s highest rating.
For more information about Tennessee Reconnect, contact a Southwest enrollment specialist at (901) 333-5924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.