UT Tyler

Graduate Student Alumni Spotlight

English MA

Student Name:  Nicole Harbison

Hometown: Sulphur Bluff, TX

Program: Master's in English

Graduated: 2010

Employer: Longview ISD

Position: 11th, 12th Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate English Teacher

When I began my undergraduate work in English and Secondary Education at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, I was unsure what I wanted to do after graduation. I chose my degree on somewhat of a whim expecting to use English as a platform for later studies. By the time I received my degree, I had serendipitously discovered a life-long career in teaching.

After graduation, I married and moved to East Texas, where I began teaching full time. I knew that I wanted to further my education, but I did not want just a nominal degree—a string of letters at the end of my name that required little challenge to obtain. Unlike my entrance into undergraduate work, I began my search for graduate school knowing absolutely what I wanted to do. I wanted to teach, as I had been already. Only, I wanted to become a better teacher than I already was.

When I started looking for a graduate school, I looked for a program that would challenge me—I saw my decision to attend graduate school as an opportunity to test myself. I am an inquirer by nature, and I wanted a program that would let me ask questions and probe for answers. I found that at the University of Texas at Tyler.

My experience at UT Tyler was exactly what I desired in a graduate program and more. Classes were scheduled so that I could attend while working full-time in another town. Every class that I took pushed me more than the last. My professors had continuously high standards that made me a better writer, reader, speaker, and thinker. The small but rigorous classes were allowed for individualized attention I would not have found elsewhere. Even the other students provided a courteous but stimulating environment in which differing ideas and view points served to sharpen my own interpretations of the material we studied.

What was most endearing about my graduate experience was the sense of camaraderie found between the students and the faculty. At the University of Texas at Tyler, we were not just numbers on a roster. We were known to each other and our professors. Our individual styles and fields of study were not just respected; they were appreciated and admired.

Now, having graduated, I feel as though I have really accomplished something of worth. My Master of Arts degree in English Literature from UT Tyler has made me a better teacher, and because of that, I am making better students, who will, in turn, make a better world for us all.

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