Raising two daughters as a single mother was tough for Cynthia Wright. She worked two jobs to ensure her children received an Adventist education, believing it would help preserve their faith. But it also meant postponing Wright’s dream to obtain a college degree of her own.
That changed after Wright’s daughters graduated from high school, presenting an opportunity for her to go back to school. Her older daughter went to college first, earned a bachelor’s degree, and then took a break. Wright eventually caught up to her daughter academically, completing her associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees as an adult. Wright and her daughter graduated together.
“We both graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA — something I am very proud of,” Wright said.
Now, Wright is the recently-hired first director of Southern’s Adult Degree Completion Program, a new initiative aimed at adults 25 and older who were once in college but never completed the requirements to graduate. Having experienced the challenges of adult education firsthand, Wright believes she brings the knowledge gained to her new position, which she began on March 29.
“One thing that I do feel I can contribute [to this program] is that I can relate to adult students because I went back to school later in life in my 40s,” Wright said.
Prior to coming to Southern, Wright worked at the University of Florida in Gainesville in the area of cardiology research. She is also a professor and has taught anatomy, physiology and medical terminology. In her most recent position, she taught part-time in the pharmacy technician program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
According to Wright, the Adult Completion Program will provide a variety of options, including night, hybrid and online classes.
“A lot of students that I’ll be recruiting for this program will be students that came back to school later,” Wright said. “They have other responsibilities; they need to go to school in the evenings or at night. I went through that as a student because I was a single parent raising two daughters.”
The program will open in phases, according to Dean for Graduate and Professional Studies Tyson Hall. The first phase in the Fall 2021 semester will focus on former students. The second phase will begin in the Winter 2022 semester for the Bachelor of Science in Business Management program. The Graduate and Professional Studies office is currently working on the third phase to add additional academic programs formatted for adult degree completion students in the semesters that follow.
The Graduate and Professional Studies office has contracted with a higher education marketing firm that has experience in marketing graduate and adult degree programs.
“We are working with them to identify our messaging, develop a website for the program and create targeted digital marketing campaigns,” Hall said. “With Cynthia’s arrival on campus, we are hoping to begin personal recruitment efforts in the near future.”
The program will consist of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communication, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and the Bachelor of Integrated Studies, an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree that allows students to design and customized a specific course of study to best suit their educational and professional objectives.
Wright wants the curriculum to be community-based.
“Our goal is to introduce not only Southern to the community — because a lot of people don’t know who we are or what we stand for as an Adventist university — but also to introduce them to Jesus Christ as they are interested in this program,” Wright said.
Rachel Williams-Smith, an advisor and sponsor for the program, said the cost for tuition is a 40% reduction of the traditional tuition cost, as reported in a previous Accent article. She said some courses could be eight weeks long depending on the major.
Hall said the Graduate and Professional Studies office is excited to welcome Wright to Southern as the first Director of the Adult Degree Completion Program.
“Her teaching experience with adult learners, love for helping students better themselves, and her passion for sharing Jesus in everyday settings will serve her well in this position,” Hall said.
Wright said she is also excited for her new job.
“I’m excited to be here, and I look forward to getting this program off the ground,” she said.