Williamson County Resident Hopes To Someday Return as a Professor
Photo caption: Recent Columbia State Community College graduate, Debbie Pettigrew (left) is pictured with her daughter Nicole Pettigrew (right) after Columbia State's Forty-Third Annual Commencement Ceremony held on Tuesday, May 11 at Webster Athletic Center on the Columbia Campus. The Spring Hill (Williamson County) resident will begin her first semester at Middle Tennessee State University in the fall 2010 semester. She hopes to someday return to Columbia State to teach Education courses.
“I feel I’ve come light years,” says the new Columbia State Community College alumnae, Debbie Pettigrew, while talking about how far she’s come since becoming a student at Columbia State three years ago.
“I graduated from high school in an era when it wasn’t that important for women to have a college degree. I guess your job was to be a homemaker and raise the children, and that’s basically what I did, although I have worked my entire life,” said Pettigrew.
The Spring Hill resident and mother of two college students enrolled in classes at Columbia State just two days before the deadline for the fall 2007 semester. “I have two children who are 21 and 22 years old. When they graduated from High School and got established in college it became my turn,” said Pettigrew about her decision to go back to school.
However, it wasn’t always full steam ahead for the now college graduate. Like many non-traditional students, Pettigrew had some reservations about going back to school. “I didn’t know if I would be accepted by the students and I didn’t know if my brain could absorb knowledge any further,” joked Pettigrew.
Columbia State became the solution to her dilemma. “I didn’t really know how I would fit into a college setting, so I started with a community college—I came down (from Williamson County) to (the Columbia Campus) and took three classes my first semester to test the waters, and I fell in love with it.”
Feeling more comfortable and assured, Pettigrew came back a second semester. “My second semester I took five classes and since then I’ve been going full steam ahead,” she said.
The Williamson County resident has been very active during her time as a student on Columbia State’s Campus. “I was the president of Phi Theta Kappa this year and a peer leader for two and a half years,” said Pettigrew. She was named as the regions Distinguished Chapter President at the recent Phi Theta Kappa Regional Convention, and was also Columbia State’s nominee for All-Tennessee and All-USA Community and Junior College Academic Teams.
“Debbie always impresses me with her bright attitude her cheerful nature, and her perseverance,” said Columbia State Associate Professor of English, Beverly Mitchell “I’ve had her in one of my classes for at least four semesters.”
She attributes her success to a number of factors along the way, including friendly faculty and staff, the offering of developmental courses, and time management skills. “My success here at Columbia State I would like to attribute to several faculty members and the administration. The professors here will reach out and give you guidance and keep you on the right track. Dr. Paula Petty-Ward (coordinator for counseling and orientation at Columbia State) has been a big source of motivation for me when times got tough,” said Pettigrew.
“One of the best things I did was the developmental courses—they definitely helped to prepare me for the college level courses,” she added. “It had been a long time since I had seen algebra. Without the developmental courses I don’t know that I would have done as well.”
“I own a home, I have pets, I have children, I have bills, I have grass to cut, studies and tests to prepare for and then taking on peer leading and Phi Theta Kappa as well. You have to be a good organizer and record keeper—it can be done as long as you keep your schedule and set aside time for things that need to be done.”
“The students don’t care whether you’re 19 or 90, and neither do the professors. It’s very much a warm family atmosphere here and I’ve never looked back at those types of feelings of not fitting in again,” she added.
After walking across the stage at Columbia State’s Forty-Third Annual Commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 11 Pettigrew encourages others to go back to school. “Don’t hesitate—it is scary when you first start out. There are so many services out here at Columbia State—there’s tutoring, there is mentoring—if you put the time and effort into it you will succeed. It can be done. I am living proof of that,” said the new college graduate.
Pettigrew, who graduated with a 3.5 grade point average from Columbia State, will begin her first semester at Middle Tennessee State University in the fall. She plans to major in special education and to later earn a master’s degree. She hopes to someday return to Columbia State as a professor to teach Education. Her daughter, Nicole graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville just two days after she crossed the stage. Her son, Scott attends college at University of New York in Buffalo.
“I would love to come back to Columbia State and teach here further down the road because it’s such a part of me. That would be a dream-come-true really, to come back and teach Education,” she said.
Columbia State is a two-year college, serving a nine-county area in southern Middle Tennessee with locations in Columbia, Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Clifton. As Tennessee’s first community college, Columbia State is committed to increasing access and enhancing diversity at all five campuses. Columbia State is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the sixth largest higher education system in the nation. For more information, please visit www.columbiastate.edu.