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UT-Martin center marks 12 years in Selmer

The University of Tennessee-Martin McNairy County Center in Selmer opened its doors to educate our county in the summer of 1998, and since then has seen tremendous growth and has paved the way for many McNairy County careers over the last 12 years.

Beginning with only 50 students in the summer of 1998, the McNairy County Center in Selmer has grown to average between 260 and 300 students per semester, according to Deidra Beene, director of UT-Martin Selmer Center.

“The leaders’ vision of starting this center was to educate the citizens of this county and city,” said Beene, “but also to make it a better place and offer things that wouldn’t normally be offered, and I think we’ve done that.”

 It is tough to calculate the exact number of students that have furthered their education at the McNairy County Center in Selmer, Beene explained, because there are so many transient students, and individuals that only take summer courses at the facility.  

They also administer what is known as an “unduplicated head count,” meaning if a student began their education at the Selmer site and later transferred to another university only to come back and take a summer course, or even finish their degree in Selmer, that student would only be counted once. 

The UT-Martin McNairy County Center in Selmer has graduated over 220 students since its first graduate in 2001, and its highest graduating class was in the spring semester of 2010, with 24 students.

In the beginning the center only offered a BUS, which is a Bachelor’s in University Studies. As of today, the campus in Selmer offers degree opportunities for individuals seeking degrees in university studies, K-6th grade education, history, and social work.

The center in Selmer has also considered adding a nursing program, but that would be costly due to the need of a specialized roof for a chemistry lab required for a school to have an accredited nursing program, according to Beene.

The UT-Martin McNairy County Center in Selmer would need a hefty donation from a generous benefactor before plans could be made to begin work towards bringing in a nursing program, she said.

The UT-Martin satellite school also offers non-credit courses at their facility to benefit McNairy County.

“We recently offered a phlebotomy course,” said Beene. “You don’t get college credit, but you do get certified to do that job, and we can do that, obviously, at rates cheaper than college tuition.”

It’s obvious when speaking with Director Beene that the campus’ true mission is the benefit the people of this community through the courses offered at their facility and the flexibility that comes with running a smaller, more personal university environment.

Beene feels that “Co-Hort Groups,” have helped and will continue to help education in McNairy County thrive. 

Co-Hort Groups are groups of students with similar majors taking courses toward their degree, via the distance learning classroom at the facility, that the center in Selmer would not normally offer.

“These groups were instructed by professors at the UT-Martin main campus and took two of the distance learning classes per semester for a year before graduating last spring,” said Beene.

“It allows us to offer the whole degree to where they get the whole degree right here in Selmer,” Beene said.

The UT-Martin McNairy County Center in Selmer is unique in its flexibility with students because of these capabilities, and Beene said, “We can do more specialized things if we need to.”

Job opportunities are also reaped after sowing seeds of learning at the campus here in Selmer.

“Any student from our campus is more than welcome to leave a resume with us,” said Beene. “You’d be surprised how many times we get calls from local industry and from different people looking for specific people.”

“Businesses here will normally call us and ask us if we have somebody in a specific area that would be interested in the job they’re trying to fill,” said Beene.

In relation to new industry potentially entering McNairy County, Beene promoted another non-credit course that UT-Martin will be offering in McNairy County in the field of Japanese studies to educate the area about Asian culture.

Beene said Dr. Tom Cauley, who received his Ph.D. in Asian Studies, will be teaching the course.

“Dr. Cauley told me stories of other towns that Japanese businessmen had flown in to,” said Beene. “The people didn’t know how to do business with them, and they would get on the plane and fly out.”

“We want to be set to do all we can to help the community,” Beene said in regard to how the economy of the U.S. has evolved in the last 5 to 10 years, and the need for new industry in our area.

CLEP testing is also offered on the campus, which are tests administered by Director Beene that allow students to test out of college courses. Simply stated, if the student passes the test, they receive the credit hours for the course they tested out of.

GED testing also is carried out at the McNairy County Center in Selmer, allowing those without high school diplomas the opportunity to acquire a GED one Friday a month.

With all these offerings and paths to opening doors through education that the UT-Martin McNairy County Center in Selmer presents to the area, growth progressed for the campus.

It has expanded from one hallway to two hallways after a 2009 expansion that tacked on 4,230 square feet of learning space to the center.

Beene also hopes to one day see a day-care facility added onto the campus to cater to parents in the area so that they may continue their education and know that their children are close by and safe and sound.

Beene stressed that the UT-Martin McNairy County Center in Selmer is not an inferior university because it’s in Selmer.

“Sometimes we don’t value what’s close to us,” said Beene, “but some folks would never be able to leave their jobs or children to go to school, and now they’re teachers in local schools.”

“You can get a four-year University of Tennessee degree right here in McNairy County,” Beene said. “That’s huge!”

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