UT fall commencement ceremonies are being held this week. We take the opportunity to recognize and celebrate our recent Public Safety graduates—adult learners who achieved this accomplishment while balancing work and family responsibilities.
Abigayl Stephenson, a communications officer (dispatcher) at the UT Police Department, earned a Master’s of Professional Studies with a concentration in Public Safety. She pursued a master’s degree in a multidisciplinary subject that would incorporate her passion for law, law enforcement, public policy, and public safety.
“For the longest time I believed I wanted to become an attorney,” she said. “However, during my undergraduate studies I learned there is more than one way to serve the community.” This ultimately led her to the Professional Studies degree.
While Stephenson’s degree is not required for her current position, she noted that it has given her a foundation most communication officers do not have.
“I have used my education on numerous occasions throughout my work,” she said. “I believe it is essential for people to educate themselves, on and off the clock, so they can be the best versions of themselves. Personal and professional development is only as strong as the effort you put in. I want to be proud of the work I do, and one of the best ways I can do that is through education and training.”
Her UT benefits played a substantial role in her decision to pursue the degree.
“One of the reasons I accepted a position at the University of Tennessee was to pursue my degree without the stress of student loans,” Stephenson said.
Managing a work-life-school balance is not easy.
“At times everything can seem overwhelming,” Stephenson said. “With the right motivation, perseverance, and support I am proud to say I am graduating.”
With graduation comes extra time for herself, time with her family and perhaps a vacation, she said.
As for UT employees who are interested in pursuing a degree?
“I would recommend they just do it!” Stephenson said. “The hardest part is starting, but the feeling you get when you submit your last assignment and walk across the commencement stage is like no other. You’ll be so proud of yourself for what you have accomplished.”