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Bulldog family first: Alumnus Matthew Crabtree ’14, ’15 MBA credits Tennessee Wesleyan community with helping him find his passion

IMG_0043Matthew Crabtree always knew he wanted to attend Tennessee Wesleyan. His grandmother moved from Puerto Rico to attend the school, and he planned to follow in her footsteps. He grew up hearing about Tennessee Wesleyan and its close knit atmosphere. Maintaining his connection to the Athens community was an important aspect of Crabtree’s decision to attend Tennessee Wesleyan.

“Tennessee Wesleyan is the true definition of a small-town college,” Crabtree said. “It has an atmosphere that is filled with the essence and history of the college. When I first did my tour, it was easy to understand what people were talking about, the family atmosphere and the one-on-one relationships. You are not just a number. They care for you. They want you to succeed. You do form those one-on-one relationships with your professors, and they know you by name. Overall, you really do feel that sense of kindness and friendliness that larger colleges do not have. That is why I chose Tennessee Wesleyan.”

That family atmosphere stands out as a memorable and important component of Crabtree’s love of Wesleyan. He credits former Vice President for Academic Affairs Suzanne Hine with helping him find his passion for business and helping him work through a difficult semester when his previous major turned out not to be right for him.

“When I first came to Wesleyan, I really did not know what I wanted to do,” Crabtree said. “I actually started as a nursing major. I was a nursing major my freshman and sophomore year, and I actually went to nursing school my junior year for several months. You really do not know what you want to do with your life until you actually put your foot into it. I quickly found out nursing was not for me, so I came back here. It was the middle of the semester and I really did not know what I wanted to do. I was in sort of a daze as to what to do with my life. I was kind of scared because it was the middle of the semester. I kept on asking myself, would I get any classes? So I met with Dr. Hine, the former Vice President of Academic Affairs, and she enrolled me in a couple of business classes. It was at that moment I knew Wesleyan was right for me. I knew that if I was at a larger college or university, I would not get that kind of support or help. After I took those couple of classes, I knew I wanted to major in business.  I took those classes and I really enjoyed them, so I decided to change my major to business. After becoming a business major, I really found out that is what I wanted to do with my career.”

The familial atmosphere Crabtree had come to expect helped him decide to return to Tennessee Wesleyan for his graduate degree, a Master of Business Administration. Before graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Crabtree was accepted into an MBA program at a different school.

“I went to the university for a couple of months before I figured out it was not for me,” Crabtree said. “At this university, I just did not get the same feeling I did when I was at Wesleyan. I did not feel at home. That is when I knew I had to get back to Wesleyan. My whole philosophy through my college career was to form relationships with my professors. I wanted to stand out and achieve in a way where they would remember my name. I went there, expecting to walk in and say hello to the professor and get to know the students and everyone. That is not what happened. You walk in, there are 200 people in there and you try to find a seat. Then the professor walks in, introduces himself, and that is it. Every day you walk in, you sit down and get your stuff together, and then you start on the lecture.”

Crabtree found he missed the close knit family atmosphere of Tennessee Wesleyan and quickly decided to come back and earn his MBA here. He knew the professors at Wesleyan from his undergraduate career and knew the support and personal attention he was accustomed to at Wesleyan would continue into graduate studies.

“One reason I came back is because I knew what the structure and the standard here at Wesleyan was,” he said. “Yes, the professors are going to teach the material and teach it well, but they also make it a point to know you on a personal level. Sometimes they might want your cell phone number and you can text them and let them know you are running a little late. If you’re sick or something happens with a family member, you can call them and say something has come up. Or if you want to call them, if you’re having a problem in your life, the professors are more than happy to help in any situation. You have the flexibility of figuring out what you want to do with your life at Wesleyan. Each professor was there to help me and make sure I was traveling down the right path. That is what stood out the most about the academics at Wesleyan. The family tradition carries through not only with the relationships you make, but through academics and course work as well. That’s really what stands out here at Wesleyan rather than another college or university.”

In addition to being a double Bulldog and completing both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at Tennessee Wesleyan, Crabtree maintains his Bulldog status as an adjunct faculty member in the business administration department while also working as a Marketing Consultant at the Daily Post-Athenian. Teaching courses in both the traditional undergraduate business program as well as the management excellence degree completion program, Crabtree enjoys teaching at his alma mater as well as growing out of his comfort zone. Despite the fact that teaching can sometimes be intimidating, he believes his experiences showcase the friendliness and helpful nature of Tennessee Wesleyan.

“I have always had a want to teach, especially in my undergrad,” Crabtree said. “I would always prepare for the lessons and the lectures and always study. I also took it to a different level, especially when I thought teaching is something that I wanted to do. I was watching what the teacher was doing, how they prepared, how they graded, stuff that some students might not think about. When I started doing that, I saw myself standing up there and teaching. It is definitely different than anything I have done. Sometimes it’s a little intimidating as well. The class I taught last semester, business ethics, was an ME program class, taught in the evening, and they were all adults. They were all older than me. Walking in there, you really feel intimated with all these adults in there, and here you are 20-25 years younger. They were all very kind to work with me, and I worked with them. It really shows how Wesleyan is.”

As an alumnus and an instructor, Crabtree has seen Tennessee Wesleyan grow and change from a small college into a larger university with a widening array of available degree programs. Though the school has changed its name and continued to grow, Crabtree is proud to have been and continue to be part of Tennessee Wesleyan and looks forward to seeing how the university continues to grow in the future.

“It’s actually Tennessee Wesleyan University now,” Crabtree said. “I never thought I would see Wesleyan become a university. Wesleyan is taking the correct steps to appeal to every sort of person. I’m excited to see where Wesleyan will be in 10 or 20 years. Will it still be the small college/university it is now, or will it be something larger? I think we have the roots to succeed either way. One of the most memorable things I can say is I will always be part of Wesleyan. I can call Wesleyan my alma mater, so 20 or 30 years down the road, I can look back and say I was part of something that is still growing and something that is still a part of this community.”