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TWU ME graduate Callie Freeman earned degree through hard work, perseverance

When Callie Freeman was in high school, she promised herself she would earn her college degree. She started attending Tennessee Wesleyan, joining the cheerleading team and taking classes. She eventually decided to take some time off, joining the workforce to get real world experience, getting married and having two children, now ages three and eight. Throughout her adult life, she remembered that promise to herself and fulfilled it, graduating from Tennessee Wesleyan’s Management Excellence degree completion program in 2014.

“Honestly [getting my degree] was just a personal goal,” Freeman said. “I would just think at times ‘maybe I shouldn’t go back; I’ve got a family.’ Something inside of me just knew I could do it. I didn’t want to give up. It was something I set for myself a long time ago, back in high school, that I will finish my degree. No matter how long it took, I was going to do it.”

While earning her degree had always been a goal, Freeman was hesitant to go back to school. When she started the ME program at TWU, her second child was four months old. She chose to return to TWU because of her positive experience at the school several years earlier, as well as because of the university’s reputation.

“I needed a school that was close to home that could provide me being able to work and go to school at the same time,” Freeman said. “Tennessee Wesleyan was the only one in this area that was elite and would give me the time I needed. I was very adamant about finishing at Wesleyan. I connected so much with the professors and staff. I wanted to make sure I finished what I started, and the people that got me started on my journey helped me finish. When I was walking across the stage, I saw some of the professors I had before I started the ME program, and they remembered and congratulated me, and it truly meant the world.”

Freeman credits the strong support from TWU faculty and staff with helping her succeed, even on days when she wanted to quit.

“I loved the professors there,” she said. “They made me feel like I really could succeed. They would make sure that, even though we were full-time parents and workers, that we could do it. There were many times I just felt like giving up, but they assured us, just keep going, it’s going to pay off.”

When Freeman struggled with accounting classes, she relied on professor Anne Montgomery to help her. Freeman works in banking, and Montgomery has prior experience in banking, allowing her to relate the information to Freeman in different ways.

“Anne Montgomery is just the most amazing woman,” Freeman said. “She had come from a banking background, and I felt like I really connected with her. I struggled with accounting. She said ‘I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve been in banking before. It’s going to be different.’ The credits and debits are reversed in accounting and banking, so I connected with her when she explained it on my level.”

In addition to the support and guidance from her professors, Freeman also looked to her classmates for inspiration and knowledge. Freeman’s classes were made of adults going back to college to earn a degree after gaining real-world experience and knowledge.

“Most of the students in my class were working parents,” Freeman said. “They had come back, and they were showing us they were going to get it done, too. The age group was so different. It wasn’t just young adults who had taken some time off. These were grown women and men who were working managers and decided to pursue their degree. Ages were all across the board, and we just came together as a team. I learned so much from those who were older than me from the experience and knowledge they possessed from their career. The ME students brought something different than a regular student would bring to class. The ME program is students coming in with experience. You learn, not just from the professors, but from the people in your class because they are working professionals. Even though we were pursuing the same degree, each student was coming from a different profession. I learned so much from them.”

According to Freeman, the professors in the ME program allowed and encouraged for the creativity and sharing of knowledge and experience between the ME students, creating an environment of shared knowledge and support. Utilizing information from her classmates and her professors, Freeman was able to relate her coursework to her everyday responsibilities at work at Peoples Bank of East Tennessee in Madisonville.

She encourages other adults looking to earn a degree to consider TWU’s ME program because of the education and the encouragement from the professors. Freeman says earning a degree is all about having the right mindset and says the TWU professors help encourage students, even on difficult days.

“My advice is to set your mind on your goal, because there are going to be nights where you feel like it’s overwhelming and you can’t do it,” Freeman said. “If you go in with the mindset that I’m coming out of this, I’m going to be holding a degree and nothing’s going to stop me, it is amazing the power that gives you to pursue. In the nights where you just want to go to sleep, you’ll stay up and make sure that you get done what needs to be done. If you believe you can do it, you really can. I think the people at Wesleyan are key in that because they make sure that you remember you’re not too old, you’re not too busy to fulfill your dream. You really can take the time to pursue your goal if you put your mind to it.”