More than a decade ago, Mandy Camp began her career as a dental hygienist, and this summer she will become the first student to ever complete a four-year degree at Tyler Junior College.
Part of the first class of 15 students, Camp is set to finish the coursework required to graduate from the school’s new Bachelor of Science degree program in dental hygiene. Two other program participants are set to graduate in December.
Program Coordinator Julie Mettlen said the degree plan has opened up opportunities for students who thought they would not otherwise be able to continue their education in Tyler. Before, students would have to travel to Dallas or Shreveport to find a similar program, such as the dual enrollment program TJC has offered with Texas Woman’s University.
TJC soon will roll that program into its in-house plan. The course work is set up with hybrid classes, meaning students are on campus one day each week.
“Even though everyone says they love online classes, they need face time,” Mettlen said, adding that the in-class aspect provides a huge benefit to returning students who are no longer acclimated to coursework.
The program’s inaugural class began their courses last fall, just weeks after the announcement that the program had been approved.
Being able to keep her job while continuing her education was one of the biggest draws of the program, Camp said.
“It’s been a bit harder because technology is a lot different,” she said. “I’d recommend it, but time management, a lot of self discipline and support from family and employers is necessary.”
The support from her family has been invaluable, Camp said. They have become her biggest cheerleaders.
Students have the option of completing the degree in either one or two years after receiving their associate’s degree. Mettlen said the one-year program is better geared toward students with all of their prerequisites completed.
Student Cherish McCoy said she chose the two-year track and is enjoying getting to know her classmates.
“The camaraderie between us and forming relationships has been great,” she said. “It’s been a great experience so far. I was thinking about continuing, but honestly I did because I could do it here.”
The degree plan offers students a variety of options in their careers, ranging from public health to administration or even research.
Mettlen said she had been pleasantly surprised to see how well the students took to the new program. She said it is especially impressive considering they’ve been moving at such a vigorous pace that the department hasn’t even had time to make course pamphlets.