Recent grads give MC high marks

Survey of MC alumni suggests high level of satisfaction with undergrad education

April 27, 2015

In a recent survey, young alumni of Maryville College gave their alma mater high marks in graduate school preparation and workforce skills development necessary for career success.

The survey, designed by the Enrollment Division and administered by the Division of Academic Affairs, was emailed last fall to 2,359 alumni who graduated in the last 15 years. 743 alumni participated.

“A response rate of 31 percent for a survey like this is respectable, and we believe we can draw some reliable conclusions from what alumni self-reported,” said Dr. Barbara Wells, vice president and dean of the College.

According to Dr. Dolph Henry, vice president for enrollment, the primary goal of the survey was to gather statistics and specifics that demonstrate graduates’ “return on investment” and how an MC education prepares its students for careers. Staff members in the College’s Marketing and Communications Office had identified the need to share such information and alumni stories on the College’s recently redesigned website and in other recruitment publications.

“We were pleased with the amount of information alumni provided to us, and we are so appreciative of the time these people took to answer our questions,” Henry said. “More than 300 of these young alumni sent us additional feedback in the ‘Comment’ section of the survey. And we read everything from details about individuals’ career advancement to suggestions for how testing could be improved at the College.

“It was all very, very helpful,” Henry said, adding that responses have been shared with division chairpersons, other faculty members and MC President Dr. Tom Bogart.

Employment rates healthy

Of survey participants, 78.6 percent reported that they were employed full time, 8.9 percent reported part-time employment, and another 12.5 indicated full-time graduate-school enrollment or “other.”

Responses came from 36 states, the District of Columbia and nine foreign countries. Henry said MC’s young alumni are working in a myriad of industry sectors – from supply chain operations at IBM to law enforcement in Alaska’s Denali National Park.

MC alumni pursue advanced degrees

Of survey participants, nearly 60 percent (59.3) indicated that they had either completed an advanced degree or were pursuing an advanced degree. The majority (68 percent) were master’s degrees, and approximately 18 percent had earned or were studying for a doctorate degree. Another 14 percent reported having finished or completed law, medical, veterinary medicine, dental or education specialist degrees.

Of those who had enrolled in a graduate school or medical school program, 97.9 percent said that the College prepared them “very well” or “well” for advanced study.

“Since joining the Maryville College faculty in 1998, I have known that the College’s liberal arts curriculumundergraduate research requirements and rigorous curricula in the majors prepared students well for graduate school, but to see that nearly 98 percent of respondents reported that the College prepared them ‘very well’ or ‘well’ was incredibly validating of our work,” Wells said. “I was also impressed by the percentage of alumni who had completed an advanced degree or were completing one — more than 59 percent. As a dean, I am very proud that so many are continuing their education.”           

The survey allowed alumni to write comments or explain their responses more fully. Many who had gone on to graduate school cited faculty support and a core curriculum that stressed written and oral communication as reasons for success.

Robby Bates ’08 went on to earn his law degree and is now practicing in Kingsport, Tenn. The political science major wrote that he was surprised at the advantage his undergraduate education gave him.

“When I started at Maryville College, I was told that graduate school would be easy compared to MC. I didn't think there was any way this could be true. To my surprise, it was 100 percent spot on,” Bates wrote in the survey. “If you can be successful with the rigors of Maryville College, you will be more than prepared for the next level of your education.”    

Rachael Garza ‘03, who is now teaching English as a Second Language in Morristown, Tenn., wrote that she vividly remembers her first day in graduate school.

“We went over the syllabus, and the end-of-term paper was 5-10 pages. Everyone else freaked out about how long it was, and the teacher changed it for them to a 3-5 page paper. I'd just finished a THESIS at MC, so I thought everyone was crazy. I could have done that 10-page end-of-term paper by the next day if I'd needed to. I'll never forget that. That's when I knew MC had been something special.”

After finishing majors in Spanish and International Studies at MC, Erin Cawthorn Gomez ’12 is now pursuing a law degree at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. She summed up her preparation in two sentences: “I'm holding my own with the Ivy League kids here! Way to go MC!”

Skills acquired at MC help in workforce

The survey also included questions designed to measure the importance of six emphases and characteristics of the Maryville College experience on alumni careers.

In terms of skills emphasized at the College that were considered “very important” to their career, the young alumni ranked written communication at the top, followed by analytical thinking and oral communication.

“I have become well respected in my career as a thought leader and superb writer/editor compared to my peers. This advantage has helped me sustain work and be a valuable resource for my team. Maryville College equipped me in those skills, still applied to this day,” wrote Brooklyn White ’99, a writing communications major who is now a product marketing manager for SunGard Financial Systems.

More than half of respondents said the Senior Study, Maryville College’s unique two-semester research and writing project that is guided by a faculty supervisor, was “very important” to their career success, while another 32 percent said it was “important.”

More than 88 percent of survey participants reported that faculty mentoring was “very important” or “important” in their success.

“I am very thankful for all of the faculty who took time to individually help me and create a relationship with me – it was imperative to my success. And as a medical student, I am especially appreciative for the Natural Science faculty who pushed me to do better and learn more,” wrote biology major Jason Johnson ’12, who is now studying at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center.

Nearly 96 percent of young alumni said the overall preparation they received from the College was “very important” or “important” to their career success.

Jessica Burse Todd ’09, a biochemistry major who is now practicing dentistry in Charlottesville, Va., described her alma mater as “the whole package.”

“Excellent academic training, amazing community and skilled mentoring provide an invaluable experience that helps prepare you for grad school and beyond,” she wrote in the survey. “I wouldn’t trade my MC experience for anything.”

Would choose MC again, recommend it to others

When asked if they would choose Maryville College for their undergraduate degree/experience again, a little more than 93 percent answered “absolutely” or “likely.” And in a related question, nearly 95 percent of respondents said they were “very likely” or “likely” to recommend Maryville College to prospective students.

Wells said those statistics were powerful.

“In a day and time when our students and their families are rightfully asking the question ‘Is a Maryville College education worth the cost?,’ I’m pleased that we have this data to show that there is, indeed, a high return on investment,” she said. “When a significant number of young alumni say that they would ‘absolutely’ or ‘likely’ choose Maryville College again for their undergraduate experience, that’s a compelling endorsement.”

Written by Karen Beaty Eldridge '94, Executive Director for Marketing & Communications


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2017 semester is 1,181.