Grad schools, jobs, service: The Class of 2017 looks ahead

Grad schools, jobs, service: The Class of 2017 looks ahead

Members of Maryville College’s Class of 2017 are moving on to the next phase of life. For some, that means graduate school; for others, its means careers that they’ve spent years preparing for. Some will stay in Tennessee, most will stay in the United States, and some will move abroad.

Below are descriptions of what that “next phase” looks like for 10 of Maryville College’s newest alumni. 

Sarah Feely ’17 is headed to the Washington, D.C. area to begin a one-year fellowship with Samaritan Ministry.

“This organization provides support to the hundreds of homeless in the greater D.C. area,” said the Chattanooga, Tenn., native. “I will be a case worker with the organization and be able to acquire new skills and apply the ones I learned through Maryville.”

Feely said internships with the Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center and Smoky Mountain Animal Care were good preparation for non-profit work. Majoring in psychology and minoring in political science, she said she has the education and skills for the position as case worker.

“I am excited to begin my life after Maryville College and see the benefits of my liberal arts education,” she said.

Carter Habeeb, who double-majored in international studies and religion and minored in political science, will continue his education at American University in Washington, D.C., where he will work toward a master’s degree in international education.

International education is something the Birmingham, Ala., native has seen up close. While at Maryville, Habeeb took advantage of travel-study opportunities in India, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. He served as a peer mentor to MC’s international students.

“My goal is to work in the field of study abroad and to help with exchange student programming. While at American, I hope to be working closely with a professor doing research on a new book about Middle Eastern education systems. I have received a significant scholarship for my program.”

He credits Maryville College faculty with helping prepare him for graduate school and for helping him stand out among other applicants.

“I was told that the biggest reason I was accepted to my grad school program was because of my letters of recommendation,” he said. “I am so thankful for the Maryville College experience that has allowed me to grow so closely to the faculty.”

Marie Harp began her job as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher with Knox County (Tenn.) Schools 10 days before graduating.

The Army veteran said she chose the College’s ESL-Teaching major because she understands what it’s like to live in a country and not know the native language.

“Additionally, I want to help empower underserved students to achieve their innate greatness,” she said.

Harp completed her student teaching in Knox County, which she believes gave her an advantage when applying for jobs there. Next year, she expects to be working with students at Bearden and Farragut high schools.

“Maryville College – and each professor I had here – gave me the skills to ace my Praxis tests and rock in my classrooms,” she said. “Mock interviews definitely helped me feel confident and prepared for the rigors of job searching.”

Knoxville native Halle Hill is spending her summer in Boston, Mass., working as a program coordinator for the Boston College Experience, a pre-college program that allows high school students the opportunity to visit major New England universities and take college courses for credit.

In the fall, she’ll relocate to Georgia to enroll at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) for an MFA in non-fiction writing.

“I received four institutional scholarships based on merit, my portfolio and various scholarship essays,” she said. “Being a religious studies major, I felt prepared and confident in my abilities to apply to graduate school. Through influence and guidance of professors like [Professor of Philosophy] Bill Meyer, [Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion] Andrew Irvine and [Lecturer in English] Christina Seymour, I have been challenged to be excellent and learn truly what discipline and diligence are.”

Hill credits the Career Center, as well, for helping with the next phase.

“During my Maryville College years, I met with [Director of Career Services] Christy McDonald countless times and through her guidance and the services of the Career Center, I secured two internships, a summer job at Boston College and acceptance into SCAD.  Maryville College granted me opportunities of great value and I will be forever grateful.”

Management major Sam Jokerst has accepted a job offer with Shaw Industries based in Dalton, Ga.

“I will be in their sales training program for 12 weeks and then will be sent out to be a territorial manager for the residential side of sales for Shaw,” said Jokerst, who is from Atlanta, Ga. “I decided to start a career with Shaw because they care about their employees, it has a wonderful working atmosphere and a great career path. I also love working with people, which of course correlates directly with sales.”

Jokerst, who played baseball for the Scots, said the College’s small, close-knit community helped him meet and form relationships with people of different backgrounds and perspectives, which are experiences he expects will help him in sales. 

“MC expanded my ways of thinking and also exposed me to working with all types of people, meaning I was not only working with baseball players with views like myself,” he said. “I also knew I could always go to professors and the Career Center whenever I had questions. They were a great source to go to whenever I was stressing about anything going on in my daily life. MC is special to me because everyone here wants to see you thrive!” 

In 2016, management major Hunter Parrish landed a summer internship with Syngenta Crop Protection, a global Swiss agribusiness that produces agrochemicals and seeds. The internship required him to monitor the development of various pre-market watermelon varieties and collect data from watermelon crops grown on farms from South Florida to Indiana. The experience, along with his coursework at MC, helped him stand out from other applicants when he applied for the master of science program in agribusiness at the University of Florida’s Department of Food and Resource Economics.

The Trenton, Fla., resident will enroll at UF this fall and continue his work with Syngenta.

“Being a liberal arts college, Maryville College has helped prepare me for this next step in continuing my education by offering me a well-rounded education,” he said. “The teachers and staff here at Maryville have always gone above and beyond to ensure that we, as students, can apply what we have learned to the real world, which will become a major asset for us as we begin to enter into the workforce.”

Mathematics major Grace Puryear will continue her education at the University of Tennessee, where she’ll begin a graduate program in business analytics. She was also offered a teaching assistantship.

Puryear, who came to MC from Gallatin, Tenn., said she first learned about the field of business analytics during an internship with Great West Casualty in the summer of 2016. That, along with the College’s challenging coursework in math and statistics, has prepared her for the next step, she said.

“I chose to pursue this program because of all the opportunities it brings,” Puryear explained. “It's the perfect combination of math, statistics and business.

“It's also a growing field with a great job outlook,” she added. “UT has one of the best business analytics programs in the country. I'm super excited for these next couple of years.”

Finance/Accounting major Josh Ramsey will enroll in Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management this fall to begin work on a master of accountancy degree.

“I chose this program because it comes with a job after graduation at one of the Big Four accounting firms, it is a one-year program, it includes coursework to get my CPA designation, and it is in Nashville,” he said. “I also love accounting. I love the idea of protecting the public by ensuring that companies are not corrupt and misusing funds.”

Ramsey, a native of Sevier County, Tenn., spent the summer of 2016 working as an intern in the finance department for the city of Sevierville, Tenn. His responsibilities included writing the internal control manual for the entire city.

“Maryville College helped me by greatly honing my critical thinking skills and overall competence. [Associate Professor of Accounting] Rebecca Treadway was instrumental in helping me learn about accounting, the Big Four accounting firms, and being a CPA,” he said. 

In the upcoming school year, Nick Starkey will begin teaching fifth grade at Clayton-Bradley STEM Academy in Maryville.

“Clayton-Bradley runs an amazing STEM- focused curriculum,” he said. “Their students learn the skills necessary to be not only leaders, but innovators in the 21st century.”

Starkey, a native of Fort Worth, Tex., majored in child development and learning with teacher licensure. He did student-teaching at Clayton-Bradley, but he also credits the Career Center with preparing him for the job search.

“It is a competitive and tight market for teachers in the Knoxville/ Maryville area, but with my time spent on resume building, interview tips, and contact advice, I was able to begin my career at a place that excels and develops the very best talent,” he said. “Maryville College Works is a vital link to get a huge head start on your career, because a good jump start from [Career Services Director] Christy McDonald is as good as 10 years’ experience.”

Alex Velez began work with the Oak Ridge Police Department the day after graduation. He was recruited months ago to join the department’s SWAT team and act as the department’s ambassador to the Hispanic community.

Velez, a psychology major, transferred to Maryville College in January 2015 with credits from community colleges and years spent in the Marine Corps. A deputy with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office at the time, he already was decided on a career in law enforcement.

Now, he plans to move on to a federal law enforcement position within the year. He also hopes to begin a graduate program in social work and eventually help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“The faculty and staff of Maryville College have been more than supportive in my journey. They have made the entire process from beginning to end as smooth as possible. I've genuinely enjoyed the relationships I've made with my professors,” he said. “Their guidance has pushed me down the course I need to be on, and I couldn't be more grateful.”


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 2016 semester is 1,197.