Addis, longtime staff member, completes bachelor’s degree

Addis, longtime staff member, completes bachelor’s degree

May 9, 2019

Most Maryville College students know Yosef Addis ’19 as a friendly campus security officer. He’s always happy to chat with students, offer help or just give a friendly smile and wave. Addis has been a part of the Maryville College community since the ‘90s; however, many may not know that, for several of those years, Addis was also an MC student.

Addis, originally from Ethiopia, first came to the U.S. in 1986 for open heart surgery. He was 13 at the time and received his medical care in Madison, Wis. Previous to his surgery, Addis had met a woman from Knoxville named Jean LaForest while she visited Ethiopia.

After being contacted by Addis’s host family in Wisconsin, LaForest offered to have him stay with her in Knoxville while he recovered. Addis visited, intending to stay for a little while before turning home; however, LaForest was an English as a second language (ESL) teacher and arranged for Addis to learn English before returning home.

Addis took classes at the local high school and ended up staying with LaForest and her family for his entire high school education. LaForest later took a job as administrator of Maryville College’s Public School ESL program, which opened up an opportunity for Addis to attend the College after he graduated from high school.

Addis first began as a student at Maryville College in 1992, declaring a political science major. As a student, he worked part time as a security officer, played soccer and participated in several clubs and organizations on campus.

Despite taking classes for several years, Addis never obtained his degree from Maryville College. He did, however, go on to obtain a certificate in supervision from Pellissippi State Community College.

In 1998, he met Leslie Boling through an MC friend, and they married in 1999. That year, he also began working as a full-time security officer at the College, and as many past and current students know, he has been working there since. During this time, Addis has concentrated on his work and family. He became a U.S. citizen in 2005, when daughter Anna was 2 and son Michael was 4 months old.

But in 2018, Addis decided it was finally time to complete that degree he’d set out for years ago, so he began taking classes at both Pellissippi and Maryville College.

“This was not an easy decision to make, but I had several people from the College, my family and friends encouraging me to go back to school,” Addis said. “I had to juggle classes and working at three different jobs.”

(In addition to his job as a security officer at MC, Addis works part-time event security at the Clayton Center for the Arts and at RT Lodge.)

Between work, school and his family, Addis became accustomed to less sleep. He’d often email professors assignments in the wee hours of the morning because he had stayed up all night to finish them.

“There were times that I had to attend classes at Maryville College, study for the online courses at Pellissippi and work with only two to three hours of sleep at night,” Addis said.

Dr. Mardi Craig, associate academic dean and associate professor of education, worked closely with Addis during his time as a student. To her, he stood out as a student because of his dedication to the College, its students, faculty and staff.

“He has tremendous respect for his fellow students,” Craig said. “I think that he can relate to their struggles and be a role model for success. He counsels students though his relationships with them, and I believe that he can help each grow toward maturity based on his own journey.”

Craig knew the many obstacles Addis faced while pursuing his degree but never saw it get him down. She said he always took full responsibility for overcoming obstacles.

“He had to sleep less and rest less and work more hours,” Craig said. “I know that he thanked his family for their support during this time.”

In December 2018, Addis obtained an associate’s degree from Pellissippi. This spring, he continued to take classes at MC and complete graduation requirements like the Senior Study and comprehensive exams.

Craig served as Addis’s Senior Study advisor and recommended he focus on campus crime due to his background in campus security. Addis hypothesized that there were higher crime rates at larger colleges and set out to research whether this was true.

He randomly selected five large, medium and small institutions from 13 southeastern states to study. Then he gathered and analyzed the crime stats for rape, burglary, assault and robbery from databases for the past three years. Craig estimated that he collected and analyzed 2,000 data points for his study.

“Surprisingly, he found that larger schools did not have more crime – instead, smaller schools report more crime per 1,000 students,” Craig said. “However, we do think that the results were a reflection of better reporting by smaller schools.”

Walking across the Nita Eckles West Stage in the Clayton Center to receive his diploma during Commencement on May 4, Addis received a standing ovation from classmates, faculty, staff and administrators. They recognized Addis’s incredible accomplishment earned years after he first began his college career.

“The hours studying, typing papers, taking tests and researching information for my coursework was worth it!,” Addis remarked. “Now, I can concentrate on my career and family.”

Addis is excited to have a degree that will contribute to his future. He knows that a college degree will be instrumental should he want to progress in his career.

“Having a college degree is crucial in order to be considered for a job, and I wanted to be able to be considered for positions that require a degree,” Addis said. “I had many different conversations with non-traditional students like me who helped me realize the importance of finishing this degree now.”

Addis plans to remain a part of the MC community and soon, he’ll be preparing to send his own children to college.

Craig is happy to have people like him on the staff at MC.

“To me, Yosef is the very great representation of the folks who make the college a special place for our students,” she said.

In her final year at the College before retiring, Craig said she feels proud to have worked closely with Addis.

“This is my last year at the College, and I am so honored to have helped facilitate his [Addis’s] success,” Craig said. “He is a reflection of what it means to be a lifelong learner.”

Written by Evy Linkous '16 for Maryville College


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 2019 semester is 1,148.