Christina Culbreath, a student in the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s new Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Leadership (BAS-AL) program, initially moved to town to further her career. She had no idea that obtaining a bachelor’s degree would become part of that relocation.
In 2016, Culbreath accepted a job opportunity as a revenue cycle team lead with Erlanger Health System, moving with her three sons—twins Jaden and Jasen and their younger brother, Jacob—from Pascagoula, Mississippi.
“My twins are currently seniors and we’ve been looking at different colleges,” Culbreath says. “There’s a lot of information coming in, and it’s been fun to visit campuses and all that comes with the college search.”
The twins are both potential UTC students and have started the application process. In researching the institution with them, she discovered the BAS-AL online program.
“I saw that UTC had this leadership program that—as a single, working parent—gives me the flexibility I need to participate,” says Culbreath, who received an associate’s degree from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in 2010. “I began thinking along those same lines of, ‘Hey, I could finish school as well.’
“As long as I’m encouraging my older two that college would be a great opportunity, this also is a great opportunity for me to accomplish a personal goal.”
Working remotely thanks to COVID-19, she now finds herself juggling multiple application teams for work and numerous schedules for her sons while pursuing an undergraduate degree.
After nearly a dozen years in the working world, Culbreath returned to the classroom in 2022 as an online student. She says getting back to class, even in a virtual setting, “was weird in a good way.
“It was weird getting started, saying, ‘Hey, I have homework. Hey, I have to look over this material. Hey, I have a discussion to go post to.’”
Taking one online course at a time, she will need a couple of years to finish the program’s requirements.
“I thought that in this manager role that I’m in, with me having these different conversations with leadership, this would be a great path for me to help improve my leadership skills, to grow a little more and have that advancement, and then also obtain my degree at the same time,” she says.
“There’s a personal goal I’ve set for myself of just taking it one step at a time. Hopefully, before I know it, those two years will fly by.”
Her return to school coincides neatly with the start of her twins’ college careers. Jasen will be going to Middle Tennessee State University in the fall while Jaden is headed to Chattanooga State Community College.
“They’re proud and they’re glad that I’m pursuing it and I’m doing it,” Culbreath says. “They’ve been encouraging.”