Within the past few semesters, several graduates of Clayton State University’s School of Graduate Studies
have found themselves in a transition from student to faculty at Clayton State. The college now has seven faculty members that were once participants in Clayton State’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) English and Mathematics graduate programs, as well as a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies graduate.
Three of the recent graduates graduated from the Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics program; James Kirksey, Aaron Rafter and Jennifer Harris now teach within the Clayton State Mathematics Department. Kelley Gladden, Daniel Smoak and Ryan Strader graduated from the Master of Arts in Teaching English program, while Toye Wheeler graduated from the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program, and all four of them now teach within the English Department at Clayton State.
Many of these recent graduates were initially attracted to Clayton State’s graduate programs because of the University’s location, the availability of the graduate programs in the evening, the intimate class sizes, and learning from experienced and knowledgeable professors.
Kirksey, who teaches Intermediate Algebra in the evenings, says he was drawn to Clayton’s MAT Mathematics program due to his familiarity with Clayton State, since his full time job is in Morrow.
“One of the things about the program that was good for me was everything was at night, so that was a plus since I work 40 hours a week. I looked at other programs but many required day time availability so this program was feasible,” he says.
Rafter, another MAT Mathematics graduate, teaches five math courses this semester. He agrees that the location was important in his decision since he has a family, but, he also was drawn to the small class sizes.
“I liked that the program was small and very individualized, and that the professors know me. I actually walked out of the program with a few friends instead of people I’ll never see again,” he says.
Strader, who teaches freshman English composition classes, says in reference to her attraction to Clayton’s MAT English program, “I was attracted to the MAT program because it is a flexible program that allowed me to acquire teaching credentials while also pursuing the study of literature at the graduate level. The MAT program at Clayton looked like a program that would be more balanced for someone like me, someone who wanted to study both education and literature.”
The MAT graduate programs have provided these faculty members with positive experiences at Clayton State and they didn’t hesitate at the opportunity to return to the college to teach.
Harris, who previously taught public school mathematics, now teaches several math courses within the Mathematics Department at Clayton State. She expresses that she enjoys teaching college math because she is fond of the flexibility in the curriculum.
“I like the freedom you have to teach college students. There is more flexibility in the college realm, where I can teach the method that is best for my students and me,” she says.
In some cases, a graduate student doesn’t want to leave Clayton State. Gladden, a MAT English graduate, teaches three freshmen English composition courses with the English department. When asked why she wanted to return to Clayton State to teach she replied, “I love this school so much that I didn’t want to leave it. I am so committed to Clayton State University because I owe this school for the amazing education I received here, and I wanted to give back through my teaching. It was my dream to work here, and as promised by the Clayton State motto, my dreams were made real.”
Smoak, a MAT English graduate who teaches two freshmen English composition classes, agrees that the atmosphere is contagious.
“I returned to Clayton State because I love the atmosphere, the campus, the people -- both the students and professors,” he says. “The diversity of the faculty and students here assures that I am learning all sorts of new things. I'm addicted to learning and diversity, and those with an open mind, creates a learning-rich atmosphere.”
Dr. Barbara Goodman, chair of the English Department, is thrilled that several graduates from Clayton State’s School of Graduate Studies are now faculty members and teach within her department.
“I think it’s wonderful, we are very excited when we have some of our students who have received their master’s degree here at Clayton State,” she says. “They are all doing an excellent job teaching this semester.”
The newest members of Clayton State’s faculty hope to impart knowledge and life skills into their students.
“As a faculty member, I hope to do a great job preparing my freshman to write...for the rest of their lives! Freshman composition represents the last time that many of them will be formally instructed in writing. Writing is a life skill, and it enriches one's career and interpersonal life,” points out Strader.
Clayton State’s School of Graduate Studies includes nine graduate programs. The School of Graduate Studies is in its eighth year of providing graduate programs to students and this is the fourth year for the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) English and Mathematics programs at Clayton State. Currently, there are 366 graduate students enrolled in Clayton State’s School of Graduate Studies.