Alumni Success Stories
Thank you for everything you do to make getting an education at Martin Methodist College possible for our students. You are changing lives, and we want you to fully understand the good you do in the lives of our students. Therefore, we are going to periodically introduce you to an MMC alumnus/alumna and tell his or her story.
From Non-Traditional College Student to Teacher of the County
On one wall of Natasha McFall’s Mt. Pleasant High School classroom, taking just three lines toward the top in alternating pink and blue colors, reads one simple yet immeasurably powerful message: “We Love You, We Believe In You, We Absolutely Know You Will Be Successful.”
Success, for Natasha, wasn’t what many would say was the typical type. It wasn’t the type that involves attending college right after high school that so many know and experience. Success, for Natasha, was balance and perseverance, grit and determination, struggle and reward.
Natasha was a single mother of three young children, Gabrielle, Jonas, and Luke, when she decided to make a career move. Having previously been a restaurant manager then dipping her toes into the education field as an assistant for Pre-K at Pulaski Elementary, she decided to take the leap and be the first in her family to expand her education to the college level and pursue an education licensure at Martin Methodist College.
“I started at Martin because I needed to go somewhere close by,” said Natasha. “My home was in Pulaski, and I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
As a non-traditional college student with no family nearby, Natasha had no choice but to bring her three children into class with her; however, while many places may balk at the idea of kids in the room, Martin didn’t so much as bat an eye when she stepped into class with her three children in tow because this wasn’t an unusual occurrence to the Martin professors. They believe every single person, no matter the situation, deserves a chance at a college education.
As Natasha progressed in her studies with support from her teachers and moved from night classes to day classes, she had to leave her job with Pulaski Elementary, and because of it, she took on a handful of varying part-time jobs to support her family while she worked toward her degree. Having been everything from a florist, personal trainer, assistant to an eye doctor, and a bartender, Natasha did it all, yet never once did her education slip behind her ever-moving path of life.
In 2013, Natasha graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English with Licensure; however, her diploma was more than just a sheet of paper that documented her degree in a few simple words. It was a physical example, a concrete achievement, of all that she conquered as a non-traditional college student. While her experience differed from many, she still received the same support and compassion that all Martin students receive when working toward their big graduation day.
“I loved and learned from my professors,” said Natasha. “I had a great experience at Martin.”
With her new degree in hand, Natasha took her diploma and jumped into her new career. After teaching at a couple of different schools, she found her new home with Mt. Pleasant High School as an English, Content Reading, and Journalism teacher in 2016.
In the short time that she’s been there, she’s taken on many leadership roles including student council advisor, assistant women’s basketball coach for one year, and yearbook advisor, yet while the activities keep her plenty busy, she still excels within the classroom.
Her classroom atmosphere is comfortable, with many signs of encouragement decorating the walls and bulletin boards, and she has an exercise bike that she allows students to alternate using during class. She teaches her students the importance of fitness and literacy, and she explains to them that success and failure go hand-in-hand, that both are necessary. She’s taken note to be a reflective teacher from her student teaching days during her time at Martin, assessing what classroom activities work and don’t work in an effective manner, and she exhibits calm yet controlled classroom management, showing that while she is the teacher, she is also a friend and supporter to these growing minds who look up to her.
“I try really hard to make my students feel like they can do anything,” said Natasha.
Her success within the close-knit Mt. Pleasant High School did not go unnoticed by her peers for she was nominated as the Teacher of the Year for the 2017-2018 academic year, and while she was praised as a successful educator within the school, her community outreach also took her all the way to Teacher of the County.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Natasha. “I never dreamed that not even two years in and being, kind of, the odd man out because I’m not from Mt. Pleasant that I would receive these honors.”
Natasha’s journey to success was one filled with bumps and curves, twists and turns, yet she made it out on top. While there may have been times in her journey that she felt she wouldn’t succeed, she did, and now she reminds her students daily that they, too, can succeed no matter what with her one simple yet immeasurably powerful message: “We Love You, We Believe In You, We Absolutely Know You Will Be Successful.”
A Tale of Two Martins
“Often times, it’s the college or university that chooses you, and Martin just felt right at home. It’s just a place where I could be comfortable but not comfortable enough. It’s a place that pushed me, but it’s also a place that felt like home… that felt like peace.” – Zach Moffatt ‘15
For Bob Lewis, Martin College was a small, two-year institution. It was a time where students could cheer on the Martin Indians during basketball games in the gym located at the center of campus. It was a time to lie at the top of Reservoir Hill and contemplate all that life has to offer. It was a time of fear and mourning when Martin Hall was taken down by a roaring fire, but it was also a time of determination, regrowth, and faith.
For Bob’s grandson Zach Moffatt, Martin Methodist College was a four-year institution. It was a time to support the Martin Methodist RedHawks at the gym in the new Curry Christian Life Center or attend a choir concert where the gym once sat in the new Gault Fine Arts building. It was a time to lay in a hammock tied to trees that frame one side of the Campus Green or a time to see a movie in the Martin Hall Theater. It was a time of friendship and new beginnings.
But for both, Martin was family, and their Martin stories, despite being almost 60 years apart, run parallel to one another.
In high school, Bob was, what he considered, an average student, making B’s and C’s. Yet despite being told he wasn’t smart enough to attend college and despite being well into his senior year and not knowing what he wanted to do, he still went with his pastor and a few others to visit Martin College when his pastor proposed the idea.
“I sort of liked it,” said Bob. “But then the dean of students stopped by to talk to us, and he could talk Martin up like it was the Garden of Eden. I signed up to attend that day.”
“It was there I met my best friends,” Bob added. He first met Garie Taylor during a game of touch football. “I thought he was a smart aleck,” said Bob. “He put me on my behind in football; I was so mad at him.” But after meeting Garie at church and being put in the same group as him, he quickly realized that Garie was a good guy. He and Garie met Ben Alford along the way, and the three became, what the campus referred to them as, the “Three Musketeers.”
While his friendships were sky-rocketing, his grades were also reflecting the support from his teachers through consistent A’s and B’s. He was excelling socially and academically, and in doing so, he also discovered his true calling.
“I remember young Sam Dawson with the flat top and the sport coat and the white buck shoes,” said Bob, referring to a minister who often preached on campus. “His services fit the social issues of the day, and he came on campus a lot. Seeing him… that’s when I decided I would go into ministry.”
As a 1956 graduate, Bob wasn’t ready to leave. He kept going back to Martin because it was a home to him, but he was eventually encouraged to turn to the next chapter in his journey and attend divinity school. That journey grew in size until he found himself with a family of his own and preaching as an established minister. Through his journey, he still kept contact with Garie and Ben—the two becoming so close to Bob’s family that Bob’s grandson Zach didn’t know Garie and Ben weren’t his uncles until he was ten.
Zach often heard his granddad, Garie, and Ben reminisce about Martin, and these stories of a college so close-knit and personal intrigued Zach to check it out. Several years before Zach would be ready to go to college, he and Bob took a visit to Martin, and when they arrived, they were greeted by Dr. Ted Brown, the president of the college at the time. Dr. Brown went with Zach and Bob on a tour of the campus and even took them to eat after.
“That was the day I decided I was going to attend Martin Methodist,” said Zach. “I didn’t look at any other colleges.”
After winning the Church Leadership Scholarship, Zach began his own journey at Martin Methodist College, already knowing that he wanted to pursue ministry thanks to the exposure he got during his childhood because of his granddad.
“At Martin, my world view was broadened,” said Zach. “My professors challenged me and pushed me, but they were also very gentle and caring. All of the professors at Martin, I think, view it as their calling to not only teach, but to also foster an atmosphere of nurture and love.”
Similar to his granddad, Zach excelled in his studies while he made lifelong friends and even met the love of his life on the first day of college. “My wife Kara and I are both indebted to Martin because it brought us together, and it helped us grow, learn, and deepen our faith,” said Zach.
Now, after graduating from Candler School of Theology and being freshly-appointed as minister at Adams United Methodist Church in Adams, TN, Zach and his family are following in his granddad’s footsteps.
Zach and Bob share a Martin Connection. While there’s a generational gap stretching almost 60 years apart, their two Martin stories show that whether it was 1956 Martin College or 2015 Martin Methodist College, Martin was, and still is, a second home to them.
Spreading Her Wings Close to Home
Laura Morefield had carefully constructed a clear path to her future—graduate high school and attend college. There were no forks in her road, no speed bumps. Her path was set and straightforward. When it came time to move down her path to college after she graduated from Gateway Christian Schools in Memphis, Tenn., she wanted to find an institution that was out of town so she could grow up and explore the world on her own. However, Martin Methodist had other plans for her in the form of a full-ride scholarship.
Unable to decline such a tremendous offer, Laura accepted, and her straightforward path was suddenly jagged, branching out in all different directions. However, she pushed forward and prepared to explore the world a little closer to her home in Lewisburg, Tenn. than originally planned.
“Once I got to Martin Methodist, I absolutely loved it,” said Laura. “I realized that at a bigger school, I wouldn’t really be me—I would just be a name or number on a roster. My degree program was challenging me academically to be the best version of myself. Through the guidance of my advisor and professors, I was able to discover my calling. I believe that my professors truly prepared me for my current career and were there every step of my academic career.”
After she earned her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education with an emphasis in Fitness Management in 2009, Laura began working for Martin Methodist because she wanted to impact others the way Martin Methodist impacted her. She served as faculty secretary while she worked to complete her master’s from Tennessee Tech University. With support from her family, friends, and colleagues, she earned her Master of Arts in Exercise Science, Physical Education, and Wellness with an emphasis in Lifetime Wellness in 2012. With two degrees now under her belt, Laura became a full-time faculty member, and later, Program Coordinator for Human Performance and Physical Education.
“I love interacting with students and seeing the ‘ah-ha’ moments when they finally grasp certain concepts,” said Laura. “The Martin Methodist family has been a blessing in my life, and I want to be a part of that, not just on campus, but in the community as well.”
While currently taking on many roles on campus, Laura is also branching out all across the local community. She participates in many community events, including volunteer work for the Giles County Special Olympics. She also serves on the Board at Tennessee by the Tennessee Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (TAHPERD) as the VP elect for the general division, where she was recently recognized as an outstanding professional in TAHPERD.
Despite having her path changed in ways she’s never imagined, Laura took on every challenge that came at every turn and every bend, proving that experience and success can come from every corner of the world.
“Martin Methodist felt like home.” – Zach Kinslow
Whether it was George Washington, James K. Polk, or Theodore Roosevelt, Zacharie “Zach” Kinslow, one of Martin Methodist College’s alumni heroes, has studied them all. From a young age, Zach had a passion for history, and he followed this budding passion all the way to Columbia State Community College, where he earned his associate’s degree in history. From there, Zach had to figure out the next step in his education while he worked at his new job at the President James K. Polk Home and Museum in Columbia, Tenn. After a recommendation to try out Martin Methodist from a friend who was a current student, Zach made the call and set up a tour.
“From my very first impression of Martin Methodist, I noticed that it felt safe,” said Zach. “It felt like home. It reminded me of the small town I grew up in, and I was really excited to start working toward my bachelor’s degree there.”
Once starting school at Martin Methodist, Zach took his passion for history and ran with it. He jumped into his studies, and with the help of his history classes and his work at the Polk Home, he began in-depth research over a Polk family slave named Elias Polk. Zach quickly learned there was not much known about Elias Polk, so he dove deeper into his research to uncover hidden details and shine light on this extraordinary individual.
“In the course of my research, I had found that Elias was buried in the Nashville City Cemetery, and through work with the cemetery’s organization, we were able to create headstones for not only Elias Polk, but also his wife Mary and Matilda Polk, another Polk slave,” said Zach. “I was given the amazing opportunity to write the epitaphs for these three and speak at the headstone presentation ceremony.”
It wasn’t long after the headstone ceremony when Zach reached out to the White House Historical Association regarding a Facebook post they made about Elias Polk. Through a series of exchanges, Zach ended up having his article, “Enslaved and Entrenched: The Complex Life of Elias Polk,” published on the White House Historical Association’s website.
As a current graduate student at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., Zach credits much of his success to Martin Methodist. “Martin Methodist was really the first place to see my Elias Polk article because I originally wrote it as a paper and presented it at the Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference,” said Zach. “I ended up taking first place, and after the presentation, I was approached by a panel commentator from Austin Peay and asked about my thoughts of graduate school. So in a roundabout way, Martin Methodist and the history department guided me to my graduate school position at Austin Peay.”
While currently attending graduate school, Zach is still working at the Polk Home. He serves as a docent, giving informational tours to guests, and he’s played a role in the creation and fabrication of the exhibit “A Delicate Game to Play.” He has also taken over as coordinator of the Polk’s America Lecture Series.
Following a Nursing Dream
“The Martin Methodist nursing professors taught me what it truly means to be a nurse.”—Randi McElhaney
Randi McElhaney, one of Martin Methodist College’s alumni heroes, painted an image of herself as a nurse when she was young, and this image stayed with her and influenced her choice when it came time to select a college to call home. She wanted to attend an institution that mirrored the small, personal atmosphere she had grown accustomed to after graduating from a small high school, and she wanted a place where she could pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
Martin Methodist College was the answer for Randi because it was close to her home, offered numerous scholarships opportunities, had classrooms of a comfortable 20 to 30 students, and serves as the only baccalaureate nursing program in southcentral Tennessee. “The location and size of the college and town made Martin Methodist the perfect fit for me,” said Randi. “I was able to gain independence while not becoming overwhelmed or homesick.”
As a student, Randi excelled, and she credited her success to the faculty and staff members who helped her flourish. “In high school, teachers will tell you about how strict and distant college professors are,” said Randi. “However, that was not the case at Martin Methodist. The professors are kind, understanding and willing to go above and beyond to help you succeed. I truly believe that the faculty value their students’ education and overall success.”
In her nursing classes, Randi was taught by a tight-knit group of faculty members who equally value compassion and precision. “The nursing faculty empowered me to learn how to succeed both as a student and as a nurse,” said Randi. “Their roles are to facilitate learning and ensure our future patients receive exceptional care. I truly feel they prepared me to be the best nurse possible.”
After receiving the Faces of Nursing award for highest GPA among the senior nursing students and graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2016, Randi began work at Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia, Tenn., where she serves full-time as an RN in the emergency department. She was also 1 out of 14 students accepted into the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. While excelling in her nursing career, Randi still wishes to keep a strong relationship with Martin Methodist. She wants to offer her full support toward the nursing program as it continues to grow and prosper.
The nursing program at Martin Methodist College continues to produce quality nurses who are serving in their local communities in Tennessee as well as in other states.
From Small Town Boy to Big Town Success
If not for Martin Methodist, I would not be where I am today. –Brandon Baker
Brandon Baker is originally from Asbury, AL, and he is one of Martin Methodist College’s alumni heroes. He always knew he wanted to go to college, but his family questioned whether a four-year institution was in their budget at the time when Brandon was looking at college options.
Therefore, when he learned about the Church Leadership Scholarship (aka Alford Scholarship) at MMC, he went for it and won the competition, receiving a full-ride scholarship to Martin Methodist.
‘That was a life changing moment for me because it allowed me to attend a four-year institution, and I quickly realized Martin Methodist was simply where I was supposed to be. It was my home for the next four years,” said Brandon.
“I flourished at MMC. The academic rigor was excellent, but my experience there was much bigger than the knowledge I gained in the classroom. I grew as a person and as a leader. The success I have had in my career is a direct result of my Martin experience. I had mentors at MMC who saw talent in me and encouraged me to develop my leadership skills. I thought my path in life was to enter the medical field, but because of my Martin experience, I realized my talent was in helping other people achieve their own goals. I learned that my true calling was to work with philanthropists to help provide opportunities for students to attend college, to create a better life for not only themselves, but their families and the world around them.”
After graduating from MMC in 2006, Brandon moved to New York City and attended New York University (NYU) where he received his master’s degree in Higher Education Administration. During his graduate program, he was offered an internship in the office of external relations at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. Those experiences and opportunities at Columbia and NYU propelled him to where he is today, at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as the assistant dean of external affairs at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. At this point in his career, Brandon has raised over $100M to support financial aid for students, research for innovative technologies and new buildings for research and teaching.
Brandon concluded, “I am proud to be a Martin Methodist College RedHawk! The campus will always hold a special place in my heart. The friends I made and the experiences I had in and out of the classroom shaped me into the person I am today.”
Loving Life Because of MMC
Kenzie Herd knew she would be the first person in her family to graduate from college—that was never a question in her mind. When she graduated from Giles County High School in 2011, she already had all the details worked out to go to school in Knoxville. However, Kenzie started really analyzing the financial commitment of college and decided to take a look at Martin Methodist College (MMC).
“I honestly thought I couldn’t afford MMC,” said Kenzie. “But when I was told about all the scholarships I could get, the decision to stay at home in Pulaski was simple.”
Just a few days before leaving Pulaski, Kenzie canceled everything in Knoxville and didn’t look back. “I would make the same decision again if I had to do it all over. MMC was where I needed to be. My teachers were wonderful, always willing to lend a helping hand to ensure my success. I would never have gotten that kind of personal attention at a larger school,” Kenzie explained.
Attending MMC changed Kenzie’s life in ways she never imagined. The internship she had with Magneti Marelli through MMC turned into a full-time job after she graduated in 2015, and she has gone from small town girl to world traveler as a buyer with the international car parts manufacturing company.
I love my job, and I love MMC! I feel like I’m living a dream, and I am where I am because of MMC.
I want to thank all the generous people who provide resources for the scholarships that make an education at MMC affordable for everyone.
Kenzie has returned to MMC and is currently enrolled in the MBA Program.
Recommend an Aluma/Alumnus
To recommend an MMC alumna or alumnus for a feature story, contact Sissy Garner at 363-9815 or at email@example.com.