The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga


Graduate Studies Celebrates 60 Years of Success

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is celebrating its 60th year of providing graduate studies for students.

UTC’s history in graduate studies has been long and successful, producing hundreds of professionals for businesses and organizations across the country, including Chattanooga, said Dr. Deborah Arfken, dean of the UTC Graduate School. Over the 60 years, economic development has flourished with the addition of master’s level professionals to the community.

Advanced education in Chattanooga originally began in the 1880s when Grant University offered advanced degrees in medicine, law and theology. The degrees were discontinued, however, in 1910 and the University of Chattanooga did not offer its first master’s degree in music until 1943. Over the years, additional master’s degrees were added. The first doctorate degree was established in 2003.

UTC currently offers 12 graduate certificate programs, 18 master’s degrees, one specialist degree, and a doctorate degree in physical therapy. Hopes to offer the University’s first Ph.D. will be realized this fall when a degree in computational engineering should be established.

“For a long while, up until the English master’s (in 1983), enrollment was mostly part-time and in the evenings,” said Dr. Jane Harbaugh, UTC’s community liaison and a long-time faculty member. “The number of master’s degrees kept growing because of the demand.”

For many organizations in Chattanooga, the new graduate options allowed them to prosper. Employees were allowed to build their careers with new degrees and provide more experience for employers. Other citizens returned to school and pursued career paths once not available to them.

At Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, administrators often rely on UTC to produce quality employees through the master’s of nursing degree and graduate concentrations in health care informatics, nurse anesthesia and nurse practitioner. In addition to those basic needs, Erlanger officials also rely on the University’s College of Business Administration to assist in producing management level employees, according to Denise Ray, Erlanger’s chief nursing officer.

“We have many individuals who did their undergraduate work at UTC and return for their master’s in business administration,” Ray said. “It is a familiar location for them. UTC helps provide the individuals we need to staff a top quality hospital.”

Kimberly Gee, executive director of business administration graduate programs, said many local residents find themselves pursuing an M.B.A. to help further their careers.

“There is a business side to everything you do,” Gee said. “That is what the M.B.A. is designed for—people who don’t have an undergraduate business degree, but need something to top their careers off.”

The addition of doctoral degrees further expands the University’s commitment to the community, Arfken said. The 1969 merger with the University of Tennessee included an agreement that the school would develop doctoral programs “as soon as it was practical.” The 35-year dream became reality in December when UTC graduated its first doctoral class. The doctorate in physical therapy, along with two other proposed doctorates, will raise the perception of the University in the region.

"Even though doctorate degrees are the newest offerings from UTC, master’s programs will continue to attract potential students," Arfken said.

“Master’s education has been called a silent success story,” she said. “For decades, doctoral study has been seen as prestigious and an important level of education. A recent study has shown that the recipients of master’s degrees are often the movers and shakers of a community. That’s been true here in Chattanooga.”