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Student Spotlight: Kristy Cunningham Combines a Passion for People and Tech

Featured student: Kristy Cunningham
Location: Cookeville, TN
Education: Bachelor’s in Management Information Systems, MBA from Tennessee Tech, will graduate Spring 2020 with an MSIS

Career: I work at Tennessee Tech, but not in the library. I am the assistant director for the Center for Career Development; I do resume reviews, career fairs, classroom presentations about interviews and resumes, and teach students about Tennessee Tech’s Handshake job database system. There are four of us in the office, for a campus of about 10,000 students, so we stay very busy.

I’ve been here 15 years, and this is my third job at Tennessee Tech. I came in as outreach and assessment coordinator for Mechanical Engineering, and then I went to IT and was a systems analyst for the Banner records and registration system. This job came open and I was interested in making a change and it’s been good one. In IT, I love the technical aspects of it, but I missed being around people, and this job is more people. But I’ve been able to use my IT skills here – I’m the liaison between IT any time we buy or bring up new software, or anytime we want new fields or data in our system.

Before Tennessee Tech, I worked in the management information systems group at Fleetguard, which is now Cummins Filtration. I was a programmer and programmer analyst, and then I was a trainer. I went from really nerdy to helping and teaching people a little bit more, which has been the pattern and it has come back full circle.

Why did you choose the information sciences?

I had thought about it when I was in IT, and I was actually at a conference for the career center, and they talked about figuring out who you want to serve and how you want to serve them. I really love higher education and feel I’m in the right population of service; but I love helping people get the information they need, and doing research, and doing something different every day. I want to help to make things easy to find, and advertise it, too.

I came back from the conference in December 2016 and filled out all the paperwork and started at SIS in January 2017. I was actually a bit scared to go back to school, I had earned my MBA in ’96, and I have a grown daughter. I’m definitely a non-traditional student!

Why UT? 

It’s in-state, it’s accredited and Tennessee Tech will pay for one class per semester – that’s why I’ve been on the slow boat! It’s affordable, and I looked at the program and liked the classes offered. Actually, there are classes I’d like to continue taking – maybe in the future, I won’t rule that out. I love to learn.

I didn’t really follow one of the pathways, I kind of did the “Oh, that looks interesting!” pathway. I did a project in collection development with the archives at Tennessee Tech and loved it. I talked about taking a practicum, and then I did a practicum, as well, this past summer. Because I work full-time, I basically burned a lot of vacation days – I worked over there half a day and came over here a half day. If people can do a practicum, I highly recommend it.

How has your experience been?

I love the program, I like to learn. It’s online and I had taken an online class several years ago, but I like the synchronous classes. You’re in class, you can ask questions of the teacher and interact with the other students and you don’t have that with asynchronous, which was a disaster when I tried that years ago. That’s the other thing that made UT exciting.

The faculty have been great, when I had questions, they’d get back to me quickly and discuss with me the issues I had been having. Everyone has been very helpful and approachable. UT is a huge school, and I thought it would be impersonal, but it hasn’t been that way at all. Overall it’s been a great experience.

What’s next?

I’d like to go into academic libraries, but I would not turn down an archives position, either, since I have at least a little experience with that and liked it. I’m at a place in my life where I could move, so I would be willing to do that for the right job!