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History Teacher Chews Through MLA Degree

John GillespieWhile continuing to teach high school full-time, husband and father John Gillespie earned his Master in Liberal Arts with a concentration in history in May 2013. He did it the way one would eat an elephant—slowly and one bite at a time. Frankly, Gillespie had not intended to make a meal of the entire mammoth. He attributes his surprising appetite to the exceptional flavor of the UST experience.

“All I originally meant to do when I enrolled at UST in 2007 was start getting another 18 hours in history so I could qualify to teach dual credit classes,” Gillespie said. “My decision to go for the MLA happened along the way as a result of how much I enjoyed UST.”

Already possessing a master’s degree in social studies from one university and his undergraduate degree from another, Gillespie was in a position to notice important differences.

“From easy, convenient parking to accessible, approachable professors to fast registration, UST is no hassle,” Gillespie said. “It’s minus all of the things you don’t like about going to school, and it’s a quality education that is second to none.”

Moving slowly through the program was a key to his balancing academics with his job and family life, but UST’s MLA program was designed to accommodate jobholders.

“The program offered evening classes in just about everything I needed, which was great for me as a working professional,” Gillespie said. “Plus I never would have made it if I couldn’t reach out to a professor on a Friday night and get a response by Sunday.“

Not only did Gillespie fulfill the required MLA coursework, but he also made the choice to write an optional 150-page thesis, adding another year to his commitment.

“Usually you don’t get into a doctoral program without a thesis, and I just didn’t want to close that door,” Gillespie said.

During 12 months of research and writing, he was challenged and advised by Dr. Lisa Mundey, assistant professor of history, until he was satisfied he had something original.

“I would present ideas or a draft, and she would point out weaknesses and force me to prove my points…to think critically,” Gillespie said. “It was humbling at first to realize I was arguing for other people’s ideas instead of coming up with my own and proving them.”

Gillespie came away from his thesis with the same experience he had throughout the MLA process.

“Every course I took was really tight, really solid,” he said. “I always recommend UST.”

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