Tammy Stewart is the administrative assistant at AU’s Kissinger Academic Center for Excellence, or KACE, where she has worked for 18 years. Stewart recently received her degree in May of 2019 after studying for five years as an adult undergraduate student.
What first brought you to Anderson 18 years ago?
I moved to this area because of my husband; I grew up in the Church of God and I came to the Anderson camp meeting every year. I honestly didn’t know AU itself. I was going around applying for places. I actually applied for two jobs here. The other job I applied for I really thought I wanted, and I remember being at Meijer shopping with my son, just praying, “God, please, don’t let me get a letter in the mail; please find me a job.” I got home and there, low and behold, was a message offering me this job.
What challenges did you face leading up to graduation? How did you manage to get through them?
Well, it was really interesting. In February, I lost my stepfather. He was 91 and a very great man, very educated. Actually, for one of the classes I took here, I interviewed him. Then in March, one of my kids got suspended from school. It was just a lot at one time. Now luckily I knew ways to schedule myself because of working here—how and what class to take, when to take it.
I was only in two classes, but it was interesting. I was in interpersonal psychology, which was perfect timing, because it was really helping me know how to communicate to our son, how to help him grow, how to help myself grow and just be able to get through the end of the semester. The professors were great, because there were a couple of times I got a little teary-eyed in my psychology class, and the students were great. But I think that’s the biggest thing—so many times adult students are intimidated by taking classes with traditional students. I loved it. I would rather have taken classes with traditional students than taking classes with all adults. My adult group was really good; I enjoyed them. But I could learn from traditional students just as much as they could learn from me. It’s a win-win because students are living in this life right now, and my life was different at your age. I’m learning to know how to handle the students I work with, and you’re helping me learn that. I enjoyed the interaction and everything.
How does that translate into a work-life balance?
By going to school, it helped me understand the professors, and it helped me understand the students a lot better. Just because a student says something to me about a professor, or something’s going on, I have to hear both sides. With me being in the classes seeing what that life was like, it was a win-win because first, I’m getting my education and bettering myself, but I’m also able to understand and do my job in a better way. I’m able to understand the load and what students are going through, helping them balance their time better, and also with all things that Dianna has taught me. It kind of just came full-circle.
Coming to school actually even helped my marriage grow. My marriage was great, but then it got even better, because my husband had to take more responsibility. I would come home, I would say hello, and then I would go straight to doing homework. I learned that I could write papers at my kids’ sports games. There were books I read on the way their sports games. I had to take advantage of every second. I was looking at homework at church before it started—I remember someone coming over and saying, “you studying?” and the support that I got from people from church, and the variety of people in my life who supported me through this journey was amazing.
There are so many things in life where I don’t know what I’m doing. I know I’m not leaving AU—I never planned on leaving AU. But I do know that God has things in store for me outside of this place and things that I’ll do on my own. I just have to get my brain to slow down to figure out what he’s telling me.
What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
Well I hope my two twins will be in college. Right now they only have two years left in high school. But in five years, I know one thing I would like to do a lot more of, and I was doing a little bit of this last year. I had met two girls who were seniors in high school, and when they were juniors, they had children. I was just working with them and talking about the future, was showing that they could go on to school, and things like that. I’m not sure, but I have quite a passion for that. I could see me doing something more in that. I’m kind of interested in mentoring couples before they get married. I’ve taken quite an interest in that too. Those are the two things in the back of my head that I would be interested in doing, unless football can get a position for me.
I would love to be an academic coach for football—helping them with academics, helping with their time-management and keeping up with their classes. Instead of these different employment positions that do that, that would be one. There is a show called “Last Chance U” on Netflix. I’ve never seen it, but there’s a woman who worked at a junior college and that’s what she did; she was an academic advisor, just for the football team. A couple years ago, I had these guys tell me I was like the “Last Chance U” person, and I’ve taken a real interest in that kind of stuff. That probably will never happen, but it’s fun to think about.
If an athlete here at AU were asked what it was like learning from you, what woul you want them to say?
Hardcore. I say that all time. I have very high expectations. If I expect a lot of myself, then I expect a lot out of the students. The thing that I see going on in this world lately is that there’s not communication, there’s not that personal interaction. Especially with young men, I help a lot at taking that responsibility. It’s easy to complain about stuff, but guess what? A professor has a life and they are human, just like anybody else, and they might be having a bad day. If you take yourself out of your own little world and look at the whole picture, you’ll see that they’re just having a bad day. It’s getting them to learn how to communicate, talking to your professor, “I messed up,” or “I didn’t post something.” Maybe they won’t give you credit, but at least you’re honest about it. I just believe in honesty and just being honest about your mistakes.
How did you injure your arm?
My husband and I ride a Harley. We were riding back from a trip seeing my dad’s stepmom, and we were on interstate 70 coming back home. The interstates are just a mess right now all over the place. Needless to say, we were going 70 miles an hour and had a tire blow on us, and we were literally going all over the interstate because my husband was trying to keep control of the bike and also figure out what he’s going to do.
We were sitting and talking last week when the kids were all gone, and it was just him and I. I looked back and I saw what was happening. I didn’t know why it was happening, but I just knew something was happening. I have so much faith in my husband and him on a bike, that I knew we were going to be okay. I knew God was going to do whatever, so I was having to wait until the ending to see what God’s choice was.
We got it down to 35 miles an hour, and then he took it down. I got off the bike and he was still laying there. I didn’t realize his ankle was trapped underneath the pedal. There were two couples and a woman who stopped. The one couple started helping get the bike up off of him while we were still on the interstate. We get the bike up, get him up, he gets off the road, I get off the road and now I look over. This lady, she says, “Is there anything I can do for you?” I said, “Can you hand me my shoes?” I have no idea why I had slip-on tennis shoes and, for some reason, they came off. She handed me my shoes, then I got down on my knees. She said, “Are you okay?” I said, “Yes, I’m praying. I need to pray.” I ended up with a cracked bone in my elbow, and my husband got bruised ribs.