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TCAT McKenzie Gets Personal: A Small School with a Big Heart

February 4, 2022

An Academic Culture of Caring

All technical institutions accredited by COE are focused on preparing students for professional success. At TCAT McKenzie, this education experience feels even more tailored because the school pours its heart into helping students overcome their personal challenges, which gives them a sense of belonging, while they develop the skills they need to quickly move into and move up in the workforce.

As one of the smallest TCAT (Tennessee College of Applied Technology) schools, the biggest benefits to McKenzie students are the easy access, constant contact and personal connection with faculty. The school provides students with both academic and personal resources, from tutoring and support to transportation and financial assistance. Students acquire a sense of community through their community outreach efforts for Second Harvest Mobile Food Pantry and Habitat for Humanity, among others. Whether students come from high schools to learn hands-on skills or arrive as employees for specialized training, TCAT McKenzie provides each a home with heart.

“Around 40% is teaching curriculum and skill, but 60% is instilling that students are worth it and have the potential to do great things,” says Ms. Daphne Brown, Student Services Coordinator at TCAT McKenzie. “Maintaining this culture of care and respect has become our way of life.”

A Virtual Challenge on Paper

Helping students overcome challenges is a priority at TCAT McKenzie, but the school faced a challenge of its own when COE moved the reaccreditation process from on-campus to online. This shift replaced onsite evaluations with virtual visits, while also swapping traditional paperwork for digital exhibits. Fortunately, the faculty and staff were well equipped to tackle this procedural change by using the same perseverance and ingenuity they teach to students.

“The challenge was navigating these digital waters and converting our formats since everybody on staff is involved in the reaccreditation process,” explained Ms. Brown. “We solved it by creating different digital folders to correspond with the different exhibits and presentations, which allowed everyone to digitally contribute.”

The challenge of online conversion also affected students as the school moved to remote classes to comply with state orders during the pandemic. This move was especially difficult for students who had limited internet and phone access, but the school provided assistance. After two months of remote learning, students returned to campus in a socially distanced way, with time in the classroom every day and extra help, if needed.

A Commitment to Constant Improvement

COE accreditation is important to TCAT McKenzie because it provides students with validation and assurance when it comes to their education, skills, and financial investment in their future. While COE reaccreditation typically comes every six years, TCAT McKenzie is always striving to better its campus and curriculum for the sake of the students and the school. Faculty and staff feel that schools shouldn’t only be showing how much they value accreditation itself, but also the value it provides for their students.

“The spirit of COE is working together to constantly improve your campus and maintain a level of excellence,” explains Ms. Brown.But this shouldn’t only be something you do every six years, as a requirement. It should be a part of every day.”

Celebrating 50 Years of Accreditation: A Remarkable Achievement

TCAT McKenzie was one of 21 institutions first accredited by the newly-formed Council in 1971. Throughout the last 50 years, the institution conducted no less than eight self-studies and hosted many visits to ensure compliance with the standards of accreditation at intervals averaging every six years. Notably, throughout the last half-century, TCAT McKenzie consistently maintained its ‘good standing’ status with the Council, having never been placed on any type of restrictive violation status which would call into question the quality and integrity of its administration, operations, or programs. This solid reputation and well-documented compliance with standards that ensure quality and integrity in career and technical education is truly a remarkable achievement.