Todd Tinker has had many journeys in his life, and his latest journey of obtaining his master’s degree is coming to fruition after nearly five years.
The Statesboro native graduated Friday with a Master’s of Applied Engineering with a concentration in information technology, an accomplishment for which he took his time to achieve and enjoy.
“I started this degree in spring 2012, so I’ve been at it for a while,” he said. “From the start, I decided not to set timetables on graduation. I would take a class some semesters, but not every semester, and not once did I take two classes in the same semester.”
But before he began pursuing his master’s at Georgia Southern, Tinker had a nine-year journey in the U.S. Army Reserves, during which he deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He said his time as a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the military helped him develop an appreciation for educators, which in turn helped his academic career.
“Serving in the military as an NCO, you are often tasked with conducting some type of training,” he said. “Whether it’s leading PT that week, or giving classes to junior soldiers, you are often in front of a class. Having that experience definitely made me appreciate the amount of work and preparation required of educators. I make it a point to give them my undivided attention, sit in the front of the classroom, turn off my cell phone and participate in the class discussions. I have no doubt that doing this helped me along the way.”
Working in IT
In addition to learning about information technology at Georgia Southern, Tinker has also found a home working in the university’s Information Technology Services division. Although there was an 18-month gap from the time he was hired to when he started due to deployment, Tinker has worked with the division for 11 years. He currently works as a customer service manager in the Center for Academic Technology Support.
“(When offered the job), I was honest about the fact I had already received orders to mobilize, but fortunately, the hiring manager at the time still offered me the position,” he said. “On paper my official start date at Georgia Southern is March 1, 2006, but I actually didn’t start working until Sept. 1, 2007. I’m thankful for what Georgia Southern did for me during this time and feel as a university, we do a great job of supporting our veterans.”
“I really enjoy my job, and every day presents a new challenge,” he said. “I get to work with a range of different technologies that the colleges utilize and no day is the same.”
And working in this division, he said, allowed him to get to know the faculty in the Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and Technology faculty before he started his degree program.
“There are some great professors in this college who are dedicated to shaping young adults into contributing members of society,” Tinker said. “One professor in particular who is dedicated to this mission is Dr. Chris Kadlec (associate professor of information technology).”
“I consider Chris a mentor, friend and colleague,” he said. “He has a great rapport with the students, and genuinely cares about their education and well-being. Chris had a major influence on my successful graduation, and I really appreciate all he has done for me and other IT majors here at Georgia Southern.”
With his appreciation for educators, and his desire to learn and grow in his field, Tinker said he’s glad he was able to set his own pace while earning his master’s.
“As a traditional undergraduate student at Mars Hill College in Asheville, North Carolina, I honestly did not retain much of what I learned in classes, semester to semester,” Tinker said. “Taking five classes a term was just too much information at once: information overload. By setting my own pace of one class per semester (at Georgia Southern), I could focus on that class and was able to absorb what was being taught.”
Tinker added he couldn’t have completed this journey without the support of his wife Shaana, also a Georgia Southern graduate, and two children, Crewe and Chaney.
And while he graduation day, Friday, with his family, he doesn’t really plan to celebrate his accomplishment, per se, but will reward himself with more learning.
“I have no plans on celebrating this accomplishment other than having the satisfaction of completing a milestone that I set out to do long ago,” he said. “However, I do think I’ll reward myself by taking some classes that I’m interested in, but never got a chance to take before. Some classes that come to mind are astronomy, group piano and anything to do with American war history.”
And when asked if he had any plans for his degree?
“I plan to frame it and put it up on my wall so everyone can see it,” he said with a laugh.
Crissie Elrick Bath works in the Office of Marketing and Communications for Georgia Southern University.