It’s been roughly six months since Tyree Rumph received his long-awaited degree through MTSU’s University College, the culmination of a six-year academic journey that eventually led him across the Murphy Center stage in December 2017.
Now the MTSU alumnus hopes to build upon that bachelor’s degree in liberal studies by pursuing an online master’s degree in hopes of eventually becoming a teacher within the next few years.
“I want to make a difference in people’s lives based on my own life experience,” Rumph said recently during an interview that brought him back to his alma mater.
After attending Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, for two years, Rumph stepped onto the Blue Raider campus in fall 2006 as a psychology major. Staying in a house on Leaf Avenue with other roommates, Rumph started True Blue his journey.
“My teacher saw potential in me,” said Rumph. “She told me that MTSU would be a better fit for me.”
Shortly after arriving, Rumph found MTSU classes to be much harder than expected, and he began to struggle mentally and financially.
Not yet knowing how to drive, Rumph had a hard time getting around as he worked two jobs to make ends meet. The undergrad spent his days riding his bike back and forth from campus to his job at Krystal’s on Lascassas Highway.
Working with what he had to survive, Rumph started to struggle with his studies while finding ways to make very little food go a long way.
As he pressed hard to overcome his obstacles, everything changed the day he met his mentor, Ben Jones. It was a relationship that eventually led to Rumph learning how to drive, stay on track and never give up. From there, Jones began eating lunch with Rumph and helping him with his academics.
“When you teach someone important life skills such as driving, you build a connection with that person,” said Jones, director of Accounting Services at MTSU. “I understood him as a person and found out what made him tick.”
Changing his living situation from off campus to Judd Hall, Rumph also decided to change his major to sociology in fall 2008. However, after realizing neither sociology nor psychology was a good career choice for him, he somewhat lost hope.
It wasn’t long before he also lost his financial aid, forcing him to drop out from 2009 until 2013.
“I wasn’t mentally ready to succeed,” said a reflective Rumph. “If I could get myself ready and financially stable, I was ready to go back.”
For two years, Rumph held a steady job at Amazon. To remain financially stable, he also spent time working at General Mills and the Interstate Warehousing in Murfreesboro until he reached his primary goal.
With Jones helping all along the way, Rumph stayed positive throughout the rest of his academic journey and took his seat among fellow MTSU graduates on Dec. 16, 2017, inside Hale Arena as family traveled from Detroit, Michigan, to witness the achievement.
“I realized that if I applied myself more, I would get it,” Rumph said.
Now that he’s graduated, Rumph still works for Interstate Warehouses and also serves as a substitute teacher through PESG, an educational staffing program.
Jones continues to root for his mentee.
“It has been a long road and one that I hope soon ends on the other side of the rainbow,” he said.