Robert Catalano says his college career started out like most people’s. He headed to college after high school, but lacking focus and commitment, he never finished his bachelor’s degree.
“I was the typical college student,” he said. “I went to four or five different colleges in my 20s and just chipped away at my general education. I never really finished anything, never really committed.”
But after moving to Tennessee two and a half years ago and getting a job at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that he describes as “fantastic,” Catalano finally found himself ready to complete his degree.
And more than that, he discovered his employer encouraged it.
“I got a really fantastic job in the finance department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center,” Catalano said. “And I found out that they had a terrific tuition reimbursement program, and they really encouraged me to go back to school to finish my degree.”
So, Catalano set out to find a school that would help him achieve his dream of completing his degree and more.
“I had finally grown up and had a specific goal in mind,” he said. “I wanted not only to finish my bachelor’s degree but to go on to get my master’s.”
Originally from South Carolina, Catalano wasn’t overly familiar with Nashville’s institutions of higher education nor the programs they offer. He began to consider Trevecca after seeing a billboard as he drove around the city.
“I had heard about Trevecca, but not through anyone specifically,” Catalano recalled. “I actually saw the billboards on the side of the road as I would drive to work every day.”
In December, Catalano was able to complete his bachelor’s degree—and he’ll start working on his master’s in business administration (MBA) next week. Catalano is proud of the fact that he finished his bachelor’s degree, but even more excited that it moves him closer to his dream of one day teaching in the program.
“I’ve always wanted to teach,” Catalano said. “So many of my teachers in the [bachelor’s program] had gone through the program themselves and had gone on to teach afterward. That changed everything.”
While that dream is becoming closer to reality, Catalano is committed to his current job which he says challenges and fulfills him. He credits his employer and his wife as being key supporters who helped him achieve his academic goals.
“I really love it here,” he said. “My work has been fantastic [through the whole process]. I have been very blessed by a very supportive cast as I’ve gone through my schooling and as I continue into my master’s.”
Ultimately, Catalano hopes to use what he’s learned in combination with his desire to serve those around him.
“I hope to have a resume with that master’s and my schooling and my work to go on and work in the nonprofit world someday,” he said. “Right now, I’m working to build up a resume and learn things… but really someday I would love to create an environment where I can go and do what I want to do.”
For Catalano, the greatest lesson of his academic journey has been how it changed his view of learning.
“Since coming to Nashville, since finishing my undergraduate degree, I’ve been able to push into the idea that I’m never going to stop learning,” he said. “I just want to continue to learn and grow as an individual. Who knows where that will take you?”
Catalano also shared a few tips for students started out in their degree-completion journey. You can read those at blog.trevecca.edu.