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Students Excited to be Among First to Receive Degrees through a New Program

Posted on December 13, 2019

By Holly Walker

Maddie Harris and Olivia Hudson are pursuing different education goals, but they share a common experience. They are among the first students to receive an associate degree from John Tyler Community College through a Graduate RVA initiative that focuses on people with some college but no degree.

Maddie, who lived in Chesterfield when she first began studying psychology at Tyler, said she chose the college because she wanted to save money. However, eager to continue to the next chapter of her education, she decided to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) before completing the last class of her associate degree. Olivia, a Dinwiddie resident, took dual enrollment classes through Tyler while she was in high school. She thought Tyler was a good starting point for college, so she kept taking classes after graduating from high school. After facing some challenges with foreign language courses, she found out she could transfer to VCU without taking any more of the classes, so she decided to make the move before completing her Tyler degree.

Now, thanks to a new initiative, they proudly hold an associate degree from John Tyler Community College. The degrees were awarded thanks to a partnership between Graduate RVA, Tyler, VCU, and Reynolds Community College. Supported by a Lumina Foundation grant, members of the organizations developed formal processes that allow the three educational institutions to share and review student data. Through this review, they can determine if students who have taken classes at multiple institutions have enough credits, as well as the courses needed, to earn an associate degree. This process is known as reverse transfer because it usually involves credits from a four-year institution being transferred back to the community college for the awarding of an associate degree.

Olivia, who earned an Associate of Science in General Studies through the new reverse transfer program, said she was shocked and proud to learn she had enough credits for a degree. “Knowing that I have a degree is a source of confidence and success for me,” she said. “There were times I was unsure if I would even go to college, so this was a major accomplishment for me.” Olivia who was also among the first to be accepted into the Distinguished English Majors Program at VCU says these opportunities have inspired her to keep leading the way for others. “Both of these experiences have allowed me to discover my own leadership style and make me want to keep going,” she said. Olivia is now planning her next steps. She is graduating from VCU in December with a bachelor’s degree in English and a double minor in religious studies and anthropology and is exploring graduate school and possible career paths ranging from teaching to marketing.

Maddie, who now holds an Associate of Science in General Studies, Psychology Specialization, said she was thrilled when she found out she was being awarded a degree. “I felt excited, like all my work was worth something,” she said. “It is motivating. It makes me feel more able to get my bachelor’s and master’s degrees.” Maddie is well on her way to her next degree. She says she expects to graduate in May 2020 from VCU with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a graduate school concentration and a sociology minor. After that, she wants to work in the mental health field for about a year before returning to graduate school. Eventually she wants to become a child psychologist and earn a Ph.D. Maddie also says while it’s exciting to know that while she’s among the first to benefit from this reverse transfer partnership, she’s happy she won’t be the last. “It is good to know that this is available for future students. “I hope it will help students get jobs and opportunities that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

To date, 13 students have been awarded degrees from Tyler through the initiative. To learn more about Graduate RVA, visit  

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Holly Walker, Public Relations Manager


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