Jesse Wooton, a non-traditional student, decided to return to school in fall 2006 with the dream of becoming a published author. I had knocked around a lot of different jobs and wasn t satisfied with any of them, so in fall 2006 I enrolled at Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC). Jesse explains that he had in mind a desire to write, and perhaps teach when he started back to school, but he did not have a clear goal until after his first year: I received so much encouragement from the English faculty at HCTC, taking every English class that was offered, except one. Jesse received HCTC s English Honors Award in spring 2007 while completing his associate in arts degree. Professor Renee Back, currently serving as the HCTC Transfer Counselor in the University Center of the Mountains (UCM), recommended that Jesse visit the UCM to see what bachelor s degree programs might be available to him.
Jesse did not want to leave the area, and the UCM partnership allowed him to stay home while continuing his education. The UCM advisors connected him to Morehead State University s program in English literature and a faculty advisor in that area. My MSU English advisor, Dr. Ron Morrison, worked closely with me to ensure that I enrolled in the classes I needed in order to graduate in a timely manner, Jesse stated. Through upper level Interactive Television (ITV) classes offered in the UCM as well as online classes, Jesse was able to access and complete his bachelor s degree.
Jesse s story is a perfect example of how our students can make good use of the various opportunities and resources our UCM partners offer. Jesse worked with multiple partners in order to complete his undergraduate and graduate coursework, so he could pursue his ultimate career path, observed Dr. Deronda Mobelini, UCM Director. At the time Jesse was finishing his bachelor s with MSU, Jesse started working as an ITV facilitator for the UCM. Through his ongoing UCM connection, he learned that Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) had just recently implemented an online Masters in Fine Arts program, the third in the state. Some of the EKU faculty were writing in the genre I was interested in literary thrillers, Jesse explains, so he explored this other UCM partner s graduate program and decided to apply. He started the EKU program in January 2011. That same summer, Jesse had the opportunity to spend part of June and July in Scotland through a study abroad program. While working on his masters through EKU, Jesse accepted a job as an instructional lab assistance with HCTC, participating in his job interview via Skype while in Scotland.
Jesse completed his graduate degree in fine arts through EKU in 2013, and he has continued to write. He has published a couple of short stories in the Kudzu, and five more short stories have been published in Kentucky Story. In May 2015, Jesse received and accepted an invitation to publish his first novel, In the Garden, with Green Cup Books. Jesse describes the novel as cornpone gothic because it has the flavor of southern gothic along with rough south (think William Faulkner, Harry Crews and Donald Ray Pollock). The novel focuses on a little boy whose love of magic turns dark following the murder of his sister. Jesse Wooton s novel, In the Garden, is scheduled for release in spring 2016.