By Tiffany King
Everyone who works at the College of Coastal Georgia has the opportunity to positively impact the life of a student—whether through instruction, advising, support services, or a simple "How are you doing today?" It's always worthwhile to take a moment to encourage students in the pursuit of their dreams. And it all doesn't have to end at graduation, as Coastal Georgia Alumnus Tyler McGoogan and Lecturer of Criminal Justice Cynthia Atwood can attest.
McGoogan, a native of Delaware, graduated in spring 2019 with a bachelor's in business administration, with a concentration in management. Although his degree is in business, he is currently pursuing a career in federal law enforcement. Like many students after graduation, McGoogan applied to what seemed like every job in his chosen field. Though he initially received many rejections, he heeded the advice and encouragement of several of his professors at the College to keep going.
Never Give Up
McGoogan transferred to the College after earning an associate's degree in business management from Delaware Technical Community College. He originally wanted to have his own business, but soon realized it wasn't something he would enjoy. Determined to earn a bachelor's degree, he continued his business major at the College. While business was the most direct route to his bachelor's degree, a number of his classes were in the criminal justice program.
"I felt that the investigation part was interesting and would challenge me," McGoogan said. "Plus, meeting all the people from FLETC [Federal Law Enforcement Training Center] and different [law enforcement organizations] in Brunswick, I saw that a lot of them love what they do. It made me think, if they love what they do then maybe I can be the same way."
After graduation McGoogan applied to 35 different federal law enforcement agencies and only landed an interview with two. He said the entire process "was definitely hard and discouraging." Throughout his job search, he kept in touch with Atwood. She and her colleague Bryan Lemons, FLETC chief of staff and adjunct professor, as well as others in the law enforcement community encouraged him to keep applying.
"They all said keep applying and take the first one, it doesn't matter what it is. Once you're in the door you can transfer and go to a different agency. They told me not to get down and don't give up. Keep pushing and somebody will eventually pick you," he said.
And someone did—the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). McGoogan is in training to be a TSA agent at the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport. He also interviewed with the Supreme Court Police but was turn down due to his eyesight.
"My eyesight is something I knew I needed to address for a while. They [Supreme Court Police] said if I get it corrected with laser eye surgery then I can reapply and go through the process again," McGoogan said. "A lot of the federal agencies have turned me down because of that. Now with federal benefits through the TSA I can have my eyes corrected."
Not all students keep in touch with their professors, but those that do have the benefit of continued support after college.
One moment that McGoogan recalled fondly was at graduation when he finished walking across the stage. He shook the hands of his business professors, as is tradition, then watched as Atwood made her way to him for a hug. It meant a lot to him, not only because he enjoyed her classes but because she always checked in on his progress. Although McGoogan was a business major, Atwood considered him to be one of her criminal justice students.
"It's not typical that you have a student who is a business major pursue a criminal justice career," Atwood said. "He has the presence of a law enforcement officer, so it's easy for me to see him gravitate towards that. He would be a good fit. I'm glad he's pursuing a career in criminal justice."
Atwood said it's easy to lose heart while looking for a job, particularly if the employment process is slow; which is why she is happy to continue to advise students after graduation.
"Because we have a caring faculty—I think it's one of the things that makes this college stand out," she said. "It's important to me that I have a relationship with my students and that they have a place where they feel comfortable coming at the end of the day."
Paying it Forward
Among the photographs in Atwood's office is a picture of Mrs. Lucille Robucks, smiling alongside her husband. Robucks was Atwood's advisor while she was a student at Eastern Kentucky University. Robucks and her husband became a second family to Atwood. Robucks is the one who inspired how Atwood interacts with her students. Atwood shared a story of when she ruptured her appendix in college and had to delay returning for classes until she felt better. At the time, Robucks didn't know the circumstances and sent her note saying how distressed she and her husband where to learn that she wasn't returning to school. Atwood was deeply touched by her concern and said she still has the note.
"The reason why I have that photograph there is because I know what impact they had on my life by providing their advice and counsel to me," she said. "I feel like it's coming full circle because I'm now able to give back to the students who can benefit the way I did from Mrs. Robucks' counsel. She really showed me how important it is to reach out to students. I would not be sitting here without her counsel."
Atwood shared that it's not always easy for faculty and staff to keep in contact and advise so many students with their busy schedules and lives outside of work. Some students don't respond to their professor's or advisor's outreach. However, she does believe that it's worthwhile to try.
McGoogan has really taken Atwood's and others' advice to heart about not giving up. He is currently researching eye doctors to correct his vision, after which he'll be ready for another round of applications.
"I'm going to keep applying, whether I've applied to them before and they rejected me or if I've never applied to them. I'm going to apply to all of them again if I have to," McGoogan said.
His dream job is to be a criminal investigator on the federal level. He hopes to incorporate what he has gained from his business degree—such as such as leadership and management skills—into his work. His advice to current students and fellow alumni is to not give up—something he's definitely learned first-hand.
"Keep pushing. Keep putting in applications—anywhere and everywhere," he said. "Eventually you'll get hired by someone and will gain experience for your career."
Atwood sees both ends of the spectrum of former students—from those working in their dream job to those having a hard time finding employment. No matter the case, she—like many other faculty and staff—are willing and ready to encourage them.
"We're doing our part at the College and that makes me happy," she said. "We just want to make a difference and want to know that the work we're doing is impactful."