Tiffany Knowles is a Creative Writing Graduate student at the University of Tampa. She graduated from Flagler College with a BA in English and Pre-Law in 2012. She is currently teaching secondary literature and hopes to continue teaching at the collegiate level after the completion of her graduate degree. Tiffany is currently composing a creative nonfiction bildungsroman collection that she hopes to have completed by Summer 2015.
After obtaining my Bachelor’s degree in St. Augustine, FL, I was ready to do two things: (a) go home and (b) get a job. After getting back to Miami and starting my first real job teaching sixth grade English, I got very comfortable. I settled into my own apartment, and I began my life. After a year, however, I decided I wanted to pursue a graduate degree. The latter, while a priority for me, came with a lot of technicalities. I still wanted to (a) stay home and (b) maintain employment. The solution to my worries became a low residency graduate program. The low residency approach appealed to me for many reasons. The most pertinent reasons were that this approach would grant me the ability to work full time and to live anywhere I wanted.
Going from being a broke college student, working for nine bucks an hour, and begging my parents for money, to making $40,000 a year was wonderful. At 22, I could adequately support myself, and I was not ready to relinquish my salary. The latter motivated me to investigate low residency programs. I stumbled across The University of Tampa’s Creative Writing Program, and I was immediately enthralled. The aforementioned program was a godsend, it would allow me to work full time and further my education simultaneously. I had two friends who taught at Millennium Middle School with me and went to grad school. They were always burnt out. My two friends would leave work, already drained from teaching rambunctious sixth graders, and trudge over to campus to sit through night classes multiple times a week. Watching them, and the increasingly noticeable bags expanding underneath their eyes, did not make being in a physical classroom during the work week seem like a viable option for me. Thankfully, with my low residency miracle I was able to go to work during the week, and complete my assignments at my own pace, just as long as they made it into Blackboard by the 15th of each month. The freedom this granted me was incredible. I was even able to complete homework on my planning period…when time allotted, of course.
Another wonderful thing about low residency is even though I was not in the physical classroom all the time, I was still acquainted with my professors. Once a semester I would travel to The University of Tampa’s campus and attend a 10 day residency. At the residency, I met with my professors and we created a contract which outlined what I would be obligated to submit to Blackboard each month. Knowing my syllabus in its entirety at the start of each semester helped put me ahead of the game. I was almost always ahead on my coursework because low residency granted me the ability to complete it at my leisure. Working full time was not a problem. I simply saved up all of the sick time I accrued, and used it for my residencies. Low residency allowed me to create my own schedule, and to continue making my own money.
Beyond the latter, low residency also allowed me to stay close to my family. After being away from the crazy Knowles Klan for four years, I was very happy to be living down the street from my parents and my siblings. Being in a low residency program allowed me to explore out-of-state options while remaining in-state. Although I ended up deciding on an in-state (but out-of-town option), the low residency approach offered me an array of promising options all over the world, options I could access mostly from the comfort of my home.
In addition to being able to live anywhere I wanted and work full-time, low residency, specifically at The University of Tampa, was also fun. Don’t get me wrong, there was work involved, lots of it; however, because I chose the right program for me, I was happy to roll up my sleeves and get a little dirty. The 10 day residencies became a sort of vacation for me; a place where I could submerge myself in my craft and interact with like minded individuals for a bit. I grew to love the residencies, and although the days were long, I appreciated them because I knew working my butt off for 10 days would allow me to work at my own pace for the subsequent four months. I found the low residency approach to be convenient, efficient, and fun.