JOHNSON CITY – Mandy Nutter says attending East Tennessee State University has become a family tradition. She and her seven siblings, as well as her mother, have all attended the university, and on May 4, Mandy received her bachelor’s degree in biology.
The journey hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding.
Four years ago, the Dobyns-Bennett High School graduate was selected to join the Roan Scholars Leadership Program. Mandy recalls how overwhelmed she felt after choosing her first semester of classes and admittedly had reservations about taking on additional responsibilities outside her coursework.
One “yes” was all it took.
“There is nothing better than helping someone thrive at ETSU,” she said about the first organization she joined – International Buccaneer Buddies, which pairs current ETSU students with new international students who help them adjust to life on campus.
Mandy kept saying “yes” to opportunities that she had never considered possible before coming to ETSU.
“It became something I had to do because I wanted to, not because someone was telling me to do it,” she said. “ETSU is the perfect place to learn and grow your leadership skills and communication skills and go on to achieve things that you didn’t think you could.”
“I feel like that’s how a lot of involvement starts, just being open to that position you’re given.”
Mandy began playing intramural sports and joined Alpha Delta Pi sorority, taking on the role of property manager and eventually president. She was recently named the 2019 Outstanding Sorority Woman of the Year.
In fall of 2018, she was adorned with both a crown and crutches as Homecoming Queen.
“I was nominated and then ended up tearing my ACL and meniscus while playing intramural football,” she said. “Everyone thought it was a joke when I posted a picture of myself on crutches, but unfortunately it was real life. It was an interesting experience to crutch out onto the football field at Homecoming. I had the most amazing support from everyone.”
Another opportunity to say “yes” presented itself when Mandy agreed to take on a leadership position in the Rotaract Club not knowing she would become president of that organization as well. She and fellow members have planned “all kinds of service projects by finding needs in the community that aren’t being addressed and coming up with creative ways to fix those problems.”
Mandy came to ETSU with the dream of becoming a pediatrician. She joined the ETSU Chapter of Timmy Global Health, volunteered at Holston Valley Medical Center and completed an internship with Ballad Health learning about the importance of early childhood success and interventions that can influence overall wellness and well-being. She also volunteers as a little league soccer coach in Kingsport and provides child care at Grace Fellowship. These experiences have amplified her passion for working with children.
“That’s my favorite thing to talk about,” Mandy said of her coaching experience. “Just imagine 3- and 4-year-olds who can’t even walk that well yet and they are trying to kick a soccer ball around.”
“I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I remember I asked all the kids to hold hands, then one fell down and none of them let go, so all 20 kids fell on the ground and all the parents were just watching me. I’ve learned a lot since then and now it’s about going out on the field and being as animated and excited as possible.”
Mandy is taking a gap year between the completion of her undergraduate studies and the pursuit of a medical degree to teach middle school science and math at Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Virginia, a boarding school for American and international students. Last summer, she spent two weeks interning at the school and said she was inspired by the resilience of the children who often come from unsafe and impoverished situations.
“I had always thought I would go straight into medical school, but after four years, I realized medical school is going to be there. I want to spend a year doing something bigger than myself and giving back, but I never thought that role would be teaching. These kids are so amazing.”
Although her college days are behind her, Mandy has made the most of her time at ETSU and will be another proud alum in her family. She will likely encounter many more opportunities to say “yes,” but she’s leaving the university and the community just a bit better than she found it.
“I don’t know what college would have been like without the Roan,” she said. “Being open to those opportunities that come to you is going to change your life. A lot of the things I’ve been involved in, I saw a need and wanted to help. It’s been so dramatically life-changing for me.”