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Amy Hatfield and Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker’s goal was to be the first in his family to graduate college, but –“Math is not my strongest subject.”

He found Amy Hatfield, an associate professor in Math, and took three successive classes with her. Hatfield brought a combination of inspiration and teaching know-how to help him pass Math with A’s and B’s.

“If you’re going to take Professor Hatfield’s class, you can’t be a quitter,” Tucker said. “The one thing she does not want you to do is say ‘I can’t’. She wants you to say ‘I can.’”

The 20-year-old Columbus native graduated in Spring 2014, and is serving a year with Americorps before transferring to a four-year college to complete his bachelor’s degree. Tucker was honored by his school as a member of Columbus State’s MAN Initiative and inducted into the college’s first class of the Society of the Compass.

And Tucker notched one more achievement: He graduated with zero debt. With the lowest tuition costs in the region, 60 percent of Columbus State students take on zero debt in a year.

Hatfield is one of Columbus State’s not-so-secret weapons: She’s been honored with the Distinguished Faculty Award, and she holds a solid A rating on RateMyProfessors.com.

Every semester, Hatfield had students write out their goals to keep them motivated. And she always made time to walk students through complicated questions.

Hatfield didn’t start out planning to be a professor. She started out as a mechanical engineer and worked in private industry – she holds a patent for a manufacturing process.

When she went to Clemson University for her master’s degree in Mathematics, she found she had to brush up on some subjects – and returning to school as an adult was an eye-opener. The experience helped her appreciate how daunting college can be.

Hatfield’s teaching philosophy is “service to the student.” When she sees students falling behind, she says it’s usually because they’re overwhelmed or they have few successes to build on.

“Not caring is never the reason,” Hatfield says. “That puts it back on me to work harder to connect with them.”

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