Shortly after finishing her associate degree in 1999, Beth Camp welcomed her daughter and decided to stay at home with her until she started pre-K. Then she became a realtor and invested her spare time in community organizations, even serving as president of the FFA Alumni chapter in her area.
“We started a grassroots project to provide a barn for a teacher who wanted to be able to teach students where food comes from. Unfortunately, the school system simply did not have the funds and denied the project,” she said. During that time, Beth served on several advisory committees for Pike County Schools. “At every committee meeting I was in, I brought up that project, and it wasn’t long until everyone was aware of the need.” Beth’s persistence paid off, and eventually, the superintendent said, “If you can raise the money, then you can build the barn at the school.” Beth said, “He never thought we’d get the money! But we raised $27,000 and in 2015, we were able to build the barn.” The school system decided to design their STEM program around agriculture, and the barn is still being utilized today. “We were the only certified STEM agricultural based program in Georgia.”
The barn project lit a fire in Beth’s heart for public service, and the following year she was elected to the Pike County Board of Education. “It wasn’t a requirement for me to have a bachelor’s, but I thought it was important, so I went back to school at Clayton State University to finish.” By this time, her daughter was in high school, and she remembers the two of them doing homework together. In 2017, Beth earned her bachelor’s in Integrative Studies with a concentration in Psychology.
“I had earned the bachelor’s and decided it wasn’t enough – I wanted a master’s degree,” Beth recalled. She applied and was accepted to a traditional, on-campus master’s in Psychology at the University of West Georgia, but she withdrew before taking one class. “I went to orientation and just knew it wasn’t a good fit. I was in real estate, and didn’t feel like a psychology degree was going to further my career.” However, about a year later, Beth found a master’s program that would.
“One night I saw an ad for UA’s online master’s in Communication Studies with a specialization in Organizational Leadership, so I checked it out. I loved how the flexibility allowed it to fit into my family life while still offering the prestige of a program from The University of Alabama.” In January 2019, she began taking online classes while continuing to manage her real estate and public service careers along with her family responsibilities.
Beth had many positive things to say about her professors and said that some classes were phenomenal. She recalled Dr. Josh Pederson and his Relational Communication course as being “really good.” She also mentioned Dr. Jane Baker and said that her Conflict and Negotiation course had helped her become a better negotiator, teaching her that “we don’t have to agree on every single point, but we can find where we agree and work together.” Finally, she mentioned that Dr. Jessy Ohl’s Gender and Political Communication class was especially helpful in honing her political communication skills.
“That class was really eye-opening. It helped me consider how rhetoric can affect how women are perceived in the public eye and how to best present myself.” During the 2020 Primary election cycle for State House, Beth’s campaign was attacked by an opponent’s robocall, and she used what she had learned from her master’s coursework to craft her response. “It was very well received, and it solidified that I was not a shrinking violet, but it didn’t let me come across as a shrew either.” She said that balanced response wouldn’t have been possible without what she learned in Dr. Ohl’s class.
Another class that came in handy for Beth was her Qualitative Research Methods class. During her daughter’s first year at the University of Georgia, she was having to take a traditionally in-person Research Design class online due to COVID-19. “She was a little overwhelmed, so I looked at the course syllabus and realized it was basically the same as the research class I had taken, so I was able to help her through that because of my own coursework,” Beth said.
In May 2020, Beth completed her master’s. She and her family celebrated with commencement in the driveway, but she traveled to Tuscaloosa in August to participate in a socially distanced graduation as well.
“My master’s gave me confidence that I can read and understand a bill at the Capitol. It was challenging, for sure, but I really learned a lot through the process. It’s one of the best things I’ve done.”
Published: October 2nd, 2020