Posted September 10, 2018

Two high performers Fly in 4 with extra degrees

Two recent alumni included master’s degrees in their four-year graduation plans.

Christine Mendenhall
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
After completing her degrees in record time, Christine Mendenhall, ENG ’17, ’18, now works as a structural engineer focused on the design and load capacity of bridges.

A common campus question became a real head-scratcher for two Class of 2018 graduates who earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in just four years.

“People would say, ‘What year are you?’ And I’d be like, ‘Hmm…,’” recalled Christine Mendenhall, ENG ’17, ’18, who started ahead of the curve thanks to advanced-placement credits from high school. “I was a freshman and then a sophomore in the same year.”

When the Chalfont, Pennsylvania native enrolled at Temple in 2014, she signed up for a new opportunity called Fly in 4—a program designed to keep students connected to academic advisors and on track to graduate on time, thereby limiting debt. 

“I was looking for ways to make college as cheap as possible and still get a good education,” Mendenhall said. “Part of what I was looking at was a 4+1 accelerated bachelor’s and master’s program. I knew that from the get-go. When I realized it was possible to do it even faster, I was like, ‘Cool. Let’s get this done.’”

The numbers checked out for Mendenhall, a math and science enthusiast who already knew engineering was the best path for her.

Mendenhall said more than 20 credits worth of high school advanced-placement courses, such as calculus, allowed her to jump into her engineering coursework at Temple. Ultimately, she earned a bachelor of science in civil engineering in her first three years and a master’s in the same discipline in her fourth. 

She’s now putting her skills to good use at the engineering firm WSP in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, where she works as a structural engineer focused on the design and load capacity of bridges. The added bonus of her master’s degree is starting with a better title, higher pay and an ability to handle more complicated work.

The other 2018 graduate who found a way to Fly in 4 with two degrees is Madeline Clugston, CLA ’17, ’18, who even made a summer study abroad in Paris part of her plan as she pursued undergraduate majors in English and French and then a master’s in English.

Madeline Clugston
In just four years, Madeline Clugston, CLA '17, '18, earned back-to-back bachelor's and master's degrees while also studying abroad in Paris for a summer. (PHOTO: Ryan S. Brandenberg)

“My family thought I was a little bit crazy,” said Clugston, who commuted for much of her time at Temple from her home in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. “Both of my parents went to Temple, but it took them about five years to graduate because they were working at the same time. When they saw what I could get done in four, they thought it was awesome.”

Clugston credits a Fly in 4 grant she earned as helping her focus on her studies with less pressure on outside work. Each year, 500 students like Clugston are awarded the need-based Fly in 4 grants to ease the financial strain that might delay the path to graduation.

“Temple was very financially supportive,” she said. “I felt very nurtured.”

Clugston said the flexibility of her advisors and professors to complete her plan ahead of the typical schedule were essential to clear any hurdles. One semester she even secured the permission of a professor to leave a class early to get to another essential class that overlapped.  

“The workload was very high, but I was well supported throughout,” Clugston said.
“If you want to do it, it’s a solid way to go. I’m graduating at the same time as my friends, but I have an extra degree on top of it.”

Though Clugston earned a master’s in English in record time, she hasn’t lost the learning bug. She is now substitute teaching for the North Penn School District in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, while also pursuing an online degree at Gwynedd Mercy University for an additional master’s in education and a teaching certification. 

“I was excited to see how well these students leveraged our programs in their path to graduation,” said Jodi Levine Laufgraben, vice provost for academic affairs, assessment and institutional research. “Fly in 4 focuses you on time to degree so that you can limit debt and get out into the workplace sooner or—as these students did—pursue graduate studies.” 

Graduating on time or early has become an attractive option: 93 percent of the Class of 2020 is committed to Fly in 4, up from 88 percent when Mendenhall and Clugston signed up.

—Andy Lochrie