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UC Alum Is A Prime Example of Teaching and Learning

Full-time teacher Tom Highley is keeping the UC experience all in the family, as he pursues his doctoral degree while his two sons earn their undergraduate degrees.

Date: 10/18/2012
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: The Highley Family
Tom Highley is truly making his graduate education at UC a real-world experience. Highley, a doctoral student in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH), is among the group of UC education faculty who are traveling to Salahaddin University in Erbil, Iraq, next month, as they complete a three-year, U.S. State Department-sponsored linkages program to provide technical and educational support for college programs serving undergraduate students in Iraq.
Sean, Tom and Matt Highley
Sean, Tom and Matt Highley



It will be his second trip to Iraq as a member of the partnership – one of only five U.S.-Iraq educational linkages programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. “My participation in this partnership has been an amazing experience,” says Highley. “The people we’ve met – they’re my friends now. I was referred to as ‘Elder Brother’ on my last trip. They’re an extremely open and warm people, and I’m excited to go back and see them again.”

Highley, who lives in Amelia, is juggling a hectic schedule beyond his studies and his travels. After earning his master’s degree in education from UC in 2002 and taking a class for licensure in 2010, he decided he would go ahead and pursue his EdD from UC, all while working as a full-time teacher at Nagel Middle School in the Forest Hills School District.

“At one time last year, I wasn’t just teaching at Nagel, but I was also teaching an evening class at UC while taking classes,” says Highley, who teaches 8th grade language arts at Nagel Middle School. After a sabbatical year of full-time study at UC, he spent last year as a part-time student, but hopes to complete his doctorate in 2014. “I’m hoping to achieve my doctorate in my 50th year”

After a 23-year career in teaching, Highley says he’s earning his doctorate to work at the university level, once he eventually retires from the Forest Hills School District. “My dad retired when he was 88 years old,” Highley says. “I don’t want to work quite that long, but I have truly treasured all that I have done in teaching, and want to look ahead to a second career, focusing on other issues in education.”

Highley is a first-generation college student who’s originally from Mt. Sterling, Ky. After growing up in that Appalachian region of Kentucky and first earning a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University, Highley says his education at UC has taken him full circle, as he researches the challenges of Appalachian migrants to urban schools – a population that has been called “the invisible minority” in Cincinnati-area schools.

“My current research focuses on the experience of urban Appalachian adolescents and their academic use of technology. Little work has been done in exploring opportunities and reasons for resistance in this area, so I am excited to conduct some case studies.”

Highley is also interested in publishing research, and during his first year in the doctoral program, he published a book chapter on the effects of social media in the classroom.

Sean, Tom, Matt and Julie Highley
Sean, Tom, Matt and Julie Highley

Highley admits he has made some sacrifices on his educational journey, giving up hours of recreation on weekends when he would like to go antiquing or just enjoy a day outdoors with his wife, Julie. “She’s amazing, though. She knows that this is what I have to do. It’s been a tough schedule, but it also made me more careful about what I say ‘yes’ to.”

In addition to looking ahead to his own graduation from UC, Highley is also looking forward to celebrating with his two sons as they finish their bachelor’s degrees. Sean Highley, an e-media major, is planning to graduate next spring. His youngest son, Matthew, is an 18-year-old junior at UC who is majoring in marketing and working toward a minor in psychology. Matthew graduated at age 16 from Covington Latin School.

Not to be left out of the family of Bearcats, Highley’s wife, Julie, has a connection to UC as well. As a partner and vice president of HORAN, her company is a corporate partner with the UC Goering Center for Family and Private Business in the Carl H. Lindner College of Business. She also sits on the center’s board of advisors.

UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services

UC Graduate School