Alumnus credits Roane State for initial boost toward doctorate

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

Roane State’s reputation in his chosen field – physical therapy – was the key factor in Tyler Ratliff’s decision to enroll at the community college.

He said he’s glad he did. “I really enjoyed it,” said Ratliff, the son of Jim and Missy Ratliff of Farragut.

Roane State was the crucial first stage on his way to an advanced degree. He’s now pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Tennessee’s Health Science Center in Memphis.

Ratliff said he knew before he graduated from Farragut High School in May 2014 that he would be attending a community college because of Tennessee Achieves. That was the original name of Tennessee Promise, the state scholarship program that covers tuition costs.

Ratliff said he was considering another area community college but received favorable comments about Roane State’s physical therapy and physical therapy assistant programs. “I also heard good things about their anatomy classes,” he added.

“I felt the Roane State instructors were very student-oriented, and it showed in the classroom dynamics,” he said. ”I also liked the small class sizes where the instructors knew your name.”

Ratliff said Associate Professor Claudia Cummings was his favorite Roane State instructor. “She loves what she teaches, and it shows.” Her excitement for the subjects “energizes the students,” he said.

Roane State instructors, Ratliff said, helped sharpen his study skills. “They taught me to work independently.”

Ratliff graduated with an Associate of Science degree in May 2016 and enrolled at University of Tennessee-Knoxville that August. That had always been his dream, he said, even though as many as 200 to 300 students were in some classes.

Ratliff said he started as a biology major but switched to kinesiology – the study of human muscular movements ­– near the end of his first year.

He graduated Magna Cum Laude, or with great distinction, with a Bachelor of Science degree in December 2018.

Ratliff said he then worked a stint as a tech at a local physical therapy center, and that job “reinforced my intent to become a physical therapist.”

He started at UT’s Health Science Center in Memphis last August. Classes have been challenging and intense, he said. “It’s like trying to drink out of a fire hose” he said of the curriculum.

With a graduation target of 2023, Ratliff said he’s still “figuring out what path to go down in physical therapy.” Under consideration are two widely different options – sports therapy or working with the geriatric population.

Additional information about Roane State’s pre-physical therapy transfer degree program can be found at under the Health Sciences heading. To learn more about the college’s physical therapy assistant (PTA) program, visit

About Bob Fowler

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