MTSU Alum Builds New Life With Degree

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The woman behind a successful construction and development business is using an MTSU education to build a new life for herself.

Jamie Butera is taking some time off before she builds upon her 2017 MTSU bachelor's degree to pursue a master's degree on the way to a counseling career.

She has earned the time away from her studies. The recipient of a Senior Honor Student certificate from the Department of Psychology overcame enormous obstacles to obtain a college education at the age of 42.


"It means so much to me," said Butera. "I worked really hard, and, I guess because I'm an older student¦ I took things so much more seriously maybe because they were more valuable to me.

After marrying her high-school sweetheart, Butera first became a mother at 18. However, she said the marriage soured, leading to a turbulent divorce and battle for custody of their 9-year-old daughter.


With few resources at her disposal following divorce proceedings, Butera worked for a cupcake company to make ends meet while trying to get sole parental rights.

"The process was so daunting and so lonesome and so confusing," said Butera.

A second daughter became gravely ill with diabetic ketoacidosis while Butera was trying to study, forcing her to put her education on hold while the girl fought her way back from the brink.

Butera's oldest daughter encouraged her mother to take a class with her at MTSU. Together, they enjoyed a wine appreciation course taught by Tony Johnston, a professor in the School of Agribusiness and Agri-science. That was the catalyst for Butera's decision to go for a bachelor's degree at last.

"I really loved MTSU", said Butera. "I didn't know how much I would love it."

Her oldest daughter, 24-year-old Lauren, graduated from MTSU in 2014. Middle daughter Bella, fully recovered from her illness, is 16. The youngest daughter, Sophie, is 13.

Butera's Franklin, Tennessee-based business, American Development Partners, and her family are the focus of a more serene life now. However, the difficult times in her life inspired Butera to look seriously at counseling trauma survivors after she achieves the necessary credentials.

"Just seeing the effect of counseling and how it can change the outcome after trauma made me want to focus on doing the same for other people", said Butera.

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