Working Mother Overcomes Challenges of Adult Learners to Study Supply Chain Management

September 7, 2023

Emma Raines, upper right, is pictured with her husband, Robert, and daughters, Emmie, left, and Kristen.
Emma Raines, upper right, is pictured with her husband, Robert, and daughters, Emmie, left, and Kristen.

Emma Raines takes being a role model for her daughters very seriously. It's one of the main reasons, beyond the potential for increased earnings and career advancement, she returned to school after 50.

Two years later, Raines is on track to receive her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in supply chain management delivered online by the University of Arkansas, making her a prime example of someone who has mastered strategies for adult learners. She lives in Newport, Tennessee, which is on the eastern border with North Carolina.

Raines graduated from high school in 1988, attended a Tennessee community college, and then withdrew from school to begin working. At age 30, while five months pregnant with her oldest daughter, she earned her associate degree in business management, graduating magna cum laude.

That seemed to be the end of educational pursuits for Raines, the first in her family to graduate from high school and earn an associate degree. After working for two decades to support her growing family, Raines reexamined her goals and, at 51, returned to school.


Is Supply Chain Management a Good Major?

If you're seeking to launch or advance your career in the industry, earning a degree in supply chain management is a good route to go. It can open the door to meaningful careers managing the flow of goods and services from product sourcing to consumer use. Gaining business and soft skills, like the ability to solve problems with innovative solutions, can create an exciting career that drives business growth and profit.

Raines has worked in a supply chain role for more than 30 years, and her degree enhanced her career at Rockline Industries, where she's worked for five years. She loves the diversity of her responsibilities as a raw materials planner and production scheduler for the company, which is a leading manufacturer of wet wipes, coffee filters and baking cups.

"I love working with a system of checks and balances," says Raines. "You get to be right in the hub of everything. I'm in manufacturing for raw materials sourcing, but I also work on scheduling of production and have a pivotal role in helping to get products out the door and in quality control, too. I'm immersed in the company."

When her manager at Rockline suggested she return to school to obtain her bachelor's degree, she worried about the strain on her family. In fall 2021, following family discussions, Raines enrolled in the bachelor's degree program in supply chain management at the U of A. She received a W. E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for students who study online and is on track to graduate in 2024.

Aiming for career advancement is one of the primary strategies for adult learners, and Raines says her coursework for her online bachelor's degree has definitely improved her skill sets. Her business information systems classes were valuable in helping her to master Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint programs, which she uses daily in her job.

One of her favorite classes was marketing.

"I thought marketing was just advertising and manipulation, but what I learned has a lot of real-world relevance and gave me an understanding of how it can affect the supply chain."

Emma Raines, Supply Chain Management major, University of Arkansas

A Role Model for Her Two Daughters

Raines believes earning her degree in supply chain management later in life has positively affected her daughters.

"They know what my work ethic is, and they mirror it," Raines says. "I didn't want to go to college when I was raising them — it wasn't the right time for me — but now they see me and say, 'Mom, if you can do it, maybe I can do it, too.' They see me and know that I'm not going to quit."

Her 22-year-old daughter, Kristen, is living on her own but still makes time to come over for family dinners. Her 16-year-old daughter, Emmie, lives at home, attends high school and helps with household chores.

"They're both very good girls, both honor students, and I'm proud of them."

Raines has been married to her second husband for eight years, and "he has been incredible. He's taken on a lot of duties around our home, especially meals and laundry, and I have a dedicated office that's just for me."

Like many after the pandemic, she works a hybrid schedule, with three days of work in her home office. Earning an online bachelor's degree allows her to balance her studies with her job, family and other responsibilities.

After work, Raines says, "Everyone in my family knows when I'm in there (her home office) studying. They are all very accommodating — and when it's time for me to study for a test, no one makes noise. Things like going for a drive are on hold for now, but it will all come back around. This is temporary."

Despite experiencing many challenges of adult learners, Raines says what keeps her going is demonstrating to her children that "they can do hard things."

"I have always said to them, 'Little girl, you can do big things,' and it's important to me they see that in me."

By pursuing her online bachelor's degree through the U of A, Raines is modeling persistence, dedication and how one can improve their life through hard work.

"To me, I'm leading my daughters by example. I can say, 'This is my philosophy about the way you do things,' but when they see it in action, it's clear that, if mom can do it in her 50s, they can surely do it in their 20s. What I am demonstrating to them is they can do something wonderful. This is a path they can follow."


Overcoming Challenges as an Adult Learner

One of the first challenges of adult learners Raines encountered was returning to the college classroom, albeit virtually, after decades of being out of it.

"My greatest challenge at first was balancing such a full load of all the things that are important in life — maybe there was a crisis at work, finding time to have dinner or conversations with my family. I had to multitask."

One of the strategies for adult learners she uses is to set calendar prompts a day sooner than the actual deadline.

"I knew I had another day if I needed it. And, if I have a class that's more interesting to me, I'll tackle it first to give me a sense of accomplishment. It's a juggling act," she acknowledges.

Raines admits it hasn't been easy to earn her online bachelor's degree with a full-time job and family responsibilities, but she feels the hard work is worth it. Despite the difficulties, she wants other adult learners to know, "You're never too old. I say, 'just do it.'

"When you're learning something, the endorphins rush in, and it's the same feeling when you master something. I love that I know how to do that," she says.


Online Degrees in Supply Chain Management Offer Flexibility

One of the characteristics of adult learners may be unfamiliarity with communicating with peers and teachers in an online format. Raines needed the convenience of attending classes on her schedule — something she wouldn't find in a brick-and-mortar setting.

Raines says her real-world experiences and the business acumen she acquired over the years provided a strong foundation for learning new things. "I've already dealt with a lot of corporate things in general — and have been exposed to mortgages, taxes and the like — and my classes gave me real-world applications."

After work each day, she has dinner with her family and then works on her schoolwork from 5:30 to 10 p.m. She devotes herself to school from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. "It is a full load," she admits. "I take four or five classes each semester."

Tuition reimbursements and flexible scheduling from her employer also made a difference for her. "They are very encouraging and supportive. During finals, I can take extra time off when I need it, and they celebrate all my successes with me."

Once Raines decided to pursue her Bachelor of Science in supply chain management, she only applied to the University of Arkansas. The reason? She had recently completed a customized training course developed for Rockline by the U of A on the foundations of supply chain and was impressed.

"It was an amazing class and gave me an introduction to Blackboard. I didn't think I could do that, but I did. Plus, I live in Tennessee — a whole state away from Arkansas — and I hadn't been enrolled in school in decades. I needed an online bachelor's degree program so I could work a full-time schedule and not have structured hours."

A manager once told her she was like a sponge, and Raines says it's one of the characteristics of adult learners that has served her well in life.

"I've been exposed to several difficulties over my career, and I am still standing. I wouldn't be here now had I not had that passion for learning and wanting to" accomplish her goals.

Her co-workers are taking notice, too.

"It's really kind of cool," Raines says. "One of our project managers is taking a couple of classes now, too. They tell me how proud they are of me and of what I am doing."


'Look For The Fit' When Considering Online Bachelor's Degrees

Online degrees in supply chain management like hers are designed to account for the challenges of adult learners, she says.

"Online courses are excellent because they do allow you to have somewhat of a normal life. The U of A online Bachelor of Science in supply chain management offered exactly what I needed. The environment, set up, interaction — all of it is a really good fit for me," she says.

Raines advises adult learners to look for ideal-fit programs.

"How does it suit your needs? Does it allow you to still be you? It's a lot of work, but it's worth it," she says. "Earning an online bachelor's degree is not forever, but what you get out of it is. Yes, it's a piece of paper, but to my girls, I did something big. This is an amazing journey — it's big things, and it's hard things.

Raines isn't the only one to think highly of the U of A degree in supply chain management. Gartner, Inc., consistently ranks the University of Arkansas No. 1 among the top 25 North American undergraduate supply chain programs. The rankings measure excellence in industry value, program scope and program size. The U of A Master of Science in supply chain management is ranked No. 2 by Gartner.

For more information about this top-ranked Bachelor of Science in supply chain management, visit the U of A ONLINE website.

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Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management (SCM) is the active and intentional management of the flows of goods and services from product sourcing to the consumer. Great supply chain management is not a “one size fits all” approach anymore.

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