M.S. in Operations Management
"After I get my degree, I’m hoping I can use the strategic management and the project management aspects of it a lot. I’ve already used some of the project management and strategic planning concepts I’m learning."
Ashley Acord worked as a videographer on a University of Arkansas documentary named the “Best Feature Film” at the Made in Arkansas Film Festival. Now, Acord is enrolled in the Master of Science in Operations Management online degree program at the U of A because she wants to add management and leadership skills to her technical chops.
Acord, 28, of Springdale, won a different award on her own this spring. She was one of 29 people to receive the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for online U of A students for the 2022-2023 academic year.
“I was really excited to receive the award,” she said about the scholarship. “Paying for my college education on my own now that I’ve left the university is a big undertaking, so any kind of financial relief that I could get from that cost is a huge help. It is going to allow me to actually be able to graduate in December of this year.”
Acord will have a few classes to finish the following March, but without the scholarship, she was going to have to push back finishing until the summer of 2023, she said.
Acord was a first-generation college student when she earned a bachelor’s degree in film from the University of New Orleans in 2015. After coming to Northwest Arkansas, she worked in video production for the U of A football program and the ESPN/SEC Network affiliate Razorback Sports Network before taking a position as a videographer and editor with University Relations. University Relations staff worked with Larry Foley, Emmy-award-winning documentary filmmaker and chair of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, to produce If This Walk Could Talk as part of the U of A’s sesquicentennial celebration.
The film, which is about an hour and a half long, tells stories about the U of A through the lens of the university’s unique Senior Walk tradition.
“It was a great team effort and it’s awesome to see it reach so many people,” Acord said.
Acord assisted with the planning of what content to include and what points to hit. She worked as a videographer on a lot of the scenes and shot b-roll, which is secondary footage used to provide context and visual interest in the telling of a story, as well as serving as an assistant at shoots and events on and off campus.
“We tried to fit in as much content as possible because we knew everyone who’s going to watch is an alumnus or connected to the U of A in some way,” she said. “It is cool to go back and see the history that happened 30 to 40 years ago, that you weren’t around to see, but there are visuals to go to and people who were around to see it and can speak on that. Hearing everybody’s stories and how the university is connected to everybody in some way was really cool.”
Acord, who started work in February this year as a video producer at PAM Transport in Tontitown, is responsible for collaborating across departments of the trucking company and overseeing the development, creation and delivery of video projects for multiple platforms. She decided pursuing a graduate degree online would allow her to continue working while learning advanced concepts.
“I decided a graduate degree was the way to go for me because I already had the technical knowledge I needed for the field,” Acord said. “I needed more of the administrative knowledge, knowledge about budgeting and long-term goals versus the short-term outlook. A master’s program could round out all of those skills."
“Originally, I wanted to get this degree for growth, but now I see I want to be more on the administrative side of things,” she continued. “After I get my degree, I’m hoping I can use the strategic management and the project management aspects of it a lot. I’ve already used some of the project management and strategic planning concepts I’m learning. I can already tell – I took the leadership principles course and that has been a big help knowing how to talk to people on my team and how to get projects approved and things like that.”
Choosing a graduate degree offered online was crucial for her, Acord said. Her adviser is always helpful and quick to respond when she has questions. She interacts with professors and other students through email, Blackboard, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, using the video and chat features of the latter three. She also used LinkedIn Learning tutorials, which are free to U of A students, on Excel and Microsoft Project, programs required in her classes.
Daily life as an online student requires focus, Acord said.
“I work 7 to 4 during the day, then I come home, make dinner, try to catch up with my husband on how his day went, and then pretty much from 6 to 9, off and on, depending on the day, I’m doing homework, I’m doing group assignments, final projects,” she said. “There’s a lot of evenings and weekends that are spent just working on coursework. If it’s not reading chapters, it’s studying for the midterm, studying for a final or writing a paper that’s 10 pages long. So, it’s a lot of work, but I’ve definitely retained a lot of information as well.”
Acord said she was a little surprised the workload is as heavy as it is.
“When you have been out of a school awhile, you’ve got to reteach yourself how to commit time to all that stuff and just sit down and focus,” she said. “But, I think the courses themselves are all laid out well and the information you need to know is there.”
The availability of online classes made it possible for her to get a master’s degree, Acord said. She would not have been able to drive to campus for classes at night, go home and get up to go to work the next day.
“The flexibility has been a huge asset,” she said.
“I would tell someone looking to study online that it is a time commitment,” Acord continued. “Even though you’re not going to a physical campus, it still takes your focus, and it still takes your undivided attention. It’s just as intense as learning in the classroom.”