Student Story

Emma Raines

Newport, TN
BSBA in Supply Chain Management

Emma Raines

"I have a passion for being a role model for my girls and have an overall love of learning. I want to prove that learning and success have no age limit, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to attend the University of Arkansas."

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Emma Raines’ journey from high school graduation to college may span decades, but through determination and hard work and with strong support from both family and supervisors, she will soon graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Supply Chain Management from the University of Arkansas.

“I have a passion for being a role model for my girls and have an overall love of learning,” Raines, 53, said. “I want to prove that learning and success have no age limit, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to attend the University of Arkansas.”

Raines works for Rockline Industries as a raw materials planner and production scheduler. Rockline, which has a large presence in Northwest Arkansas, is a leading manufacturer of wet wipes, coffee filters and baking cups.

“I purchase some raw materials that produce wet wipes for the facility in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, as well as the facility in Morristown, Tennessee,” she said. “We're in a pivotal part of the company. We buy raw materials, schedule production, and see the goods out the back door. I am a customer on one side and offer customer service on the other. That's pretty important to me.”

For the last few years, the world’s supply chain process has been relatively unstable, being impacted by shifts in product demand and labor shortages caused by COVID-19. Uncertainty surrounds the entire manufacturing process and impacts everything from transportation to pricing. The challenge only increases Raines’ love for the work, she said.

“There's been a lot of peaks and valleys, but I've loved being right in the middle of it,” Raines said. “It's like trying to control chaos and herd wild cats, but it's been fulfilling for me. This is where I see me retiring someday.”

Raines intends to remain with Rockline, taking advantage of the company’s multi-level promotion track, she said.

“Once I receive my degree, a position such as a master planner and master scheduler may open up,” she said. “I could eventually be a supply chain manager for the company.”

Raines chose an online degree due to the flexibility it offered without sacrificing income to lost work time or missing out on important moments with her family, she said.

“The flexibility thing is really important for me,” she said. “I didn't have to worry about being late or missing a class. I don't have to worry about inclement weather, fuel costs or anything else associated with going to a brick and mortar, and it works with my schedule.”

Until recently, Raines had not given much thought to going back to school. When COVID forced many companies, including Rockline, to transition many employees to remote work, their supply chain adapted well to the virtual format and opened up other opportunities, she said.

“When my manager said, ‘I know you have your associate’s (degree). How about getting that bachelor’s, I thought, ‘I'm 51 years old. Are you kidding me?’” she recalled. “After a few conversations with my husband and my children and knowing that it would be very demanding of us, we thought, ‘Why not? Let's try it.’”

Due to previous exposure to the University of Arkansas through a customized training course created for Rockline Industries by the university’s Professional and Workforce Development, Raines began her college search with the U of A.

“I had done an online class for the University of Arkansas that was customized specifically for Rockline,” she said. “I work with so many people that have graduated from the U of A, and they talk so highly of it. I decided I would apply.”

When her husband questioned why she only applied to one school, she responded by declaring the U of A was where she wanted to go, she said.

“I started in the fall of 2021 and absolutely love it,” Raines said. “I'd forgotten how much I love education.”

Raines has nothing but the highest praise for Rockline Industries, its supervisory personnel, and its policy for promoting staff development.

“That's one of the things I really like about the company I work for,” she said. “They really do promote work-life balance.”

Raines lives in Newport, Tennessee, close to the North Carolina line, with her husband and two daughters. Her early years were spent on a small working farm in the Great Smoky Mountains, she said.

“We grew up on a rustic, rural farm where we raised all our crops,” she recalled. “My brothers were hunters, my mother did the canning, all the different things that rural Tennesseans used to do. We grew up in that, so I’ve come a long way.”

Raines is the first in her family to not only complete high school but to go on to college.

“My parents were both very intelligent, but they never finished high school,” she said. “They came from poor, hard-working families, so me being the first to graduate high school was a big to-do. I went straight into a community college here in Tennessee then life happened. I withdrew from school and went to work.”

Ten years passed before Raines once more considered returning to college. When her position in the company she worked for was moved overseas, Raines returned to her local community college. At age 30 and five months pregnant with her first daughter, Raines earned an associate’s degree in business, graduating magna cum laude.

“I was standing in line at commencement, and I had a ribbon on my card,” she laughingly recalled. “I didn’t know what that ribbon meant. The girl in front of me said, ‘It means you're pretty intelligent.’ I was like ‘I am?’ I didn't put a lot of work into following my GPA because I was just really digging into the study.”

With a child on the way, Raines’ focus shifted away from education and toward supporting her growing family, she said. More than 20 years would pass before her next college course.

During her time at the U of A, Raines has taken advantage of many resources offered to the students. In addition to the library and Writing Studio, she earned badge recognition through Suitable, she said.

“In several classes, we earned integrity badges through a program called Suitable,” she said. “You listen to different lectures, go to webinars and things like that and put the badges on your LinkedIn profile. Certain employers recognize and support this program. JB Hunt is really big on that and so are some others.”

Raines was one of 29 online students to receive the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for online U of A students for the 2022-2023 academic year.

“Out of all of the students that apply, to be given a scholarship, it's a golden opportunity that some people will not have,” Raines said. “I sincerely appreciate the financial assistance that the W.E. Manning scholarship provides in helping me meet my goals. It's a joyous feeling and a relief that someone else is willing to invest in your education. It helps me because they want me to succeed. I want to be successful, to receive my degree and further my career with Rockline Industries. The W.E. Manning Scholarship goes a long way in helping me do that.”