Student Success

Isaac Brown

Booneville, AR
M.S. in Electrical Engineering

Isaac Brown

"My roots are here. Also, I didn't have to take the GRE, and I liked my professors. I would tell anyone it's worth it. Even though it's a challenge at the time, I think it will pay off."

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Willee Joe Brown, 3, of Booneville was ready to start prekindergarten because he's been watching Daddy do homework for most of his young life.

The little boy and his mother, Emalee Brown, were on hand to see Isaac Brown receive a framed diploma for his master's degree in electrical engineering earned online from the U of A. The family was expecting another son soon.

Roy McCann, professor of electrical engineering, traveled from Fayetteville to Rockline Industries in Booneville to present the diploma June 29 as part of the Razorbug Diploma Tour through the River Valley. The tour celebrated the success of U of A students in online degree programs. More than 440 of them applied for graduation in May. 

"In the very beginning, I thought it would be easier than in-person classes, but I learned it was not easier, just different," Brown said. "I was able, with my family's help, to focus in the evenings and weekends on the work I needed to do. Rockline has also been a huge support for me. I was able to come take tests here where there was a quiet place and reliable internet."

Brown previously earned two bachelor's degrees - a math degree from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and an electrical engineering degree from the U of A through a partnership with UAFS. Students who complete an associate's degree in engineering at UAFS can continue on to complete a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the U of A, taking all their classes, taught both online and in person by U of A faculty, on the UAFS campus.

For the next step, Brown chose the online master's degree program offered through the Fayetteville campus because he didn't have to travel for it, either.

"We've got an almost 4-year-old," Brown said. "My roots are here. Also, I didn't have to take the GRE, and I liked my professors. I would tell anyone it's worth it. Even though it's a challenge at the time, I think it will pay off."

Brown has worked as an engineer at Rockline for five years doing some design and programming work along with maintenance of control systems for the machinery that makes wet wipes.

McCann talked with Brown during the videotaped event, telling him that having contact with students such as Brown who are working engineers helps the faculty understand changes happening in the field and the challenges and issues that engineers face.

"We wouldn't learn about some of those otherwise without online students," McCann said.

McCann has taught online for eight years, but the past few years during the pandemic were different, he said. The faculty was able to use best practices in online teaching to enhance the experience of on-campus students who had to switch abruptly to online instruction, he said.

"The quality of more personal interaction online helped make the transition easier for students who had been studying on campus," he said.

After the presentation, Rockline employees celebrated with Brown, enjoying refreshments provided by the company and going outside to take pictures with the Razorbug.

The Razorbug is a converted red Volkswagen Beetle that sports a Razorback snout, tail and razor-edged spine. It has been used for recruitment and special events since 2005. The tour took place over two weeks in southern Arkansas and the River Valley in June.