Student Story

Rachel Eakins

Paragould, AR

Rachel Eakins

“We’ve always been Razorback fans. I thought it would be an awesome thing to graduate as a Razorback and I knew that the University of Arkansas had a great online program so that’s why I chose to go with the University of Arkansas.”

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Rachel Eakins enjoyed the experience of earning her bachelor's degree in human resource and workforce development from the U of A, but she is also happy to be finished with the program.

"It feels amazing to be done with school and able to focus on my career and my family now," Eakins said during a stop on the Razorbug Diploma Tour on June 29. "It just feels great to have that behind me."

"We've always been Razorback fans," continued Eakins, who is a resident of Paragould in the northeast corner of Arkansas, close to the Missouri border to the north and east. "I thought it would be an awesome thing to graduate as a Razorback, and I knew that the University of Arkansas had a great online program, so that's why I chose to go with the University of Arkansas."

Kate Mamiseishvili, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions at the U of A, traveled from Fayetteville to Paragould with Tori Gaddy, the college's director of development, to present Eakins with a framed diploma for her Bachelor of Science in Education.

Eakins was honored when U of A staff and faculty traveled 1,850 miles over two weeks in June through northern and southern Arkansas celebrating graduates of online degree programs. The presentations featured as a backdrop the Razorbug, a 2005 Volkswagen Beetle converted to look like a Razorback, with tusks, snout, razor-edged spine, hooves and curly tail. A final event in Little Rock on Aug. 17 added 10 more graduates for a total of 24 online graduates, 14 academic presenters from the Fayetteville campus and more than 2,200 Arkansas miles traveled.

U of A staff and faculty helped contribute to her success, Eakins said.

"It was a great experience," she said. "Everyone was so welcoming and helpful, and even though I was online, I never felt disconnected from the school. The advisers, the instructors, everyone was always available if I had questions or needed help with anything."

Eakins knew she couldn't rise any higher in the human resources department of the manufacturing company where she worked because she didn't have a bachelor's degree, even though she had put in about 20 years. Her family and work obligations meant Eakins needed a degree program that was offered online.

Eakins is an example of the type of student commonly attracted to the human resource development program, said Denise Bignar, who advises HRD undergraduate students and is herself a 2009 graduate of the program.

View short video about Rachel Eakins receiving her Bachelor of Science in Education in Human Resource and Workforce Development diploma

During a presentation June 29, Rachel Eakins of Paragould received her framed diploma for a Bachelor of Science in Education in human resource and workforce development from Kate Mamiseishvili, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions on the Razorbug Diploma Tour.

The degree, which was called human resource and workforce development until recently, is specifically designed for adults who want to complete a bachelor's degree that opens doors to opportunity and personal growth, according to the website.

Bignar holds other titles in the College of Education and Health Professions -— assistant dean of academic services, director of online undergraduate student advising — as well as advising undergraduates majoring in the educational studies degree offered online.

Bignar said she enjoys working with the HRD students, not only because of her affinity for the degree program, but because she can see the impact a degree has on students. Many have a complex family situation that affects their ability to go to school and be successful, she said, and advising them includes supporting them as they work through challenges.

"Touchpoints for an online student are double that for on-campus students," she said. "Because everything is done electronically, there is a lot of back and forth. It takes a lot of time to do right and stay on top of it. I enjoy working with these students. I get to see the impact a degree is making on that student faster, and it's nice to know you played a role in helping them get to the next step."

The degree can serve graduates in diverse backgrounds, Bignar said.

"I'm advising for a major I was in as an undergrad; it's near and dear to my heart," she said. "I want students to get good service and understand the degree has good value. I've been able to use it in my profession (in higher education), and I can share that with my students. It's not just HR; it can be used for all kinds of things."

Eakins also appreciated support from her family.

"I was really fortunate to have a support system at home," she said. "They knew that weekends and evenings, a lot of times, would be dedicated to schoolwork, and having that support system is huge. Just knowing that I needed that time to myself to be able to work through schoolwork that makes it possible, makes it so much easier when you're already tackling this journey."

Eakins advises others to "take the leap" if they are considering enrolling in the HRD program.

"It's a little scary at first when you don't know what you're getting into, but the program is so supportive of the students," she said. "It takes dedication; it takes discipline, self-discipline, but if you're willing to do that, it's a great program and a great way to achieve your goal."