Fort Smith, AR
BSBA in Accounting
"I felt driven to do it, I was so close when I left. When I was young, I let other things take priority, but I know it's never too late.”
Trey Jenkins is the picture of persistence.
The Fort Smith man who works as a commercial loan officer at United Federal Credit Union in Fort Smith began his undergraduate degree at the U of A in 2011 after graduating from high school. On June 28, about 11 years later, the U of A's Razorbug pulled into the parking lot of Jenkins' workplace, and Matt Willingham, assistant director of online programs for the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the U of A, presented a framed diploma to Jenkins.
"I felt driven to do it," Jenkins said. "I was so close when I left. When I was young, I let other things take priority, but I know it's never too late."
He has been working at financial institutions over the past decade and wanted to get the degree to take advantage of opportunities that may arise in his future, he said. United Federal Credit Union offered a tuition reimbursement program that helped, he said.
Jenkins remained in his home community and studied online at the U of A to complete a bachelor's degree in accounting. More than 440 students who studied in online degree programs applied for graduation from the U of A in May.
U of A faculty and staff members traveled throughout south Arkansas and the River Valley for two weeks in June in the Razorbug Diploma Tour to present diplomas to some of the recent graduates who earned degrees in online programs. 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.
Jenkins said there are similarities between studying online and studying in person on campus. In both, it's important to pay attention, do all the assignments and read the textbooks, he said. The knowledge he gained throughout his career so far and his ability as a self-directed learner have also been helpful in an online setting. Faculty members in his online program understand students are working full time and they keep that in mind when designing courses, Jenkins said.
Having his bachelor's degree gives him more credibility in his job, Jenkins said, and he plans to continue his education in preparation for an exam and other requirements needed to become a certified public accountant.
For Willingham, the Razorbug Diploma Tour offered a rare opportunity to meet an online student, seeing him in his element.
"This is really special," Willingham said. "It isn't something we get to do a whole lot. We work with prospective students through orientation and onboarding and advising, but it's all online. The vast majority of students we'll never meet unless they come to commencement. We don't always get that final contact. To be able to come, see Trey after he finished his degree and see what he's doing with it is really special."
The Razorbug Diploma Tour was organized by the U of A's Global Campus. The Global Campus works with academic colleges to offer more than 75 online degree, certificate, microcertificate and licensure programs.