Nina Dutton is not your average college student. As a nontraditional student and a native of Russia, Dutton is a rare breed on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus.


But her unique background, which saw her leave Moscow for Fort Smith, reflects the diversity and drive of the University’s students.


Dutton first came to America as a tourist. In 2009, she was visiting a friend in Kansas City when she met and fell in love with her future husband, John. Three years later, she decided to move to America permanently, leaving her career in Moscow as an engineer to live in Fort Smith in July 2012.


It was a leap of faith for Dutton, and one that would present a special set of challenges for her in her new home. She was eager to begin forging a new career in the States, but the language barrier -- and an education from an American college -- stood in her way.


The Adult Education Center in Fort Smith helped her with the former, which helped her enroll at UAFS to accomplish the latter.


“I spoke some English before coming to the United States, but it wasn’t as good as I thought,” she said. “So I had to learn English as quickly as possible to be a success. I appreciate the Fort Smith Adult Education Center, where I studied English for eight months with their teaching and support.”


Although she was a heat engineer in Russia, one of the issues with Dutton’s need to re-educate came from the differences between Russian and American heating systems. She found she would be unable to apply that knowledge in America.


“In Russia, we have huge heating plants that pump hot water by pipes to each building, where here, each building has its own heater,” she said. “So I faced the choice of what to choose to study for my future profession that would correlate with my engineering knowledge and would be useful here.”


She chose the computer graphic technology program in the College of Applied Science and Technology, which she enjoys because of the hands-on learning and the dedication of the professors.


“I fell in love with mechanical drawing since my first month at UAFS,” she said. “All the professors here, they are so friendly and open. If I don’t understand, I’ll ask many questions, and they are very patient. I want knowledge, and they give it to me, and I love that.”


One of Dutton’s professors, assistant professor of computer graphic technology Heath Cady of Van Buren, said Dutton is a hard-working student that contributes to the diversity of his classes.  


“She has a strong work-ethic, is self-motivated, strives to go beyond the minimal requirements for assignments, and generally turns in exceptional work,” he said. “She brings diversity to the classroom, not simply because of her Russian accent, but has made comments when she notices how features of an object are represented here in the states as compared to overseas when working on technical drawings.”


Dutton’s work ethic was also noticed by computer graphic technology professor Max Johnston of Roland, Okla., who said Dutton “takes extra effort to be perfect.”


“Nina has demonstrated a strong desire to learn and has been very focused on class assignments,” he said. “She has demonstrated characteristics of a good student and will make a great employee. She is always on time in attendance and assignments, and if she doesn’t understand a concept, she raises questions until she does.”


With devoted professors and the academic freedom to pursue the courses she wants, Dutton’s future looks bright.


“I look forward to a new and exciting career after my classes here at UAFS are completed,” she said.


Story ID: 
Date Posted: 
Friday, March 21, 2014
News Teaser: 
Nina Dutton is not your average college student. As a nontraditional student and a native of Russia, Dutton is a rare breed on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus.