healthcare graduates

(Left to right) Amanda Waterbury, Matthew Stevens, and Julia Matthew.

Two years ago, the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission to begin offering its first master’s degree in healthcare administration. Now, two years later, the first graduating class walked across the stage to receive their degrees at the university’s commencement ceremonies held last weekend.


Julia Matthew of Fort Smith, an administrative assistant at Radiologists, P.A. in Fort Smith; Amanda Waterbury of Van Buren, a tax compliance specialist at Baldor Electric Co.; and Matthew Stevens of Searcy, executive director for Brookdale Chenal Heights in Little Rock, all received master’s degrees after completing the coursework in the five-semester program, which is offered completely online.


For more information about the master’s program, contact Dr. Wittney Jones, executive director of the healthcare administration program, at or 479-788-7399.


Julia Matthew


After learning of new opportunities in healthcare opening up in Fort Smith, Matthew decided to enroll in the master’s degree program to gain more experience in the field.


After starting the program and beginning an internship with her current organization, she said “the pieces started to fall into place.”


“I have learned so much from the program, and it has all applied to my current and future positions within my organization,” she said. “I thought this master’s program would be a stop on the path to future schooling, but it ended up opening up different and amazing opportunities within the healthcare administration field.”


Amanda Waterbury


While Waterbury already had a master’s degree in international business, she enrolled in the healthcare administration program to obtain the knowledge to enter the healthcare administration profession to pursue a career where she “can make a difference and interact with the community.”


“This program has been very beneficial in developing both leadership and ethical skills, as well as the core competencies needed to be an effective healthcare administrator,” Waterbury said. “The professors, as well as Dr. Wittney Jones [executive director of the program] have been very supportive and considerate throughout the process, giving each of us one-on-one attention.”


Through the program, Waterbury said she learned about effective decision making and governance of the healthcare system, and also obtained hands-on experience through an internship at Mercy, where she learned about strategic planning and community health.


“Having this degree will hopefully open up opportunities across many different sectors of the healthcare field,” she said. “I hope to find a challenging and rewarding career opportunity in the near future.”


Matthew Stevens


Stevens said he enrolled in the master’s degree program to help be prepared for the “ever-changing and rapidly-growing industry.”


“The purpose of me obtaining this degree is to open doors in the future that may not have been opened without a higher education,” Stevens said.


In the program, Stevens was challenged with new ways of approaching healthcare and the myriad of issues surrounding it.


“I learned that with perseverance, drive, and a solid support system, anything is possible,” he said. “The program tested my ability to critically think, expand my thoughts, create new perceptions, and ultimately mold me into a better person and healthcare professional.”


About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit


Article by John Post, Director of Public Information
Photo Credits: 
Photo by Rachel Putman, Photographer, Marketing and Communications Office
Date Posted: 
Friday, May 19, 2017
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