mackenzie o'kelley
Mackenzie O'Kelley

Mackenzie O’Kelley has seen the impact of cancer firsthand. Many of her relatives have battled with it, some of them passing away.


For this reason, the Roland, Okla., native is pursuing her dream of becoming a radiation oncologist at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.


When determining where to attend college, O’Kelley knew she didn’t want to attend a large school, but she also didn’t want to attend a school that was very small. She felt that UAFS was the perfect fit for everything she wanted.


“UAFS was so attractive to me because of the proximity to my family and the size of the university,” she said. “The small class sizes allow for more attention from your professors, which was also very important for me.”


A biology major, O’Kelley has found caring and willing professors at the university who help students any way they can.


“They are all so helpful and encouraging,” she said. “They genuinely want you to do well in their classes and encourage you to attend office hours for one-on-one help as much as possible. Also, my biology professor is so knowledgeable about health-related questions and actually spent much of her time in graduate school learning about radiation and its effects, so she is an asset when it comes to learning about this field.”


O’Kelley is a member of the Biology club and serves as the administrative assistant of the Freshman Council. She believes that getting involved in organizations like these are a very important part of being successful in college and have given her skills that she can use throughout her life.


“Joining these organizations has given me the opportunity to be exposed to a side of college that students who are not involved will never experience,” she stated. “The Chancellor’s Leadership Council has given me so many opportunities to be exposed to a wide variety of things ranging from meeting important political figures to figuring out how to be a productive leader.”


O’Kelley also credits her advisor, job fairs, and the career center at UAFS in helping shape her academic and post-graduate success. The endless opportunities she has been given to learn about the medical field and medical school have helped pave a way toward her dream of becoming a doctor.  


“My advisor is attentive and sends out information about medical school tours frequently, and there are always speakers coming to answer questions about medical school,” O’Kelley said. “There are also job fairs and a career center where you can find out information about potential careers and meet people in whatever field you want to go into.”


So far O’Kelley has loved attending UAFS and would encourage anybody considering going to UAFS to attend.


“Finding a college that is cheap, medium-sized, and that has professors and faculty that actually care about you is a rarity,” she said.


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. Small class sizes, dedicated faculty and staff, affordable tuition rates, and a diverse on-campus culture allow UAFS students to fully explore their areas of interest in ways that prepare them for post-graduate success academically, professionally, and personally. To find out what makes UAFS just right for you, go to


Article by Lindsey Thacker, Intern, Public Information Office
Photo Credits: 
Rachel Putman, Photographer, Marketing and Communications
Date Posted: 
Thursday, December 7, 2017
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