“There are between 600-800 students who will receive their degrees from this wonderful institution this spring,” said Dr. Don Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, during his address to UAFS graduates. “But to me, it’s 800 success stories.”
Those stories saw their end – and the beginning of countless new success stories – at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith’s commencement ceremonies held in the Stubblefield Center May 12.
Bobbitt was not the only one to look at it that way. For each University of Arkansas – Fort Smith graduate walking across the stage, and for their families as well, that moment signified the culmination of hundreds of hours attending class, studying, and balancing the obligations of school, work and social lives. As Bobbitt continued, they were stories of “perseverance … and discipline.”
One such story was Rebekah Hodges of Alma, who graduated with a degree in chemistry this spring and who has been accepted to the University of Iowa to pursue a doctorate in inorganic chemistry. Her goal is to become an educator, “much like these women [who teach at UAFS] who are my role models.”
She also hopes to use her position as a teacher or professor to inspire more women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Women make up 48 percent of the total workforce. That sounds pretty good, right?” she said in remarks during a reception prior to commencement. “But out of science and engineering grads, only 39 percent of those are women. But it gets worse. Only 24 percent of women are working in STEM.”
“As a women, I feel like UAFS has adequately prepared me to compete with any man or woman in a STEM field, which is important,” she continued. “That’s why I’ve gotten into five out of the seven graduate schools I applied to. That’s not because I’m exceedingly smart, or exceedingly talented. It’s because I come from a great school, with great deans and great professors.”
Sen. John Boozman, who served as commencement speaker, inspired graduates to make the lives of those around them better.
“You don’t have to be a U.S. Senator, have your dream job or live in your dream house to do it,” Boozman said. “There’s a role for all of us. You don’t have to leave your country or state to make this a better place for future graduates.”
During his own remarks, UAFS Chancellor Paul B. Beran told students that while their degree is cause for celebration, the march toward success is just beginning in an ever-changing global world.
“I’m finishing my 17th year as president or chancellor, my 12th here at UAFS. How many major corporations that many of you would love to work at even existed 17 years ago?” he asked. “Do you think that the people whose diplomas that I signed 17 years are still in the business or industry in which they started? … I can tell you that very few are working in the same job, and the majority, not even in the same industry.”
“You don’t have the time to relish your sense of accomplishment,” he continued. “This weekend, you need to celebrate what you’ve done. Go take a picture with NUMA outside, enrich the economy of Fort Smith with an indulgent trip to a local restaurant, relax tomorrow, you’ve earned it. But Monday – Monday, you need to be on a quest for relevance in a world changing at an astounding speed.”
In addition to Chancellor Beran, UAFS administrators presenting candidates were Dr. Georgia Hale, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs; Dr. Leroy Cox, associate dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology; Dr. Ashok Subramanian, dean of the College of Business; Dr. Carolyn Mosley, dean of the College of Health Sciences; Dr. Paul Hankins, dean of the College of Communication, Languages, Arts and Social Sciences; Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Dr. Norm Dennis, senior associate dean for the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville; and Wayne Womack, registrar.
Eric Smithson, chair-elect of the UAFS Alumni Advisory Council, provided a welcome from the Alumni Association. Dr. Larry Faulk, chief marshal and bearer of the mace, gave the call to order and adjournment, and music was provided by the UAFS Symphonic Band, with Dr. Timothy Workman, director of choral activities, served as vocalist with the band on the National Anthem and the alma mater. Pre-ceremony music and post-recessional bell peal on the Donald W. Reynolds Bell Tower carillon was provided by Dr. Stephen Husarik, head carillonneur.