FORT SMITH, Ark. — The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS) held two commencement ceremonies today (May 1) honoring some of the 2020 graduates who did not get an opportunity to get a ceremony.
Ron Orick, executive director of the UAFS Career Services office and the Doug and Kathy Babb Center for Student Professional Development spoke at the 10 a.m.ceremony.
“You never know where opportunities will lead,” he said, “so seek out new experiences and grow your network. Look for ways to engage in your community and look for ways to volunteer and make a difference,”.
Rick Goins, director of Alumni Affairs at UAFS since 2014, urged graduates to stay committed and connected.
“You’ve come back today to walk this stage, and I hope you continue coming back for years to come,” said Goins. “And never forget: Once a Lion, always a Lion."
Goins thanked them for their commitment to their education and asked them to thank their families, friends, peers, and mentors for their own commitment to helping the graduates make it to this point, even amid a global pandemic.
Friends and families gathered after each ceremonies to congratulate and take photos of their loved ones after their long-awaited day.
“As a first-generation student, this is a huge accomplishment for myself and my family, and I take tremendous pride in that,” said Ana Segovia.
Segovia participated in extensive undergraduate research that led her to Belize and earned her an Arkansas Space Consortium grant funded by NASA. Segovia works as a water treatment technician for the City of Fort Smith.
“My time and experiences at UAFS provided me with an immense sense of pride and achievement," Segovia said. "I'm forever grateful to have been a part of the 2020 graduating class.”
Rachel Williams, a December 2020 graduate walked out of the Gayle Kaundart Arena, and into the arms of friends and family donning matching "Team Rachel" T-shirts.
Williams is nearing completion of her master's degree at Norfolk State University and has secured her dream job as a television reporter.
“Because of UAFS, I’ve learned the importance of community, and the connections you build with your professors and peers. I enjoyed the smaller school because I needed that personal, academic attention to help me grow as a journalist. My degree from UAFS has given me the confidence to write and report in any medium, and I chose to come back and walk because I really wanted to fulfill this accomplishment and honor those three years of hard work.”
Colton Key, beamed as he explained that his mother was able to fly in this weekend to celebrate his accomplishment. Key works as a Software Developer for ArcBest Technologies.
“I love this campus, these classes, and my faculty,” he said. “The Math department always pushed me beyond what I thought possible for me, and the computer science professors challenged my skills in every single class."
Almost 200 students walked the stage today. In the class of 2020, there were 810 graduates who earned bachelor's degrees, 247 who earned associate degrees, 119 who earned technical certificates, and 12 who earned master's degrees. The two ceremonies were the first two of UAFS's seven commencement ceremonies honoring 2020 graduates.