The University of Arkansas’ RazorBug is touring throughout the River Valley this month to deliver diplomas to its Global Campus graduates.
In Fort Smith, graduates personally received their diplomas at their home or workplace.
The RazorBug is a converted red Volkswagen beetle that sports a Razorback snout, tail and razor-edged spine. It has been used for recruitment and special events since 2005. It continues the tour through south Arkansas with stops in Magnolia and El Dorado this week.
More than 440 students who studied in online degree programs applied for graduation in May.
Cheyenne “Star” Lowrey-LaGrone received a diploma for her Master of Science in Nursing from Jan Emory, a UA associate professor of nursing.
Lowrey-LaGrone was previously an EMT, now she teaches pre-nursing classes at the Peak Innovation Center for Fort Smith Public Schools.
Lowrey-LaGrone said it was special to receive her diploma. She had attended a small ceremony for her undergraduate degree during the pandemic. Some family members weren't able to attend due to being sick with the COVID-19 virus.
"It's been a hectic year," she said. "We had two foreign exchange students living with us but shows that you can do it, if you put your mind to it you can do anything you want."
Lowrey-LaGrone said it made her sad to see the recent division between pro-choice and pro-life allies after the Supreme Court decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision on Friday, June 24.
Lowrey-LaGrone said she knew Arkansas was banning the morning-after pill.
"I've never seen people more divided and it's scary for health care," she said. "My social media is flooded with things from both sides."
Newton “Trey” Jenkins III received his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Matt Willingham, assistant director of online programs for the Sam M. Walton College of Business at United Federal Credit Union.
Jenkins participated in the credit union's employee reimbursement program, in which students will be reimbursed by their company based on their grades.
"It's also an incentive to make better grades," he said. "I definitely recommend it and then you're motivated to get paid."
Jenkins felt the RazorBug diploma delivery was more personal and special than walking across the stage.
"Honestly, I think it was better than an actual graduation, because it's just all about you," he said. "You do all this work and then at the actual big graduation you have to share that moment with 1000 people."
On Friday, July 1, Alexandra Lemp received a Master's of Education in Educational Leadership from Ed Bengtson, head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the U of A.
After she completed her Bachelor's of Fine Arts and Arts Education at the U of A, Lemp followed in her mother's footsteps to become an art teacher herself at Ozark High School.
Lemp said she wants to accomplish more with her students now that she has her master's degree.
"Being with the students, I mean, that's why I got into education in the first place," she said. "Someday I think I would like to go into administration. I'm really excited to see like where education and the arts education can go in Arkansas."
Lemp appreciates art and history in particular because she has more flexibility in what she chooses to teach.
"The subjects themselves, the disciplines lend extremely well toward opportunities to teach communication skills, critical thinking problem solving, which we so need in this country and in the state," she said.
Lemp said that with art and history, there's no right set of answers.
"It has a lot of opportunities for those deeper discussions for students to explore their beliefs to question things that maybe they haven't had the opportunity to question before," she said. "And to like gain a better understanding of themselves and a better ability to interact and communicate with other people and face the struggles and problems that life always has."
Lemp said during her time at the U of A, she never felt lost in the Fine Arts department.
"I got to make a lot of connection personal connections with my professors and with the other students," she said. "Graduate work especially online and in a university that size you don't really expect any intimate interaction at all. Having this delivery was really cool, the personal level of it is really amazing.
Jason Rose received a Master of Science in Engineering Management on Friday, July 1 from Megan Whobrey, adviser and academic services coordinator in the UA College of Engineering.
Rose was in the oil and gas industry and car sales after high school, but he decided to go back for his Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering at the UA.
Rose was interested in mechanical engineering because of his passion for building. He even built his two sons a treehouse in their backyard.
"I've always been one to work with my hands and work on things and build things," he said. I like to understand the mechanics behind things."
Rose said what he learned from the engineering management courses he took apply to what he does now at Rheem Air Conditioning as a quality engineer.
"I try to advocate for the program with the kids that I do work with, who are interns in the engineering field, but maybe they don't know what they want to do later on," he said.
This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: UA RazorBug delivers diplomas to 2022 graduates in Fort Smith