It was love at first step.
“I toured multiple universities, but from the moment I got out of the truck and set foot on Arkansas Tech’s campus something was just different,” said Dakota Mooney. “I felt like I was going to be taken care of and given opportunities to grow and develop into the person I wanted to be.”
Four years later, Mooney is the 2021 Alfred J. Crabaugh Award winner as the most outstanding senior male at Arkansas Tech University. He will be honored during spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 8.
“When I came to college, I came to be a student first,” said Mooney, who is from Clinton. “I knew for future success it was going to matter what my grade point average said. So, I spent a lot of late nights studying in the library just to make sure I didn’t disappoint myself. I had those goals and I knew they were attainable. It was just going to take a lot of work.”
Mooney will graduate with a 4.0 grade point average and a Bachelor of Arts degree in rehabilitation science. Like many, his journey to commencement day included more than one change of heart when it came to his major field of study.
“Every other week I was in the registrar’s office,” said Mooney. “I was a nursing major for two days. That’s kind of my highlight when I tell people how indecisive I was. But getting to experience so many different classes and so many different subjects through Arkansas Tech, I grew to really appreciate the staff and the professors that pour into their students no matter where they go.”
The lessons carried over to Mooney’s campus involvement. He took on leadership roles with Student Government Association, Collegiate Future Farmers of America, Pi Kappa Alpha, Order of Omega and the Interfraternity Council.
Mooney’s GPA and campus involvement might lead one to believe that he is all business, all the time. His personality dictates otherwise.
Whether it was winning the ATU Student Activities Board lip sync battle, being part of the winning dance battle team during ATU Greek Week 2021 or capturing the 2019 Mr. Tech title, Mooney left no doubt where he stood on the introvert vs. extrovert continuum.
“If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it 100 percent because I don’t like to lose very much,” said Mooney when asked about winning Mr. Tech. “When I walked out on stage, I had to leave it all out there because I knew I wanted that crown. I’m not scared to get up in front of people and make a fool of myself. You have something in common with everyone. You just have to be brave enough to find out what that is.”
That fearlessness has helped Mooney develop his leadership style.
“Challenges are going to present themselves,” said Mooney. “There’s a place for every type of leader. I try to be the one who brings the fun and light-heartedness because it’s all going to be okay in the end. That’s ultimately what I’ve learned through the course of my college career. It may seem like the world is ending today, but tomorrow the sun is going to come up again.”
Mooney’s tomorrows will be invested at the University of Central Arkansas, where he will pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.
“My favorite thing about the field I have chosen is being able to celebrate even the smallest victories with my clients,” said Mooney. “It’s something that allows me to instill hope in people, some of whom have lost it. Being that light and giving them back that hope makes my heart happy.”
He’ll soon add some purple and gray to the green and gold in his wardrobe, but Mooney is forever connected to the place that won him over when he stepped out of that truck.
“The members of the ATU graduating class of 2021 are some of the most passionate, hardworking and encouraging individuals I have ever met,” said Mooney. “I have been so blessed to spend this chapter of my life with them. Arkansas Tech will always hold a special place in my heart. I will always be a Wonder Boy.”