ATU Closes Its 113th Session With Commencement

ATU Graduate 5-6-2023
Members of the Arkansas Tech University Class of 2023 posed for photographs outside Tucker Coliseum following the 10 a.m. ceremony on Saturday, May 6. More photos are posted at the end of this article.

Mac Wheeler’s first impression of the place he came to know and love over the past four years still rang true as he waited for his name to be called during Arkansas Tech University spring commencement 2023.

“When I walked onto this campus, the first thing I noticed was the culture,” said Wheeler. “It’s very family oriented, and that really stuck out to me because a lot of universities are very big and people are doing their own thing. It was evident that ATU was more than just a place to get your degree. It is about building relationships, friendships and connections for life.”

Wheeler’s Bachelor of Arts degree in history was among more than 1,700 credentials conferred by ATU to graduates at the close of the spring 2023 semester. ATU concluded its commencement season with a pair of undergraduate ceremonies at Tucker Coliseum on Saturday, May 6.

“I’m a lot more confident and capable than I was back then,” said Wheeler when asked about how he changed during his time at ATU. “I came in as a shy and intimidated freshman. Now that I’m leaving, I know I can do anything because this school has given me the confidence I need to go and be successful in the real world.”

Wheeler will carry with him fond memories of serving as president for Student Activities Board and as a participant in Student Government Association and Presidential Leadership Cabinet during his time at ATU. He completed the ATU University Honors program, earned the ATU Alumni Association Tradition Keeper designation and was named 2023 Who’s Who Among Students at Arkansas Tech.

A native of Springdale, Wheeler pointed to his family, friends and professors as the key people in allowing him to persist through adversity, which included being a freshman when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“My professors never gave up on me,” said Wheeler, who will soon begin the Master of Business Administration degree program in the Sam M. Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas. “Dr. Kelly Jones is amazing. I love her. She is the greatest.”

Overcoming the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic was also a major aspect of Kristin Hardy’s ATU experience.

“Talking with my friends about it and being very honest was important, especially during my freshman year when we got sent home,” said Hardy. “We didn’t really know what the future was going to look like. It was very scary. We didn’t know if we were going to come back and there were so many questions. I talked to people about it and it made me feel a lot better.”

A resident of Benton, Hardy was accepted to more than 20 universities and colleges across the United States out of high school. She chose Arkansas Tech because it was close to home and offered a wide range of degree options for her to explore while she found the right one for her, ATU’s Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology.

Hardy became involved in the Miss Arkansas organization during her time at Arkansas Tech. She competed in Miss Arkansas 2022 as Miss Lake Dardanelle and has won more than $5,000 in scholarships through her involvement with the system.

Her on-campus plaudits included ATU Tradition Keeper and 2023 Who’s Who Among Students at Arkansas Tech.

Hardy, who noted Dr. Tennille Lasker-Scott and Dr. Jason Warnick as two of her most important faculty mentors during her four years at ATU, will pursue graduate study with an eye on earning her Doctor of Philosophy degree in psychology.

“I think I’m unrecognizable,” said Hardy when asked how she has changed during her time at ATU. “I had no idea what was about to happen with the rest of my life. I’ve matured a lot and now I know what I want from my life.”

Brianna Strickland of Clinton was also among those who crossed the Tucker Coliseum stage as members of the ATU Class of 2023 and became the latest additions to an alumni base of more than 50,000 individuals across Arkansas, the United States and the globe.

“I made a lot of good friends and met tons of good professors,” said Strickland when asked about her ATU experience. “I was in Student Support Services, and I absolutely love that program and the advisors in there. The dream of having a college degree kept me going. I’m a first-generation college student, so my parents and family really encouraged me. I knew I could do it, so there was no reason to give up.”

Strickland earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics.

“I feel excited for life and ready,” said Strickland. “ATU has really encouraged me to live life, have a career and be excited to earn money as an Arkansas Tech alumna.”

Kyle Lambert of White Hall came to Arkansas Tech to play football for the Wonder Boys and study engineering. Injuries ended his football career prematurely, but nothing could stop him from earning his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree.

“The friends I’ve made throughout the time I’ve been here have been my biggest highlight,” said Lambert. “They helped me get through the stuff I needed help with. They challenged me and pushed me to be better.”

Another motivator on Lambert’s journey was Stan Apple, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

“He’s just a great guy,” said Lambert. “When I first met him and we walked in, he said ‘y’all might struggle,’ and he wasn’t lying. We did struggle, but he helped us all the way through. The challenges made me the person I am today, and the challenges I’ll face in the future will be easier because of what I overcame here. This has opened up the future for me and opened my eyes to what I’m capable of achieving.”

Visit to learn more about Arkansas Tech University.