ATU Grads Seek to Make Their Mark on the World

ATU Summer Commencement Feature
Photographed (from left-to-right): 2021 Arkansas Tech University graduates Wes Henry, Carley Chicas, Lacey Finch, Blanca Garcia and Nathan Reynolds.

They came to Arkansas Tech University from different places…with different backgrounds…to pursue different fields of study.

But as they awaited their graduation on Saturday, Aug. 7, a common thread ran through five ATU summer 2021 graduates chosen at random: they all demonstrated a passion for putting others first.

“I want to help the youth find their way and make a difference in the world,” said Wes Henry of Birmingham, Ala., who earned a Master of Science degree in student affairs administration. “Each student was made for a purpose and they were made for a reason, so to put in the bare minimum would only defeat that purpose. I hope to promote that mindset with my students…never settle for less about themselves and never settle for less than what they want to be. Everyone has a skill that can make a difference in the world. They just need to find out what it is.”

Carley Chicas came to Arkansas Tech to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree. A resident of Green Forest, Chicas learned about the importance of adapting as a student during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Obviously, during this year we faced a lot of changes,” said Chicas. “I hope I can help others remain open-minded to change. Some people were accommodating and some were not. I think it’s important that we all work together the best we can to overcome situations.”

Lacey Finch of Little Rock wants to become a social worker and help children overcome their challenges. She chose Arkansas Tech because it was small enough to be comfortable and large enough to provide her with the experiences she sought.

Finch points to Dr. Julie Mikles-Schluterman, ATU professor of sociology, as being a key figure in helping her earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

“She was always there to talk, help me and lift me up with things got hard,” said Finch. “The online classes were tough, but I went with the flow and hoped for the best.”

Blanca Garcia of Fort Smith is accustomed to being on the other side of the teacher-student dynamic. She serves as an English language learner (ELL) teacher and successfully pursued the ATU Master of Arts degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) in order to better serve her students.

“My students are very grateful and appreciative, so it is a very rewarding position,” said Garcia. “They have to adapt when they come to this country, and it’s very hard for them. I want to make it easier for our students. They are all newcomers with different cultures and customs, and I want to help them adapt to this new country.”

Nathan Reynolds of Hot Springs said he toured several universities in Arkansas before discovering that ATU was the “best fit” for him.

“The friends that I’ve made here, the clubs I’ve been involved with and the connections I’ve been able to make will be my favorite memories,” said Reynolds. “The professors were incredible. All of it matured me a lot. I did a lot of growing through college, especially with the knowledge and experience I gained. Hopefully it will make me successful one day.”

For Reynolds, success is not as much about material wealth gained as it is gaining the opportunity to help others. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Arkansas Tech and wants to become a clinical counselor or a behavioral analyst.

“I want to encourage as many people as I can,” said Reynolds, who credited ATU faculty members Dr. Jason Warnick and Dr. Jordan Thibodeaux with helping him reach graduation day. “I want to help kids as much as I can because that’s the future generation. I have a desire to invest time and effort in other people instead of myself.”

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