ATU-Ozark Grads Look Back on Journey to Success

Chuck Ball and Ashlie Hopkins
Photographed: Charles Aaron Ball and Ashlie Hopkins, two members of the Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus Class of 2024.

Charles Aaron Ball has worked in construction. He’s done sales. But it wasn’t until he started pursuing his nursing career through Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus that he found his true calling.

“It seems like everything in my life was pushing me to the moment that I ended up in the medical field,” said Ball, who lives in Greenwood. “Out of that recession, the medical field seemed like a constant for employment to me. It seemed like the right path for me, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. I wanted to further myself for my family. It seemed like every course I took was gearing me up for the next step.”

Ball received his Associate of Applied Science degree in registered nursing from ATU-Ozark during spring commencement on Friday, May 10, at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville.

His degree was one of more than 400 degrees and certificates earned by ATU-Ozark graduates at the conclusion of the spring 2024 semester.

Ball had previously become a licensed professional nurse through ATU-Ozark. He recalls signing one of the beams when the Health Sciences and Wellness Building was under construction.

“There’s a sense of community there,” said Ball. “Among my classmates and the teachers…it seemed like they really want to see you succeed. It’s a bittersweet moment. I’ve been working for this moment, but I’ll definitely miss the experience. Part of the struggle is enjoying being a student and having those experiences.”

Ball, who is employed at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith, hopes to work in the intensive care unit now that he has completed his associate degree and earned the registered nurse credential.

Ashlie Hopkins of Morrilton took a different path toward a career in the medical field through ATU-Ozark. She studied online and earned her Technical Certificate through the ATU-Ozark Department of Health Professions.

“The convenience was important for me because I’m a single mom of two boys and I work full time,” said Hopkins. “There were several times I wanted to give up, but my kids were my motivation. I wanted to prove to them it doesn’t matter what you go through or what life throws at you, you can still do it.”

What lessons did Hopkins learn during her program?

“Stay on top of your homework,” said Hopkins, who will continue her studies with a goal of working in medical coding and billing. “It can get away from you and become challenging. Being able to let the program work around my schedule was a big advantage. I could log on when I needed to in order to get my stuff done. When I got my kids to bed, I could get online at midnight if I had to. It was very convenient.”

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