ATU Students Talk About Motivation for 2023-24

ATU First Day of Class Fall 2023_01
Arkansas Tech University students walk near Hindsman Tower on the first day of the fall 2023 semester.

Charles Moton began his senior year at Arkansas Tech University on Wednesday with an angel on his shoulder.

“My motivation is my Granny (Ceola Westbrook),” said Moton. “She is sadly no longer with us, but she was heavy on education and was really keen on telling me that it didn’t matter how long it takes, just get that degree. So, I’ve been really trying to focus on this year so I can walk on stage and get that paper. The whole world is my oyster after that.”

Moton is a music major from Maumelle. The opportunity to work with Dr. Ben Johns, ATU’s new visiting director of choral activities, and the possibility of an internship have him excited to take on his final year at Arkansas Tech.

“I love the vibes and the energy the campus brings…the people and the community I’ve created here over these past five years,” said Moton. “It’s been such an experience and I can’t wait to keep it going.”

Chasey Hudson is just beginning her ATU adventure. A freshman elementary education major from Harrison, Hudson plans on following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother by becoming a teacher.

“I like seeing the difference that I can make in kids’ lives,” said Hudson. “I think there’s a really big impact that can be made in the classroom.”

Hudson knows that an important part of her transition from high school student to college student will be maintaining a support network aligned with her faith.

“My biggest anxiety is finding a home church because I’ve gone to the same church my whole life,” said Hudson. “I’ve reached out to a bunch of different ministry groups and I’ve found a bunch of other girls on campus who want to test out different churches, so we’re going to conquer that together. (ATU) is home away from home. It’s very comforting and people are really nice. You can just be yourself.”

One of Hudson’s biggest day one highlights was Dr. Brendan Toner’s American Government class. Another was the opportunity to enjoy an on-campus Slim Chickens lunch at Baswell Techionery with her cousin, Blake Hudson.

Blake is also a freshman from Harrison. An accounting major, he noted the quality of the breakfast and coffee at Chambers Cafeteria as factors that made his first day of school a success. He intends to get involved with Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Collegiate as part of his transition to ATU.

“Through the small groups at freshman orientation and meeting people in my dorm, I’ve found myself meeting people without her help,” said Blake, who shared that Chasey is a very good wing person when it comes to making friends. “Orientation connected me with a lot of people in my class as well as some upperclassmen.”

Blake likes that Russellville is similar to his hometown of Harrison and that ATU is close enough to home he can easily get back there when he needs or wants to. He said that scholarship opportunities, cost of attendance and the quality of facilities positively differentiated Arkansas Tech from similar institutions he considered.

“I’m going to college and majoring in accounting because it’s a career I can take anywhere,” said Blake. “I want something that pays the bills and gives me a little extra money to enjoy life and travel a little bit.”

Like the Hudson cousins, Bryson Lewis is in his first semester taking in-person classes at ATU in Russellville. But Lewis is no newcomer to the ATU community.

A senior from Paris, Lewis completed his associate degree from ATU-Ozark Campus before transferring to ATU in Russellville. He took his classes online as a junior in 2022-23, but the criminal justice and criminology major is taking in the benefits of in-person classes this year.

“I feel like I’ve worked so hard,” said Lewis, who was ATU-Ozark Campus Student Government Association president. “The minute I am done, I will be beyond excited and ready to move on. Right now, it’s all about sealing the envelope. You want to make sure you are keeping that momentum. You might be a little burned out. It’s all about getting those grades where they need to be and making sure everything you need for the next journey in life is finished. That’s my only anxiety. I don’t want to have a misstep because I’ve worked so hard to get where I am now. Instead of going 100 miles per hour, I need to go 110.”

That drive to do his best is fueled by a variety of factors.

“I’m a non-traditional student,” said Lewis. “Where everyone else came to college at 17 or 18, I showed up to ATU at 28. I gave up my career and everything I’d built for the last 10 years to start a new journey. I’m a first-generation high school graduate and I’m a first-generation college graduate. My motivation is showing people it’s never too late. You get to write your own story, and you decide when it starts and when it ends.”

Lewis has two older sisters who attended ATU — one in Russellville and one in Ozark. They showed Lewis what was possible with an Arkansas Tech education.

“I feel like my family has created its own legacy at ATU,” said Lewis. “My mother used to tell me stories about coming to visit friends at Arkansas Tech, and of course she was not a high school or college graduate. I feel like I am fulfilling a legacy and a prophecy of where she saw herself. ATU is just home. It feels like family. ATU has always been part of my story and that’s why it’s the place for me.”

The first day of Gracee Bright’s sophomore year at Arkansas Tech was brightened by a friendly face in the classroom.

“My business law professor, Thomas Pennington,” said Bright when asked about her favorite highlight from day one. “He’s so funny. I love his class already.”

Bright, who is from Alma, said that having her boyfriend — ATU freshman Noah Likens of Alma — on campus will help her feel more at home in 2023-24. She also said that her faith is her motivation and that she hopes to become integrated in campus ministries this year.

“My freshman year I wasn’t very involved at all, and I really regret it,” said Bright. “Spending time with Noah…he’s my comfort, so spending time with him really helps.”

Bright originally came to ATU to study vocal music education. She has since explored other major fields of study before finding business management as her current academic focus. Her father and brother both graduated from ATU.

“I wanted to follow in their footsteps, and I don’t regret my decision at all,” said Bright. “It’s literally home as soon as you walk on campus. Everyone is smiling. A lot of people get nervous for their first class, but I immediately made friends in my classes because everyone is so welcoming.”

ATU First Day of Class Fall_02
A snapshot from the lunch rush at Baswell Techionery on the first day of the fall 2023 semester at Arkansas Tech University.