Spring 2023 ATU-Ozark Graduates Reflect on Journey

ATU-Ozark Graduation Feature Spring 2023
Photographed (from left-to-right): Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus graduates Elise Goodson, Whitnee Wallace and Don Burchett III.

Each of the Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus graduates who walked across the Tucker Coliseum stage during spring 2023 commencement on Thursday, May 4, had personal inspirations that helped them complete their program and earn their credential.

Elise Goodson was carrying her inspiration with her.

“I’m pregnant with my first baby and I’m due in a couple of weeks,” said Goodson. “That’s been a big motivator for me to finish and stay strong through it.”

When Willow makes her debut, she’ll be the daughter of a college graduate.

“I want to help people,” said Goodson, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in practical nursing. “Going into a shift and then leaving knowing that you potentially changed someone’s life for the better, that’s a big part of the profession.”

Goodson grew up in Ozark and found ATU-Ozark Campus as a convenient post-secondary educational option. She changed majors more than once before finding her home in the practical nursing program.

“It’s hard straight out of high school to decide what you’re going to do for the rest of your life,” said Goodson. “I took a few of the basic education courses. As time went on, I honed in a little bit and then changed my mind. I joined the military, came back and decided what I wanted to do after that.”

Goodson, who is a member of the Arkansas Army National Guard, said her ATU-Ozark classmates and faculty have become family.

“The instructors have given us a lot of wisdom and insight of things they’ve gone through,” said Goodson.

Family is also a big part of Whitnee Wallace’s Arkansas Tech story. Her father attended ATU in Russellville, and she said his positive experience as an Arkansas Tech student influenced her decision to attend the ATU campus in her hometown of Ozark.

“I knew (ATU) was the college for me,” said Wallace, who completed a Technical Certificate in banking services during the spring 2023 semester. “It’s been challenging, but it’s been a good challenge. I think it’s really gotten me out of my comfort zone and I’ve been able to grow as an individual. Interacting with my peers and the teachers has been a wonderful experience.”

Wallace would like to continue her education by enrolling at ATU in Russellville with a goal of earning at least a bachelor’s degree if not a master’s degree. Part of her reason for pressing forward is setting an example for her younger brother and cousin.

“This has increased my confidence as a person,” said Wallace. “I’m going to be the first person from my family to graduate from college, and that’s been a really big stepping stone for me. It’s encouraged my sibling and cousin to go on to college, and that’s something I take pride in.”

Don Burchett III of Fort Smith began his ATU-Ozark adventure in the licensed practical nursing program.

“The first day of LPN class, I forgot to register,” said Burchett. “They came in and told me I forgot, and they said let’s go do this really quick.”

Burchett took full advantage of that student-centered approach, first completing the LPN program and then, in spring 2023, completing his Associate of Applied Science degree in registered nursing.

“The professors are always there to help us,” said Burchett. “Anything they could do to help us with learning or different strategies, they were always there. I worked full-time through LPN and RN school. It was super hard, but the teachers and professors were great helping me out. I can’t say enough about them. This has opened up so many job opportunities. I knew I had to do it for me and my family, and I got it done.”