The UA Fort Smith Alumni Association will feature young alumni and what their life after graduation has been like. If you would like to be featured, please e-mail

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kristi Thomas '05

I graduated from UA Fort Smith in 2005 with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Since I graduated in the fall, I assumed I would have to substitute in schools until the new school year rolled around. Well, one of the school districts I was working in needed a long term substitute to finish out the year. So, I worked as a fourth grade teacher in Mountainburg from January 2005 until May 2005. After my time was finished there, I moved to Tate Elementary in Van Buren where I taught third grade for two years.

In the summer of 2008, I attended ESL (English as a Second Language) Academy through Henderson State University where I obtained my ESL endorsement. That following school year, I moved from teaching third grade to teaching a pre-kindergarten classroom of four year-olds. Talk about a change! I have been in that classroom for two years now and I absolutely love it! Trust me…there is never a dull moment!

Throughout my career I have been asked to go to several workshops all across the United States. Last year I went to Rochester, New York for a pre-kindergarten writing conference. That trip was short, but we had a blast! Also last year, I went to Dallas, Texas for a national conference for pre-kindergarten, which was very educational! The most fun I have had was when a group of us went to Baton Rouge for a math conference. Our conference was five days long, but we had a little free time. While we were there, we went on a swamp tour where we got to hold all kinds of critters!

I'm on the far right
Outside of my career, I enjoy reading and singing. I am also very active in my church. Here recently I became engaged to Michael Bray, who is a current UA Fort Smith student.

The proposal!
Michael and I are the youth leaders at Van Buren Freewill Baptist. We also enjoy singing and worshiping the Lord together.

Michael and I

UA Fort Smith prepared me for all these great opportunities that I’ve had in my life. Starting from when I was a University Ambassador my sophomore year, all the way until my senior year, when I was the Assistant Director of Staff and Training for the first ever Cub Camp. The sense of leadership was instilled within me during my years at the university. That has helped me more than anything I can imagine. If I had not had these opportunities, I might not be where I am today. Thank you to all the professors who have helped me have this great life!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Megan Raynor '05

It’s hard to believe I’ve been out of college for five years. I graduated in May 2005 with a Bachelor of Science-Business Administration. Since my time at UA Fort Smith, I’ve been able to travel, find the ideal job, and purchase my first home.

With my family after my graduation

Being out of school allows me more time to spend enjoying my favorite leisure activities-reading and spending time with my family and friends. Traveling is at the top of my list, as well. My graduation gift to myself was a trip to Mexico. I enjoy the peace and quiet the beach and ocean offers. Another big trip I was fortunate enough to take was to Rome and Venice. Being away from Fort Smith when I travel makes me realize how much I love living here. It’s not too big or too small, just right for me!

At the Coliseum in Rome-April 2006

While going to school, I worked for the Accounting department at Sparks Health System. A little over a year after I graduated, the perfect job opportunity fell in my lap. I was told Hanna Oil & Gas Company had an opening in their Accounting department and needless to say, I have called it my “work home” ever since. At Hanna, I make sure the billings are sent out each month, I analyze our financials, assist with accounts payable and accounts receivable, and the list goes on! I enjoy the constant challenge my job brings. It’s hard for me to believe that this August I’ll have been here for four years, and I plan to be here many more!

 Busy at work!

June 2008 I took a big step and purchased my first home. I continue to be grateful that I was able to do this at what I consider to be a young age, and I truly love being a homeowner.

Hanging out with some of my favorite people! I’m on the far left

Some other notably fun chapters in my life have included participating in the Citizens Police Academy (2005), the Citizens Academy (2007) and the Citizens Fire Academy (2008). These were all great experiences. I definitely gained a greater respect for the people and departments that work together to run our great city of Fort Smith.

I am currently involved in the 2009-2010 Leadership Fort Smith class. I have met a lot of wonderful people and am sad it is coming to an end soon. However, each end is a new beginning and I look forward to the next chapter in my life.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lydia McDaniel '09

Many changes have taken place both professionally and personally since graduating in May 2009. Before graduation I was one of the lucky few who could say they already had a career path lined up. Which I realize now just how much of a blessing that truly was. In April I proudly accepted a position with Acosta Sales and Marketing in Bentonville, AR. They had selected myself and two others from a series of extensive interviews held on campus at UA Fayetteville and in the Bentonville office. I can’t help but laugh when I think back to the whole process….I was a nervous wreck and I’m sure they could tell. Both sets of interviews were panel interviews of which I felt relatively prepared for thanks to the many mock interviews Ron Orick had helped me arrange for practice. The second interview consisted of a presentation and I so graciously used an “Organic Dog Food” business plan project we had been working on in my Integrated Marketing Communications class in Professor Peerbolte’s class.

(At work at Acosta)

In July I started my journey with Acosta as a Retail Coverage Manager. This phase allowed me to study the consumer packaged goods industry first hand and see how the Wal-Mart system operated at store level. In January, I transitioned into my second phase of the Leadership Development Program as a category analyst in their Marketing department. I’m in the process of getting more comfortable with my clients and adjusting to being in the office. I am now using databases that I learned about in courses at UA Fort Smith, such as Neilson, IRI and Spectra. In September I will transition into my third and final phase in the LDP program as a Business Manager where I will be focusing on brand marketing and building business.

On a more personal note, I decided upon moving to NWA I needed a hobby and have taken up tennis. I am currently planning team tennis at the Fayetteville Athletic Club, it has definitely been challenging yet fun. I also got engaged in August and will be getting married to Josh Holloway on July 31st, in Fort Smith, so I have been busy planning a wedding as well. In reflection, I can honestly say that UA Fort Smith has done an excellent job in preparing me for the business world. I use skills acquired at UA Fort Smith daily.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Andrea Altsadt '04

I graduated from UA Fort Smith in 2004 with a bachelor’s in accounting, and served as President of the Business Society. For six months following graduation, I worked as an intern at the Fort Smith Ernst & Young office while obtaining the 150 hours I needed to sit for the CPA exam. I went on to work for Ernst & Young in Fort Smith for another two years on clients such as what was then Beverly Enterprises, Arkansas Best Corporation and Baldor Motor Generators.

 (At work at Edward Jones)

Following this period, I transferred to the St. Louis Ernst & Young office. After a couple additional years there, focusing primarily on healthcare systems and property and casualty insurance clients I left public accounting to work at a broker dealer. Over the last two years I have worked at Edward Jones corporate headquarters in St. Louis. Currently I work with revenue strategies and analyses within the finance division.

The education I received at UA Fort Smith, along with quality one on one time with professors allowed me to make the most of my undergraduate experience eventually leading to success in my career. Since leaving public accounting, I take pleasure in spending time with family and friends and frequent traveling, such as trips through the UK, NYC, Chicago and repeat trips along the CA coast. The additional time I have out of work has also allowed me to volunteer with the women’s ministry at my church, for a regional animal rescue facility and for a local St. Louis VITA tax preparation program.

(With my aunt in Central Park in NYC)
 (At St. Michaels Mount)

This year I plan to return to the UK and make a stop-over in France. As I write this I am sitting in Chicago, enjoying a weekend away visiting friends in town from San Diego, my home before Fort Smith.

(Buying art in Falmouth, UK)

Although life and work has taken me away from my four year stay in Fort Smith, my experience with the students and faculty (specifically Mr. Howard Puckett, Mr. George Schmidt and Mr. David Dearman) of UA Fort Smith and the town of Fort Smith will always recall pleasant memories for me.