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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jessica Kursh '09

“Third Time’s a Charm”

When I decided to go back to college in the fall of 2005 I was very nervous and felt a bit intimidated. I had been a teen mom, was a single mother of three small children, and had dropped out of college twice before. Despite my apprehensions I was determined not to allow any statistics to determine my potential for success in life. Ultimately, it was my non-traditional student status that really helped me to remain focused on achieving my goals that third time around because I was always fully aware of what I had at stake. In the end my commitment to success paid off and in the spring of 2009 I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. As overjoyed as I was about finally beating the odds, graduating from college was only the beginning of the next step of my fun-filled journey.
My mother, daughter, and me at my UAFS graduation ceremony May 9, 2009

In the fall of 2009 I began furthering my education towards my true calling in life: Counseling. I entered into John Brown University’s graduate program and started pursuing dual Master of Science degrees in Community Counseling & Marriage and Family Therapy. Life at JBU has been an awesome experience for me thus far. I feel very proud to say that my undergraduate education at UAFS thoroughly prepared me for my transition into graduate school. I am currently maintaining a 4.0 cumulative G.PA. Recently, I was very excited to learn that I had been cleared to move forward in my counseling program into my first Practicum section. In the spring of 2011 I will start seeing individuals, couples, and families at the JBU Fort Smith Care Clinic. I am scheduled to graduate from JBU in the spring of 2012. After graduation I plan to sit for the national and state counseling board exams so that I can become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).

My family has always been one of my biggest support systems and on December 5, 2009 me and my boyfriend, Julian, got engaged. We plan to get married on July 21, 2012.
My family’s 2009 Happy Holiday’s portrait

During my senior year at UAFS I had the incredible opportunity to become a charter member of the Upsilon Kappa Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. After graduating from UAFS I joined the Fort Smith Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Becoming a member of Delta Sigma Theta has truly been a remarkable gift for me because it has taught me so much about responsible leadership, the importance of higher education, sisterhood, diversity, and giving back to my community.
Me and my Upsilon Kappa Sorors at the Southwest Regional Conference in Fort Worth, TX

Upsilon Kappa & Fort Smith Alumnae chapters of Delta Sigma Theta worshiping together

During my leisure time I enjoy traveling, photography, shopping, sightseeing, and trying new foods. This past March my fiancĂ©’ received a big job promotion and relocated to Memphis, TN. Me and my children travel to Memphis often to visit him and it gives me the opportunity to combine all five of my favorite hobbies.
My family’s 2010 summer trip to the Memphis Zoo

I feel very proud to see how much I have accomplished over the last 5 years. Sometimes I think about how differently my life could have been if I had never taken the first steps towards going back to college that third time. I look forward to achieving many more of my dreams and also helping others to achieve theirs.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Katy Schrodt Prater '08

Comfort Zone

“Where do you feel most comfortable?” This was the seemingly simple question that one of my college professors, Michelle Clifton, asked me in the midst of my near meltdown involving my indecision about what my degree should be. As a sophomore at UA Fort Smith, I found myself lost in respect to what I wanted to be when I grow up. I was confused. I was frustrated. I was exhausted. And honestly, a little scared. When Michelle asked me this question, the undeniable answer involved a gym. Michelle opened my eyes to the answer to a question that impacts every day of my life as a college graduate. It was people like Michelle Clifton that make me so grateful that I had the chance to attend UA Fort Smith.

I graduated from college with a degree in English with a Teacher’s Licensure. Currently, I teach ninth grade English and coach high school volleyball at Lavaca High School. Michelle’s guidance encouraged me to pursue my love of sports and become a coach, a decision that enriches my life on a daily basis. I feel that my education and leadership roles in college provided me with all of the knowledge and characteristics necessary to impact young people in a positive way.

Beyond all of this professional stuff, I will always look back on my time at UA Fort Smith as some of the happiest years of my life. UA Fort Smith not only provided me with professional skills, it also provided me with my husband! In June of 2010 I married one of the coolest guys I’ve ever known. 
Our Wedding
 Cody and I met as freshmen at UA Fort Smith through our involvement with the Chancellor’s Leadership Council. He is nothing like the man I ever imagined marrying and yet everything I could ever need or want in a husband. Currently, Cody and I live in Fort Smith with our two children.
 Finny and Staley
We enjoy spending time with family and friends, watching sports, and traveling whenever we get the chance. Cody and I often times reflect on how much we enjoyed college and hope to remain connected with UA Fort Smith for years to come.

So, today when I think back on the answer to that question that shaped my life years ago, I realize that the answer is still very much the same and yet very different. I still feel comfortable in a gym coaching kids. However, I also feel comfortable in a classroom teaching English, in leadership positions outside of my job, in social situations meeting new people, and at home with my husband and my dogs. My comfort zone expanded because I was allowed to practice all of the skills necessary to be successful in any facet of my life in my time at UA Fort Smith. Oddly enough, when I consider answering where I feel most comfortable today, I can’t deny that one of the first places that pops into my head happens to be apartment 821 at Sebastian Commons or jogging on the campus green late at night or attending class in the Holt Building or dancing with all of my friends at Cub Camp. My time at UA Fort Smith might have ended in May 2008, but my experiences and lessons learned from those years will travel with me far beyond high school gymnasiums.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Katie Hurt '10

In December of 2010, I graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. It amazes me think that almost one year has gone by since that date! I have nothing but great memories looking back at my time while attending UAFS. The education program prepared me to not only be knowledgeable in my career choice, but also gave me an even greater love and desire for teaching. I enjoyed the experience that was given to me, the people I was able to meet and build relationships with, and for the lasting memories I will always have!

 At Graduation

After graduation, I stayed busy in local classrooms as both a temporary and long-term substitute teacher. I was also very active in an after-school program at Lavaca Elementary. In June, I was called about a position teaching Kindergarten in Lavaca. It could not have come at a better time! I was so excited to begin preparing for my first year as a Kindergarten teacher. I began in August, and it just keeps getting better. I have 16 students that brighten every day, and I love seeing them learn new things each and every week!

Along with teaching, I have also taken on the job as the Lavaca Jr. High cheerleading coach. I stay busy with cheerleading practices and attending ball games near and far. It has been a great and fun experience, and I love every minute I get to spend with those cheerleaders! Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, being involved with my church, and playing with my dog, Gizzy, who is full of energy and is lots of fun!
I am so thankful for the education that I received as a student at UA Fort Smith. It prepared me to feel completely comfortable starting a new job in a career that I absolutely love! I am also thankful to the professors and everyone who held a part in helping get me to where I am today! I am forever grateful!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Emily Hurt Hill '09

So many things have happened since my graduation from the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith in May of 2009. I was one of few students in my class to actually have a job already lined up for me. So, on June 1, I started my first position as a Registered Dental Hygienist, less than a month post-graduation. I would be working four days every week, doing what UAFS had prepared me for.

I was excited and completely nervous when I seated my first “real world” patient that morning, though I was also not surprisingly confident in the skills I learned as a student at UAFS. The Dental Hygiene program is definitely a difficult one, but, looking back, I am so grateful for the discipline it required of me. I use the terms and ideas that I learned as a dental hygiene student with different patients each and every day.

After a few weeks into my career, I took a week to finish final preparations for the biggest day of my life. On July 18, I married my best friend, Drew.

Me and Drew

We dated through college and were very ready to tie the knot once graduation had passed. Now, we live in Lavaca, where we stay very involved in our church. Drew serves as the student pastor there, and in our free time, we love spending time with teenagers from the youth group, and, of course, our friends and family.

After about ten months of marriage, Drew and I were able to build our first home together. What a fun and exciting time! We stayed in the midst of the planning and decision-making for the duration of its construction, and we had such a good time picking out all the little details that made the house so much more “us.” Once settled, it didn’t take us long to realize we were ready to expand our little family. That’s when we brought Mollie home. She’s a long haired miniature daschund, and she is our baby!

She is the sweetest little thing, and we just love her to pieces!

There is no denying the quality of education I received as a student at UA Fort Smith. It has completely prepared me for the career field I chose, and I use what I learned there each and every day. I am so grateful for a university so close to home, and one that allowed me to get the education that was right for me!