eVersity Student: Four States, Two Decades, One Long Educational Journey

People often say they’d go a million miles for what they really want in life. Robert Gillum proved that’s true.

While not technically traveling a million miles, his journey to a long-awaited degree covered four states, more than two decades and a handful of professional jobs.

“I finally got that $30,000 piece of paper,” he laughed. “I finally got it.”

Gillum, a native of Arizona, left home when he was just shy of 16, headed to Alaska. High school was not a favorite period of his life and he found he had to take a number of lower level courses after enrolling at the University of Alaska.

“Life kept getting in the way,” he said. “I would take a class or two and have to drop, take a class or two and have to drop. This went on for four years.”

From there, Gillum moved to Spokane, Wash., and tried to continue his education, only to run into the same problems. Worse, he was studying in the field of computers and with technology evolving so quickly, he found some of his classes were no longer relevant and he’d fall further behind.

Through hard work and a natural talent for computers, he’d earned his A+ certification by 1999 and jumped into the IT workforce full time. He held a number of corporate jobs in call centers and with health care systems including Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock after moving to central Arkansas in 2013. His work experience sharpened his skills, but the hole in his academic record was a professional liability as well as personally bothersome.

“I’ve always struggled with algebra,” he said. “I’ve taken it at a couple of the accelerated colleges that I’ve attended, and I failed at it. It took me about seven years to finally get through college algebra.”

Gillum didn’t abandon his dream of finally finishing a degree and that drive led him to discover the University of Arkansa System eVersity. Having spent thousands on other online options, he was immediately impressed by eVersity’s affordability, figuring he was risking nothing to try the program. He hasn’t looked back since.

“When I started at eVersity, I was like, ‘OK I’m doing this. I’m not stopping,’” he said. “They put me in a computer class, computer forensics, the very first one. I was like, ‘I dig this.’ I got into it and I still use the tools I learned in that class in what I do every day. That was super helpful.”

Gillum completed his long-awaited associate’s degree and has continued to find success with eVersity as he’s worked toward his bachelor’s degree.

“I struggled in high school; I struggled in a lot of what I did,” he said. “For me, it was a personal thing. It was to get there. Education is something that no one can ever take away from you. Education for me is having that knowledge to move forward, but also a personal goal to reach out and find out, holy smokes, I actually can do it, you know?”