At eVersity, It’s Never Too Late to Fulfill a Dream

Mary Butler, of Bryant, has been chasing her college degree for decades. And while she still has work ahead of her to finally realize that dream at the University of Arkansas System eVersity, the 49-year-old will tell you that dreams don’t have an expiration date.

“It’s all just in your mind,” she said. “You don’t have to be a certain age. As a matter of fact, the average age of a college student these days isn’t the ‘typical’ age. There are way more older students than what you would think. I’ve seen students ranging from 19, fresh out of high school, all the way up to their 40s and 50s. So, the typical age of a college student? There is none. Honestly, there’s really not an excuse to not continue your education.”

In fact, the average age of eVersity students hovers just below the ripe age of 40.

To hear Butler is to hear the voice of hard-won experience. Born and raised in Louisiana, she went directly into the working world after high school, drifting through a series of hourly positions.

“I started at McDonald’s and worked there for about a year,” she said. “I went to Pizza Hut, I worked in a grocery store. Then, I was at a franchised Radio Shack in my hometown for about six years. I became the manager of it.”

Butler arrived in Arkansas in 2000, determined to change the direction of her life and career. She enrolled in a local community college, studying programming.

“I’ve always been fascinated by programming,” she said. “I loved it going all the way back to high school. That was back when they had the Tandy TRS-80s at school.”

The community college curriculum didn’t click with her and she was undecided what to do next when a friend suggested a new kind of university – the University of Arkansas System eVersity. Butler was intrigued immediately.

“My friend told me about eVersity because she had signed up,” Butler said. “I checked it out and decided that was what I wanted to do, do it on my own time and still be able to do what I needed to at home.”

In addition to the scheduling flexibility, Butler said the diversity of coursework was another big draw. But most of all, she liked the layout of the all-online format, from planning coursework to registration and completing classes.

“With eVersity, it’s easier than other online classes that I have taken before,” she said. “Back, in early 2000s, it was a hassle. You had to get your assignment from one site and go and turn it in on another and I could never get it straight. But with eVersity, you’re on the same site, in the same area, getting your assignment and turning it in. The instructors are good, they’re knowledgeable, willing to help and willing to help you grow and learn. Even if there’s a situation that comes up and you can’t get your assignment in on time, they listen and they work with you.”

Butler has a long road ahead of her to earn her degree, but she’s convinced she has found the vehicle that will get her there. And she’s excited about the possibilities that a college degree holds for her.

“I would love to get into game programming one day, or write essential software that can be used between businesses and individuals,” she said. “I feel confident I will get there. My advisor works with me to plan out my degree and the instructors I have are excellent. They answer all of the questions I have and they are easy to get to. What I really love is, everyone at eVersity wants to help you learn. They want to help you get it to where you’re set up for success.”