Education, Public Service Anchor eVersity Grad’s Career

Joe Traylor’s inspiration to complete his college degree — a journey years in the making — starts with a story he likes to tell about his father, Al.

“He was a radiographer, he did X-rays and CT scans and MRIs,” Traylor said. “He got his training in the Air Force and he was able to build a career, but he reached a point where he wasn’t able to go forward without any formal degree. So this man, in his 40s, went back to college and finished. He even went on to get his Master’s degree. I had already left home by that time, but I watched that and I observed him and I experienced it with him.”

Traylor, a lieutenant in the Saline County Sheriff’s Office, applied the example of his father well. The Maryland native completed two degrees this summer, both earned via the University of Arkansas System eVersity, the state’s first fully online institution of higher learning. Traylor said the degrees satisfy both professional and personal goals.

“A lot of it was personal in that it’s something I always wanted to attain, but it serves me professionally as well. It will make me more marketable in the future,” he said. “I’m fortunate in my career where a bachelor’s or a Master’s degree is not required, but it’s certainly very helpful. I’m almost 11 years into my career now. At some point, I’m going to want to rise to the chief level of some department somewhere and, of course, a formal education will be very helpful.”

Had it not been for his sense of duty, Joe Traylor might have earned his degree years ago. He was one year into a traditional college experience when the attacks of Sept. 11 occurred. Love of country overshadowed personal ambition and he dropped out to join the U.S. Air Force for a four-year enlistment, which brought him to Arkansas. He then served in the Arkansas Army National Guard after his USAF hitch was up.

“I completed my associate degree through the Community College of the Air Force at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama,” he said. “I didn’t do much after that academically.”

Traylor’s servant mentality carried over into civilian life, from working for the state to joining the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office to his current role, which he’s held since 2011. Along the way, he tried to resume his college studies, but found it cost- and schedule-prohibitive. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when a colleague told him about eVersity that he finally found a mechanism that fit.

“I have a full-time career, I have a family, so I have their extra-curricular activities, which I enjoy. School had to be workable within my lifestyle. I wasn’t willing to compromise my career or my family to be able to attend classes in person,” he said. “Being 100 percent online was the number-one thing I needed.”

The affordability of eVersity was also appealing. “I started looking at cost and it’s the most affordable university I’ve been able to find anywhere,” Traylor said. “And their delivery method is both asynchronous and accelerated, with six-week classes instead of a full semester. So, everything about it fit everything I needed. It was as if it was tailored for me specifically.”

What Traylor wasn’t prepared for was the lengths to which eVersity staff and faculty would go to help ensure students’ success.

“I say this and I mean it 100 percent: You would never know that you’re not their only priority because they truly make you feel like you are,” he said. “You’re not going to find another university where the chief academic officer himself will call you, ask how you’re doing, helps you figure out what your path should be. You’re not going to find another place where the registrar or any other higher-level administrative officials are as personally involved in your path and your success. They truly take an interest.”

eVersity was launched with the mission of taking the often-dreaded processes of applying and enrolling out of the equation for students, making it simple and allowing students to focus on what matters – finishing their degrees.

“It takes very, very little effort to get through the administrative process,” Traylor said. “You can devote your entire self to learning, which is a welcome change. The process of registering for classes and coming up with a degree plan and all these things that are traditional encumbrances to undergraduates, they take those away completely.”

Traylor is so sold on his educational experience, he’s become an ambassador within the sheriff’s department, regularly encouraging peers and colleagues to finish their degrees and to do so through eVersity.

“A degree really is the best way to get ahead, especially in today’s job market,” he said. “Education is becoming a requirement, even if it’s an informal one. eVersity gives you every opportunity to advance yourself, give yourself a leg up or even just for personal reasons. The other thing I tell people, everything is tailored to you. I mean, they really go above and beyond. If you are looking for a university that wants you to succeed as much as you do, that’s eVersity.”