eVersity Student Makes Good on Promise to Dad

Cindy Williams has always been a reliable finisher. From providing for her two children as a single mother to managing the affairs of Trinity Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff for the past 20 years, everyone has always been able to count on her keeping her word and delivering on her promises.

So when she promised someone very special she’d finish her college degree — a degree she’d started many years before — you could take it to the bank that it would happen.

“I went about seven semesters in college,” she said. “I went to Southern Arkansas University, home of the Muleriders. I was an agriculture major. It was and still is my passion – growing things. That’s the field I always thought I would go into. I ended up leaving college just a few hours shy of graduating. I guess life just turns out the way it turns out.”

Lewis and Jetty Barefield, Williams’ parents, believed in lifelong learning and the power of education to fuel those experiences. Lewis traveled the world in his job with the state plant board, even getting caught in Bejing when authorities declared martial law. Jetty finished her nursing degree in night school while working for UAMS in Little Rock.

“My dad was on his deathbed and I promised him I would finish college,” Williams said. “Education was so important to my parents since they were both the first in their families to go to college. I had good role models.”

But what she didn’t have was a firm idea how she would fulfill the promise she made to her father. Being employed full-time she knew she wanted an online option, but nothing seemed to fit. That is, until she ran across the University of Arkansas System eVersity.

“Not having that degree was a missing thing in my life and I felt like I just wasn’t complete without it,” she said. “When I first heard about eVersity, I thought, ‘I think I can do that.’ I did the eVersity Engage free one-credit course they offer you to see if you really want to do this. I did that and was like, ‘I know can do this.’”

WIlliams was surprised at how much she enjoyed the online discussions and how well she stayed engaged with her classmates, albeit digitally.

“We had a discussion question to start out the week and you answer the question and then you have to go out and connect to at least one or two other students in response to their answers,” she said. “I also really liked writing the papers because I was a writer in another life, so I really enjoyed that part of it.”

And the faculty, she said, kept her encouraged.

“I had some great professors. It felt really good to get feedback saying this is a great paper and this is like one of the best things I’ve seen this whole year. Stuff like that made me feel like I’m not as old and out of touch as I thought I was. I felt like I could still contribute.”

In fact, Williams not only held her own, she excelled to the point of meeting her goal to maintain a 4.0 grade point average, a decided upgrade from her college years.

“The first time around, I wasn’t the greatest student,” she said with a laugh. “I wasn’t awful, but you have so many distractions in your late teens and early 20s in college.”

Graduation was emotional, not only for her having kept the promise she made to her dad, but for what she discovered in herself chasing her elusive degree.

“You learn so much when you’re taking these classes because of the research you have to do. Having the Internet has made it wonderful,” she said. “It’s so different now; it’s easier doing college this way, because you have so many resources at your fingertips. I’m so glad that I did it because I learned a lot. I’m a lifelong learner and I want to know more all the time. If this is something you really want, just push through it and you can do it and you can achieve it. Just do it.”