Random Work Encounter Leads to Earning College Degree 

Claudia Seay, project manager for the women and infants service line at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), always wanted a career in health care, so it’s ironic that real-world medical issues nearly kept her from completing the education necessary to realize her dream. 

“I had completed some college and it got interrupted,” she said. “My father-in-law got sick, so I quit school. I’m the only one in the family that had something that they could stop for a period of time and pick back up on. Everybody else had full-time jobs. It was fine; I love my father-in-law to death so it was time wellspent. But that’s what derailed things.” 

Despite having finished two-and-a-half years of work toward her Biology degree, Seay found it wasn’t easy to just jump back into class once her father-in-law’s health stabilized. 

“Back then it was a money issue of going back to school,” she said. “I would have had to work full-time and go to school and that was going to be pretty difficult because nobody taught me how to look for scholarships or grants or anything that would have enabled me financially to go back to school. So, I was in a position of making a choice. Do I go back to school or go back to work? I took the traditional way of going back to work.” 

Ironically, it was while being at work when eVersity found Seay. Five years ago, she was working for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, which handled all of the printing for the then-brand-new eVersity program. 

“I’d seen some of the stuff we were printing and when one of the ladies who was in charge of getting all their things printed came in, started talking to her,” Seay said. “She said they were starting this new thing as a non-traditional way of going back to school and she encouraged me to apply. I was student number 50 when I applied.” 

Seay said the 100 percent-online format didn’t deter her because her son Hayden had completed some online college coursework and she got to see firsthand how it worked. Besides that, the online format allowed her the flexibility to take a break from classes as she continued to serve as a caregiver to her parents and in-laws. 

“When my father-in-law got sick again later in life, eVersity gave me the opportunity to take a class and then not take a class. I could take the time, start and stop, and not really lose anything that way,” she said. “Another time, my mom had knee replacement surgery, and I had to help take care of her. But I was able to take a class and still do that. It was workable.” 

Seay earned her associate degree in university studies and then her bachelor’s degree in university studies with an emphasis on health care and business. Along the way, she made a surprising discovery that put her motivation into overdrive. 

“There’s a group of three of us that work here within this department who were enrolled in eVersity,” she said. “One of them I recruited to enroll and the other one it just happened; she came into our department and she was doing eVersity too. We really pushed each other hard and we all graduated together. When you set a goal for yourself, you’ve got to go for it.”