Sydney McFarland and her family pose in front of the Razorbug on June 27 after she received a framed diploma for her bachelor’s degree in general business from the U of A. McFarland’s presentation during the Razorbug Diploma Tour took place in front of Yellville-Summit High School in Yellville.
A few tears sprang to Sydney McFarland’s eyes when she talked about what she hopes being a college graduate will mean to her 1-year-old son, Denver.
“I hope this means the world to him,” McFarland said. “I hope I am an encouragement to him. I hope he sees this and tries to do the same or better.”
Little Denver’s grandparents enjoyed holding him and playing with him while his mom was busy receiving a framed diploma for her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in general business. The presentation June 27 was part of the Razorbug Diploma Tour in front of Yellville-Summit High School.
Megan Garland, associate director for Arkansas recruitment in the U of A Office of Admissions, presented McFarland’s diploma to her. Garland, who was recently promoted, was assistant director of online programs in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the time. Wes Henderson, superintendent of Yellville-Summit School District, where McFarland graduated from high school, and state Rep. Jack Fortner of Yellville joined in the happy occasion with McFarland’s family.
McFarland’s responsibilities as a mother made an online degree the best option for her.
“I chose to pursue an online degree with U of A because I was a full-time student, full-time employee, and then I became a full-time mother, so that allowed me to do everything and still earn my bachelor’s degree,” McFarland said. “I would tell someone else, just do it. Whatever fears you have, whatever is holding you back, just pursue it and pursue it with everything that you have because you’re only going to regret it if you don’t.”
She considers being an online student very different from being on campus, which McFarland did for one year, and it is not easy, she said.
“I decided to switch over to being online because it gave me the freedom to be able to go to school, have a job, be a mother and pursue my degree,” she said, noting she needed a full-time income. “Being an online student, you have to have a lot of commitment to be able to do your classes and be on time with your homework. It just takes a different kind of college student to be an online student.”
McFarland may be a little unusual based on the answer she gave to one question about her experience.
“I’m a bit of a math nerd, so any math course that I took I just loved, but college algebra was my most favorite,” she said.
Being a mother and going to school was the hardest thing she’s done, McFarland said.
When Denver was hospitalized twice last winter for a respiratory infection, his mom worked on her homework and other assignments while holding him.
“Having a child, he was my motivation to focus more on school,” she said.
Patty Milner, assistant vice provost for student outreach and innovation at Global Campus, told McFarland research has shown that the child of a mother who earns a college degree is more likely to also earn a degree than a child whose mother does not have a degree or even a child whose father has a college degree.
“It makes a big difference, and I think doing it while you’re being a mom, right, it’s so hard,” Milner said. “It’s challenging, but you’re also proving the commitment is worth it and that you can do it. You can still be a great mom and you can be committed to your education and your career and all those things.”
McFarland works as a recon manager for a car dealership, in charge of being sure all the vehicles that are traded in get the services needed to be ready to put back on the lot to sell.
“In my current position, I have the opportunity for better pay now that I have my degree,” she said. “With my degree, I can advance in the company.”
The U of A offers more than 90 online degree, certificate, microcertificate and licensure programs. They can be viewed at U of A ONLINE. The Global Campus supports U of A colleges and schools in the development and delivery of online, distance and workforce education programs and courses. It provides instructional design services, technology services and assistance with marketing, recruiting and strategic academic development.