UALR graduates 1,000 students in 2016 spring commencement

Chancellor Joel E. Anderson

For Jermaine Ruttley, the chance to play basketball at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock meant a way out from his poverty-stricken hometown in Kentucky.

“Where I came from, there is a lot of poverty,” he said. “To make it out and make something of myself, that’s a blessing.”

Ruttley was one of nearly 1,000 students who graduated from UALR in one of three commencement ceremonies May 14 at the UALR Jack Stephens Center.

Ruttley transferred to UALR after playing two years at Kaskaskia College and one year at Florida A&M. As a senior at UALR, Ruttley played in all 35 games with 18 starts in the 2015-2016 season.

Now armed with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a full-time job, Ruttley sees his graduation from UALR as a new beginning.

“I just feel overwhelmed and happy that I got to this point in my life,” he said. “No one ever thought I would get to this point in my life.”

A love of words

Kayla Burns' graduation cap
Kayla Burns’ graduation cap

For Kayla Burns, of Flippin, Arkansas, the best thing about graduation is the opportunity to devote more time to the activities she loves.

“It’s a relief to go home and read a book and not have to do homework,” she said.

Burns graduated with a degree in professional and technical writing and a second degree in French.

As a tribute to one of her favorite books, the words on her graduation cap proclaimed: “Words are a most inexhaustible source of magic.”

The words on her cap are a paraphrase from a line in J.K. Rowling’s book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

Having already scored a full-time position as a computer specialist at NATCO Communications in her hometown, Burns thanked the Donaghey Scholars program for supporting her at UALR.  

“The Donaghey Scholars program is what motivated me to succeed – the faculty, staff, and my peers. I had the best support system ever,” Burns said.

Never too late

Deonna Elliott's graduation cap
Deonna Elliott’s graduation cap

On her graduation day, Deona Elliott donned a cap stating: “Better late than never.”

The words were a tribute to Elliott’s six-year journey to earn a bachelor’s degree in studio art with an emphasis in applied design.

Elliott had planned to graduate in 2014. After she switched majors from art education, it took an additional two years to finish her program.

For her, the words served as a lesson to others that it is never too late to graduate.

To students who are struggling to finish their coursework, Elliott offered the following advice:

“Stay on top of everything and keep strong. You will finish at your own pace.”  

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