Sheila Speer first got a taste of college life by taking two Western civilization courses at Little Rock Air Force Base nearly 25 years ago.
In 1993, Speer was a young mother of two sons when she took the two classes, which were provided by Arkansas State University to military spouses.
“I wish I had been more interested at the time,” said Speer, 48, of Bryant. “At this age, I can really appreciate school and learning.”
It was not until 2012 that Speer had the opportunity to return to college.
“My sons are the reason I started coming to UA Little Rock,” she said. “My daughter started kindergarten, and I was getting a little bored at home. My sons were both attending UA Little Rock at the time.”
Five years later, Speer will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. She will walk in UA Little Rock’s graduation ceremony Saturday in Jack Stephens Center.
She took online classes so she could spend more time with her three children and five grandchildren. Earning a degree in interdisciplinary studies allowed Speer to craft an individualized program that fit her needs and interests.
“I couldn’t decide between writing or history,” she said. “I also took philosophy and religious studies because I have always been interested in religion. With interdisciplinary studies, I could sample each area and figure out which direction I wanted to go.”
She recently received the Outstanding Student in Interdisciplinary Studies Program award. In the fall, Speer will begin the master’s program in professional and technical writing at UA Little Rock.
Speer is currently writing a memoir of her life from the age of 3 until shortly after she married her now ex-husband at 18. She plans to finish the book while in graduate school.
She developed a love of writing in 1994, when she was editor of La Petite Roche, the Officers’ Wives’ Club newsletter at Little Rock Air Force Base.
“This was my first experience of writing for something outside of high school,” Speer said. “This is where I first thought about becoming a writer. And through all the historical romances I used to read, I always thought I could do better.”
After earning her master’s degree, Speer would like to complete a doctorate and eventually teach professional writing in college.
“I have had such a good experience here at UA Little Rock, and the professors especially have been excellent,” she said. “I would like to give back and do the same thing for young people and, in my case, for other older people.”