Most people may remember 1999 for the song (“Party Like It’s 1999”), the Y2K scare, and the excitement of the start of a new millennium.
For Edna Rodgers, 1999 is the year she first embarked on earning her Master of Arts degree in professional and technical writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. After nearly 20 years, her hard work and heartaches have come to fruition with her upcoming graduation on Saturday, Dec. 15, at the Jack Stephens Center.
“I feel great,” Rodgers, 66, of Little Rock, said. “I just feel like I have run that mile and finished the race. It’s a real good feeling.”
Rodgers earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Philander Smith College in 1995, but it wasn’t long before she realized she wanted to get a graduate degree to improve her chances at getting a better job.
“When I worked at Children International, the former director, Cheryl Chapman, inspired me to pursue a field in technical writing,” she said. “I wanted to improve my writing skills and develop myself further professionally. Later, when I went to work at UAMS, I had to take a lot of meeting minutes and help with CV revisions for faculty members. I also helped revise the course syllabi and post them online. When you do a lot of writing and editing projects like that, you really need to know how to write and format different documents. Besides personal development and helping me with my work assignments, I was interested in teaching at a junior college. I always wanted to be a teacher growing up, but I never pursued it. Since I have my degree, I can pursue that now. A lot of people have a second career that they love after they have retired. I am one of those people who would like to obtain a second career as a part-time editor and technical writer.”
While working on her master’s degree, Rodgers usually took one course a semester as well as having to balance work and raising two daughters.
“Another reason why it took me so long to get my master’s degree was because of a life-threatening illness, a battle that nearly cost my life,” she said. “I thank God each day for restoring my health. There were so many challenges in between that time, which is what took me so long to graduate. All of them were beyond my control. I was determined to finish what I had started because I just wouldn’t feel good about myself if I hadn’t.”
After finishing the coursework for her master’s degree, Rodgers began working on her thesis in 2008. After facing a series of life challenges, Rodgers got back to her research and successfully defended her thesis this month, a project in which she researched methods designed to teach senior citizens computer literacy skills.
“I remember when I first started out using a computer, I was actually intimidated by it,” she said. “I didn’t know how to use it, and I faced a lot of anxiety using the computer until I was given more assignments to use the computer instead of a typewriter. That is the main reason I wanted to do that topic.”
She is thankful to her thesis advisor, Dr. Karen Kuralt, and her thesis committee, Dr. Allison Holland and Dr. Earnest Cox, for helping her complete this monumental achievement. After graduation, Rodgers wants to use the training manual she created as part of her thesis project to teach older adults at Dunbar Community Center in Little Rock.
“A lot of the adults I surveyed mentioned wanting to learn computer technology to pay their bills, keep in touch with their family and friends, and wanted to get better job opportunities,” she said.
Now that her school work is finished, Rodgers plans to spend time with her family before embarking on the search for a new job.
“I got laid off from UAMS in February, but it worked out for my good because I was able to go ahead and complete my thesis. I looked at it as a positive,” she said. “I feel like now that I have my master’s degree, I am hoping it will open doors for me to obtain a technical writer or an editor position. Now that my school work and thesis defense is completed, I am planning on relaxing for a little while and enjoying my only granddaughter, Jasmine, who is 2. I spend a lot of time with her. Eventually, I will start looking for an editor or technical writer position.”
In the upper right photo, UA Little Rock graduate student Edna Rodgers is surrounded by master’s degree thesis project papers dating back to 1999, the year she started working toward her own master’s degree. Photo by Benjamin Krain.