Grad is archiving the past while looking toward the future

The thought of attending graduate school while working full time and raising a family is daunting for many, but Crystal Shurley has found a way to thrive in that situation.

Growing up both on the west coast and in Mena, Arkansas, Shurley and her husband first met when they were 11 years old. They began dating at 15 and remain together 23 years later.

Today, they’ve settled down in Little Rock where Shurley works as both an archivist at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies and a graduate assistant at UA Little Rock’s Center for Arkansas History and Culture, while her husband, a disabled veteran, stays at home and takes care of their four children. This semester, she will graduate with a Master of Arts in public history.

“The people in the history department have been so incredibly supportive during my whole time here. They’ve also allowed me the time to be supportive to both my kids and my husband even though I’ve been in a full-time program,” explained Shurley.

Outside of her family life, Shurley is a career archivist who’s thankful for the many unique historical opportunities that the city of Little Rock provides.

“My thesis supervisor, Dr. Brian Mitchell, and I have been working on a really undocumented part of Arkansas history, the Arkansas Colored Auxiliary Council, which was an early activist group that was active during World War I.”

As a non-traditional student, Shurley is especially thankful that UA Little Rock provided ample opportunities for her to finish her education and find something she was passionate about.

“I was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years,” Shurley said. ”When I did decide to go back to school, we were always on the move. I took a class with Dr. Edward Anson, and he really got me hooked on both the subject and the department. After I finished my bachelor’s in 2012, I went to work and eventually decided to further my education even more.”

After graduation, Shurley plans to use her new degree to advance in her career and gain new skills. Her first priority is to take the Certified Archivist Exam.

During her time at UA Little Rock, Shurley has not only discovered her own passion for archiving and history, but has also become a valuable participant in the university’s research.

“As a soon-to-be graduate, Ms. Shurley has been a very assiduous student, always working towards exceeding expectations,” said Adrienne Jones, research and scholarly communication archivist for the Center for Arkansas History and Culture. “I am confident that the academic leadership, self-established goals, and acquired skills she displayed and gained during graduate school have prepared her for the next step in her career. Her drive and enthusiasm to learn and challenge herself will put her on a very successful career trajectory.”

For any students who are considering going back to school, Shurley offers these words of encouragement.

“At the Center for Arkansas History and Culture, the expectations for you are the same as anyone else, but the university is very considerate to your needs,” she said. “And if anyone wants to get into archiving, this is the place to do it!”

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