UA Little Rock students provide computer training to Arkansas Secretary of State employees

Three computer science students at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock have used their tech-savvy skills to provide computer training to employees at the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office this fall.

The venture began this fall when Kerry Moody, director of communications and education for the Secretary of State’s office, contacted Dr. Albert Baker, interim chair of the Department of Computer Science and advisor to the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) student chapter at UA Little Rock. 

“Our Chief of Staff, Deputy Dwight Southerland, was interested in providing our staff the opportunity to participate in specialized computer training,” Moody said. “He tasked me with finding the right program, and after doing a bit of research, I realized that we needed to reach out to UA Little Rock. I received a call back from Professor Al Baker and knew immediately that we would be able to make something work with his team of students.” 

Three ACM members created a computer training program and provided five three-hour workshops over the course of five weeks to 20 employees at the Secretary of State’s office. The students include Denver Ellis, a sophomore from Parin, Arkansas; John Clements, a senior from Little Rock; and Gaige Ehrenworth, a sophomore from Royal, Arkansas. 

“John, Denver, and Gaige exhibited the level of professionalism expected of IT professionals at any level,” Baker said. “That these members of the student chapter of the ACM provided this excellent service to an office of Arkansas state government exemplifies the kind of cooperation with the Arkansas IT community encouraged by the Department of Computer Science at UA Little Rock.” 

Ehrenworth served as the main instructor during classes, while Ellis and Clements assisted students one-on-one during their class projects. Ehrenworth enjoyed the leadership experience he gained during the training. 

“This was the first time that I got to be the head of a project for the ACM, and it was the first time that I provided a service like this to people in the community,” Ehrenworth said. “There was a lot of hard work involved, but it was a very rewarding experience overall.” 

UA Little Rock graduate students, standing from top left, John Clements, light blue, Denver Ellis, plaid, and Gaige Ehrenworth, black shirt, teach a Microsoft Office training class to employees of the Secretary of State’s Office. The students are members of the UA Little Rock Association of Computing Machinery club. Photo by Ben Krain.

Moody said that those who attended the workshop were excited to learn new things. Even those who weren’t expecting to learn much were surprised by the knowledge they picked up. 

Our staff here at the Secretary of State’s office enjoyed the training and were pleasantly surprised with learning so much. Gaige, Denver, and John were great at helping everyone throughout the process. They definitely knew the programs and were able to share with our employees lots of functional information. Gaige, Denver, and John truly knew how to walk through each program and provide practical tips that everyone could use in the office.” 

Clements said ACM members are excited about opportunities that allow the club to become more in the community. The club shut down five years ago, but restarted one year ago with active members who are excited to get involved. 

“This workshop fulfilled one of our club’s purposes, which is to provide professional development activities to the community,” Clements said. “We do many other community events. I’ve taught a workshop on game development for high school teachers. Our members are also involved in game jams and hackathon competitions.”

The workshops served as a pilot program for the ACM. With its initial success, the ACM hopes to offer more workshops in the future. 

“Everyone took something away from the workshops that they will use in their work,” Ellis said. “The ability to teach one-on-one is something that I am very passionate about. I love to tutor, and this provided a new outlet that was beneficial to a lot of people.” 

The Secretary of State’s office plans to be the first to sign up for new workshops. 

“We enjoyed our training, and the staff that were unable to participate this time would like to in the spring,” Moody said. “We were able to interact with three kind, outgoing, and intelligent young men, and they were able to visit with a diverse group of civil servants.  I think it was a positive eye-opening experiment for all of us. Our office looks forward to working with them again in the future.”

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