In 2011, Colleen Godley, of Cabot, faced the devastating loss of her job when the Conestoga Wood Specialities warehouse in Little Rock closed down.
“I thought I needed to do something different because manufacturing is not a safe place to be anymore, but manufacturing was the only job I’ve ever known,” Godley said. “I worked there since I was 18.”
This month, Godley will graduate with a Master of Science degree in business information systems from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. It’s something that still amazes her since she never thought she would go to college in the first place.
“I was actually the first one in my family to go to college,” she said. “Growing up in Detroit, I was brought up to think I wasn’t going to college. I was brought up knowing that I was going to work in a factory. We couldn’t afford college.”
After she lost her job, while searching for some inspiration online, Godley took a career aptitude test, and the results showed that she would be suited for a job in the legal field. She was recommended to apply to a job opening as an administrative assistant at the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, and it seemed like fate.
While working at Conestoga Wood Specialities, Godley earned an associate of business administration degree in information systems from American Continental University. With a desire to complete her education, Godley began working toward a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in business information systems. Godley gained a promotion to career service program coordinator in 2016 and completed her undergraduate degree in 2018.
“I loved all the courses and the professors in the College of Business,” Godley said. “They were all encouraging and helpful in every way possible. The material is so interesting and fascinating to me. Everyone at the law school was supportive as well. The law professors and staff were very encouraging to me and helped keep me going as well.”
Never one to slow down, Godley immediately enrolled in a graduate program after completing her undergraduate degree. Unlike most graduates, Godley doesn’t have to worry about finding a job. In February, her hard work and determination led her to a new position as an ERP business analyst and developer in Information Technology Services.
“As a nontraditional student, I was concerned about getting a job after graduation because I didn’t have work experience in the IT field,” she said. “With everything the professors taught me, it was enough to land that job. I’ve been there for a few months now, and I absolutely love it. It’s pretty much my dream job.”
Godley and her husband, Jeremy, have four daughters and one grandson. Outside of work, Godley is also an active volunteer at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cabot, where she serves as a Sunday School teacher. She’s thankful to her husband for helping her make the time for her education.
“I was married to such an awesome husband who helped me with the kids so I could go to class as night,” she said. “He even rearranged his work schedule so he could pick up the kids on the nights I have class. I don’t know how I would have done it without his help.”
Now that she is graduating, Godley is encouraging others to go to college. While it took sacrifices to complete her education, they were worth it.
“I’d love to tell all students that they can go to college. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too poor or not smart enough. I think everyone has what it takes if they have the willingness to try. You have to want it,” Godley said. “I used my lunch periods to go to class. I had to sacrifice time with my kids. There are a lot of things you have to sacrifice to get it done. I knew the reward would be there at the end. My kids seeing me accomplish this is a greater advantage for them. It encourages them to follow in my footsteps and go to college.”