GRADUATE STUDENT SPOTLIGHT ON JENNIFER TIPPIT

Jennifer Blanks communicates in sign language to other staff members at the Arkansas School for the Deaf about boarding students onto buses before the school’s weekend dismissal. Photo by Ben Krain.

Jennifer Tippit, of Benton, Arkansas, graduated in the spring 2021 semester with a bachelor’s degree in applied communication. She transferred to UA Little Rock from UA-Pulaski Technical College and is the first in her family to get a bachelor’s degree. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and graduated from Bryant in 2002. I’ve been married for 16 years and have a beautiful 9-year-old daughter. I’ve worked at Arkansas School for the Deaf for 15 years.

My college journey started after high school at the University of Central Arkansas for only a year and a half. In 2016, I transferred to Pulaski Tech and finished my degree at UA Little Rock. I enjoyed going to UA Little Rock because the student population is so diverse. You see people from 18 to 80 years old. They could be single parents or international students.

Why did you choose to major in applied communication?

I originally majored in mass communication but switched to applied communication because I could take classes online to fit my schedule. It was a good move because I enjoyed the courses so much more. Plus, I think the perfect learning environment is both in-person and online.

Applied communication teaches you the science behind communications and how to apply it in everyday situations. Everyone thinks they are a good communicator, but communicating consistently in a positive way takes skill. I’ve learned how to deliver good and bad news with my training.

Tell us about working for the Arkansas School for the Deaf.

Deaf people are no different from hearing people. They have the same hopes and dreams, and are just like everyone else. It has been very inspiring to be a part of this campus and community.

Jennifer Blanks, center, communicates in sign language to other staff members at the Arkansas School for the Deaf about boarding students onto buses before the school’s weekend dismissal. Photo by Ben Krain.
Jennifer Blanks, center, communicates in sign language to other staff members at the Arkansas School for the Deaf about boarding students onto buses before the school’s weekend dismissal. Photo by Ben Krain.

What were some of your favorite courses?

Surprisingly, I enjoyed crisis communications and conflict management. The persuasive presentations course teaches you how to overcome your fear of public speaking. Now, I have no problem standing on stage and presenting to my peers at the deaf school.

Who were some of your mentors?

Dr. April Chatham-Carpenter and Professor Katie Halford pushed me to do my best and have always been there for me while a part of this department.

Dr. Kristen McIntyre helped me with my capstone project. She taught me how to be real and avoid perfectionism. She said done is better than perfect! Professor Joli Livaudais told me that students pay for their education and must advocate for themselves, and that I belonged here as much as the next person. The former communication director at the Deaf School, Stacey Tatera, told me something that has always stuck with me. She said, “Always remember who you are addressing when you send a message and adjust to accommodate them. Always ask yourself before, ‘Who am I talking to?'”

What do you want to do with your degree?

I would love to stay at the Deaf School eventually overseeing communications on campus. I think effective communication is desperately needed in public education. So wherever I end up, I would like to stay within the educational realm. 

How did you celebrate your graduation?

My husband and daughter walked with me in the hybrid graduation ceremony. Dr. Carpenter was there to cheer me on. My whole family will celebrate together when the graduation video is posted in June. 

My 80-year-old grandmother is my best friend, and in 2019 she was hospitalized. I made her promise me she would come to my graduation and she said only if I graduated with honors. Well, I got a cumulative 3.5 GPA and a current GPA of 4.0 this semester. I busted my rear to keep my promise. Since she couldn’t come to my graduation, we are going to have a photoshoot together where she will be wearing my honors cord. I kept my part of the bargain, so now she is going to do her part of the bargain!

This graduate profile was compiled by Toni Boyer. 

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