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Graduating Student Spotlight: Thomas Forcum

Thomas Forcum, left, sitting next to SGA Vice President Ahad Nadeem, right, at the Spring 2023 graduation ceremony.
Thomas Forcum, left, sitting next to Ahad Nadeem, right, at the Spring 2023 graduation ceremony. Photo by Benjamin Krain.

Thomas Forum graduated from UA Little Rock with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. As president of the Student Government Association, vice president of the Campus Garden Alliance, and a learning assistant and tutor in the Department of Chemistry, Forcum has made a tremendous impact on the university and its students since he enrolled in 2019.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m originally from Nashville. One of the keys to my success is my family. They’re really great, and they helped set me up for where I am today. My parents got divorced when I was 13, and even though it’s not my favorite subject to talk about, it really showed me the importance of good communication, being able to see things from other people’s perspectives, and finding common ground.

It also prompted my mom to go back to school. She earned her degree in nursing while raising three boys in high school, which is not the easiest task. Seeing her manage all her responsibilities while working hard and succeeding in school was incredible to watch. She really showed me how important school is and portrayed what hard work looks like.

What did you accomplish in your time at UA Little Rock?

Other than the SGA and Central Garden Alliance, I did research under Dr. Anindya Ghosh on campus and under Dr. Michael Wilson at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

Tell me about your time as SGA president this year.

One of the biggest privileges is how great UA Little Rock is at listening to its students. They really want to get students’ perspective, and I’ve gotten to work with some absolutely amazing figures here, including Dr. Brian Berry, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School, and Dr. Lawrence Whitman, dean of the Donaghey College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, to increase graduate assistant pay.

One of the things that I campaigned on was making opportunities more available to students online. I think Ahad Nadeem and I achieved that by working with the Student Experience Center and Trojan Engage.

I think Jacob Ray’s going to help carry the torch as well. Between him and An Le, who won SGA senator of the year, I think they make great candidates for president and vice president.

Did you have a favorite professor or class?

Dr. Mark Baillie is one of those professors who really takes the time to not only help out students about the subject of chemistry, but he also tries to give them good advice about the direction of life they should take. I was one of those students who showed up to office hours every time they were offered. I wound up asking him a lot of questions about life as well as the assignments.

From him, I learned how to practice metacognition, or the awareness and understanding of my thought processes. I started thinking, ‘What approaches do I need to take to do well in school?’ It’s a different process from just saying, “Oh, I’m going to try hard!” I really think that changed my fortunes here at UA Little Rock.

I was also in Dr. Michael Moore’s Learning Assistant program, where I used evidence-based education tactics and personal experience to help students learn both general and organic chemistry. He’s a great guy, and I really learned a lot from him.

Do you have any good study advice?

There used to be certain assignments that freaked me out, and instead of doing them and getting them out of the way, I would end up waiting to do them. I eventually started doing them first, and since that took the stress away, it was easier to get everything else done. I also had to start making out a good sleep schedule, which allowed me to take on more extracurricular activities and get more stuff done. I encourage everyone to use college as an opportunity to practice time management skills. It really is important.

What’s next for you?

I would love to go to UAMS. They have an amazing medical school, and I really like the way they organize and teach their classes. You learn one subject at a time, and that’s something that really appeals to me. I also really like the idea of staying in state. Arkansas’s the place for me. I’ve really grown to love this state and the people in it.