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Undeterred by Adversity: Determined UA Little Rock Student Overcomes Health Problems to Graduate

Ian Sutphin
Ian Sutphin

On Graduation Day at UA Little Rock, Ian Sutphin will stand out as the guy on crutches who is hobbling across the stage to get his diploma.

Having previously encountered serious health issues that disrupted his college experience, Sutphin was not about to let something like a torn ligament in his leg prevent him from attending his commencement ceremony on Dec. 16, where he will earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“I am determined to walk at graduation,” Sutphin said. “I am a little too stubborn for my own good sometimes. I want to walk for everyone to see, even if I’m hobbling across the stage.”

Following his graduation, Sutphin plans to take a semester off before beginning the social work graduate program at UA Little Rock in 2024. Afterwards, he plans to work as a child advocate and case worker.

After graduating from Lisa Academy North in 2017, Sutphin started college at the University of Arkansas. His college life was dramatically impacted by the Covid pandemic in 2019 and a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes in 2020.

“I had a rough start to things,” Sutphin recalled. “I went into diabetic ketoacidosis. You lose weight extremely fast. It was scary, and I couldn’t stay awake for very long. It messed with my vision, and there were two weeks where I couldn’t see very well. I was in the hospital for three days. It caused me to take a couple of semesters off to get everything on track. My mom graduated from UA Little Rock, so I am familiar with the campus. I came here to be closer to my family and my doctors.”

Following his move to UA Little Rock in 2021, Sutphin has been more active in campus life than ever before, participating in Movement Mondays, crafting costumes for theatre productions, and joining the Sign Language Club. Learning American Sign Language was important to Sutphin as his mother, Gwenyth Sutphin, works as a sign language interpreter at UA Little Rock.

“I’ve had a great experience,” Sutphin said. “The Disability Resource Center has been extremely helpful, and it’s been a very welcoming experience. I’ve been much more involved in campus life at UA Little Rock. While I’m sad for it to end, there is a relief in finally finishing my degree. It makes me wish that I had started at UA Little Rock since I had a really great experience here.”