At the tail end of the U.S. housing crisis in 2009, Wendy Kay McCloud decided to move to Little Rock, go to college, and become a writer.
McCloud, 45, has moved around a lot, but she claims Little Rock — her most recent move — as her hometown. Prior to moving to Little Rock, she had lived in Atlanta for eight years working in the mortgage industry. In the beginning, she found the work very rewarding.
“The atmosphere was great, at first, because I was happy to help people get homes,” she said.
However, she soon realized that something was wrong with the nature of the business.
“I started questioning things like, ‘How can a woman with a $20,000 yearly income be buying a $260,000 house?’” she said.
Eventually, the mortgage bubble popped, and McCloud was unemployed. She had friends in Little Rock who told her to move there, because there were “lots of jobs.”
“I moved [to Little Rock] and got a job right away,” she said.
McCloud worked as an administrative assistant for a couple of years, but she wasn’t satisfied with her current path. She had been an administrative assistant for most of her life—even when she was in the Air Force, where she worked as a weather observer.
“I wanted more for myself, and the only way to do that was to get a degree,” she said. “So, I decided to go to college.”
McCloud, who is married with three adopted dogs and one “very hateful cat,” said she regrets taking so long to go to college. Even though she was a veteran and had access to the Montgomery GI Bill, she never used it.
In 2011 at the age of 39, McCloud’s boss at the time urged her to get an accounting degree through UALR so she could be his accountant. While McCloud soon realized that wasn’t the career she wanted for herself, she knew after taking a just few classes that she belonged at UALR.
The “Right Path”
McCloud recounted the time she knew she wanted to be writer. She said Mary Henthorn, a former English composition professor at UALR, set her down the “right path.”
“She taught me that the Rhetoric and Writing Department was the place that I needed to be and set me on the career path that I’m on right now,” she said. “The people of the Rhetoric and Writing Department are so understanding and open to writing anything and everything that you want, and they’re willing to listen to your stories. It showed me that writing was my passion and writing was the thing I needed to do. And all because one composition teacher took an interest in a single story.”
McCloud now has a Bachelor of Arts in professional and technical writing and an online writing instruction graduate certificate, and she’s pursuing her Master of Arts in professional and technical writing. All three programs are now available 100 percent online through UALR Online.
McCloud had found her calling, but college presented another challenge for her: managing her time. However, she said that taking online classes made it possible to earn her degree while working full time.
McCloud’s days started with her going to work for eight hours, coming home, making dinner, taking care of her husband and her pets, and immediately putting her head in the books and studying.
“Online courses were the only option,” she said. “I worked nine-to-five, Monday through Friday. There was no way I could take off from my work… my boss was not going to be an understanding person with that.”
McCloud estimated that she took about 97 percent of her classes online. Three of the classes that she took in a physical classroom were available at night, which also accommodated her busy schedule. Nevertheless, McCloud has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her college career — a fact that is very important to her.
McCloud said her favorite experience while studying at UALR was working with Quills & Pixels, a student publication of the UALR Writers’ Network that publishes student-written nonfiction ranging from personal essays to creative nonfiction.
She has had six pieces of writing published in Quills & Pixels in the last three years, and said the staff was very helpful and accommodating by communicating with her online instead of requiring her to meet in person.
McCloud now works at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as the Program Administrator of Education & Quality Initiatives, a position that utilizes her skills in technical writing and that she feels fortunate to have.
“I want to be a writer,” she laughed. “I’m lucky in that my job here at UAMS allows me to write. I write in the medical field right now, but my passion and my love is non-fiction writing.”
McCloud is currently working on her memoir as her thesis for graduate school. She plans to complete her master’s degree by Spring 2017.
Advice for Online Students
For anyone considering taking online courses, McCloud says: take it seriously.
“Make sure you have the time and dedication to do it,” she said. “A lot of people think that taking online classes is going to be easier than being on campus, and it’s not. You have to actually have the fortification to spend time doing the work when there’s other distractions around you.”
She said that she typically organizes all of her assignments on a calendar—adding due dates and details when necessary.
“I have, as my husband would say, a ‘freakishly-good talent for organization,’’’ she said with a smile.