The month of March is dedicated to the celebration of women in history. Women’s History Month is celebrated in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. The annual observance began in 1978 and highlights the contributions of women throughout modern history. After growing in popularity, “Women’s History Day” was recognized as a national week in 1980 and then, it expanded to the month of March in 1987.
University of Arkansas Grantham has many accomplished women in leadership positions throughout the university. We would like to take a minute to recognize the accomplishments of Dr. Jessica Parker, UA Grantham’s director of faculty training and evaluation.
How did you get started on a path to earning your doctorate? How did your background affect your path?
I am a first generation college student from a very small farming town. Both of my parents had high school educations. My grandparents actually only finished eighth grade as they were both in farming families, and that was the norm then. I chose the college where I received my bachelor’s because they offered me a full scholarship. That choice, along with working various jobs throughout college, allowed me to work my way up to a doctoral program.
What do you enjoy most about your position at UA Grantham?
My role allows me to help both faculty and students. I work to offer our instructors the tools and information they need to provide students with the best possible course experience. I really enjoy working with instructors and knowing we’re all doing our best to help students succeed.
How do you think online learning has changed education?
Online learning is such an incredible opportunity. It has opened the way for so many students that would not be able to complete their education at a “traditional” campus. I believe that UA Grantham offers students an excellent online degree education in a way that works for students who have children, work full-time jobs, or just don’t fit the standard mold for a brick and mortar campus.
What advice do you have for students?
I think the best advice for students is to be persistent. Life happens while you’re in school, but you have to be determined to keep going and prioritize time for your education. Also, view your instructors as a resource. They are there to help and mentor you, but can only do those things when you reach out to them.
Any advice for women who would like to pursue a career in higher education?
As a woman trying to succeed in any field, I believe it is most important to get a mentor who can show you how to navigate that field as a woman. I have been lucky enough in my life to have two excellent female mentors who helped me to be successful and helped me understand what to expect in the professional world. I have found higher education to be friendlier to women in leadership positions than some other fields. In any field, I think the most important thing is to consistently show you’re willing to work hard and that you have a passion for the field you’re in. I enjoy what I do because I feel like it makes a difference in the lives of our students.
Who are some of the women in history that you admire and are your role models?
Ruth Bader Ginsberg will always be my ultimate role model. She chose to take a path that was just beginning to be considered acceptable for women and encountered numerous barriers along the way but did not let them deter her. In addition, when she reached the level of lawyer, and then later of course Supreme Court Justice, Ginsberg continued to push for changes that would help other women reach previously unattainable goals. Essentially, she left the door open for those behind her.
In addition to your duties as Director of Faculty Training and Evaluation, you are also an adjunct professor. How do you inspire your students to break through barriers and excel in their careers?
I like to share my personal story with students to show them that you can accomplish your goals regardless of your start in life. When students have me as an instructor, they only see the end product, so I share the work that it took to get to this place in my life. I started out in similar circumstances as many of my students, so it helps them to see what is possible. In addition, American history lends itself to these kinds of conversations because we look at systematic issues and the people that have challenged them and been successful.
Reese Radmacher, communications coordinator, has been with University of Arkansas Grantham since early 2021. A college graduate herself, Reese appreciates the value of higher education and relates to the student perspective. In 2019, Reese earned her bachelor’s degree in mass media from Missouri State University where she worked as a reporter for The Standard Newspaper, and then as a freelance writer for 417 Magazine.