RazorBug Diploma Tour shows the father as a model of learning

Heidi Wells

Isaac Brown, left, kneels to show his framed diploma to his son, Willee Joe, and his wife, Emalee, following a presentation June 29 at Rockline Industries in Booneville. Professor Roy McCann presented the master’s degree in electrical engineering to Brown as part of the RazorBug Diploma Tour through the River Valley.

Willee Joe Brown, 3, of Booneville is starting preschool this fall. He’ll be ready because he watched dad do his homework for most of his young life.

The little boy and his mother, Emalee Brown, were on hand to see Isaac Brown receive a framed diploma for his Masters in Electrical Engineering earned online from the U of A. The family is expecting another son soon.

Roy McCann, professor of electrical engineering, traveled from Fayetteville to Rockline Industries in Booneville to present the diploma on June 29 as part of the RazorBug Diploma Tour through the river valley. The tour celebrated the success of U of A students in online degree programs. More than 440 of them applied for their diploma in May.

Roy McCann, left, professor of electrical engineering at the U of A, applauds with Rockline Industries officials after presenting a framed diploma to Isaac Brown, right.

“At first I thought it would be easier than in-person classes, but I learned it wasn’t easier, just different,” Brown said. “I was able, with the help of my family, to concentrate evenings and weekends on the work that I had to do. Rockline was also a great support for me. I was able to come and spend tests here where there was a quiet place and reliable internet.”

Brown previously earned two bachelor’s degrees — a math degree from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and an electrical engineering degree from the U of A through a partnership with UAFS. Students who complete an Associate of Engineering degree at UAFS can go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the U of A, taking all of their coursework, taught both online and in person by the faculty of the U of A, on the UAFS campus.

For the next step, Brown chose the online master’s program offered by the Fayetteville campus because he didn’t have to travel for it either.

“We have an almost 4-year-old,” Brown said. “My roots are here. Also, I didn’t have to take the GRE and I loved my teachers. time, I think it will pay off.”

Brown worked as an engineer at Rockline for five years, doing design and programming work as well as maintenance of control systems for machines that manufacture wet wipes.

McCann spoke with Brown during the videotaped event, telling him that contact with students like Brown who are working engineers helps the faculty understand the changes happening in the field and the challenges and problems faced by engineers.

“We wouldn’t learn more about some of them without online students,” McCann said.

McCann taught online for eight years, but the past few years during the pandemic have been different, he said. The faculty was able to use best practices in online teaching to improve the on-campus experience for students who had to abruptly transition to online teaching, he said.

“The quality of more personal interaction online made the transition easier for students who were studying on campus,” he said.

After the presentation, Rockline employees celebrated with Brown, enjoying company-provided refreshments and stepping out to take photos with the RazorBug.

The RazorBug is a converted red Volkswagen Beetle that sports a Razorback muzzle, tail, and sharp spine. It has been used for recruiting and special events since 2005. The tour took place over two weeks in southern Arkansas and the River Valley in June.

The RazorBug Diploma Tour was hosted by U of A’s Global Campus. Global Campus supports academic colleges that offer more than 75 online degree, certificate, micro-certificate, and bachelor’s degree programs. These programs are featured on the U of A ONLINE website at online.uark.edu.

Rebecca R. Santistevan