Coming Full Circle

Journey of a Non-Traditional College Student
Nearly 10 years ago, on February 22, 1999, Levi Strauss & Co. notified the public that they would soon be shutting the doors to their factory in Morrilton, which had been in operation for more than 50 years and carried more than 600 on its payroll. The announcement of the closure hit Morrilton especially hard as the Arrow Automotive Industries factory in town had announced only a week earlier that it too had plans to close the plant in Morrilton, which employed 460. The town was in turmoil, with nearly half of the working population out of work basically overnight. Alice Curtis, one of the employees who lost their jobs at Levi Strauss, didn’t know where to begin, as she had worked in the factory since moving to Morrilton from Shreveport, Louisiana in 1981. She began searching for other options soon after the announcement of the plant’s closure. Fortunately, Curtis learned that she could receive government scholarships and unemployment benefits to cover the cost of re-educating dislocated workers. With Petit Jean College just across town, her choice seemed easy. “I had gotten married in high school and never really had the opportunity to continue my education until I lost my job at Levi,” she said. 
So, in August of 1999, Curtis entered Petit Jean College to pursue an associate’s degree in retail marketing. She immediately began excelling in her studies and was awarded her degree in the spring of 2001. During her last semester at the College, she was recognized for her outstanding achievement as a student by being named the College’s Academic All Star. As a result, she was awarded a scholarship to continue her studies at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “At first I thought, I can’t just move away from my home,” she said. But after serious thought and the urging of one of her instructors, Cindy Thompson, she did just that, selling her home and moving to the Fayetteville area in the summer of 2001. 
In the fall of that year, Curtis, while working full time, began studying human resource development at the U of A.  She became involved in a church and a Sunday school class, where she met her future husband, Tom.  “He didn’t like me at first,” she said, “but then, again, I didn’t like him all that much either.”  They married the day after school dismissed in May 2002.
The following fall, she planned to return to school as Alice Dixon, but was involved in an accident which forced her to miss an entire year of classes.  Returning to school in the fall of 2003, she found herself excelling in her studies and completed her bachelor’s degree in human resource development in December of 2004. The following semester, while beginning work on her master’s degree, she was asked to tutor a biology class, which she reluctantly agreed to do. “I never considered myself good at biology, so it was surprising to be asked, but it actually turned out to be a fun experience.”
With her bachelor’s degree in hand, Dixon was continuing work on her master’s degree when her husband, a Siloam Springs native, suggested they look at moving back to Conway County. Since she was working on her degree on-line, they bought a home in Birdtown in the spring of 2005, and moved in June. She completed her master’s degree in adult education in the spring of 2006. 
Even with a host of degrees, Dixon was not finished with education. In the spring of 2007, having moved back to the Morrilton area, she enrolled in an accounting class at that same local college; the college now known as the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton (UACCM). Then, UACCM Vice Chancellor for Academic Services Thomas Flowers approached her concerning teaching a computer applications class at the college where her higher education journey began nearly a decade earlier.
Today, Dixon teaches two classes each semester at UACCM, where she tries to emphasize to her students that they are all individuals. “Working at UACCM is my both my job and my hobby, and it’s a way to pay back the college for the great things I accomplished with the help of the faculty and staff. I was always treated with respect, and was never treated as a dislocated worker, but rather as a student and an individual,” she said. “The transition back to college was easier that I thought, even though I was not a traditional age college student.” 
Alice Dixon Teaches a computer
applications class.
As for her days at Levi Strauss, she said, “I hate that so many people had to lose their jobs, but for me it was a blessing when the factory closed. It gave me the chance to go back to school.” She added that “age is not a factor and it is never too late to continue your education. An associate’s degree is about feeling good about oneself and accomplishing something.” 
In the future, Dixon plans to continue teaching a few classes at UACCM each semester. “My degree from UACCM was a stepping stone for my future achievements. To me, it opened the door to my future and helped me show myself I was still capable of accomplishing something.”

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