Military Helps Cave City Man Overcome Slow Start on Way to Earning Online Master's Degree

Leonard Nethercutt, front, left, presents a framed diploma to Eddie Goines on June 28 in Batesville as part of the Razorbug Diploma Tour celebrating University of Arkansas graduates of online degree programs. Goines' colleagues at FutureFuel Chemical Co. attended the presentation, along with state Rep. Shad Pearce of Batesville.
University of Arkansas

Leonard Nethercutt, front, left, presents a framed diploma to Eddie Goines on June 28 in Batesville as part of the Razorbug Diploma Tour celebrating University of Arkansas graduates of online degree programs. Goines' colleagues at FutureFuel Chemical Co. attended the presentation, along with state Rep. Shad Pearce of Batesville.

You don't need military precision and discipline to be successful in an online degree program, but having them doesn't hurt, either, Eddie Goines found.

The 36-year-old Army veteran who was deployed overseas several times doesn't pull any punches when he describes his 18-year-old self.

"I went to the University of Arkansas directly out of high school," said Goines, who grew up in Hackett, a little town south of Fort Smith on the Oklahoma border. "I was a horrible student, really immature. The Army turned that around."

Goines now lives in Cave City, which dips down below the Sharp County line into Independence County in northeast Arkansas, and he works as a project engineering manager at FutureFuel Chemical Co. in nearby Batesville, a city of about 11,000 people and the oldest town in Arkansas. The U of A honored Goines during a stop June 28 on the Razorbug Diploma Tour in which U of A staff and faculty traveled about 1,850 miles during two weeks in June through northern and southern Arkansas celebrating graduates of online degree programs.

Leonard Nethercutt, who recently retired after 27 years as an instructor in the College of Engineering, drove 100 miles east from his home in Maumelle to present Goines with a framed diploma for his Master of Science in Operations Management in front of the chemical manufacturer's offices.

Presentations featured as a backdrop the Razorbug, a 2005 Volkswagen Beetle converted to look like a Razorback, with tusks, snout, razor-edged spine, hooves and curly tail. Ed Pohl, the new dean of the Graduate School and International Education, sent congratulatory letters and GSIE swag.

The blazing sun of the late afternoon softened the asphalt of the driveway and the parking lot, but it was cool inside where Stacy Gunderman, FutureFuel's director of administration and also a U of A M.S.O.M. graduate, arranged refreshments of cold water, cookies and light hors d'oeuvres for everyone to enjoy after the diploma presentation. Several of Goines' co-workers joined in the celebration, along with state Rep. Shad Pearce of Batesville. Goines' wife, Jennifer, was not able to attend because she is currently deployed to Kuwait, where she serves in hospital operations.

At FutureFuel, Goines leads a team of engineers and technologists. The company custom manufactures specialty chemicals. After a customer consults with FutureFuel chemists and chemical engineers to determine what they need and how it can be made, Goines' team takes over, designing the systems and structures needed to supply the order, which could be a couple of tons to hundreds of tons.

Military training

Military service became a way of life for Eddie and Jennifer Goines, who have two children, ages 12 and 9. Eddie Goines joined the Army National Guard in 2005 to pay for tuition at the U of A, although he eventually dropped out. He met Jennifer there; she finished her degree and they were married. After being deployed with the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade to Kuwait, Eddie decided to go active duty in the service. A member of the military police, he went with Jennifer, the senior service member of the couple, when the Army sent her to Fort Drum, New York. She is now in the Reserves.

When he left the service in 2014, Eddie Goines enrolled at the U of A again, this time through a partnership with the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Students who complete an associate's degree in engineering at UAFS can continue on to complete a bachelor's degree in engineering from the U of A, taking all of their classes, taught both online and in person by U of A faculty, on the UAFS campus.

"Before, I was immature," Goines recalled of his first college experience. "If I couldn't do things on given talent, natural talent, then it didn't get done. I was lazy. The Army gave me a sense of organization, structure and discipline. It was time for me to grow up. I had kids, a family, and things became more real."

The Army instills discipline in part because consequences are immediate, he said. If you don't do what you're supposed to do when you're supposed to do it, you will pay the consequences right then, he said, unlike a college experience where you may not see your grades for weeks or months, and it's up to you whether you attend classes and complete assignments.

"In college, it's on the individual to take action or not," Goines said. "Grades don't come out immediately. You have time to make it up. In the Army, someone will be there if you mess up."

With the lessons learned from his time in the military, Goines' return to the U of A was much more rewarding. He finished his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in the fall of 2017.

When he enrolled in the U of A master's degree delivered online, Goines said he knew what to expect, and the admissions process was easy and convenient because he had been enrolled previously. Being older helped along with the work ethic he learned in the military. Success became a simple but important matter of time management.

"For me, it was setting down the time, whether it was Friday, Saturday or Sunday," he said. "I knew I've got to spend at least two days doing this. I've got to allot the time. Once the week starts and you get your assignments, you have to plan and schedule out what you're going to do. Thankfully, because you don't really go to class, you are able to schedule the work around your own needs. I could get up early or do it on my lunchbreak if I needed to."

Modeling work ethic

Goines said his children see their parents' hard work. He said they have a normal childhood, although their mom will be deployed for a couple more months. They communicate regularly with her.

"They help with a lot more chores," he said. "There is a lot more structure for them. That has to be there just because there is only one parent involved."

Military service is a point of pride for him, Goines said.

"I enjoyed the Army," he said. "My first time to Kuwait, I enjoyed the structure. When I was in the military police, I enjoyed training people. There was a sense of accomplishment and patriotism. I loved my job. If it hadn't been for the time away from home, I would have stayed longer. At one point, I was in Iraq and Jennifer was in Afghanistan. After we had kids, we stopped doing that."

Goines believes he's done with higher education for now. However, he's considering studying to take the test for a Professional Engineer license, which are credentials awarded by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

"That would be the next step. If I choose to go that route, I can use it in my current career field and hopefully have a positive impact," he said.

More than 550 students graduated from online degree programs last spring. The U of A offers more than 90 online degree, certificate, microcertificate and licensure programs. They can be viewed at U of A ONLINE. The Global Campus supports U of A colleges and schools in the development and delivery of online, distance and workforce education programs and courses. It provides instructional design services, technology services and assistance with marketing, recruiting and strategic academic development.

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