Chrystal Canady vividly remembers her mother, Kathleen Cody, commuting 70 miles each way to earn a nursing degree at Arkansas State University.
"She'd get up at the crack of dawn," Canady said. "She'd be gone all day and would get home in the evenings to have dinner with me. Then, I'd be off to bed and she'd be gone again the next morning. Online would have been a lot easier and more convenient for her."
Canady, 36, speaks from experience. She is enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Criminology online program at A-State and eyeing an August 2019 graduation date. Canady then hopes to attend law school and become an attorney.
"I'm doing an internship for the Independence County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, but I want to be a criminal defense lawyer," she said. "I'm most interested in all of the wrongful convictions and how DNA evidence is used to get innocent people exonerated."
The online format is not only a convenience for Canady, it's a necessity. Her husband, Michael, is also pursuing a degree in criminal justice to become her legal assistant and accompany her to court.
"My mother, grandmother and father have all passed, so it's just me, my husband and my son, Johnathon, who just turned 10," Canady said. "Johnathon has five different specialists he sees in Memphis. I'm constantly at his school, so I need the flexibility of an online program."
The first few years of Johnathon's life, Canady was a stay-at-home mother. After that, she worked a handful of secretarial and administrative assistant jobs. She graduated with an associate degree in general studies from the University of Arkansas Community College Batesville in May 2018.
"I thought, 'I can't do secretary work forever,'" she said. "I took a career pathways test during my associate degree program. One of the suggested careers was school teaching and the other one was law. I said, 'I can't be a police officer, so I'll be a lawyer.'"
With a career path planned, Canady turned to her mother's alma mater for the next step.
"Somebody told me about the A-State online program during my third semester at UACCB," she said. "It then quickly went from one thing to another. A-State had everything that I needed in an online bachelor's degree program."
So far, Canady has completed CRIM 3193: Community Corrections and CRIM 3223: Police and Society in the online BA in Criminology curriculum.
"Both courses were taught by Dr. Joseph Rukus," she said. "He is great and very entertaining. He taught me how to create an annotated bibliography. He called me from his cell phone on a Saturday night and spent an hour with me. I was very impressed."
Going Big From Home
As Canady prepares to start her second semester in the program, she has had such a positive experience that she has already successfully recruited potential Red Wolves to A-State online.
"I have a girlfriend who wants to become a forensic psychologist who I helped apply and enroll," she said. "She's very excited that Arkansas State has the online program."
While enjoying the flexibility of the format, Canady quickly found out about the most important tool for an online student.
"Your laptop will be your best friend until you graduate," she said. "It helps being a parent because I can tune out that background noise. I also learned to not be afraid or worry that people are going to think you're stupid if you ask questions. I'd be dumber if I didn't ask the questions."
Canady followed in her mother's footsteps, albeit without the long commute, and wishes she were still alive to see it.
"Education is something to be taken seriously," she said. "Now that I'm a mother back in school furthering my education, I'm so ecstatic that I don't have to drive and miss time with my child. Everything is right at my fingertips. I just get on my laptop and, boom, I'm there. It's that simple. I even order my books online. I love college, and I truly enjoy A-State."
Learn more about the A-State online BA in Criminology program.