UALR alumni keeping it all in the family

January 5-11, 2015

By Becca Bona

“I was not interested in journalism at all,” laughs Angela E. Thomas, editor of Little Rock’s AY Magazine, “I have to say, if I had not moved back to Little Rock I do not think that I would have gotten a college degree at all.”

Born in West Virginia, Thomas grew up in Arkansas. She attended Little Rock Central High School and graduated a year early with plans to go a business route.

After graduating from LRCH, Thomas attended Draughon Business School, with eyes set on becoming a second-generation IBM employee. “My plan initially was to be a secretary at IBM,” she says.

She moved, to the Northeast shortly after, with the intent to stay there for a summer. Her father and sisters were up there, as well as her high school sweet-heart, Deron.

“In that time I started working and was going to school part time. I was working full time. It just became overwhelming and then in the meantime my husband and I ran off and got married and didn’t tell anybody,” she laughs.

She worked for an IBM subsidiary company for a number of years before getting laid off in 1996. She can pinpoint the exact date, as her youngest daughter was born shortly thereafter in the same year.

“I became a stay at home mom. I stayed at home with the kids for six years,” she says. In 1999 the family moved back to Little Rock and at the time her youngest went to Pre-K, and she was faced with more free-time than she had had in years.

“The house was as clean as it can get … I don’t have anything to do, I was literally just lost,” she remembers. Eight days before the deadline, Thomas decided to enroll at UALR and finish her college degree.

She was determined to study business, but then she took a journalism class. “I took the mass media & society class … . Two weeks into class I knew I was going to study journalism,” she laughs.

She graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s in journalism. She continued with her master’s classes in the following year. In 2005 she went over to the AY office for what was, as she says, “supposed to be a little internship,” but has been there for ten years.

Thomas loves her job. “AY magazine is very involved in promoting nonprofits and community organizations … and I love that,” she says.

Thomas has always been an advocate for obtaining a good education, which can be seen in the instance of all of her three children, however Jordon, the middle child shares both high school and collegiate alma maters with his mom.

Thomas says, “Jordon is a braniac, he’s been in the gifted and talented programs since 4th grade,” thus she wanted to ensure he was in the correct high school program. “We went over to Central High school and visited with Nancy Rousseau. … She said he will flourish here and it will be the best decision you’ve made in his academic career thus far, and she was right,” Thomas remembers.

Jordon knew before attending college what he wanted to study – computer science and programming. “I’ve been playing video games for a very long time and when I realized that there’s people who do this as a job … this is what I need to do,” he laughs.

Jordon graduated in 2012, and like most of his friends was ready to leave the Natural State. He says, “In my circle of friends and peers it wasn’t really popular to decide to stay in Little Rock because there’s so many big names out there – Harvard, Yale, Stanford – all these big names. Going to UALR didn’t seem as cool.”

He received a full ride to Howard University and for his freshman year traveled to DC to be a full-time student. However, there was a problem with some paperwork, and in the meantime Jordon became a little lost in the fray.

“One thing lead to another and we were said, ok, we are just going to stay here in Little Rock and enroll in UALR,” says Jordon.

Since coming home Jordon has settled in nicely. He’s closer to his family and friends and has been able to get involved in a program that will hopefully one day turn into his career. UALR has opened doors for him in that way, as he says, “It’s been great, I’ve learned a lot.”

Angela said, “Even though I came to UALR as a nontraditional student I actually had a pretty traditional experience – minus living on campus, I studied as a full time student.” She was very involved wih the Forum, the student newspaper, as well as orientation. These days her son is finding his niche in the computer science realm on campus.

Due to the great avenue UALR has provided to both her and is providing for her son, Angela feels called to give back to her alma mater. She says, “When I go out and speak to organizations … I talk about the importance of higher education and I promote UALR because it’s a great school … I think it’s very important that we help students achieve their goals by supporting them financially.”

In the past she has served on the alumni scholarship fund committee, helped with the premier Taste of Little Rock event, and also the communications committee.

It just goes to show that the UALR alumni are like family, especially as the Thomas’s have proved sometimes it’s good to follow in each other’s footsteps.