For Shea Wilson, returning to Southern Arkansas University for a second degree felt just like “coming back home.”
Wilson, who graduated from SAU with a bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism with a minor in broadcast in May 1990, graduated again at SAU on May 4 with a bachelor’s in social work.

According to the press release, her experience in both newspapers and working for the Arkansas Department of Corrections inspired her to transition to a field that impacts people “where they are. I look forward to putting the new tools I learned at SAU to work in a professional environment.”
She has been accepted with advanced standing to the Master of Science in Social Administration online program at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. Her concentration will be adult mental health.
Dr. Deborah Wilson, chair of behavioral and social sciences at SAU, said Shea Wilson developed an already impressive set of skills in her return to the University. “We’re so proud of her,” Dr. Wilson said.


While working in journalism, Wilson said she began to recognize the needs of people and the implications of societal attitudes and social policies on marginalized populations.
“During my years as a reporter, I saw firsthand how community service organizations are born from the ground up, how advocacy works and sometimes fails, and how justice is served to those who can afford only court-appointed attorneys,” Wilson said.
She was promoted to managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times, where she began working shortly after receiving her first degree from SAU, and left that position in 2011 to accept a position as public information officer and legislative liaison with the Arkansas Department of Correction. “My husband’s job transfer with Entergy prompted the move from El Dorado to Pine Bluff and my career change.”
While working for the ADC, Wilson was instrumental in the creation of the Paws in Prison program, which pairs shelter animals with inmate trainers who prepare the dogs for adoption. “The program operates in several state prisons and is a win-win for both the inmates and dogs,” she said.
Wilson left the ADC in 2014. Her father’s death a year later prompted her to do some soul-searching. “I have spent 30 years watching the formation of policies that govern. Social work seemed like a good place to land. I have a voice and communication skills that could be of assistance to people who need help and organizations that provide assistance,” she said.
She contacted Dr. Wilson about her interest in social work in February 2015. “She informed me that my previous degree from SAU would be accepted and I could begin the necessary coursework for a bachelor’s in social work,” Shea Wilson said. “I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Wilson in July 2016, and she immediately got me enrolled for the fall semester.”
Shea Wilson said she chose to return to SAU because of the quality of her first experience here. “I would recommend SAU to anyone. I’ve had a great experience here. In as much as it has changed, with the environment of new growth, it is still very much the same. There are still a lot of familiar faces. It still feels like home.”
She called the help of Dr. Wilson and others a “godsend for a non-traditional student almost 30 years removed from the higher education process.” Wilson said that after obtaining some professional experience in the social work field and completing her graduate degree, she intends to teach on the college level.

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