Despite being a first-generation student, attending college was a foregone conclusion for Jared Belt.
His parents, both of whom worked in manual labor, constantly stressed to him the importance of education as he grew up, knowing it would lead him to a better life.
He took that lesson to heart. And though college might have been intimidating for some first-generation students, by the time he enrolled full-time at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, it already felt like home. After taking concurrent credit courses with the Western Arkansas Technical Center, Belt had 51 college credit hours by the time he graduated from Van Buren High School.
“[WATC] was a lifesaver to help me figure out what I wanted to do,” he said. “It was great to get some of those credits out of the way and mold myself for the college atmosphere. UAFS just didn’t have that big university feel. It had smaller classrooms and more hands-on practice, and I felt like the teachers really cared about the students. UAFS welcomed me with open arms, and it was a seamless transition thanks to WATC.”
Belt majored in organizational leadership, knowing that he would need leadership skills to be successful in business once he entered the workforce. He held a full-time job while he went to school and found UAFS flexible and accommodating with his strained schedule.
“I worked 40 hours a week throughout college, and I never had to stop because the university was flexible and committed to my education,” Belt said. “They had all kinds of times available for the classes I needed. Working while going to school is difficult, but it prepared me for the real world and got me ready for the next step.”
While on campus, Belt was able to apply his learnings in the organizational leadership program by becoming involved in Kappa Alpha fraternity – which was so impactful in his life that all of the groomsmen in his wedding were fraternity brothers – as well as College Republicans and other on-campus organizations.
After graduation, Belt met with Ron Orick, director of career services at UAFS, who helped connect Belt with ArcBest Corp. Belt interviewed and earned a position at the ArcBest subsidiary ABF. A few years later, he was promoted to service center manager within the company.
“I’m attracted to places that feel like home and have a family environment, and ArcBest was just like UAFS,” Belt said. “They care about their employees just like the university cares about its students. It’s a great company with great values.”
“I don’t know how to describe just how blessed and fortunate and proud I am to say I graduated from UAFS,” he said. “I’m very honored to have been a part of that student-centered culture.”