Morris Defies Odds To Earn Degree

Cory Morris HeadshotCory Morris didn’t plan to be here. On a trip to visit family in Hot Springs, he was met with a second chance at getting the education he wanted and took a leap of faith. The rest was history.

“Growing up in Arkansas, I have always felt like Hot Springs was home,” Morris said. “As a kid, I was always drawn to the outdoors and every time I traveled across the country, I always took the time to stop through here. One time, when visiting my grandparents, National Park College (NPC) got my attention. I had always wanted to go back to school to become an engineer. Going to school just to get my prerequisites out of the way made sense. We were never supposed to stay here.”

Originally pursuing an Associate of Arts in Chemical Engineering, Morris was presented with a new path as National Park College teamed up with Southern Arkansas University (SAU) to offer four-year bachelor’s degree programs.

“Shortly after I started, I learned about NPC’s partnership with SAU and opened my eyes to the possibility of achieving a biochemistry degree,” Morris said. “Before this partnership, I would have had to transfer to another institution to finish my degree. With three boys, it would have been extremely challenging for me.”

Morris’ time in the program was eye-opening. Not only did it allow increased one-on-one learning with his professors, but it also allowed for innovative interaction with the campus body, such as serving with Phi Theta Kappa and the American Chemical Society.

“I’ve been exposed to students from all walks of life and it has been one of the best parts of the program,” Morris said. “We had a lot of opportunities given to us here. One of my favorites was helping design and install the lab. Our professors were invested in this program and they were invested in us. We grew together, we got through it together and we plan to pave the way together.”

While juggling academics at NPC, Morris was also juggling adversity within his family.

“My 14-year-old son has been fighting cancer,” Morris said. “While I was attending classes trying to finish my degree, I was also bringing my son for chemotherapy treatments. This summer, we’re moving to Colorado. The doctors there have technology that can help him further. Sometimes, life throws curve balls sometimes and you hit them when you can. We’re looking forward to a new chapter.”

Six years after walking in the doors at NPC, Morris walked across the stage to receive a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry.Cory Morris in cap, gown, and stoles walking across the graduation stage.

“I was walking across the stage amidst a difficult treatment time for my son,” Morris said. “The same day that marked the end of my classes also marked the end of his radiation treatments. There were many significant emotions running through my body as I was walking across that stage. One of them would have to be the six-year culmination of all my efforts resulting in something to be very proud of.”

Reflecting on his journey, Morris is proud of his decision to revisit his education.

“This program offered me a home and helped me find my path,” Morris said. “As the first partnership of its kind in the state of Arkansas, it goes beyond what it has done for me, individually—it exemplifies what NPC is willing to do for all of its students.”

As he prepares for the next chapter of his journey, Morris hopes to inspire others to persevere through life’s many obstacles.

“Take the time to smell the roses and love the ones who love you back,” Morris said. “They’re the ones who will be there waiting for you on the other side. Faith will help carry us into our next chapter wherever it should be with resounding strength and opportunity.”