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Alumni | Business and Industry | Lion VoicesNovember 13, 2023

Life and AV: How Sarah Murrah Balanced the Twists and Turns to Success

Written By: Ian Silvester

Semester after semester, posters and flyers appear and disappear throughout the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center and other spots around the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith campus. With the sheer volume of information being stuck to walls or tacked to bulletin boards, there must be someone behind the start of the information distribution process.

Campus and Community Engagement Administrative Assistant Sarah Murrah is the first step to getting the information out to the nearly 10,000 students, faculty, and staff of AV and the community. Jokingly, she said, “If anybody needs anything printed off, I can help,” referring to it as the most essential aspect of her job. In reality, it is just a tiny piece of the puzzle that Murrah has been assembling since 2005.

Born and raised in Fort Smith, Murrah recalled fond memories of the city she continues to call home. Her dad worked at Baldor, now ABB, for 30 years, while her mom looked after Murrah, her older sister, and younger sister and brother until they were all in elementary school. Murrah graduated from Southside High School in the spring of 2005. That fall, she began at AV, which she said was “an obvious choice” as she wanted to remain close to her family and was proud of where she came from.

Once on campus, she hit the ground running. Murrah was involved with AV Camp, starting as a camper before becoming a counselor and chair, “I absolutely loved AV Camp,” she beamed. The other love Murrah indulged in was singing. She was a member of the choir at AV and even placed second in Lion Idol.

Between AV Camp, Lion Idol, choir, and classes, life didn’t hit pause for Murrah.

“Life happened, and I had to drop out of college before I could finish,” she explained.

But life outside of AV was anything but slowed down for Murrah. She married, entered the workforce, and had two daughters, now 8- and 4-years-old. “They keep me very busy,” she laughed.

However, finishing her degree remained a priority. So, in 2020, Murrah returned to AV and enrolled in the Adult Degree Completion Program. Just as she returned to the groove of things, life presented another challenge.

“I was working a full-time job at home, plus I was a full-time mom and full-time college student,” Murrah said. “The same fall semester that I started back to school, my husband took a job working in the oil fields in Saudi Arabia.”

Murrah and her family juggled her busy schedule with her husband being away for a month before coming home for a couple of weeks before heading back overseas, repeating this for about six months. After that hectic period, things settled down as her husband returned home full-time, and Murrah buckled down on her studies.

Life remained calm for Murrah, and she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership in December 2022. However, life had another wrinkle waiting for her.

“Literally, the morning of graduation, I tested positive for COVID,” Murrah said in disbelief. “Luckily, I was able to email my advisor and ask if I could walk in the spring. So, I got to walk about six months later because I worked way too long to get a degree and not be able to walk.”

Despite life doing all it could to disrupt her, Murrah never let it stop her from achieving her goal and being a role model for her daughters. After being told she wouldn’t go back to school, Murrah decided to surround herself with the right support system and ultimately prove to herself that she could.

“I don’t need to have a big throw it in their face moment because, in the end, I was just competing with myself,” she beamed.

Not only did Murrah’s return to AV mean she accomplished a goal 18 years in the making, but it also provided her with the job she proudly holds today. After watching the university grow while she grew up, Murrah is excited about the future for the community and kids who could follow in her footsteps. With plans to take a page out of her dad’s 30-year career at a Fort Smith icon, Murrah is now leaving her own legacy behind.

“Being an alumni and an employee, I hope this is where I can create a career. … It makes me happy that this is the opportunity I’ve been given and has been placed in front of me. I don’t have a whole lot of huge goals in life, but if that was going to be one of them, I think I’m on the right path for it.”

  • Tags:
  • College of Business and Industry
  • Office of Campus and Community Engagement
  • Alumni
  • ADCP
  • Staff Voices
  • Student Affairs

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Rachel Rodemann Putman

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