Not everybody is blessed with a clear path in life. Some of us struggle to find our way. Raymond Craft, Jr. can certainly relate; before he discovered Abilene Christian University, he faced considerable obstacles. Not one to be deterred, he persevered — and now he’s ready to help other students do the same.
Passion for Higher Education
Raymond Craft was always passionate about higher education and determined to excel in college. As an only child, he was also eager to please his parents. To accomplish both goals, he initially enrolled at Lone Star College. Two factors guided this decision: cost and convenience. Lone Star College was affordable, and just five minutes from home. He was fortunate to connect with phenomenal advisors, who set him on the path to his next academic endeavor.
Although he appreciated his time at Lone Star College, Raymond had another dream: to attend the University of Houston. He admired the diversity and family-oriented feeling on campus. While he enjoyed the experience immensely, he also faced significant challenges in his undergraduate career. These left him with a desire to continue on. Unfortunately, his GPA was too low to gain admission into certain schools. For example, Texas A&M’s advisors let him know, almost outright, not to waste his time.
Instead, Raymond applied at Capella, Southern New Hampshire, and Walden University. He recognized, however, that they weren’t the right fit. Finally, he found the connection he’d desired all along with Abilene Christian University.
Once again, Raymond’s GPA caused problems. This time, however, he was given the opportunity to prove himself. ACU’s admissions advisors were pleased by his resume, so he built on that. He wrote a letter to an appeals committee, promising that he would “represent the…institution in a positive way.” Clearly, his passion struck a chord — he was admitted into the Master of Education in Higher Education (M.Ed.) program.
Raised in the church, Raymond loved the idea of applying Christian principles to lessons learned in higher education. Although he was raised Baptist, he never doubted his ability to feel at home in a Church of Christ institution. From the moment he arrived at ACU, he felt that he could freely speak his faith.
Inspiring Advisors and Instructors
Raymond absolutely adores the staff at ACU. He speaks highly of his admissions advisors, who made it possible for him to attend in the first place. He also admires his instructors, including Dr. Mark McCallon, Dr. Jason Morris, and Dr. Gary Bailey. Their understanding helped him through the challenges he faced juggling fatherhood with his graduate education. Dealing with a sick newborn made it difficult to meet certain deadlines, but his instructors were accommodating. They trusted him when he explained the situation and prayed for both him and his daughter. Far from convincing him to slack off, their understanding motivated him to work even harder. He was determined not to let them down.
Raymond lived up to his promise, but his academic story doesn’t end there. Impressed by Raymond’s drive, Dr. McCallan recommended that he apply for ACU’s doctorate program, because it was clear he was destined for great things. Raymond was floored. He’d heard all kinds of positive feedback from his parents, but never outside of the home.
Although he initially was happy just to complete his graduate degree, Raymond began to rethink things. He graduated with his M.Ed. in December 2017, and proceeded to enroll in ACU’s Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership. Currently, Raymond is in the dissertation phase under the watchful eye of his chair, Dr. Jennifer Butcher.
Raymond Craft juggles parenthood and higher education with his career as a director of academic partnerships at Lone Star College — the institution that got him started on his impressive professional trajectory. He views his role as being a “voice for the students” and a “voice for the community.”
Raymond is proud of what he’s accomplished thus far, but also determined to take the next step. His overarching mission? To improve academic success and completion rates among African American students. He believes this can be accomplished through extensive mentoring and coaching, much like he received at ACU. He wants his students to look beyond community college and actually set foot on university campuses.
Raymond’s faced his fair share of struggles in his effort to build a career and a strong life for his family. But through his determination, his relationship with God, and a strong, Biblically-based education, he’s defied the odds and accomplished great things — and will continue to do so as he inspires college students to strive for more.
Inspired by Raymond’s story? A Master of Education in Higher Education or Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership could be in your future. Learn more about ACU’s 100% online education-focused degree programs here.
Original publication date: May 3, 2018
Updated: February 8, 2021