UAFS launches leadership program for faculty and staff

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith announced that its Lion Leadership program will accept 12 full-time employees each year and work with them to build relationships on campus, develop more inclusive perspectives of operations academics and become more effective champions for the university and the region.

According to a press release, the inaugural class consists of six faculty members and six staff members who will participate in eight full-day workshops during the 2022-2023 academic year. Sessions will focus on the place of the university in the state and the University of Arkansas system; student recruitment, support and retention; academic affairs; community engagement and support; and holistic academic advancement.

The Lion Leadership program is a way for the university to invest in its people through leadership development, holistic understanding, and building relationships across disciplines. This rewarding program would not be what it is without the vision and hard work of the Lions Leadership Planning Committee. This committee has worked tirelessly to create, develop and launch this program, and they received 36 excellent applications to join the program in its first year. The Faculty Senate Professional Development Committee and the Staff Senate Professional Development Committee have undertaken the difficult task of choosing finalists for the class, and we are extremely pleased to work with the outstanding Lions they have selected.

Jennifer Belt, Chief of Staff and Chair of the Lion Leadership Committee

“UAFS is like a hidden gem, where students get a lot more for their money. Students are taught, not only by a team of faculty who bring their experience and knowledge in their respective fields, but are also surrounded by the staff the more supportive than I have ever seen at the university level,” said Dr. Nicha Otero.

She explained that she applied to the Lion Leadership program hoping to learn more about the inner workings of student support systems and with help from the university administration.

“I think we can all do a lot more for our students and future students, and I would like to learn how to be a better champion for them and for our university,” Otero said.

Faculty members representing the Lion Leadership Class of 2022 are Dr. Justina Buck, senior organizational leadership teacher; Dr. Mary Lutze, Director of the UAFS Writing Center; Dr. Nicha Otero, associate professor of psychology; Tammy Rogers, nursing instructor; Dr. Kristin Tardif, Associate Professor and Senior Faculty of Organizational Leadership; and Dr. Alex Zacharella, conductor of orchestras and associate professor of low brass.

Staff members are Megan Gabbard, Acting Co-Director of Admissions; Matt Hutchins Director of Donor Relations; Danielle Jolie, Director of Academic Support, College of Business and Industry: Kristen Merritt, Counselor Coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences; Dr. Lisa Norris, Director of Academic Assessment and Accountability; and Shanna Turney, associate director of the ROAR First-Year Advising Center.

“UAFS is still a new four-year institution, with only 20 years granting bachelor’s degrees,” Jolie said. “We are still figuring out who we are and how we want to be recognized in certain areas, and we have many ways to grow. Being a young university gives us the opportunity to try different things, see what works and adapt quickly. Jolie explained that the promise of change, collaboration and growth led her to apply for the program.

“Our campus is neither too big nor too small, so you have the opportunity to seek professional development or serve on committees where you can be an agent of change,” she continued. “I look forward to collaborating with other staff and faculty, learning more behind the scenes of academic affairs, and learning more about the perspectives of faculty on our campus.

Kevin E. Boling