CDI Graduate Highlight: Melida Heien

For this highlight, we are featuring Melida Heien!

Melida was a Class of 2017 graduate of the Community Development Institute (CDI).

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m originally from the Midwest. I moved to Texas from Pekin, Illinois, but my immediate family lives in Evansville, Indiana. I enjoy traveling, true crime podcasts, and I also enjoy teaching group fitness classes at my local gym. I have a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Truman State University in Kirksville, MO, a law degree from North Carolina Central University, and I recently graduated with my Masters in Public Administration from the University of Texas at Tyler. I did my first two years of CDI with CDI Texas and completed my 3rd year of CDI in Arkansas at CDI Central. I took my Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED) test at the conclusion of CDI Year 3 and was so happy to have passed!

What organization do you work for and what is your role within the organization?

I’m the Main Street Coordinator for the City of Longview, Texas, which is on Interstate 20 about 1 hour from Shreveport, LA, 2 hours from Dallas, and not too tremendously far from Arkansas either. My primary work focus is on downtown development, which includes working with our small business community to help develop an economically viable downtown district, assisting with event planning, and helping with a variety of things related to our downtown. Every day is a different challenge.

Why did you decide to attend CDI?

I attended CDI because I really didn’t want to pigeon hole myself into being just a “Main Street” Coordinator. A downtown is really a city within a city, and I really felt that I needed to broaden my skills and knowledge and know more than just downtown related things. I have aspirations to get into city management and having a PCED is a very valuable credential to have.

What was your favorite session at CDI?

It’s hard to remember a particular session that I liked more than others, but I can say that I really loved my experience with my Year 3 class. I was coming in from elsewhere while they all knew each other and talked to each other regularly, but they embraced me and brought me into the fold. It was a lot of fun, and I know I really did learn a lot in that session. I also really enjoyed my 1st year mostly because I made some really good friends that are still friends to this day!

What was your biggest takeaway from CDI, and how has it allowed you to develop a better community?

My biggest takeaway was that the role of the community developer is not to fix problems but to cultivate community relationships that allow community members to work together and fix their problems. Being a relationship builder is a very powerful role to have and absolutely critical to the success of our communities.

Why do you think community leaders should attend CDI?

The people you meet are absolutely amazing! I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet any of them had it not been for CDI. I think it covers a lot of topic areas that pertain to any job within a municipal organization.

CCED Hosts CAYLI “World of Work” Day

The Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) hosted a “World of Work Day” for the Conway Area Youth Leadership Institute (CAYLI) on November 6, 2019. This is one of seven monthly sessions that the 21 CAYLI students attend to be exposed to different aspects of Faulkner County to be more aware of and involved in their community.

The Conway Area Youth Leadership Institute is a program operated by the Division of Outreach and Community Engagement at the University of Central Arkansas. The program is comprised of junior and senior high school students from across Faulkner County with the goals of developing leadership potential, broadening community awareness, encouraging community participation, and providing mentoring and career exploration in the students’ areas of vocational interest. The students take part in a summer retreat, attend seven monthly sessions, conduct a community service project, and will graduate in April of 2020.

This session covered the “World of Work” and the day started with the CCED Project Coordinator Moriah Bruner as she shared best practices for young professionals for applying to jobs, interviewing, utilizing career resources, and networking. Corey Parks, Director of Economic Development at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, followed with a presentation about the past, present, and future of economic development in Conway. The students then traveled to the UCA Makerspace to explore and experience the tools and technologies they have to offer with Master Maker Jason Huselton. At the Makerspace, the students were able to learn about the laser engraving machine, use 3D modeling software for 3D printing, and were able to create and take home a personalized laser engraved key chain. The day was then capped off with an economic development simulation, called Newtownia Go, led by CCED Director Shelby Fiegel that simulates the difficulties of community and economic development when multiple parties have competing interests in what is best for the fictional town. 

The CAYLI Program has been operating for 24 years and has graduated over 500 students from Faulkner County. You can learn more about the Conway Area Youth Leadership Institute here.

ACDS Conference 2019 – “Episode 2020: Now Loading”

Entry written by MBA student William D. Gloster, graduate assistant for the Center for Community & Economic Development in the Division of Outreach & Community Engagement at University of Central Arkansas.

The Arkansas Community Development Society (ACDS) is a nonprofit organization facilitating discussion, research, and improvement for community welfare in the state. ACDS hosted its annual conference and general membership meeting at UCA’s Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center on October 17th, 2019. Participants had the opportunity to vote on amendments, network with one another, and share best practices for long-term sustainability within communities.

Dennis Fraise and Jason Hutcheson started the day with “Develop This!” Community and economic developers tend to rely on statistics to make informed decisions, yet data can be difficult to interpret and relay to other people. The Iowa economic developers proposed that by reaching audiences’ emotions through story-telling, developers can efficiently translate complex data and ideas into memorable lessons.

Natalie Ghidotti (Ghidotti Communications) led the second session entitled “Community Image Tune-Up.” She discussed the importance of communication in today’s economy. In a quick-twitch world with evolving technology, it is important for communities and organizations to differentiate themselves from competitors. Otherwise, they might become lost in the crowd. A highly effective method of differentiation involves the use of influencers for social media and marketing. Influencers have a specific following or audience that can help bring substantial awareness and funding to virtually any cause.

During lunch, ACDS highlighted several award-winners for their accomplishments in the field. Baxter County Forward, Explore Success, Growing Corning Together, and Searcy Small Business Revolution all received an Innovative Community Development Program/Project Award. The Community Development Achievement Award went to Ed Levy (Cromwell Architects Engineers), and the Friend of ACDS Award went to UCA Outreach and Community Engagement. Lastly, Monieca West (Arkansas Division of Higher Education) received the ACDS Distinguished Service Award.

Following the awards ceremony, futurist Chet W. Sisk presented seven opportunities that communities must plan for in the next three to five years. Sisk led conversation centered heavily around effects of the climate crisis; increased risk of living in coastal regions will likely cause inland migration to rural areas in the near future. Other topics of discussion included creative communities, community tech liaisons, elder councils, feminine principle leadership, and reestablishing values through promoted-mindfulness practices.

A panel discussion rounded out the day. Jon Chadwell, Tamika Edwards, and Roby Brock debated some of today’s most controversial community development topics: the cannabis industry, the 2020 census, and the political shift in Arkansas.

For more information about the Arkansas Community Development Society, visit

Kick Start Sheridan: Action Plan Unveiling

On May 7, 2019 Governor Asa Hutchinson, UCA President Houston Davis, and over 100 Sheridan, Grant County, #YJNation (Sheridan School District), and state community members and leaders came together at Oak Hill Farms to celebrate the unveiling of the Kick Start Sheridan Action Plan!

The Kick Start Sheridan Action Plan is the culmination of nine months of citizen input and planning to develop community and economic development goals based on the following areas: Downtown Development, Recreation and Things To Do, Education and Economic Development, Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship, and Infrastructure.

Sheridan’s journey began by partnering with the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) staff, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension’s (UAEX) Dr. Mark Peterson, and Chaffee Crossing’s Lorie Robertson during the Community Development Institute (CDI) 2018 Advanced Year class. During CDI 2018, a group of professional community and economic professionals and CDI graduates assessed the city. Through their work, the city was provided with a report that became the foundation for their community wide strategic action planning effort.

Then UCA CCED and UAEX assisted Sheridan for nearly a year by holding community forums, constructing a core leadership group, and guiding the community through the Kick Start planning process. The end result of the Kick Start Sheridan initiative was the development of the strategic action plan.

You can read the plan here:


You can watch the unveiling of the Kick Start Sheridan plan here:

View photos of the event here.

Our team at UCA CCED would like to give special thanks to our supporters, partners, and UCA leadership who make this work possible every day: President Houston Davis, Chief of Staff Kelley Erstine, Associate Vice President for Outreach and Community Engagement Dr. Shaneil Ealy, Dr. Mark Peterson at University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension, Lorie Robertson at Chaffee Crossing, the CDI 2018 Advanced Year Class, and leaders of Kick Start Sheridan Mayor Joe Wise, Carrie Wise Smith, Brad McGinley, and Lauren Goins.

During CDI 2019, UCA CCED plans to work with Camden, Arkansas in southwest Arkansas.

Thrivers & Strugglers: A Growing Economic Divide

Thrivers & Strugglers: A Growing Economic Divide was held on Thursday, March 28 in the Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center at the University of Central Arkansas. The event was held in partnership with UCA’s Center for Community and Economic Development, Division of Outreach and Community Engagement, Service-Learning, College of Liberal Arts, College of Education (PhD Leadership Studies program), City of Hope Outreach, and the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Thrivers & Strugglers was an outgrowth of work being done by the UCA Poverty Studies Steering Committee, whose vision is “to engage and equip UCA students, faculty, staff and community partners in research and experiential learning that target poverty, with an emphasis on Arkansas.”

The event drew in nearly 100 community leaders from across the state of Arkansas to explore the demographics of wealth based on research conducted by the Center for Household Financial Stability, help participants understand poverty in Arkansas, and share promising practices that address poverty at the local level. The event’s goal was to bring together the UCA community, community leaders from across the state, non-profit leaders, and citizens who want to be a part of solving economic inequality. You can view the agenda here.

The day started with the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and their presentation “The Demographics of Wealth: How Education, Race and Birth Year Shape Financial Outcomes.” Sarah Kinser with the Arkansas Community Foundation and Rich Huddleston with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families followed the Federal Reserve Bank to discuss poverty in Arkansas. Kinser shared information about their new online tool Aspire Arkansas and Huddleston gave an update on their work at AACF and specific issues they’re currently advocating for in the legislature. The final speakers of the day included Ray Boshara with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Maret Cahill-Wicks of the United Way of Central Arkansas, Dr. Phillip Fletcher with City of Hope Outreach, and Spring Hunter with the Conway Ministry Center. Each of these speakers shared specific programs and initiatives their organization provides to directly combat poverty at the local level. Boshara share research concerning Emergency/Rainy Day Savings, Cahill talked about ways that United Way is creating financial empowerment through many of their programs, Dr. Fletcher gave an inspiring presentation about his work with Hope Village, and Hunter talked about the Ministry Center’s every day work and shared a unique perspective on people living even further below the poverty line.

The day ended with a optional session where participants could learn more about UCA Poverty Studies and share information about their own work with poverty.

You can learn more about the Demographics of Wealth here and more about the UCA Poverty Studies at

Spring 2019 Community and Economic Development Fellowship

The Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) at the University of Central Arkansas has selected undergraduate students Javier Hernandez of Rogers, Katie Weaver of Wynne, Marco Ramirez of Bentonville and Ra’Shan Stubbs of Nassau, Bahamas for the spring Community and Economic Development (CED) Fellowship.

The mission of the CED fellowship is to expose students to a variety of community or economic development careers and provide networking, coaching and mentoring to enhance student career preparedness.

During the program, fellows attend site visits that showcase community and economic development activities at the local and state levels of government and in the nonprofit sector. The fellows participate in activities such as job shadowing, organization tours, mock interviews and mentorship from CCED staff. Fellows also have the opportunity to join the Arkansas Community Development Society and attend the 2019 Community Development Institute. Fellowship activities are customized to fit students’ interests and needs.

“I applied to be a CED fellow because I love my community and want to better serve it. The fellowship is the perfect way to integrate my love of serving with my future career goals,” said Weaver, a sophomore psychology and criminology major.

Stubbs, a senior management information systems major, said she applied for the fellowship because she wants to gain experience in the field of community and economic development. She is also looking forward to mentorship opportunities from the CCED staff.

The spring 2019 fellowship will run February through April, with a site visit to a community and economic development organization occurring each month. The fellows will visit the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Arkansas Public Policy Panel and Haven House.

“I want exposure and experience in different careers in public policy,” shared Hernandez, a sophomore environmental science and political science major. “I hope to take away valuable skills and knowledge that will help me in my future career.”

Ramirez, a junior communication and public relations major, said, “Through the fellowship, I want to become more connected and established with professionals throughout the central Arkansas region. I am excited about the networking opportunities.”

“This group of Community and Economic Development Fellows is our most diverse yet. We are interacting with students from an assortment of programs here on campus,” said Shelby Fiegel, managing director of the Center for Community and Economic Development. “Our team believes that the field of community and economic development is a career path students from a variety of academic programs can pursue. Our job is to introduce them to different sectors within the field of community and economic development and mentor them as they prepare to enter the workforce.”








Do you know a University of Central Arkansas student or recent graduate looking for opportunities to expand their network and explore the field of community and economic development?

Applications are now open for our summer and fall 2019 Community and Economic Development Fellowship!

Apply at fellowship/

Questions? Contact Shelby Fiegel at or 501-450-5269.

Marketing on a Dime

University of Central Arkansas undergraduate student Lauren McLemore recently attended “Marketing on a Dime” presented by our very own Shelby Fiegel at UCA Downtown as part of the Nonprofit Workshop Series. Lauren is a Journalism student at UCA and wrote an article about the class. She was gracious enough to share the article with us and gave us permission to share it on our blog. You can read her article below:

Braving the cold rain, approximately 40 people filled the space at UCA Downtown from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7, to attend and engage in UCA Outreach and Community Engagement‘s (Outreach) free class “Marketing on a Dime.” It is the first event in Outreach’s Nonprofit Workshop Series.

Shelby Fiegel, Managing Director for University of Central Arkansas’ (UCA) Center for Community and Economic Development, instructed the workshop.

Fiegel explained which social media is best to use for specific types of content, what to include in posts, and how to use other types of marketing outside of media (such as stickers and sidewalk chalk.) The techniques she explained were catered to nonprofit organizations, emphasizing low cost options they can use to get their message out.

“Nonprofits have so many different things that they’re doing in the community, and their programs take up most of their time. They don’t have a lot of budget dollars to spend on advertising,” Fiegel said.

The presentation aimed to demonstrate to nonprofit organizations various ways they can create awareness of their mission, generate a volunteer network, and appeal to the donors they depend on for support. Along with nonprofit leaders, some private business owners, a representative from Central Baptist College, and others attended the class.  Kate Carnahan, project manager at local graphic design company Silverlake Design Studio was in attendance. Carnahan is also an owner of downtown Conway’s The Studio, which is a coworking space she describes as “the modern day alternative to working from coffee shops or working from your house.”

During the presentation, Carnahan sat a table with a woman who had been a client of Silverlake’s. At one point, Carnahan looked proud as the client explained to a woman at another table about a website structuring concept she had learned by working with the designers at Silverlake.

“Nonprofits make up about 50 percent of [Silverlake’s] client base,” Carnahan said. “I [came to] see the best way that we could serve our clients and see if there’s any new information out there in marketing.”

There are many different aspects to making sure a community is functioning the way it should. Without effective marketing, the vital process of communication doesn’t work as well, leaving organizations out of touch with their clients and partners.

“Once you start working with communities, you really understand how important every single person is to creating a vibrant and healthy community,” Fiegel said.

The presenters of the Nonprofit Workshop Series are passionate about sharing their expertise. Fiegel said that she enjoys giving presentations and wanted to be a part of Thursday’s class because she wants to support local nonprofits.

The Nonprofit Workshop Series, although tailored to government and nonprofit officials, is open to the public.

For more information about attending future classes, visit

If you would like to have Shelby speak at your upcoming event, please contact her at or 501-450-5269.

Welcome New CDI Advisory Board Members!

Our team at the Community Development Institute (CDI) is pleased to announce the appointment of five new advisory board members, as well as two reappointments to the board.

The five new members include: Shaneil Ealy, associate vice president of UCA Outreach & Community Engagement; Stacey Neal, director of Community Competitiveness at Louisiana Economic Development; Shelley Mehl, executive director at the Faulkner County Community Foundation; Patty Methvin, president of the Arkansas Community Development Society; and Matt Twyford, Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED), senior manager of community development at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The two reappointed board members are Sasha Grist, PCED, executive director of the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District and Samantha Evans, PCED, community development advisor, Workforce Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Our full 2019 CDI Advisory Board can be found at

Individuals are invited to join the CDI Advisory Board based on their experience and knowledge and desire to work with the board for the purpose of advancing community and economic development practices in Arkansas and surrounding states. Advisory Board members work in conjunction with the staff at the UCA Center for Community and Economic Development to provide marketing assistance, coordinate activities and identify speakers for CDI.

Amy Whitehead, assistant vice president of community and workforce development at UCA Outreach, said, “Since the institute’s inception, the CDI Advisory Board has played a critical role in the program’s success. The knowledge and expertise of our board members are of the highest caliber. We are excited to work with all of our new and existing board members over the coming year.”

We look forward to working with all of our CDI Advisory Board members to develop a fantastic program for CDI 2019!

Fall 2018 Community and Economic Development Fellowship

Our staff at the Center for Community and Economic Development is excited to share that undergraduate students Hawa Nouhou Abarchi of Niamey, Niger, and Margaret (Greta) Hacker of Jonesboro, Arkansas, have been selected for the fall Community and Economic Development (CED) Fellowship! The fellowship seeks to expose students to a variety of community and economic development careers while enhancing career preparedness through networking, coaching and mentoring. The program allows fellows to participate in site visits to showcase community and economic development at the local and state levels of government and in the nonprofit sector.

Fellows engage in activities customized to their needs and interests such as job shadowing, organization tours and mock interviews. Fellows will have the opportunity to join the Arkansas Community Development Society and attend the 2019 Community Development Institute.

The fellowship will run through November with site visits to organizations including the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research, Arkansas Community Foundation, Arkansas Farm Bureau, Goodwill Industries of Arkansas, Heifer International and Winrock International. Our team looks forward to working closely with Hawa and Greta throughout the fall 2018 semester (and beyond)!


    Hawa Nouhou Abarchi                                       Greta Hacker 


Do you know a University of Central Arkansas student or recent graduate looking for opportunities to expand their network and explore the field of community and economic development?

Applications are now open for our spring 2019 Community and Economic Development Fellowship! The application deadline is November 9.

Apply at fellowship/

Questions? Contact Shelby Fiegel at or 501-450-5269.

CDI 2018: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Our 32nd annual CDI has come to an end! CDI 2018 was a “boat load” of fun, and brought with it new connections, insights, and memories for our participants, partners, speakers and staff. Each day was packed full of top-notch speakers and thought-provoking simulations and activities (you can view the schedule here).

Highlights from this year’s CDI include: Charles “Chuck” Marohn (founder and president of community-development nonprofit organization Strong Towns) as our keynote speaker, Newtonia, the Poverty Simulation, StrengthsQuest assessment, Miller County Simulation, Somerset Simulation, Blue Sky, tours of downtown Conway, the Arkansas Innovation Hub, SOMA and much more. Members of the CDI Advanced Year class, who apply their training in local communities after they graduate CDI, worked directly with the city of Sheridan to assist in its future community and economic development efforts.

Pictured: Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns in McCastlain Ballroom during the CDI 2018 Keynote presentation “Curbside Chat.”

At the conclusion of CDI 2018 was our closing session and awards ceremony. Forty participants in the CDI Year 3 class graduated from CDI, and the Bill Miller Award, Friend of CDI Award, Ernest Whitelaw Award, and Year 1 and Year 2 Champions were awarded. Duane Bullard, retired community and economic developer from Ripley, Mississippi, was recognized with the Bill Miller Award for his long-standing leadership and support of CDI, which includes many years of service as a CDI Advisory Board member, CDI class director and advocate. The Arkansas Municipal League was honored with the Friend of the Community Development Institute Award, offered each year to an individual or organization that demonstrates strong support for community development and CDI.

The Ernest Whitelaw Award was given to Dennis Williamson II, WIOA Administrator at the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District. This award is bestowed upon an individual in the CDI Year 3 graduating class by their peers for dedication to professional community development practice, willingness to assume leadership roles and a spirit of caring, inclusion and integrity. Year 1 and Year 2 Champions were also chosen by their peers: Jessica Hemingway of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce was selected for Year 1 and Alicia Gillen of the Maumelle Area Chamber of Commerce for Year 2.

Each class also reported out on their #CDIcentral experience. Jeff Matthews of Conway Corp shared that the Year 1 class now recognizes how important human resources (everyone in our communities) are to making our cities better places. The Year 2 class “celebrated good times” and the Year 3 class shared a poem reflecting upon their three years at CDI.

You can watch the Year 2 class report here:

You can watch the Year 3 class report here:

CDI ended with CDI Poet Laurette and Year 2 Class Director Debra Banks sharing her CDI 2018 poem entitled “Making My Mark.” You can listen to the poem here:

For more information about CDI, visit, or contact Shelby Fiegel at (501) 450-5269 or You can view photos of CDI 2018 on our Facebook page at