Faculty and staff impact the lives of students at the university of Central Arkansas each day, but sometimes the stories of those moments go untold. The staff at UCA Magazine set out to reveal those tales of uplift, encouragement and support, so we asked students and alumni to share their UCA experiences. Here are their stories.
President Emeritus and Executive-in-residence
My first semester at UCA was very difficult for me. I ended up with a 2.25 GPA and failed two classes in the process. I was going to lose my scholarship, and my parents were going to move me back home to Hot Springs. After the semester had ended in fall of 2015, my parents came to visit me so we could talk to financial aid to see if I could save my scholarship. We decided that I was going to have to take two summer classes that summer and I would have to help pay for them. It was a damp rainy day, and my parents and I took a rest on the benches out front of Bernard Hall. I was crying and talking to my parents about getting a job and begging them not to move me home. I was going through a deep depression during this time because I felt like I wasn’t doing anything with my life and I was failing out of school. My parents looked at me and told me if I didn’t find a job within the week I would be moving home and going to the community college in Hot Springs. A man walked by in a very nice suit holding an umbrella. He looked at me and noticed I was sad and came over and introduced himself to my parents and me. He asked where I was from, and when I told him Fountain Lake his eyes lit up, and he told me how much he liked Hot Springs and that he knew of our football coach. After a brief talk with him, he told us he was the president of UCA and that he had a job opening in Wingo Hall and to contact his secretary for an interview. I contacted Susan Lilly, and the next day I came in to meet with the chief of staff, Kelley Erstine. I walked into his office shaking in fear; I had never had a job interview before in my life. He told me I would be a receptionist for the front desk in Wingo and I would be paid $10 an hour, and I could study for my summer classes. I started working there the next day, which was April 22, 2016. I remember the date because that’s the day that my life changed. By getting that job, I started making straight A’s and making better life choices because I had something to live for. I felt like my life was actually going somewhere, and it was all thanks to a man who saw a sad girl on a bench and helped her get a job. I now work with the most amazing co-workers anyone could ask for. When I graduate and go to law school and go into the real working world, I will always thank Tom Courtway for giving me a chance and seeing the potential in me that I couldn’t see.
– Madeline Guthrie, UCA junior
Dr. Wendy Lucas
Chair & Associate Professor, Department of History
Dr. Wendy Lucas in the UCA Department of History had a huge impact on my life and career. She took a small group of graduate students under her wing, so to speak, and helped us not only excel at UCA but also helped us apply for Ph.D. programs. Today two of those students, including me, have Ph.D.s in history. I am not sure that would have been possible without the extra time and care that she took. In my book Dr. Lucas is a first-rate mentor.
– Rodney W. Harris, Ph.D. ’11
Associate Professor, Psychology Department
I first met Dr. Charlton in an undergraduate psychology course. It was his first year at UCA, and I was a sophomore. At the time, my career plan included pharmacy school, so I took psychology courses as electives. One day, I answered an ad for research assistants needed in the psychology department. Dr. Charlton was conducting a study on decision-making. I applied, and my journey in the field of psychology truly began. Dr. Charlton was ambitious, dedicated and passionate about his work. He cared about the field and about his students, and worked diligently to spark our interest. Dr. Charlton, or “Dr. C” as I call him, met with me regularly, sent me articles and books, and kept in constant contact with me about our research. His interest was contagious. Soon thereafter, I changed my major to psychology, became involved in local and national psychology organizations, applied to graduate school, and eventually earned my Ph.D. Dr. Charlton, of course, was a chair on my dissertation committee! I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am now working as a child psychologist in private practice. To this day, when others ask about my career journey, Dr. Charlton is always the first person who comes to mind. I am hopeful that others will continue to experience Dr. Charlton as a professor and mentor.
– Laura Horton
Dr. Dee M. Lance
Chair & Associate Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
This woman was quite possibly the greatest influence on my life during my short time at UCA. She taught her classes masterfully, gracefully took over the position of department head, gave second chances and seemed to make it a personal goal to coax me out of my comfort zone. I had the honor of being her GA for a year, and now, three years later, I think of her often and endeavor to be a great a woman as she is, both professionally and personally.
– Kate Murphy-Jacobs ’15
Dr. Lori Isom
Professor of Chemistry
Dr. Isom’s passion for her work was so evident in her teaching. I took her Intro to Organic and Biochemistry course, and her passion made me fall in love with the subject, which led me to change my major to Nursing. To this day, I still use the subject matter she taught and wholeheartedly know it was her passion that influenced mine.
– Sunni Costello ’18
Dr. Patricia Washington McGraw
Retired Professor of English & African/African-American Studies
Dr. Patricia McGraw was the reason I decided to come to UCA. She was the first person to tell me I had what it took to earn a Ph.D. She saw something in me as a freshman in the Honors College that no one else had yet seen. For a first-generation college student, that was huge. I worked with her closely at UCA, and she supervised my Honors thesis. Not only did I go on to earn a Ph.D. by the age of 29, but I was tenured and promoted by 35 and department chair at the age of 37. Dr. McGraw changed the course of my career and life.
– Valarie Fleming ’99
Dr. Daniel Fisher
Associate Professor of Innovation & Leadership
Dr. Fisher changed the way that I think about things. His Innovation and Entrepreneurship classes get you thinking outside the box. This transformed the way I operated in my own business, as well as how I think as an employee.
– Zac Hendricks ’13
Dr. Janet K. Wilson
Professor of Sociology & Criminology
Dr. Wilson (Sociology Department) had a sense of reality like no other. I had her for several classes for my major, but it was her guidance in my internship class/program, along with my research class, that really impacted me personally, as well as professionally now that I am 18 years removed.
Dr. Wilson worked tirelessly to get me into a nonprofit organization working with delinquent youth for my internship program. It was my first “real life” experience in the field in which I wanted to work [that] complemented my major and emphasis (criminology). Her personal approach to follow up, check-ins and relating book work to field work really solidified my desire to work in such a field – really validated I was making the right choice for my life.
Dr. Wilson’s assistance in my research class was unique. While the focus of the class (for everyone) was to identify research and complement/validate it (or not), I convinced Dr. Wilson to let me do my own based on my internship. While it took time, a lot of convincing and I think a little bit of going out on a limb for me on Dr. Wilson’s part, she dedicated additional time for me to assist as needed, especially since my project was unique compared to others. It really taught me that doing well for others is what we all should do.
Dr. Wilson is a positively unique person that you don’t find very often. I totally credit her with my continued work in the nonprofit youth development field.
– Scott Myers ’99
Family and Consumer Sciences faculty
I was a nontraditional transfer student from Melbourne, Arkansas. I was a single mother, business owner and full-time student. Moving to Conway and continuing my education at UCA was a bit overwhelming at first, but the adjustment became easier in a short amount of time. I was a Family and Consumer Sciences major with many questions. I was delighted to find that my advisor was informative and always willing to discuss my concerns. The entire Family and Consumer Sciences faculty were such a blessing to me. They always made me feel welcome and helped me achieve my goals. The faculty continued to support me throughout my job search after graduation, for which I am grateful. The interaction I had with UCA instructors and staff members across campus was very positive. People were friendly and willing to answer any questions I may have had. I stayed at UCA until I completed my master’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences. Fortunately, I was able to take my education and attain the job I had always hoped for, also on a college campus. I hope to share my education and experiences with other students going through the college process in hopes that they are successful in their endeavors as well.
– Cheryl Massey ’15, ’16
What a great man! I only had a few short months of getting to know President Davis and what a blast it was! From giving him campus tours, showing him what UCA has to offer, working in an extension of his office, so literally seeing him every day, it was amazing! I love how he is so present on campus and loves being intentional to make a connection with the students and be the example for engagement and involvement with all things UCA Bears! I don’t think I’ve ever seen another university president use social media so personable and well like President Houston; it’s absolutely amazing! Before I left for Texas Tech University, he told me, “Don’t be afraid to step out and conquer your fears. You’ve got a whole community of Bears behind you cheering you on because we want you to succeed!” Those words have always stuck with me!
– Ty Hollowell ’17
Special Education department
I am delighted to share about the people who’ve helped my experience at UCA be the most memorable, rewarding time of my life. The entire faculty in the Special Education department have gone above and beyond for their students, and students in public schools in the area. They have been a godsend for me as well as my peers. They are passionate, want the best for their students, and through sharing their knowledge of Special Education, they have prepared us to go and change the world. Their love for students with disabilities has radiated to everyone in their path, and without them, I would not be on the road to graduation in May. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, to all the Special Education instructors.
– Brittany Eppes, UCA senior
Gregory J. W. Urwin
Retired Professor of History
Dr. Urwin took one of my most difficult (read: disliked) subjects and made it live for me. I only needed one semester of his class to fulfill my requirements, but because of his love of the subject matter and his excitement for history, I chose to take him for a second semester. I still remember his detailed lectures and the twinkle in his eye as he told of the events that took place in our nation’s history. He will forever be etched in my mind as a top-notch professor and a living historian.
– Aaron Hoyt ’92
Dr. Jayme Millsap Stone
Director of Learning Communities
Dr. Stone was my partner in the FYS Peer Mentor program; I was nervous about taking on a role as a mentor and guide to young students, but working with Dr. Stone was always an amazing experience. She taught me that, in all ways, a classroom can be inclusive for everyone. Hard work, devotion to academia and an ability to see the human heart in action are what Dr. Stone instilled in me. I was supposed to be a mentor to my peers, but I gained a fantastic life mentor in the process!
– Brick Cullum ’18
Dr. Charlotte Cone
Retired College Student Personnel Services & Administration Program Coordinator
Dr. Cone helped me find and develop my passion for higher education and student affairs through her love and devotion to education and all the mentorship she has provided me over the years. She helped me become the student affairs professional that I am today, and I am truly a better educator because of her guidance and support. Thank you, Dr. Cone, for believing and investing in me and all the other students’ lives you’ve touched!
– Danny Glassmann ’05, ’07
Dr. Anita Sego
Assistant Professor of Health Sciences
Dr. Sego is one of the most innovative and inspiring people I have ever met. She has shown me that, even as a student, I can make a difference. She encourages her students to embrace their individual strengths, which she knows because she takes time to get to know them. When I am feeling like my efforts to make a difference are miniscule, she teaches me how my efforts mean something and encourages me to go even further. She deserves to be recognized for her amazing leadership and guidance.
– Hannah Branton ’19
Miss Jo was one of the first people I saw when I started at UCA this past fall. I was a nervous little freshman going to get some breakfast on my first day of classes when I first met Miss Jo. As she scanned my Bear Card into the caf, she greeted me with a big smile, and when I left, she told me that she would see me again at lunch. She is the happiest person I know around campus and treats me as one of her own kids. She makes me smile every day and feel cared for. When I see Miss Jo in the morning, I know it’s going to be a great day!
– Grace Ridgeway
Dr. Mike Martin
Senior Lecturer & Pre-medical Chair in the Biology Department
I will always attribute my pursuit of medical school to Dr. Martin. I was a Pre-Physical Therapy student, unsure about my career choice, when I took Pharmacology with Dr. Martin as an elective. I grew more weary about PT the further we got into the class, and I finally decided to ask Dr. Martin for his advice about pursuing a different career. For the remaining year and a half of my time at UCA, Dr. Martin advised and encouraged me in my decision to apply to medical school. He truly gave me the confidence I needed to make such an important and somewhat scary decision. Thanks to Dr. Martin, I will be attending medical school in 2018 and pursuing a career that I love.
– Micaela Motzko ’17
Dr. Taine Duncan
Associate Professor and Director of Gender Studies Program
While I’d like to think that I’d still be a feminist without [Dr. Taine Duncan’s influence, I can certainly say that I wouldn’t be nearly as critical or informed in my thought process.
On top of that, though, is the bond she and I formed during my time at UCA. Though I can’t say for sure why, Dr. Duncan became the person I most felt I could talk to when I needed someone who would listen. She never made me feel like I was a bother to her, and I always left feeling better.
But on top of moral support, Dr. Duncan also provided professional support when she could. Since she knew I wanted to be a teacher myself, she arranged for me to sub for her once for a class period when she needed to be away from campus. The lesson itself was nothing too terribly complicated, and I’d had the class with her as a student the year before (plus a refresher the day before), but the experience benefited me greatly.
Thanks to all this, when I finally graduated last May and left UCA for good, Dr. Duncan was the one teacher to whom I knew I needed to say goodbye.
– Stephen Moore
Interior Design Program Director in the Family and Consumer Sciences Department
During my sophomore year at UCA, I unexpectedly became pregnant. I was terrified and upset and not focused at all. Jennifer was the first person I told, and she calmed and comforted me and gave me a hug, and for that I will never forget her and her kindness. I finished my degree, and Jennifer was always a kind smile and a sweet spirit willing to help me when she could.
– Paige Norman ’07
Dr. Scott Nadler
Assistant Professor of Management
You may not remember me since I was never one of your students, but my name is Jasmine Gonzalez and we had our picture taken together by Kyle for the Facebook marketing page (which is still the cover photo). That day my life did a 180, and I’ll never forget it. Since Kyle was needing some pictures for the Marketing page, we had to act like we were “talking” to each other, but it quickly grew to a deep and meaningful conversation. I was telling you how I was a business management major and decided to change to interior design because business was just not clicking with me. I continued to tell you my dreams and stated how getting my own show on HGTV would be nice. Like my father, you helped me be more realistic and kindly told me the cons of being an interior designer. By this point we stepped into your office, and you told me, “Have you ever thought about becoming a teacher because from this short time knowing you I can see you being one,” and since that day I majored in education, and it rocked my world. I wasn’t on the verge of losing my scholarship anymore because I was making Dean’s and President’s list. Everything just clicked and felt right. I graduated in December 2016 with a Bachelor in Education K-6 and will be a third-grade teacher this fall. I simply wanted to reach out and say thank you for helping me choose the career path I was always meant to be in.
– Jasmine Gonzalez ’16
Dr. Nelle Bedner
Professor in the School of Communication
So much of my educational journey can be attributed to Dr. Nelle Bedner’s influence. As I was kicking off my junior year, I felt lost and alone. That fall semester was definitely my darkest in college. I lacked direction for my future and was still coming to terms with the person I desired to become. The major I had chosen was not a good fit, but I didn’t possess the knowledge of self to be able to recognize my unique skill set. Through a turn of events, I dropped a course and enrolled in Perspectives in Communication a few weeks into the semester. Dr. Bedner had such a presence about her that caused me to be eager about anything she had to say – a feeling I hadn’t really experienced from a professor at UCA. In a short amount of time, I fell deeply in love with the subject matter and learned so much about the discipline of communication. That class completely changed my trajectory in college and, truly, my life. I switched my major to communication and found myself enjoying homework assignments and learning about theory. Beyond that, Dr. Bedner stepped in and took the role of my academic advisor, helping me to graduate on time despite changing my major so late. Even more incredibly, she agreed to be my main thesis advisor for my research for the Honors College. Because of the way that Dr. Bedner helped to shape my interests and research, I discovered my passion for higher education and went on to get a graduate degree. I am now working for a university and use the tools and theory I learned in my Communication courses every day. I could never thank Dr. Bedner enough for the personal interest she took in helping to guide me on the perfect path. She is deserving of recognition because you can’t throw a rock in a room full of Communication majors without pelting someone that may have a similar story about her! She is truly phenomenal.
– Jesse Chambliss ’13
Assistant Director for Student Leadership
From only knowing Shook for a few years during his time in undergrad, he was most influential to me during my junior and senior year. Having him as a peer mentor was the best thing ever for many reasons. Having someone to look up to who was in many of the same organizations as I was in or having the same influence and networking connections was a blessing. I appreciated Shook taking a chance on someone like myself and not being afraid to tell me whenever I’m out of line and how to be my best self daily. I still talk with Shook today and ask for advice on how to be a better student affairs professional.
– Ty Hollowell
Dr. Mary Harlan
Professor Emeritus (Family and Consumer Sciences)
Dr. Harlan saw more in me than I saw in myself! While I was a college student, my father passed away. She helped me figure out a way to graduate in three and a half years because I was afraid I wouldn’t have the money to stay in school for four years. (As it turned out, I did get to stay for four years, but added a minor to my degree that is extremely useful in my current job.) She was very encouraging and made us work hard to be knowledgeable in our subject matter. Because of her, I have had a successful professional career. She encouraged me to apply for my first real job! I was hired and worked seven and a half years for them. Dr. Harlan wisely led the Family and Consumer Sciences department out of the grave when she launched the dietetics program at UCA. She is one of the reasons that FACS is FACS instead of Home Economics. She worked tirelessly with many organizations for the name change. The change has given the profession respected image. I’ve kept up with several of the FACS graduates, and each has been prepared for our work after college. Dr. Harlan still knows where her graduates are and what we are doing. I care about her and am pleased to have studied at UCA under her. I admire her!
– Debra Phillips Stewart ’81
Dr. Amy Hawkins
Associate Professor, School of Communication
Dr. Amy Hawkins is the perfect example of what it means to be a professor at UCA. From my first class with her to my last, she put time, effort, and so much more into me as both a student and a young woman. She teaches the capstone class for the public relations program, and in doing so, fosters the skills of all her students. On top of being a professor, she also serves as the director of the Center for Teaching Excellence. Aside from her educational responsibilities, she also becomes invested in the personal and professional lives of her former students. Since I graduated last May, I continue to stay in contact with Dr. Hawkins. She has served as a reference for me while I’ve applied for jobs, and she genuinely cares about my success as a young woman in the public relations field. In addition to all of her work at UCA, she is also a caring, devoted mother and involved member of both the UCA and Conway communities. Dr. Hawkins is one of the most amazing teachers and people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
– Emilia Barrick