Success Stories

A Message to New Students from Joshua Eddinger-Lucero, SGA Executive President 2018-19

Being a part of the EDGE Residential College at Hughes Hall provided me with an invaluable support network, as well as greatly impacted how involved I would become on campus. Having a faculty member that lived in the residence hall was highly beneficial when it came to learning about campus, asking questions about classes, and for me, in particular, getting involved with the Bear Essentials Food Pantry on campus. My Resident Master in EDGE@Hughes was one of the co-founders of the on-campus food pantry. During the first day of my Freshman Year Seminar (FYS) course that he was teaching, Professor James mentioned a volunteer opportunity that was available to us – the Bear Essentials Food Pantry. I was looking for a way to get more involved on campus and thought this would be the perfect way to start – I was right. For two years I was volunteering weekly at the food pantry and had the opportunity to serve my campus community and get to know other students, faculty, and staff at UCA.

The positive interactions I had in EDGE@Hughes and volunteering for the Bear Essentials Food Pantry led me to get more involved in other campus organizations. Being involved in the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) allowed me to connect with other students and professional in the field of Family and Consumer Sciences, as well as occupy local, state, and national AAFCS Student Unit leadership roles. Furthermore, I became a President’s Leadership Fellow and was also elected to the Student Government Association (SGA). As I approach my senior year, I have the great pleasure of serving as the Executive President to the SGA and the National Chair for the AAFCS Student Unit.

Without EDGE@Hughes and the network I built through volunteering at the Bear Essentials Food Pantry I’m not sure how my UCA experience would have played out. I imagine that I would have still become involved on campus, but maybe not to the extent that I have. As I prepare for the next phase of my academic and professional life, I know that I will forever have a strong network of people to help and support me. The skills, resources, and abilities that I have been afforded as a result of being a part of EDGE@Hughes are invaluable and have led me on the path that I currently travel.

A Letter to Students from Senior Blake Eiermann, Digital Film Major, Graduated May ’16

Blake Eiermann Stars@Short/Denney

Blake Eiermann

During my freshman year, I was fortunate to experience the Stars Residential College program in Short/Denney Hall. Coming to college, I knew I wanted to go into the media/art industry so being part of a program that brought together a community of artists, musicians, but also other majors was very beneficial. I like being around people with different passions, but still possessing a mind to create. One of my favorite parts was actually having classes in the Stars@Short/Denney, which helped me bond with my classmates. Class project and studying for exams was easier because we all lived together~ it was much more convenient to schedule meetings! The people I met in the Stars@Short/Denney my first year remain my close friends.

(Note: He’s graduated now and living the life in LA!  Go to and view Blake’s work!) Now, I’m a senior majoring in digital filmmaking and minoring in marketing. When I graduate in May, I plan on pursuing a career in the media industry. I have a background in photography and it is one of my strongest creative mediums. My dream?  Travel and have great success influencing the film, fashion, and music industries. The Stars@Short/Denney is a fabulously fun and diverse community for any incoming freshman looking to craft or explore their artistic interest.

A Letter to Students from Chloe Zedlitz, English Major, Graduated May ’16

Chloe Zedlitz Hughes (now EDGE@Hughes)

Chloe Zedlitz
Hughes (now EDGE@Hughes)

The Residential College program at the University of Central Arkansas made a major impact on my involvement in on campus activities as well as providing a family of support and connections that have proved to be invaluable. As an entering freshman, I was uncertain about the university and my ability to succeed in a place that I had never been before. I was shy and timid and it was hard to be far away from my family in a way that had never happened before. I found a home and friends in Hughes Residential College. Having a close knit community of people with a great staff full of leaders was a game changer for me. I grew a lot freshman year and when things were tough with classes and my personal life I was never alone in my struggles. Currently, I am about to enter my senior year of college and I am preparing to continue on into a masters program for American Indian studies at Arizona State University.

Being in Hughes was an invaluable experience for me. I made friends that I am still close to today and had a supportive staff who helped me through a lot of rough times. I am forever grateful for that. I had a community that pushed me to be a better student, person, and leader. All of those attributes have surfaced as time has gone on. The connections I made with other students allowed me to become involved in different on campus organizations such as PRISM and PhiRe*.  I loved the environment in Hughes so much that I continued to live there as a student staff member, first an advocate and then a learning assistant. I made an abundance of friends and Hughes was the place where I felt the safest. A place in which, regardless of background or pasts, a family is built.

Without Hughes Residential College I would be a very different person—one that probably remained in her shell and continued to remain in the background instead of branching out and trying new things. As I move foreword, I know that I will always have a community of friends to help me through the hard times and encourage me to be the best person I can possibly be. I have learned a lot and have experienced a lot and for that I am grateful. I know that I have the skills and ability to do great things and Hughes Residential College was a big part of unlocking that potential.

* PRISM is an acronym for Pride, Raising Awareness, Involvement, Support & Mentoring Alliance.

* PhiRe is a student organization for those interested in studying philosophy and religion.

A Letter to Students from Bethany Verkamp, BS ’15, Biology

Bethany Verkamp STEM@Arkansas

Bethany Verkamp

I was fortunate enough to be a part of the first STEM@Arkansas class at UCA. Living in a STEM@Arkansas resident opened the door for me to many great experiences. Through this program, I was given the opportunity to help teach science lessons to local elementary students with Prof. Horton, our resident master. I loved getting and helping others while being able to share my love of science.

In 2013, I was able travel to Rwanda, in teaching these very science lessons, along with several other residential college students. Through UCA’s Gusangira Project*, I was able to teach elementary Rwandan children exciting, hands-on science lessons and to help a local village to build safer and more efficient stoves for cooking.

I graduated from UCA in May, but the opportunities given to me through STEM@Arkansas and professors like those in the residential college program still affect me today. I was recently able to take what I learned from STEM@Arkansas and the Gusangira Project to a group of students at a small orphanage in Guatemala. I loved seeing the joy on their faces as they hurried to put the lids on their “film canister rockets” or showed us their bracelets representing the water cycle. I am currently working with a group from Fort Smith, Arkansas to bring the stoves we helped build in Rwanda to a small village in Guatemala. I will always be thankful to the STEM Residential College in Arkansas Hall and all of the experiences that it has led me to. Through STEM@Arkansas, I have gained great mentors, friends, and amazing opportunities to serve others.

*Gusangira is the Kinyarwanda word meaning “share.” The Gusangira Project is the umbrella name for “Science & Society in Rwanda,” UCA Residential College program’s service-learning, study abroad initiative.

A Letter to Students from Hoda Agrama, BS ’15, Biology

Hoda Agrama STEM@Arkansas

Hoda Agrama

Beginning my college education was something I was anticipating with a great amount of excitement. I was going to be starting school in a whole new setting, where the information that I was gong to learn was pertinent to what I wanted to do later on life, which was go into the medical field. Staying in the STEM@Arkansas helped me start and end my college career strong, and provided opportunities for me throughout the four years that I attended the University of Central Arkansas.

My first year staying in STEM@Arkansas allowed for me to be surrounded with like-minded individuals who were all working towards a similar goal. This atmosphere meant that if I needed help or advice, there was always someone around who was more than willing to get me the help I needed, from something as specific as a difficult topic from class to which courses I should be taking next semester. The importance of this was that I started off my college career strong, and that laid down a strong foundation for the years to come.

Not only did the STEM@Arkansas provide me with a strong basis for academic success, it also helped me network and make connections that resulted in experiences far beyond anything I imagined. Through the friends and connections I made, I ended up participating in the Science and Society program, which allowed for me to go on a trip to Rwanda. The study abroad was one of the most life enriching experiences I have experienced and I would not have been driven to join in it if not for the doors that STEM@Arkansas opened for me.

Through STEM@Arkansas, I was encouraged to participate in the American Chemistry Society by my peers and professors.  ACS provided me with a means of community outreach that was highly involved and consistent. When I eventually became an officer, I appreciated the leadership experience that I was provided with.

STEM Residential College in Arkansas Hall was instrumental to my academic success, and provided me with friendships, connections, and experiences that genuinely allowed for me to achieve so much more than I could have imagined doing on my own.

An Interview with Elyahb Allie Kwizera, BS ’14, Chemistry

Elyahb Allie Kwizera STEM@Arkansas + Bear@EPIC

Elyahb Allie Kwizera
STEM@Arkansas + Bear@EPIC

Dr. Stone: Allie, what are you doing these days?

Allie: Since graduating UCA, I have been working in nanomedicinal chemistry research lab at The University of Memphis. Basically we use nanotechnology to treat cancer. My specific project is to synthesize magnetic-Optical Hybrid Nanoparticles for Isolation and Detection of Rare Cancer Cells in Whole Blood. I use the combination of gold and silver nanoparticles, with their optical properties, and Iron oxide nanoparticles which is known to have magnetic properties in order to synthesize a dual magnetic-hybrid nanoparticles. We coat them with different Raman Tags, then we use them for detection of cancer cells in blood.

Dr. Stone: That’s magnificent! How did UCA’s Residential College program help you get to graduate school?

Allie: Having lived in a learning community like STEM Residential College in Arkansas Hall and then in EPIC@Bear helped me a lot. I would probably start with the communication skills you gain in those learning communities. You learn how to cooperate with other people with different views and opinions and to transform those views into a constructive idea that can change many things. As PhD student, I have to know how to present my data and communicate them to people. You have to make sure they understand what you are telling them in a short amount of time. I learned these skills in EPIC@Bear Hall during several competitions that I was part of. I also learned how to collaborate with different people to run different projects. These skills followed me into my PhD program. It is just amazing how much you learn from a living and learning community without even knowing. I’d recommend all students to try it because whether your future career is in industry, academics, civil servant or a politician, you will always need to use these skills.

A Letter to Students from Bethany Bell, BA ’14, International Studies

Bethany Bell Stars@Short/Denney

Bethany Bell

The Stars Residential College in Short/Denney Hall community at the University of Central Arkansas was my on-campus home for two years of my undergraduate college experience.

Centered on the arts, Stars@Short/Denney hosted a variety of students with so many different backgrounds, interests, and stories to tell. It was wonderful to be in an environment that was so affirming to my love of the arts.

Although I changed direction academically from music to International Studies, my artistic background continues to influence my desire to move, to motivate, and to inspire others by sharing my voice. I think that is probably what made the Stars@Short/Denney so unique and so appealing to me. Even among a wide range of personalities the Stars community worked because of the ways in which students connected over common ground.  Being a member of the Stars@Short/Denney community was being in a place where there was truly never a dull moment. The Stars was a microcosmos of the university itself and being in an environment with such a collage of people and perspectives was a good preparation for my travels to Rwanda in 2013 and Ghana this past summer as a graduate student at Boston University. Being open to new experiences and appreciating other cultures is essential to traveling abroad and the Stars@Short/Denney was instrumental in developing that appreciation for the unique and the different. The University of Central Arkansas and the Stars Residential College has played such an important role in my life.

A Letter to Students from Lachan Layton, BS ’14, Biology

Lachan Layton STEM@Arkansas

Lachan Layton

The STEM Residential College in Arkansas Hall is one of the major contributors to where I am today. My story starts in August of 2010 when I entered UCA. I originally lived in another building. It was a wonderful experience but, as I was a science major, I spent most of my time in STEM@Arkansas. In November of my first semester at UCA, I transferred to the STEM Residential College. It turns out that this was the best decision that I could have ever made. Here I was able to interact with students who were in my classes, participate in a multitude of volunteer opportunities that revolved around science and eventually become a mentor to students who needed help with academics or personal issues.

Through the STEM@Arkansas, I was able to meet many influential people. These people led me to enroll in research in the Lewis Science Center, participate on the committee for further residential colleges (EPIC@Bear in particular) and give back to the community simply by teaching science to children. I landed a job at the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority in Little Rock as the STEM intern my junior year. The only way that this occurred was through some of my professors who recommended me for the position. It was an amazing experience where I traveled the state and learned all that Arkansas has to offer in the STEM fields.

I can truly see and credit my time at STEM@Arkansas and UCA for some of my success now. I am enrolled at the UAMS Physician Assistant Studies Program. I currently am in my 2nd year and would not have made it without the skills that I learned from studying with so many talented and intelligent students and being in such close contact with professors. Some of those professors’ reference letters are also part of the reason that I was accepted into the program. The memories of those years are what kept me going when I thought I was in over my head.

So from a hopeful freshman, to lab rat and bookworm, then UCA graduate and now Physician Assistant student, I can see now how STEM@Arkansas molded me to succeed. I will always be honored to have had that experience and the memories that were made.

An Interview with Robert Habimana, BS ’14, Mathematics

Robert Habimana STEM@Arkansas

Robert Habimana

Dr. Stone: Robert, it is so good to see you around campus still! What have you been doing since graduation?

Robert: I am working toward my master’s degree in applied mathematics and have been teaching as a graduate assistant here at UCA.  My job includes lecturing college algebra, working in the lab and helping students with projects and facilitating math competitions and math summer camps at UCA. Of course, I continue to peruse other interests outside of my field of study. I enjoy computer programing and this summer I have been working at a pharmaceutical company as a pharmacy lab technician.

Dr. Stone: So tell me one of the most meaningful experiences you had living in STEM@Arkansas and how it helps you in your work today.

Robert: Living in learning community has played greatly in my life~from the person that I am and what I do. It helped me discover my passion. My passion for teaching and helping others to learn grew out of an experience I had in 2012 with the Science and Culture in Rwanda study abroad program where we spent three weeks teaching primary school kids science and sharing Rwandan culture with our American classmates (see the picture above). I have built relationships that continue even now. Most importantly, living in a learning community has shaped my character inside and outside my classroom. I communicate, I listen, and I lead. I learned these skills and many more from STEM@Arkansas.

A Letter to Students from Tera Zeigler Simpson, BA ’11, Public Relations


Tera Zeigler Simpson Stars@Short/Denney

When I reflect on my experience as an undergraduate student, my mind always turns to the year I lived in the Stars Residential College in Short-Denney Hall. My first year at UCA started off a bit rough; I did not know many other students and felt out-of-place as the first person in my family to attend college. I worried that I did not belong. After a week, I had my bags packed and ready to go home. As I was going to get my car, I was stopped in the hall lobby by a group of people I shared one of our in-hall classes with. We spoke about class for a while, and then they invited me to stay and hang out with them. We ended up going to eat together in the caf and I never made it out to my car. After our meal, I went back to my room and unpacked my bags.

Staying in the Stars@Short/Denney helped me realize that not only did I belong there with my new friends, but that I belonged in college. Each of the faculty members that taught our in-hall classes encouraged and challenged us to grow by expanding and subverting our preconceived notions of the world. Outside the classroom, Dr. K. and our hall mentors developed programs and events that helped us come together as a community. Some of the best times we had were at the hall-wide Guitar Hero tournament and when we made an impromptu water park in our courtyard!

The feeling of excitement created by living in the Stars translated to excitement about college in general. The Stars@Short/Denney faculty and staff’s passion for student development inspired me to explore higher education as a career. Thanks in part to my experience in the Stars@Short/Denney, I’m now the first person in my family to go to graduate school!  I am a student in the College Student Personnel program at Arkansas Tech University.

A Letter to Students from Grace Berkau, BA ’11, French & International Studies

Grace Berkau Stars@Short/Denney

Grace Berkau

Being a part of a residential college my freshman year at UCA was a game-changer for me, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.  Having classmates who were also my roommates provided a sense of belonging during a time when life was full of changes.  We could not only study together, but do life together, navigating through the academic and social challenges without ever feeling alone.  Living in The Stars@Short/Denney helped to develop the support system I would need to flourish on campus for the rest of my college career.  Even after graduation, I still have close relationships with that core group of friends, and I am continuing to build on the foundation the academic success that started there.

I studied abroad twice while studying at UCA, and I graduated summa cum laude with a double major in French and International Studies. I then taught French for a private academy for three years, and visited the islands of Spanish Wells and North Eleuthera in The Bahamas as a leadership mentor and English as a second language for a community of Haitian refugees.  I am currently earning my M.A. in Teaching, Leadership and Learning from Arkansas Tech University, obtaining my non-traditional teaching license, and starting my first year of teaching high school French and Literacy Remediation for the Dardanelle School District.

I honestly would not have matured into the person I am today without the formative social, emotional, and academic experiences in my residential college.  If you are still on the fence about joining a residential college, I encourage you to consider it not only as an investment in your academic success, but also in your emotional and personal growth – an investment that will pay dividends for the rest of your life.

An Interview with Ryan Simpson, BSE ’09, Social Studies

Ryan Simpson Minton (Now MCC@Old Main) + State (Now EDGE@Hughes)

Ryan Simpson
Minton (Now MCC@Old Main) +
State (Now EDGE@Hughes)

Dr. Stone: Ryan, it makes me so happy to catch up with you!  What are you doing in life as we know it?

Ryan: I’m currently an AP Human Geography Teacher at Coppell High School in Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, Texas.  Coppell is ranked as the 50th best high school in the state and #395 in the entire country for academics.  I am entering my seventh year of teaching and have had the opportunity to mold minds to look at not only what impacts human geography has in Texas and the United State but also the effects decision-making can have on a global level.  UCA gave me a wonderful education foundation to really turn teaching into an art form that can hold student interest and make our youth active participants in society.

Dr. Stone: As a history instructor, you know this makes me really happy. Did living in a Residential College make a difference in your life?

Ryan: Living four out of my five years of college in a residential college should almost speak for itself.  The social skills I gleaned from living in a residential learning community helped me to mature as not only a person, but as a student by learning different ways to study and to honestly become much more active in classroom discussions. The events held by Minton and State Residential Colleges (now, Minton@Old Main and EDGE@Hughes, respectively) ranging from trips to Memphis to the annual camping trips were an opportunity to make my college experience that much better.  I still to this day talk about my college experiences to my students and am currently trying to build a network of former students to make contact with current students interested in attending UCA. I was an Resident Assistant (RA) in State even have a former student who is an RA in EDGE@Hughes and is carrying on the legacy of taking a college experience and making it that much more memorable by living and learning in a Residential College Community.

An Interview with W. Bart Shaw, BBA ’04, Marketing & MBA ’07, Business Administration

W. Bart Shaw Hughes (now EDGE@Hughes)

W. Bart Shaw
Hughes (now EDGE@Hughes)

Dr. Stone: Bart! How are you?

Bart: I’m great!  I currently serve as the area manager for Conway Title, a company that focuses on the Central Arkansas footprint with offices in downtown Conway and Greenbrier.  I lead a driven staff who work together to provide excellence in customer service, closing services, and title research while maximizing probability and market share growth.  

Dr. Stone: You were part of Hughes Residential College (HRC) during the early years. How did living and learning in Residential College help you develop into both a campus and community leader?

Bart: Being a member of Hughes Residential College not only served as a launching board to begin my campus involvement in SGA, SOS, and SigEp, but it also provided me with a sense of community and academic support throughout my first year. I served in student government (SGA), was a SOS Team Leader my senior year, and was the chapter president and vice president of finance for my fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon. HRC faculty were engaged, mentors were available, and the overall community provided an easy transition from a small high school. Being a part of HRC provided me the best foundation possible to have a great experience during my undergraduate years. It also prepared me for graduate school (UCA MBA ’07) and for service to the community-at-large.  Currently, I am the President of the Alumni & Volunteer Corporation of Arkansas Zeta and I have also served on the board of directors for both the Boys & Girls Club  of Faulkner County and the Faulkner County Leadership Board.

A Letter to Students from Courtney Shearer Leach, BA ’04, Public Relations & MS ’07, College Student Personnel Administration

Courtney Shearer Leach State (Now EDGE@Hughes)

Courtney Shearer Leach
State (Now EDGE@Hughes)

I moved from Muncie, Indiana to attend UCA in the fall of 2000 to be closer to my grandparents who lived in Heber Springs.  I did not know a single individual in the city of Conway when I pulled up to the curb of State Residential College on move-in day.  Within the first few weeks I had made a couple of my closest lifelong friends through classes in State Hall, late night hangouts on the 2nd floor, & cafeteria runs together.

I am confident that the close community and support I received through the residential college system played a huge role in my involvement and success during my time at the University of Central Arkansas.  My peers from the residential college helped me campaign for Student Government Association my freshman year and then later get elected as SGA President my junior year; many shared the experience of pledging in Greek Life (Delta Zeta, Spring 2001); and a large number of my fellow residential college members served on SOS, Up til’ Dawn, and other service organizations on campus throughout our college career.

After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations I went on to pursue my Master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration at UCA in 2006. I currently serve as the executive director of Community Connections, a non-profit organization that provides free extra-curricular activities for children with special needs and support for their families.  I am married to Trip Leach (Director of Finance at New Life Church) and we have 4 children: Quinten (10), Alex (8), Bentley (3), & Abigail Jane (2).  We love living in Conway & all that UCA and this great community have to offer!

A Letter to Students from James Keaton, BSN ’04, Nursing

James Keaton State (Now EDGE@Hughes)

James Keaton
State (Now EDGE@Hughes)

I am a proud alumni of the residential college program at UCA. For three years State Residential College (now EDGE@Hughes) was my home away from home. To live and go to class with all of my friends was a dream come true. They became my family at UCA.

The social life created in the residential college program provided so much enjoyment for me. The annual camping and canoe trip to the Buffalo River, one of my favorite memories, provided a welcome break from my studies. I can remember long meals in the cafeteria getting to know my classmates and new friends, an ever changing list of intramural sports or planned activities, and study sessions that often were more social than academic. It was all as much of an education as the classes I took every semester. I was thankful to have residential college classmates become fellow students in the nursing program. Having them as friends from the beginning made life as a nursing student better. I enjoyed learning from resident faculty, who were interested in me as a person and as a student. The residential college created a fantastic support system to handle the challenges of collegiate life!

I served as a Mentor for two years in SRC so that I could help incoming students like my Mentors helped me. Serving as a Mentor to a group of students with different points of view shaped me as a person as well as my leadership style.  I learned to consider the other’s point of view, which helped me make better decisions as a leader. I learned to lead by example from the other Mentors and Resident Master, Dr. Julia Winden Fey.  The leadership and life skills I learned served me well through my undergraduate BSN(RN), my first job at UAMS, and graduate school at Missouri State University. They have been invaluable in my current career as a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) in Springfield, MO.  Those skills help me provide better care for my patients and be a highly functional member of a healthcare team.

The residential college program helped me keep an open mind to differences of other people, it gave me friends for life,  and added to the skills that make me a successful CRNA. The residential college program gave me an education in life! It was one of the best decisions I ever made!

An Interview with Melinda “Mindy” Freyaldenhoven Bryan, BS ’01, Speech Pathology

Mindy Freyaldenhoven Bryan Hughes & State (now EDGE@Hughes)

Mindy Freyaldenhoven Bryan
Hughes + State (now EDGE@Hughes)

Dr. Stone: What have you been up to since you graduated from UCA?

Mindy: After I left UCA, I went to graduate school at the University of Tennessee, where I obtained a Masters in Audiology and a Ph.D. in Speech and Hearing Science. After that, I moved to Ruston, Louisiana to work at Louisiana Tech University.  Here, I am an Associate Professor and the Program Director for the Doctor of Audiology program.  My primary responsibilities include teaching, clinical training, mentoring research, serving the community, and coordinating externship and residency placements.  At home, I am busy with family life including my husband (also an audiologist) and three girls, Hannah Claire (age 5), Brooklynn (age 4), and Olivia (age 11 months).

Dr. Stone: You began in Hughes Residential College in 1997 as a part of the charter class which tested the concept of the Residential College.  How did your experience in the Residential College shape who you are today?

Mindy: I was a part of Hughes and State Residential Colleges for 4 years, both as a resident and a mentor.  The Residential College allowed me to be a part of a family away from home, which provided me the support I needed to acquire the foundation of knowledge and relationships to exceed at the University.  As the first individual in my family to attend college, I did not know what to expect. Hughes Residential College embraced me, providing unique learning experiences, needed bonding opportunities, and excellent leadership. Some of my most cherished memories of Hughes include attending our annual camping/canoeing trips and being involved in Heifer Project International, two activities that I would not have been involved with future lifelong friends and colleagues if it had not been for the Residential College life.

As I stated earlier, I am currently a college Professor and leader in the field of Audiology.  As a Professor and the Director of a graduate program, I value the concepts taught at the Residential College level including communication, problem-solving, leadership, confidence, and integrity.  When graduate students come to school integrated with these concepts, they are ready to begin a professional career! As a leader in Audiology, I have-with other group members-created a test of hearing aid acceptance, a concept which in the past has been foreign for Audiologists.  As a part of this team, I present information/training sessions both nationally and internationally. I believe the tools that the Residential College empowers aided me in raising the bar for myself, ultimately driving me to exceed my goals.  

Dr. Stone: Thanks so much, Mindy! Or I should now say~thanks so much, Dr. Bryan!

An Interview with Lauren Weatherly Geier, BA ’01, Psychology & MS ’03, Community Counseling with her husband Trey Geier, BS ’03, Health Service Administration

Lauren Weatherly Geier & Trey Geier Hughes (Now EDGE@Hughes)

Lauren Weatherly Geier & Trey Geier
Hughes (Now EDGE@Hughes)

Dr. Stone: Lauren, you and Trey were in the Hughes Residential College charter class~the very first group to be in Arkansas’s first residential college at a 4-year, public university. Tell me about how you view your experience in hindsight.

Lauren: As a high school senior looking to transition into college, I had no idea who I wanted to become. I was holding tight to my high school friends unsure how to make the transition to campus life. For the first couple of months of school, I kept returning home on the weekends continuing to awkwardly straddle childhood and adulthood. I wasn’t happy. My dad sat me down and lovingly banned me from the house and challenged me to engage at school. Fortunately I had chosen to live in a residential college. At the time I made that choice, I didn’t know anything about a residential community. I simply chose it because several high school friends were applying and it was the only co-ed hall for freshmen. When I needed to find my niche, the residential college made it easier than I could have imagined. Within a matter of days, I went from being unhappy about growing up to being an active, valued member of my college community. I not only excelled in my classes, but I became involved in hall events and made friends. Having professors spend time in the hall getting to know the students outside of the classroom, made them feel more approachable. I could have easily been a student that returned home after the first semester to commute without becoming involved in college. I’m thankful that my story was different. I served as the UCA Chapter of Habitat for Humanity president, became a Resident Assistant, was president of the Resident Assistant Council, Co-Chair of the first Arkansas Residence Life Organization Conference, was inducted in the Psychology honors society, and many other campus activities. Another “Hughesie” and I represented UCA and Hughes Residential College at a conference about residential communities in Vermont. My years at UCA were among the best of my life and beginning those years as a part of Hughes Residential College was a significant reason.

Dr. Stone: I remember the Vermont Conference! So what about Trey? Is his story much like yours?

My husband was also a resident in Hughes Residential College but our experiences began very differently. Trey entered UCA expecting college to be as easy as high school. He immediately jumped into hall events and quickly knew everyone in the hall. He was having a blast but not focusing on his studies. In fact, by the time we began dating, he’d lost his scholarship and had enlisted into the US Army Reserves as a Plan B and would leave for basic training the summer after our freshmen year. He often says that at the time it would have been easier to not come back to college and become a fulltime soldier. However, because of the connections he’d made in Hughes, he never considered not returning to UCA. Our Resident Master, Dr. (Mike)Mathis, and another Professor, Dr. (Steve) Lance were instrumental in encouraging Trey to refocus and return to school. Trey sat out a semester while going to basic training, but returned and became involved again in the residential college community and graduated in 2003 with a BS in Health Service Administration.

Dr. Stone: I hear you’ve been back on campus to talk to one of UCA’s other Residential Colleges about what you do in life. What was that like?

Lauren: Recently, I had the opportunity to speak about my profession as a children’s therapist for a developmental psychology class in HPaW Residential College in Baridon Hall. As I prepared, I reflected on my time in Hughes and was overwhelmed with appreciation that Trey and I both began our college careers in Hughes Residential College. Trey and I credit Hughes Residential College for bringing us together, beginning our academic careers, connecting us with lifelong friends, and involving us in the school we love. We are Bears through and through and it all started in Hughes!

A Letter to Students from Susan Spellins Holman, BS ’01, Family & Consumer Science

Susan Spellins Holman Hughes (now EDGE@Hughes)

Susan Spellins Holman
Hughes (Now EDGE@Hughes)

I came to UCA from a very small school, Scranton, Arkansas.  There were 24 in my graduating class, so as you can imagine, the thought of being on a large college campus was overwhelming. I did have the advantage of knowing my roommate before I came to Hughes Residential College, but honestly, I was scared.  From day one, I was involved.  On the first night after move-in there were activities for all of us to engage in and learn about each other. I signed up for intermural flag football, and a camping trip at the Buffalo River. The transition from high school to college was made simple because of Hughes. As a student worker on campus, I worked first hand in the Learning Communities office placing students in Residential Colleges and I am still a firm believer that Residential Colleges life attracts students to UCA, helps them achieve higher academics, and helps them graduate.

My education didn’t end at UCA. After graduating with my Bachelors in Family and Consumer Sciences, I accepted a County Extension Agent’s position with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.  After working with them for 6 months, I began working on my Master’s Degree from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.  I took the long road on my Graduate work!  While in graduate school, I got married, worked (more than) full-time and proceeded to have 2 children. In August of 2007 I completed my Masters in Education.  I worked for the U of A Division of Agriculture for 11 years before leaving to work for Farm Bureau Insurance.

My husband Heath and I were married in October 2002.  We have two children, Meredith (11), and Eli (9) and live in Ozark, Arkansas where I am the on the Ozark City Council and Secretary of our Ozark Rotary Club.   When I am not working, I spend time volunteering at church and in the community. Hughes helped me get off on the right start in college and in my professional career. I made so many lifelong friends in Hughes and a learned quickly how to network. Being from a small school, there is not much networking. I learned how to create bonds and friendship beyond my core friend group.  I am amazed at how that network still comes in to play with my business today.