As an intercollegiate soccer player for UALR, Ashley McNatt thrived on heart-pumping action. Now, she is putting her zero-to-60 revved up attitude to work as the healthcare preparedness and communications liaison at the Arkansas Department of Health.
“I love a crisis,” said McNatt, who graduated twice from UALR with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations in 2007, and master’s in speech communications with an emphasis in applied communications in 2010. “Observing the way an organization can overcome a crisis is what fascinates me the most.”
At the Health Department, McNatt has helped coordinate the state’s response to health emergencies, from the H1N1 flu epidemic to the Albert Pike Campground flood disaster.
As a senior in high school in Little Rock, McNatt was all set to go away from home to attend college.
“But I received a soccer scholarship to play at UALR, and then I got an academic scholarship through the UALR Chancellor’s Leadership Corps,” she said. “So that really influenced me, and eased my parents’ minds as well.”
As an athlete and a member of a sorority, McNatt said she she was deeply involved in campus life.
“I was expected to go to college… but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” she said. “I realized how much I enjoyed writing and I got involved in journalism and PR, but it wasn’t until I was getting my master’s that I figured out what I wanted to do.”
She wrote her thesis on the state of Arkansas’ emergency response to Hurricane Gustav, the second most destructive hurricane of 2008. Her thesis analyzed the communication between health and emergency workers to transport critical care patients from Louisiana’s hospitals to Arkansas facilities.
She presented her research to Arkansas Health Department officials, outlining her recommendations for improving protocols for similar emergencies. They were so impressed, they hired her.
Currently, she is working with Dr. Robert Ulmer, chair of the Department of Speech Communication, to get her thesis published.
“Dr. Ulmer and all the professors at UALR are so helpful. Without them I wouldn’t have the job I have now,” she said. “At UALR, you will get an experience you won’t get at any other school. I really enjoyed my experience.”
Q&A with Ashley
What was your favorite class? My favorite class was the Effective Crisis Communication class I took when I was in graduate school. Taking this class helped put the pieces together for what I wanted to do after college. This class had a great impact on my life.
How do you show your Trojan spirit? I am a member of both the UALR Trojan Letterman’s Association, as well as the Alumni Association. I’ve also shown my Trojan spirit by participating in alumni soccer events for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation.
What is your favorite UALR memory? I have two favorite UALR memories. First, meeting my husband and best friend. Second, getting to play soccer, which introduced me to some of my closest friends.
What one word would you use to describe yourself? Motivated