In honor of Women’s History Month, UA Little Rock is featuring stories about the “Outstanding Women of UA Little Rock,” faculty, staff, students, and alumni who are serving as leaders and making a difference for the university and their communities.
Dr. Mia Phillips is never one to shy away from confronting issues related to culture and diversity on UA Little Rock’s campus. Instead, she’s building a program to address them head-on.
As the director of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s new campus Multicultural Center, Phillips often finds herself at the forefront of many contentious social issues facing not just UA Little Rock, but the nation as a whole. Above all else though, Phillips’ passion for serving her community, the university, and its students has made her into the person she is today.
A native of El Dorado, Phillips came to Little Rock shortly after finishing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Arkansas. She enrolled at UA Little Rock as a student, obtaining both a Master of Arts in professional and technical writing and a Ed.D. in higher education. While working toward her master’s degree, she was offered a position as a writing assistant for the chancellor’s office, which kick-started her career in higher education.
“I got to do so many wonderful things and meet so many wonderful people,” Phillips said. “I got to move more into overall communications and special projects quickly and experienced working under two chancellors who each brought different things to the office that I was able to learn from.”
In 2018, Phillips was presented with a life-changing opportunity: UA Little Rock was preparing to open its new Multicultural Center and needed a director. Having recently finished her Ed.D., Phillips applied for the position and was selected.
“Chancellor Rogerson and my office were incredibly supportive when this opportunity came up. They told me to go for it, so I did and now I’m here,” she said.
As director of the Multicultural Center, Phillips has been tasked with building an extremely important program from the ground up.
UA Little Rock’s Multicultural Center opened in October 2018 and seeks to provide culturally responsive programming and education to promote student success, personal growth, and a culture of respect and inclusion on campus.
“Because the Multicultural Center is brand new, every day here has been something a little different,” Phillips said. “My primary job so far has been taking care of the infrastructure issues that come with establishing a new program and interacting with students to both let them know about the services and resources we can provide to them as well as asking them what they need as far as support, programming, and training.”
Phillips’ interest in higher education began at a young age; her grandmother, Virginia M. Smith, was the first African-American administrator at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.
“My grandmother would have to be one of my biggest role models. She mentored so many women throughout her career that even to this day, 40 years later, people are still talking about the impact she had in their lives,” Phillips said.
Phillips also credits the women of UA Little Rock’s faculty and staff as daily inspirations for her.
“Dr. Sandra Robertson served this university for 40 years and was a huge inspiration for me as well. I learned so much from her when I started working in the chancellor’s office,” Phillips said. “I think that our deans, like Dr. Jane Wayland and Dr. Ann Bain, are absolutely amazing. Watching them navigate complex professional spaces and lead ethically and professionally has been very encouraging to watch.”
For any woman wishing to become a part of UA Little Rock’s community, Phillips offers the following thoughts:
“UA Little Rock really is a place where you can do anything. There’s an expert here in any field you can imagine. We have women in leadership who can help you determine the path that’s best for you and how to be successful. You’ll learn a lot from your coursework, but you’ll learn even more from the experiences of the people around you. It’s simply a wonderful place, where you’ll have unique opportunities with wonderful people.”