Alum Tonya Oaks Smith to close out Leadership Lecture Series May 9

Tonya Smith, Friday, 04/20/2018, 1225 Wyly Tower , Ruston, LA, Louisiana Tech University, (photo by Donny J Crowe), Copyright:Louisiana Tech University.All Rights Reserved.(

An expert in higher education communication and marketing will close out the UA Little Rock Department of Applied Communication’s third annual Leadership Lecture Series on Thursday, May 9. 

Tonya Oaks Smith, executive director of university communications and marketing at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana, will present her talk at 7 p.m. at the UA Little Rock Downtown Center, at 333 President Clinton Avenue in Little Rock.

In this lecture, “First, Do No Harm: Why Maintaining Integrity in Public Communication is More Important Than Ever,” listeners will unpack their perceptions and learn to hold public communication to a higher standard.

“We are starting to see pushback for professional communicators who are not forthcoming or truthful,” Smith said. “Their ethics have been called into question. People often think that those who work in public relations aren’t truthful or don’t communicate with the best intentions. I have always framed my work as different from that.”

As the spokeswoman for a public university, Smith understands that people must be able to place their trust in public institutions.  

“The perception of people who do public communications is not always the best,” Smith said. “I’ve had reporters who have chastised me for not being forthcoming. I felt like that is the furthest thing from what I am doing. It is important to be trustworthy when you are the voice of an organization that is at the heart of a community. People have to be able to have trust in you and the institution you are representing.”

Smith graduated from Louisiana State University in 1994. She put her journalistic skills to use as a reporter for the Livingston Parish News and later the Ruston Daily Leader.

“In the beginning, I was doing everything from sports to business to taking photos at baby showers, weddings, and other events,” she said. “As I got more capable, I moved into design and editing and later management roles.”

After joining the UA Little Rock Office of Communications and Marketing in December 2006, Smith began a graduate program in the Department of Applied Communication to improve her communication skills.

“I absolutely enjoyed the opportunity to learn from the scholars in the Department of Applied Communication,” she said. “The first time I had to give a speech in the program, I had to have a trash can next to me because I felt so sick. That is how far the program has helped me grow. I would never be able to do this talk without having been in the program. I still recommend the program to people who need a graduate program to up their skill set.”

Smith earned a master’s degree in applied communication from UA Little Rock in 2010. Her master’s thesis was focused on the use of social media to communicate preventative health care advice during the H1N1 scare of 2009. In professional roles, she has previously served as executive director of marketing and communications at Henderson State University and director of communications at UA Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law.

Tickets are $20 for members of the community and $5 for UA Little Rock faculty, staff, and students. To register and purchase tickets, visit the Leadership Lectures Series website.

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