Donaghey Scholars leader selected for Leadership Greater Little Rock program

Dr. Jessica Scott, associate director of the Donaghey Scholars Program at UA Little Rock. Photo by Ben Krain.

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock employee with a love of helping the community has been selected for the 35th class of Leadership Greater Little Rock.

As the associate director of the Donaghey Scholars Program at UA Little Rock, Dr. Jessica Scott sees the Leadership Greater Little Rock program as an opportunity to find out how she can better help the Little Rock community and as a way to make connections to provide more opportunities for the students she mentors at UA Little Rock. 

Established in 1985 by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Greater Little Rock brings together about 50 community leaders from businesses, nonprofits, and governments for a nine-month community leadership program. This program has empowered participants with a comprehensive understanding of the region’s challenges and opportunities. 

“Working with the Donaghey Scholars program, I have made it a priority to help our Scholars engage with the city more broadly and to give them more experience in the community through volunteer, internship, and job opportunities,” Scott said. “Those are the kinds of experiences that can help invest our students in the city of Little Rock, hopefully encourage them to stay here after they graduate and continue contributing to the community.” 

The 2019-20 Leadership Greater Little Rock program kicked off with a two-day retreat Oct. 6-7. Each month, the class of 54 people meets at a different central Arkansas location to explore topics through expert speakers, panelists, tours, and group presentations. The program covers a full slate of topics, including government, economy, education, social services, and more. 

Scott, a Benton native, left Central Arkansas to attend college, where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in anthropology and a Ph.D. in environmental dynamics from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. After returning to Little Rock in 2011 to begin her career at UA Little Rock, Scott became invested in helping the city. 

“Since I’ve been back in Little Rock, I have really tried to make sure I am an engaged member of the community,” she said. “After graduate school, I realized the importance of giving back to the community, and I decided I needed to be more civically engaged. We have a responsibility to the communities that we are a part of to help make them better.” 

It’s a lesson that she passes on. 

“We have a responsibility to be actively engaged in our communities, and that is something I try to teach my students,” Scott said. “One of the nice things about this leadership program is that the other members of the class represent different organizations in the area. This gives me so many opportunities to make connections that can eventually turn into opportunities for my students and potential collaborations for the university. I think that is priceless.” 

Scott’s colleague, Dr. Simon Hawkins, director of the Donaghey Scholars program, said that Scott’s work in Little Rock serves as an inspiration to UA Little Rock students.  

“Jessica works tirelessly not only to improve the safety of the city and to ensure equitable growth, but to build connections between the university and the larger community,” Hawkins said. “She is always looking for opportunities to make connections between the university and community groups, drawing on her impressive network of contacts to introduce interested figures in the city and the university to each other, whether that be finding mentors or potential internships to students, guest lecturers for colleagues courses, or partnerships for programs. The city and the university are stronger because of her work.”  

Scott currently serves as a board member for the Arkansas Zoological Foundation and Just Communities of Arkansas. Most recently, she has enjoyed volunteering on Little Rock Mayor Scott Frank’s subcommittee on public safety and accountability, which has given her a great opportunity to learn about how the city of Little Rock runs. 

“I want to figure out where my skills and talents can best be used in the city,” Scott said. “I think Little Rock has so much potential to grow and to really be a model Southern city. Right now, we have a lot of challenges, but I am excited about the work the mayor is doing in the community, and I want to support that.”

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