Smith Serves as Commencement Speaker for Leadership Greater Little Rock Class XXXVI

Kristi Smith
Kristi Smith, Senior Director of Alumni Development. Photo by Ben Krain.

Kristi Smith, senior director of alumni and development at UA Little Rock, served as the commencement speaker for the 36th Class of Leadership Greater Little Rock.

Established in 1985 by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Greater Little Rock seeks to develop community leaders by training and informing participants on a wide array of local public policy issues and concerns. In-depth training sessions focus on these issues, exploring their background, origin, and present-day status. The program covers a full slate of topics, including government, the area’s economy, education, social service, and much more.

“It’s a wonderfully immersive program that presented us with challenges, successes, threats, and opportunities for growth,” Smith said. “As a lifelong Arkansas resident, going to school at UA Little Rock, and living and working here ever since, it’s fair to say that I have spent the majority of my life here and thought that I knew all there was to know. Thanks to Leadership Greater Little Rock, I now know so much more about Little Rock and about myself.”

UA Little Rock would also like to congratulate our alumni who also graduated from Leadership Greater Little Rock Class XXXVI. They include Sean Bass, Alecia Castleberry, Meagan Davis (Bowen), Adam Effrein, David Jung (Bowen), Summer Khairi, Maradyth McKenzie, Jennifer Ruhlman, and Matthew Runge (Bowen).

The 34 members of Leadership Greater Little Rock Class XXXVI celebrated their graduation during a May 6 ceremony at the DoubleTree Hotel in Little Rock. As the class speaker, Smith spoke about all the things she learned from participating in the program and received a standing ovation for her efforts.

“I now know that we’re better for going into and learning about different neighborhoods,” Smith said. “Giving back to those with the biggest need is the biggest reward. Unassuming areas like the river port and airport offices are major players along with the Chamber of Commerce for bringing in big business. Hard decisions are made every day to keep this city safe.”

After completing a two-day retreat in October, LGLR participants met every month at a different central Arkansas location to explore topics through expert speakers, panelists, tours, and group presentations. LGLR is designed to develop effective leaders by enhancing their civic, social, and professional awareness to positively impact our community.

This included trips to the Little Rock Port Authority, Our House, the Pulaski County Jail, and more. Smith recalls her favorite meeting as the military session in which participants got to ride in a Blackhawk C130 from Little Rock Air Force Base to Camp Robinson and listen to members of the military talk about their missions in life.

“That was a pretty exciting day,” Smith said. “Riding from one base to another aboard a C130 was icing on the cake. I don’t think I stopped grinning the entire time I was in the air. Listening to soldiers refer to what they do as ‘missions,’ I wondered how different our city would be if we took the care that they seem to have in every aspect of their work. I like to think that what I do at UA Little Rock in terms of fundraising and reaching alumni is very much true to the mission of the university.”

Smith also thanked Chancellor Christina Drale and Christian O’Neal, vice chancellor for university advancement, for supporting her nomination and participation in Leadership Greater Little Rock Class XXXVI.

“I should say I’m thankful to the UA Little Rock administration for selecting me to participate and to understand the importance of having someone from UA Little Rock participate,” she said. “We are a vital part of the city, and it’s important for us to be a part of the conversation.”

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