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UA Little Rock’s Communication Skills Center Celebrates 50 Years

A student sits at a desk wearing a vest that notes he is a tutor. Behind him is a sign that reads "The Communication Skills Center, est. 1973."
The Communication Skills Center is located on the first floor of the Ottenheimer Library. Photo by Benjamin Krain

On Tuesday, May 7, the Department of Applied Communication at UA Little Rock will host a 50-year anniversary celebration for the Communication Skills Center and an end-of-year departmental celebration.

The celebration will be held from 6-9 p.m. at UA Little Rock Downtown, and the event is open to the public.

Each May, the department, which is housed in the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education, honors award winners and graduating students. Different from years past, 2024 marks 50 years of continuous service of the Communication Skills Center at UA Little Rock.

With over 150 communication centers across the nation, according to the National Association of Communication Centers, UA Little Rock’s Communication Skills Center is the oldest known continually operating communication center in the United States.

The Communication Skills Center at UA Little Rock “is a free campus resource devoted to supporting the development of all stages of the speech creation process,” according to the applied communication website.

Students can meet with Communication Skills Center staff virtually or in person at the Learning Commons on the UA Little Rock campus. These appointments can address a variety of concerns, such as dealing with public speaking anxiety, brainstorming ideas for presentations, designing presentation slides, practicing presentations, working through interpersonal conflict situations, or preparing for a professional interview. Students taking Applied Communication courses can also visit the Communication Skills Center for tutoring assistance for specific classes they are taking.

Two students sit at a desk while another stands off to the side. The three are having a conversation in the Ottenheimer Library at UA Little Rock.
Photo by Benjamin Krain.

For students who have not taken communication classes, the Center provides a necessary foundation for good communication skills in their professional and civic lives, as well as in their relationships.

The Communication Skills Center also often collaborates with other campus groups and hosts workshops, both virtual and in-person. These workshops focus on multiple topics, including presentation skills, active listening, team building, positive communication practices, and professionalism in the workplace.

Additionally, staff in the Communication Skills Center regularly host conversation clubs for those who are interested in practicing their everyday conversational skills in a low-pressure environment. All students, both native and non-native English speakers, are welcome to attend.

A unique aspect of UA Little Rock’s Communication Skills Center is that it is mainly operated by students. With options for paid internships, volunteer opportunities, and graduate assistantships, students from a variety of backgrounds and academic disciplines have worked with the Center, including those studying accounting, art, management, psychology, social work, math, and more.

“Initially joining as an intern, later transitioning into a volunteer, and ultimately serving as an assistant director, my time there was rich with opportunities to cultivate skills and work closely with students,” said Learning Commons Coordinator Brandon Sollars. “The experiences I gained through organizing workshops and delivering training remain invaluable to me today.”

A group of ten students stand in front of a bulletin board that reads "Department of Speech Communication.:
Communication Skills Center staff from Fall 2010.

What began in the fall of 1973 as the Speech Communication Interactive Learning Center was rebranded to the Communication Skills Center under Dr. Kristen McIntyre’s guidance in 2007.

Since 1973, the Center has gone through multiple configurations, initially only serving students in the department’s introduction to speech/communication class. As it expanded, the Center began offering services to all UA Little Rock students with offerings such as preparing elevator pitches for research, practicing presentations for classes and community partners, and improving interviewing and other communication skills.

“Communication centers, in general, and the [Communication Skills Center] in particular, are vital as they provide a low threat, peer-oriented supportive environment for students to develop and practice skills that often come with the added challenge of managing anxiety,” said McIntyre, an applied communication professor and the current Communication Skills Center director. “In a global marketplace that consistently values strong communication skills like presenting, listening, and teamwork, the [Communication Skills Center] is excited to have the opportunity to support all of our students, regardless of communication background.”

The May 7 event will begin with the annual end-of-year departmental awards and will close with the Communication Skills Center Celebration, featuring a panel with several past directors and moderated by Dr. April Chatham-Carpenter, the department chair of applied communication.

Seven students pose for a photo together outside of the Ottenheimer Library at UA Little Rock.
Communication Skills Center staff in Spring 2024.

“I have been proud of the Communication Skills Center ever since coming here in 2015 and seeing its potential to impact the campus community and outside constituencies,” said Chatham-Carpenter. “Getting to celebrate its long history will allow people to see how it has had a great impact over the years. It’s important, as we celebrate, to acknowledge those who have been influential in building and growing the Center to what it is today.”

If you are interested in attending the celebration, you can RSVP via Google form. For those who cannot attend the event in person, the Department of Applied Communication will share recorded portions of the event on its social media pages and website.

For more information, contact Dr. April Chatham-Carpenter at