Student Center to be renamed in honor of Donaldson

The Student Services Center will be dedicated and renamed in honor of Dr. Charles W. Donaldson, retired vice chancellor of UALR’s Division of Educational, Student Services, and Student Life. 

The ceremony will be held in the newly named Charles W. Donaldson Student Services Center at 11:50 a.m. Friday, Feb. 28. The public is invited to attend.

Students First

retired Vice Chancellor Charles W. DonaldsonDonaldson’s 40-year career was dedicated to student success, and his leadership contributed to $70 million in campus building projects for UALR students, including the construction of the Student Services Center.

But his contributions to the success of students began long before the construction of the services center.

“Dr. Donaldson served as mentor, life coach, advisor, counselor, and teacher for countless UALR students, staff, administrators, and faculty,” said Dr. Logan Hampton, UALR vice provost for student affairs.

Donaldson joined UALR in 1973 as a counselor for the Student Special Services program. He has also served as director of Career Planning and Placement, associate vice chancellor for Educational and Student Services, and dean of University College.

The Student Government Association recognized his legacy as a student services administrator several years ago when the association established the Charles W. Donaldson Administrator of the Year Award.

The award is presented annually to a campus administrator who is recognized as someone who provides exemplary service to students while demonstrating commitment to their success.

“If student success and life on campus have come to be understood as the responsibility of everyone within our educational community, then I believe Charles Donaldson has done a great deal to lead us to that understanding,” said Dr. Jan Austin, assistant vice chancellor for Student Life and Leadership Development at UALR.

Widespread Impact

Rwandan Student with Dr. Charles Donaldson, vice chancellor of educational services and student services

Donaldson’s work in student programs and services has served as a model for many campuses across the nation.

His implementation of Cooperative Education and the TRIO Program, which includes Student Special Services, Upward Bound, the Educational Opportunity Center, and Talent Search, opened a world of higher education for first-generation college students.

The programs have also resulted in national and international recognition for UALR’s First-Year Experience course as well as federal funding that exceeds $16.5 million.

In 2008, he led the initiative to bring students from Rwanda, a country healing from war and horrifying genocide, to study at UALR. The 10 students became the first UALR Rwandan Presidential Scholars; all graduated in May 2012 and remember Donaldson dedication to their success.

According to Jimmy Shyaka, one of the Rwandan students, they learned early on that the door to Donaldson’s office and home was always open. He even learned to cook several Rwandan corn dishes to help ease their homesickness.

One of the last programs he worked on prior to his retirement was the establishment of the Dr. Charles W. Donaldson Summer Bridge Academy which is geared toward incoming freshman whose test scores require that they take remedial math and English courses.

The staff of the Division of Student Affairs named the academy for Donaldson because it was his vision to create the program.The academy’s success is inspiring. Forty-four students enrolled and by the end of the intensive 3-week program, eleven were eligible for honors composition, thirty-eight bypassed developmental math, and almost 80 percent bypassed developmental composition.

“Working in the college setting with students for so many years was my mission. I have enjoyed every moment,” said Donaldson. “There is a lot more I will do while in retirement to continue to uplift and make my community better for all.”

New Student Center

“Always a visionary, Dr. Donaldson led the building of UALR’s first residence hall and the subsequent residential community, as well as the Donaghey Student Center, which combines a traditional student center and fitness center,” said Hampton.

Under Donaldson’s leadership, UALR’s residential community continued to expand and now includes four unique residence facilities that provide living-learning opportunities for nearly 1,000 students; University Village, a 420-bed residence complex; and the Trojan Grill, a late-night dining option for students.

Donaldson’s long-lived vision of the Student Services Center was realized when the building was opened in the fall of 2012, providing students a central location where they can apply for admission, register for classes, seek financial aid, and receive academic counseling.

“As students and guests visit the SSC, they will no doubt benefit from Dr. Donaldson’s eye for detail, his sense of aesthetics, and a hint of panache. This building, his vision for years, fulfilled his dream to provide a place on campus where students could do all they needed to become students under one roof,” Hampton said.

The building’s design has been recognized as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold rating facility and received the American Institute of Architects Honor Award for excellence in architecture and urban design in Arkansas.

The Arkansas College Personnel Association Executive Council created an award in his name to recognize outstanding new professionals with less than five years of experience in student affairs/service field in the state of Arkansas. In 2012, the UALR Alumni Association honored him at the ninth annual scholarship fundraiser, “Taste of Argentina,” which break records for the amount of funds raised. The same year, he was also inducted into the Newport Alumni Hall of Fame in his hometown of Newport, Ark.

Donaldson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Philander Smith College, a Master of Education degree in counseling from Arkansas State Teachers College (now University of Central Arkansas), and a Doctorate of Education in counseling from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He also completed the prestigious Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University.

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