Cohort 1 | Student Affairs Leadership Academy

The first Student Affairs Leadership Academy cohort started in November of 2019 with 13 participants from several divisions under the Student Affairs Division umbrella. Although the schedule of events was rearranged due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the participants were able to participate in six monthly sessions that focused on personal and workplace development, while working in teams on ways to improve UA Little Rock.


  • Aresh Assadi, Counseling Services
  • Billy Huggins, TRIO
  • Brittany Richards, Financial Aid
  • Courtney Carder, Ask Desk
  • Gwenyth Sutphin, Disability Resource Center
  • Jenn McDannold, Student Orientation and Transitions
  • Jeremy Laxton, Admissions
  • Karmen Robinson, Campus Recreation
  • Laverne Owens, Charles W. Donaldson Scholars Academy
  • Sandra Carmona-Jobe, TRIO
  • Tom Genz, Donaghey Student Center
  • Victoria Jackson, Campus Living
  • Whitney Calliotte, Admissions

Educational Sessions

Workplace Professionalism & Etiquette, presented by Amber R. Smith

How do you best work with other personalities? How can you minimize offense in email? What’s the proper etiquette at a lofty fundraiser or gala? Sometimes the basics can be tricky and very easily forgotten so this workshop serves as a quick reminder while laying the groundwork for all future sessions.

World Changing 101, presented by Sharon Downs

So many of us associate world changers with people whose names and faces grace the history books and media platforms. However, each of us has an amazing opportunity to influence.

Relationship Driven Networking Strategies, presented by Edie Stewart

Networking can be intimidating and many shy away from it because they find it disingenuous, but there are ways to build organic connections through positive relationship strategies.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving from a Leader’s Perspective, presented by Richard Harper, Ed.D.

There are many legal, ethical, and contractual obligations one must consider when in administrative roles. This session challenges you to think through real world problems to find solutions that protect the university’s faculty, staff, and student interests.

People, Persuasion & Politics, presented by Dr. Mia D. M. Phillips

Sometimes it’s difficult to effectively manage all three of these factors. Learning how to navigate these invisible aspects of leadership that have very visible results is imperative to your success.

Data-Informed Decision Making, presented by Dr. Cody Decker & Michelle Lewis

Strong decision-making requires the use of solid data and clear goals and metrics. Explore ways to practically apply data to your practice in student affairs and gain knowledge of the resources at your disposal to implement change.

Teams and proposals

  • The Worthless Without Coffee Team (Jeremy Laxton, Laverne Owens, Jenn McDannold, Gwenyth Sutphin) proposed improvements on underutilized parts of campus.
  • The ACTS of Kindness Team (Aresh Assadi, Tom Genz, Courtney Carder, Sandra Carmona-Jobe) proposed ways to address food waste and food insecurity on campus.
  • Team No Vowels (Billy Huggins, Brittany Richards, Karmen Robinson, Victoria Jackson, Whitney Calliotte) proposed a resource and idea-sharing program for programming on campus.

Feedback from Participants

I’m thankful for the leaders giving their time and appreciate the fact you see our potential as leaders moving on. Thank you to you and the team for being here and not giving up in these unforeseen times.

If we split into groups during future sessions, I’d like to be grouped with those outside my challenge group. If the Academy ended tomorrow, I wouldn’t know most of the people in it any more than what I did going into the Academy (and for some that still means not knowing them at all).

It is great so far, we should have more practice scenarios to apply the material that we learn. Thank you for everything you do! I really appreciate the discussions and topics.