Bumpers College transitions to professional counseling model and welcomes two new counselors




Robby Edwards

Front, left to right: Abbie Tanner, Cathy Hamilton, Melinda Dunlap; back: Lucas Simmons, Jody Davis.

To better connect students to on-campus resources and bolster an already high graduation rate, Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at U of A has added an academic advisor to its student services team and has changed its advice model.

Regular interaction with advisors is key to keeping students on track toward graduation and, in some cases, enrollment. The Bumpers College Student Services Office in the Waldrip Student Center provides a waiting area for students to study or relax and the opportunity to visit staff members regarding changing majors or minors, obtaining graduation, career services, scholarships, personal concerns and more.

Additionally, the college’s counseling team works at the Waldrip Student Center, led by Lucas Simmons, Senior Academic Counselor and Student Experience Coordinator, and Jody Davis, Director of Student Records.

Simmons helped coordinate the move to a professional academic advising model, which means his group initially advises all transfer students, students who changed majors for Bumpers College, freshmen, and sophomores. year. Once a student has been counseled in their first semester of the junior year, students are assigned to faculty members in their major’s department to counsel them through graduation.

“This process will streamline a more complete student experience for students and further connect our retention and graduation initiatives within the college,” Simmons said. “It’s co-ownership with the student, and the counselor has to ask questions at the appropriate times. We want students to see themselves as graduates from day one.”

Davis and career counselors Melinda Dunlap, Cathy Hamilton and Abbie Tanner work with Simmons on the college counseling team.

Dunlap was recognized this spring by the U of A’s Academic Advisory Board with the New Academic Advisor of the Year award. Simmons received the AAC Silo-Busting Award for encouraging coordination and collaboration on campus. Both received Outstanding Mentor Awards in 2021 from the U of A Nationally Competitive Awards Office.

Simmons also received the Outstanding Academic Advisor Award from the U of A and a Certificate of Achievement for Outstanding Academic Advisor from the National Academic Advising Association, both in 2019. Davis has received multiple awards, but was recently recognized as the recipient of the 2019 Graduate of Distinction Award from the U of A Animal Science Department and in 2020 received the Bumpers College Excellence in Service Award. Additionally, she was recognized this spring by the College Honors as the recipient of the 2022 U of A Staff Award for her efforts to go the extra mile for students by helping them succeed on campus and beyond.

“We really focus on what’s called appreciative counseling,” Simmons says. “We break down barriers with students. We talk to them about more than just classes. We talk to them about their long-term goals, their interests. We ask them, ‘Why do you think you want to do this?’ They need a support network.”

This network helps students take advantage of on-campus resources, such as walk-ins with staff or just downtime at the Waldrip Student Center. The group also helps connect students with the Career Development Center, financial aid, personal wellness, tutoring, counseling and more, and is also available by appointment.

“I care about their success,” says Dunlap. “I want them to graduate. I try to be as thorough as possible. I love interacting with the students. I feel like I’ve done a good job when they leave and I feel ready for the next one. semester and I know what they’re going to do. It’s very rewarding for me.

The college has had the highest on-campus graduation rate in four of the past five years (data based on six-year rates). The college graduation rate has also been above the university average for 14 of the 17 years for which data is available.

“Bumpers College’s counseling efforts are the critical factor in keeping both our retention and graduation rates high,” Davis said. “We strive to connect students with faculty and staff, and our team approach ensures students always know who to contact with any issues they may face.”

“I believe our students have a courage and perseverance that cannot be learned in the classroom alone, but is facilitated by personal, real-life experiences,” says Simmons. “Our hope is to help each student find their passion and let that passion become their focus. The more we can help facilitate interaction through organizational involvement, career connections, and discussions with faculty and the staff, the more prepared our students will be to meet the demand for workers in the world’s largest industry – agriculture, which includes surrounding industries related to health and nutrition, food, fiber, etc.

Davis has been on campus for over 35 years and has worked at Bumpers College in various roles throughout that time. Some of her roles have been as a research and professional assistant, counselor, enrollment and curriculum specialist, and student confidante, as well as college administration.

Simmons has over 15 years of experience working with students and has been on campus since 2012. He started with the college in 2014 after teaching high school and working in the Vice Provosts/Deans of Student Affairs office. He served as an advisor, helped develop retention initiatives, recruited prospective students, and worked to create a comprehensive student onboarding experience.

Dunlap has been on campus for 27 years and became a counselor in 2019 after working in the Department of Agriculture and Agribusiness Economics and the U of A Office of Admissions.

Hamilton worked in the Department of Food Science for 38 years and has been advising for 19. She recently joined the advisory team after serving her split roles between student relations, retention, and enrollment support, to name a few.

Tanner joined the group this spring after spending two years on campus as a financial aid analyst and higher education institute program coordinator in the U of A scholarship office.

Simmons advises and mentors all declared AFLS Exploring, AFLS Transitions Academic Program (TAP) and AFLS SSS/TRIO program students. He also coordinates college-wide retention initiatives, New Student Orientation, AFLS Early Alert, and the Ag Living Learning Community, while also serving on the AFLS DEI and Curriculum Committees.

Davis provides support to all Bumpers College students, specifically monitoring their progress toward graduation. Its goal is to help students understand graduation requirements and policies. She oversees all student records, tracks and coordinates honors requirements, completes all graduation clearances, and helps monitor student academic progress.

Tanner advises for animal science; crop science; environmental, soil and water science; poultry science; horticulture, turf and landscape science; and agricultural education, communications and technology.

Hamilton advises on apparel merchandising and product development; human and dietary nutrition; food, nutrition and health; and food science.

Dunlap advises agricultural enterprises, birth to kindergarten, hospitality management, human development, and family sciences.

Students are encouraged to visit the Waldrip Student Center (Room 205 in the Agriculture Building) anytime, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. year round.

About Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in businesses associated with food, family, environment, agriculture, sustainability and quality of life. human life; and who will be first-choice candidates for employers looking for leaders, innovators, decision makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named after Dale Bumpers, a former governor of Arkansas and longtime U.S. senator who propelled the state into national and international agriculture. For more information on Bumpers College, visit our websiteand follow us on Twitter at @BumpersCollege and Instagram at BumperCollege.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas’ flagship institution, the U of A offers an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion for Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and employment development, discovery through research and creative activity while providing training in professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation ranks the U of A among the top 3% of American colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. US News and World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. Find out how the U of A is working to build a better world in Arkansas Research News.

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