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

Bumpers College Moves to Career Counseling Model, Welcomes New Counselors


Robbie Edwards

Front, left: Abby Tanner, Kathy Hamilton, Melinda Dunlap; Again: Lucas Simmons, Judy Davis.

To better connect students to the resources on campus and foster an already strong graduation rate, the U of A College of Agriculture, Food, and Life Sciences has added an academic advisor to its Student Services team and changed its extension model.

Regular interaction with advisors is critical in keeping students on track toward graduation and, in some cases, not enrolled at all. 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 regarding changing majors or minors, graduation, career services, scholarships, personal interests and more.

Additionally, the College’s advisory team operates from the Waldrib Student Center, headed by Lucas Simmons, Senior Academic Adviser and Student Experience Coordinator, and Judy Davis, Student Records Manager.

Simmons helped coordinate the transition to the Professional Academic Advising model, which means that his group initially advises all transfer students, students who have changed majors to Bumpers College, freshmen and sophomores. Once a student is notified in the first semester of a junior year, students are assigned to faculty in their department of specialization to advise until completion of the degree.

“This process will simplify the more comprehensive student experience for students and will also connect our retention and graduation initiatives within the college,” Simmons says. “It’s joint property with the student, and the advisor has to ask questions at the appropriate times. We want the students to imagine themselves as alumni from day one.”

He works with Simmons on the Davis College Advisory Team and professional advisors Melinda Dunlap, Kathy Hamilton and Abby Tanner.

Dunlap was honored this spring by the U of A Academic Advising Council with the New Academic Adviser of the Year award. Simmons received the AAC Silo-Busting Award for encouraging coordination and collaboration across campus. Both received Outstanding Direction Awards in 2021 from the U of A Bureau of National Competitive Awards.

Simmons has also been awarded the Outstanding Academic Adviser for a Key Role at U of A and a Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Academic Counseling from the National Academic Counseling Association, both in 2019. Davis has received numerous awards, but was recently recognized as a recipient of the 2019 Graduate Excellence Award from U of A Department of Animal Science and in 2020 received the Bumpers College Award for Service Excellence. In addition, this spring, she was honored by Honors College as the recipient of the 2022 U of A Staff award for her efforts to put students the extra mile in helping them succeed on and off campus.

“We’re really focused on what’s called discretionary advice,” Simmons says. “We break down barriers with students. We talk to them about more than the classroom. 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 resources on campus, such as instant visits with staff or simply downtime at the Waldrip Student Center. The group also assists students in networking with a career development center, financial aid, personal wellness, tutoring, counseling and more, also available by appointment.

“I care about their success,” Dunlap says. “I want them to graduate. I try to be as inclusive as possible. I love interacting with students. I feel like I’ve done a good job when they leave and I feel ready for the next 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 are based on six-year averages). The college graduation rate was also higher than the university average at 14 of the 17 years, data are available.

“Bumpers College’s advising efforts are the critical factor in keeping our retention and graduation rates consistently high,” Davis says. “We strive to get students to connect with faculty and staff, and our team approach ensures that students always know who to contact about any issue they may have.”

“I feel like our students have a grit and determination that can’t be learned in class alone, but is facilitated through personal and real-world experiences,” Simmons says. “Our hope is to help each student find their passion and make that passion their goal. The more interaction we can help facilitate through organizational engagement, connections to careers, and discussions with faculty and staff, the more prepared our students will be to meet the demand for workers in the largest industry in the world. world – agriculture, which includes surrounding industries related to health, nutrition, food, fiber, and more.”

Davis has been on campus for over 35 years and has worked at Bumpers College in various roles throughout. Some of her roles have been as a research and career assistant, advisor, enrollment and curriculum specialist, and student confidant, in addition to her work in 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 in high school and working in the office of the Vice Dean/Dean of Student Affairs. He has served as a consultant, helped develop retention initiatives, recruited perspective students, and worked to create a comprehensive student onboarding experience.

Dunlap has worked on campus for 27 years and became a counselor in 2019 having previously worked in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness and the admissions office at the U of A.

Hamilton has worked in the Food Science department for 38 years and has been consulting for 19. She recently joined the consulting team after working in her split roles between Student Relations, Student 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 at the U of A scholarship office.

Simmons provides advice and mentors to all students who have been declared AFLS Exploring and AFLS Transitions Academic Program (TAP) and students under the AFLS SSS/TRIO Program. He also coordinates college-wide retention initiatives, New Student Orientation, AFLS Early Alert, and the Ag Living Learning Community, while also sitting on the AFLS DEI and curriculum committees.

Davis provides support to all Bumpers College students, specifically monitoring their progress toward graduation. Its focus is to help students understand graduation requirements and policies. Oversees all student records, tracks and coordinates honor requirements, completes all graduation passes, and assists in monitoring students’ academic progress.

Tanner advises animal science. crop sciences; environmental, soil and water sciences; poultry science; the science of horticulture, lawn and landscaping; Agricultural education, communications and technology.

Hamilton advises apparel marketing and product development; Human Nutrition and Dietetics. food, nutrition and health; and food sciences.

Dunlap provides advice for agribusiness, childbirth through kindergarten, hospitality management, human development and family science.

Students are encouraged to visit the Student Center and Training (Cultural Room 205) at any time, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each year.

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food, and Life Sciences: The College of Bumpers provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates to be leaders in businesses related to food, family, environment, agriculture, sustainability and the quality of human life; It will be the first choice of employers who are looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named after Dale Pampers, the former Arkansas governor and longtime US senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture. For more information about Bumpers College, visit our website websiteand follow us on Twitter at Tweet embed and Instagram in the college.

About the University of Arkansas: As the premier institution in Arkansas, U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion for the Arkansas economy By teaching new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship, career development, discovery through research and creative activity while providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Endowment ranks the U of A in the top 3% of US colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. US News & World Report U of A ranks among the top public universities in the country. Watch how U of A works to build a better world in Arkansas Research News.


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