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Three university staff members sit on a campus bench surrounded by trees during the fall.

ALUMNI STAFF: Jasmine Smith, center, is the director of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving. Josh Simonds, assistant director of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving, and Chloe Ezell, student worker, provide her support.

BT-Current | Bell Tower Magazine | AlumniFebruary 14, 2022

Smith Heads Alumni Engagement

When Alumni Director Rick Goins retired at the end of June 2021, he knew he was leaving the office in capable hands: Alumni Assistant Director Jasmine Smith stepped seamlessly into his role. Smith also serves as director of annual giving.

Smith knew she was leaving her position in good hands when she hired Josh Simonds to take on her dual role as assistant director of alumni engagement and assistant director of Annual Giving.

Together Smith and Simonds are working to make alumni engagement a natural part of the lives of every graduate, including those who attended UAFS, Westark, or Fort Smith Junior College. Both are UAFS graduates.

Smith, class of 2014, is married to Phillip Smith, class of 2016, whom she calls her "college sweetheart." She said she felt at home at UAFS from the time she took classes through the WATC program. She left Fort Smith to pursue a master's degree at Arkansas Tech. She graduated in 2016 with a degree in College Student Personnel, and then it was a matter of timing.

"As soon as I saw the coordinator for Student Activities job open up, I came straight back to Fort Smith," she said. "It was my dream job out of graduate school, and I worked in the Student Life office in that role until I applied for and accepted the assistant director of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving in 2019."

Smith said, as an alumna, she sees what alumni services mean for students, who benefit from scholarships, and alumni, who take advantage of networking and professional development opportunities.

"In my role (as director of alumni involvement), I'm here to build connections and help foster Lion Pride in our graduates and our community. I work closely with the Alumni Advisory Council to create meaningful experiences for our grads and support our Alumni Legacy Scholarship Endowment."

About the other part of her job, Smith said, "Annual giving can strengthen our institution. Gifts from alumni, friends, and community supporters ensure that our students are leaving with not only a degree but a resume filled with unique experiences that will set them apart in their career field."

Smith emphasized the importance of the reimagined Day of Giving, which last year raised more than $100,000 for seven specific projects.

"I am planning UAFS's Day of Giving support special projects and initiatives to create for students unique experiences that couldn't happen without the support of our community," Smith said. "I hope I can grow Day of Giving and other annual giving initiatives because I know our students don't take these opportunities for granted, and they deserve the absolute best."

Equally committed to providing the absolute best for students and alumni, Josh Simonds said his interest in alumni service comes from his belief that students are "endlessly hardworking and authentic in a way I think is really special. That doesn't change when they walk across the stage. Working with alumni gives me the chance to serve those same people and reconnect them to the institution that shaped them and that they shaped."

Simonds, class of 2018, earned an MBA from William Woods University at Fulton, Mo., in 2020. He returned to Fort Smith in 2020 and became the Upward Bound Classic coordinator in August of that year before stepping into his current role in September 2021.

Simonds' interest in annual giving stems from his vision of UAFS's role in the community.

"UAFS is an integral part of the River Valley and the region beyond," Simonds said. "Our alumni are actively serving their communities and changing the world around them. Consistent, robust annual giving allows meaningful support for more students, which leads to more alumni, which leads to more leaders in our workforce and more progress in our communities."

People might think only large gifts make a difference at UAFS, but Simonds said gifts of any size have an impact.

"Reasonable gifts go a long way here, especially when they become routine," he said. "I want to provide opportunities for people to give realistic gifts in simple ways that make them feel comfortable repeating their gifts in the future."