Staff Voices: Mandy Keyes
Hailing from the central Sebastian County town of Hackett, Mandy Keyes, University
of Arkansas – Fort Smith director of human resources, admits that attending college
after high school was something other than what she planned on pursuing. She would
be the first in her family to go, and she loved her hometown, so the thought of leaving
was met with conflict.
However, Keyes was surprised to find out she had been awarded a two-year scholarship which provided her the financial means to attend Westark Community College. It was an offer too good to refuse and ultimately led to her spending the next 26 years attached to the university as a student or employee.
Crediting the passion and excitement of school recruiters when she was in high school, Keyes said it was then that she “knew (she) wanted to work in higher ed before even going to college.”
Keyes arrived at UAFS, then Westark Community College, in the fall of 1997 and began working as a student worker in admissions the following year. She hasn’t looked back ever since.
“I decided I didn’t want to go anywhere else; I wanted to stay, and I had fallen in love with it here. This is where I wanted to be for whatever that looked like,” Keyes said. “I wanted to do something that helped other people have that (same) great experience … I had a great experience and wanted to make sure that I got to share that with everyone else who would let me.”
Keyes took advantage of working on campus to help cover the cost of her tuition, graduating from UAFS with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Rhetoric & Writing. Over the years, she has worked in different positions on campus, such as admissions officer, director of admissions, career services coordinator, associate registrar and off-site concurrent enrollment coordinator, and eventually found herself in human resources.
“I would have never imagined I would end up in human resources, no less as Director of Human Resources,” she said with a grin.
July marks three years in her current role, and it’s a position she is happy to see the ripple effects of making an impact with and influence on every single person at UAFS.
“Every experience matters,” Keyes explained. “When I worked in enrollment management, no matter what role I was in, I was impacting a student’s experience on campus. I can still impact students here (in human resources), but what I always get to do, is impact the experience of an employee, which then impacts the experience of a student.”
Since taking on the position of Director of Human Resources in 2020, Keyes and her team have worked diligently to positively impact the employee experience in various ways. That includes a monthly mental health series that returns in the fall to encouraging her team to participate and volunteer for campus events and planning. Keyes hopes to soon add professional development opportunities for different populations of UAFS employees.
Keyes hopes she, and the department, can show that human resources are not a source of an elevated heart rate but are there for everyone’s best interest.
“I’m still just Mandy, the same Mandy I’ve been for over 20 years on this campus,” she said while promising that her door is always open and that it’s okay to talk to anyone in her department because no one bites.
Over the years, her life has revolved around UAFS. One summer break, Keyes took a job at Whirlpool, where she met her husband of 22 years, Jason, a welding instructor for the College of Business and Industry. And if you haven’t had a chance to try her UAFS-famous “creamy taco dip,” Keyes jokes that you are missing out.
While she doesn’t know exactly what the future holds for herself, human resources, or UAFS, Keyes is confident that it will undoubtedly involve her working with the university and its constant pursuit to grow and contribute to making a difference.