Baby Steps of Ambition
His picture is not likely to be found in a dictionary next to the definition of persistent. Still, one man’s dedication to the pursuit of knowledge is a pillar of what the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is about.
A captain at the Fort Smith Police Department and an adjunct professor teaching criminal justice courses at UAFS, Wes Milam’s path to educating himself and others took time and determination.
“You know how many times I wanted to say, ‘I just don’t want to do this, it’s too much work for me to do this, there’s just not enough time?’” Milam reflected. His answer and mantra: “Baby steps; it’s persistence and taking steps to always move forward.”
Those baby steps began when Milam graduated from UAFS – then Westark College – with his associate degree in 2000. He funded his education by working in local news media as a photojournalist, but the events of Sept. 11, 2001, would reshape his career path and eventually return to UAFS.
“I had been serving alongside the Fort Smith Police Department in my role as media,” he said. “I enjoyed what they were doing and what they were about, so I decided to go into law enforcement.”
By the start of 2003, Milam began his career as an officer but quickly realized the monetary benefit of having a four-year degree and how advancing his education could help him become a better officer in the field.
Determined to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Milam returned to UAFS, balancing life with a full-time job, as a husband, and as a student. Oftentimes, he attended class in full uniform, either on a lunch break or straight from a shift. Despite times when he could only take one course at a time, Milam graduated from UAFS in 2009.
Milam transitioned into a full-time role with the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy in 2010. His passion for teaching blossomed as he worked with new and veteran officers, training them to better handle mental health crises, de-escalation, and connecting with people in the field.
“I love teaching; I love the dynamic and being able to pass along information,” Milam explained.
As Milam taught his professional peers, the itch to continue his education began to fester. He earned a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Arkansas – Little Rock in 2014. With another degree in hand, Milam searched for another way to continue to teach others.
“I met with Dr. Paul Kroutter and talked about how I would love to come to (UAFS) to teach as an adjunct,” Milam recalled.
And that’s precisely what he did.
His persistence to learn more about the career he grew to love translated to the classroom by the fall of 2014. For nearly a decade, Milam has shared his passion and journey with hundreds of students, providing real-life examples of law enforcement in his Intro to Criminal Justice and Police System Practices courses and helping those struggling to find their way.
“We work so hard to get them where they succeed; that’s the UAFS difference.”
Throughout the years, Milam has made it his responsibility to also teach his students about how to be ambitious.
“You must desire to benefit yourself and benefit others through education. Ambition means that you realize you don’t have this knowledge, and you want that knowledge and have a plan to use it or purpose for obtaining it,” he said.
It was a challenge he took himself. As of the spring of 2023, Fort Smith Police Captain Wes Milam has a new title: Doctor Milam – after completing his doctorate in public administration from Valdosta State University in Georgia.
Throughout his professional and academic career, Milam has witnessed and is now part of the lasting impression UAFS makes: the UAFS difference.
“It’s our responsibility as a premier university in western Arkansas to build that excitement to get that ambition for higher education,” Milam emphasized. “Improving the higher education in this area will have a ripple effect of benefits outside the university and outside the campus environment.”
- Criminal Justice
- College of Arts and Sciences
The UAFS Office of Communications fields all media inquiries for the university. Email Rachel.Putman@uafs.edu for more information.Send an Email
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Rachel Rodemann Putman
- Director of Strategic Communications