Celebrating 150 Years of Student Success

One-of-a-Kind Student Success Center Focuses on Support and Connection

The University of Arkansas welcomed its first students on January 22, 1872 –150 years ago. That winter day, eight students met in a clapboard building on the former McIlroy Farm that would come to be known as the Hill. Old Main construction would start a year later, and Senior Walk began at the dawn of the next century.

Today, campus is home to more than 29,000 students and Senior Walk stretches for more than six miles. Our buildings and greenspaces extend beyond the Hill, from the historic center of campus to cutting-edge structures like Adohi Hall, the Collaborative in Bentonville and facilities at the Tech and Research Park. And together these tell the story of a university that has grown throughout the last 150 years to better pursue the promise of our land-grant mission to teach, discover and serve. Campus has changed a lot over the years, but one thing stays the same – we are dedicated to the success of our students and to helping them launch fulfilling lives.

That’s why, when a Student Success Center was envisioned, it was a one-of-a-kind concept that melded a sense of place with the mission of holistic student support both in and out of the classroom, a place where students could gather and where advisors and mentors, tutors and job placement specialists could help students achieve their goals for the future.

For Aric Lasher, President and Director of Design for HBRA Architects, designing the Student Success Center started with listening, working closely with a team that articulated a vision to create a building that brought students, faculty and advisors together in an inviting way that would, most importantly, foster connection and collaboration.

From the beginning, the Center’s design embraced the idea that students could gather with each other and with the larger campus community to find not just academic support but also inspiration and involvement. It invites moments of conversation and promotes those unexpected connections that enrich the academic experience and help create a sense of belonging.

“The joy and importance of expanding the academic community to those previously excluded is a source of great purpose for me as an architect, one who benefited from the experience of academic pursuit in ways that profoundly transformed my life,” said Lasher. “One never knows who might produce a great work of art or cure a disease… Ideally, this building should play a role in unlocking the potential that might otherwise be lost.”

“There is no better way to commemorate 150 years of teaching and learning at the U of A than the opening of our new Student Success Center. This center is home to innovative programs that meet students where they are with support and strategies for success, both here on campus and in the workplace after graduation. It's been 150 years, but we're just getting started.”

-Charles Robinson, Interim Chancellor

That feeling of being welcomed and included is foundational to each student’s success. Just ask Daniel Webster, a recent graduate who now helps recruit students from Arkansas to the U of A.

“When I first arrived on campus, my first interactions were with my Accelerate Student Achievement Program (ASAP) mentors – they were amazing.” That welcome, Webster says, “was my first sign that I was in the right place with the right people.”

Webster went on to earn a degree in psychology, sociology and criminology with honors. He served as President of the Diversity and Inclusion Student Council, President of the Black Student Association, and Vice President of the Black Alumni Scholars Society and became a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, a nationally competitive scholarship for individuals dedicated to public service.

For Daniel – and for many others – the opportunity to connect with fellow students and with staff who support students sets the stage for personal and academic growth. The Student Success Center capitalizes on this idea in a way that makes it stand out among peer institutions. The facility brings together the Student Success Office, academic advisors, staff from the Multicultural Center, the ASAP program and more, while employing student mentors and tutors and offering academic support resources like writing studios, study groups, supplemental instruction and tutoring.

The building itself is equally impressive. A 70,000 square-foot facility, the Center frames Old Main and the surrounding buildings, adding to the environment without distracting from the university’s historic core. It offers classrooms, study labs, conference rooms and a range of office and flexible spaces and is anticipated to receive LEED Silver certification. And, as can only be expected, the building also includes a Starbucks and food options.

“At its heart, the Student Success Center is about creating opportunities for our students to connect with each other and with their professors and advisors,” said Trevor Francis, associate vice provost and director of student success. “Those interactions lead to meaningful outcomes, both in and out of the classroom.”