People You Meet Along the Way

Linda Clarke There is no other career path that would have given Linda Clarke the satisfaction she receives as the director of the Roy and Christine Sturgis Academic Advising Center at Arkansas Tech. “It’s so rewarding,” said Clarke (photographed, top left), who recently celebrated her 29th anniversary as a member of the Arkansas Tech staff. “It’s a job where you can have an effect. I’ve discovered over the years that I love helping our students. I think this is what I was meant to do, to try to help these young people be successful in college. It’s the greatest job in the world.” Clarke has worked in the academic advising operation at Arkansas Tech since 1997. After six months as an advisor, she was promoted to director of the program. The Sturgis Academic Advising Center has been located on the first floor of Rothwell Hall since that facility opened in January 2010. “We are advocates for our students,” said Clarke. “We want to help them make the right decisions and the right choices, especially when their academic career is not going the way they want it to. We have a great staff. I think we have the best advising staff anywhere. When we are looking for a full-time advisor, I look for someone who has a caring personality and has experiences needing help themselves. Maybe they found it and maybe they didn’t, but those experiences affect what they want to do as an academic advisor.” There are two seasons in the Sturgis Academic Advising Center at Arkansas Tech. Each summer, approximately 1,500 freshmen pass through the doors to register for college classes for the first time. “The thing I find myself telling the freshmen over and over again is that this is not going to be like high school,” said Clarke. “In college, it’s like getting up and going to work every day. You have a job to do, and you have professors that will have requirements for you to meet. We tell the freshmen that if they simply do those things, they are going to be successful. Past grade point averages and ACT scores don’t matter — it’s a clean start. You just have to be willing to do the work. That’s the advice we give quite often.” The other nine months of the year, the Sturgis Academic Advising Center works with undeclared current students and helps them chart a course toward choosing a major field of study. “We normally have 500-800 students that we work with each year from the undeclared or undecided group,” said Clarke. “We spend a lot of time talking to them, evaluating the credits they have already completed and making sure those credits are going to be useful when they declare a major field of study. We help them think about the person they are and what kind of career is going to make them happy.” Dr. Jeff Robertson Planning new degree programs that will lead to those fulfilling careers for Arkansas Tech students is an important aspect of the job duties for academic leadership personnel like Dr. Jeff Robertson. Robertson (photographed, top middle) has served as dean of the Arkansas Tech College of Natural and Health Sciences since July 2011. “We look very carefully at the need in the job market for that type of degree program,” said Robertson when asked about curriculum development. “We ask businesses and industry which skill sets they are looking for, and we develop programs that will allow our graduates to pursue meaningful careers. That’s the most important thing we look at when developing a new program.” Robertson earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Kansas, his Master of Science degree from San Diego State University and his Ph.D. from Indiana University. He joined the Arkansas Tech faculty in 1997. He holds the faculty rank of professor of astrophysics and serves as director of the astronomical observatory on campus. “Tech had the right job at the right time,” said Robertson when asked why he chose to work at Arkansas Tech. “They were looking for an astronomer to run the observatory, and I was in the market for a job. What made me want to stay are the people and the environment. It’s a great place to raise a family. The work environment is excellent, and the teachers here are all interested in student success.” Robertson arrived on campus shortly after Arkansas Tech implemented moderately selective admissions standards. As a result, each incoming freshman class he has worked with has boasted ACT scores above the state and national averages and enrollment has grown by 158 percent over the past 15 years. “One factor that is very helpful is that our students are in an environment that is nurturing,” said Robertson when asked about the influences that help Arkansas Tech students succeed. “The close interaction with faculty, especially when they are juniors and seniors, helps them excel as a student and become successful after graduation.” Dr. Alejandra Carballo Since learning cannot and does not stop at the classroom door, Dr. Alejandra Carballo is offering Arkansas Tech students an opportunity to study far beyond the borders of Russellville this spring. Carballo (photographed, top right), assistant professor in the Arkansas Tech Department of English and World Languages, will lead an educational tour in Spain May 16-23. “For me, the practical side of students putting their skills to work is crucial,” said Carballo. “Then, they can see they are doing something with a purpose. Traveling abroad is a step further, but the trip I am organizing is less intimidating because it is a series of faculty-led short trips. It’s about getting their feet wet so that they will be willing to jump further and travel more. It opens their world and their mind in a different way.” Carballo noted that the trip is open to not only Arkansas Tech students, faculty and staff, but also community members interested in experiencing Spain. Call (479) 968-0639 or send e-mail to for more information. A native of Argentina, Carballo joined the Arkansas Tech faculty in 2009. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Rio Cuarto in 1995, her Master of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000 and her Ph.D. from Florida State University in 2006. “Being in contact with the students is my favorite part,” said Carballo when asked why she enjoys being a member of the Arkansas Tech faculty. “You learn about their interests. I enjoy helping them gain internships. I take my job seriously, and I expect that from the students. When they take a class from me they know we are going to work hard, but we are going to work hard together. The most important thing they can get is an education they can really use. “My students are a big part of my life,” continued Carballo. “I give of myself to them because I know they will return that.” Aaron Hogan Eighteen-year old, Arkansas Tech freshman Aaron Hogan probably would not have guessed that one day he would become the associate dean for residence life at his alma mater, but his undergraduate experience on the Russellville campus changed the direction of his life. “I was a fisheries and wildlife biology major, but during that time I was very involved on campus as a student,” said Hogan (photographed, bottom left). “I was president of my fraternity and I served in the Student Government Association, but I was also a student worker in the Office of Student Services. We didn’t have a Greek advisor, so I was allowed to work with Greek life in several of those capacities and it really sparked my interest in working with students. I realized that my passion wasn’t in fisheries and wildlife biology anymore; it was in student services.” Hogan went on to earn a Master of Science degree in college student personnel from Arkansas Tech. He was hired as a resident director in the Arkansas Tech Office of Residence Life and advanced through the ranks until he was chosen to lead the university’s student housing operations in April 2012. “I tell the resident assistants and resident directors at the start of the academic year that they will be the first person that many first-time college students meet on campus,” said Hogan. “Pointing our students in the right direction, getting them out of their rooms and involved on campus…it all starts with our resident assistants and resident directors. We want to provide educational opportunities that promote maturity, responsibility and above all else, academic success. That’s really what motivates me…to get those students involved.” Arkansas Tech is home to 10,950 students in all, and approximately 2,700 of those live in campus housing each semester. The number of Arkansas Tech students choosing to live on campus has increased by 217 percent since 1995, when 851 Tech students lived in university housing. “For me, when I was an undergraduate, I lived on campus my first two years,” said Hogan. “I can honestly say that I have more friendships with the people that I got to know living on campus as opposed to off. I hope that our students in campus housing can build friendships for a lifetime, be socially active and that the Office of Residence Life plays a role in their academic success.” Dana Florian When you work day in and day out to connect Arkansas Tech students with career opportunities like Dana Florian does, there are going to be those moments when all of the hard work pays off. “The most rewarding story was a student that we worked with to change his resume to meet the needs of the positions he was applying for,” said Florian  (photographed, bottom right). “He interviewed for one of the positions on campus and the other one at the business location. When he came in our office with offer letters from two huge companies, both of which anyone would love to work for, and they were both over $50,000 per year…that was what I was waiting for. Here he was, 22 years old and right out of college, and his biggest problem was that he couldn’t decide which one to choose.” Florian became director of career services in the Arkansas Tech Norman Career Services office on Sept. 1, 2012. She previously worked in the Arkansas Tech College of Business College to Career Center. A product of Wilmington, Ill., Florian moved to the Natural State to play volleyball for the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns. “Being a student-athlete was very demanding,” said Florian. “There were high expectations on the court and in the classroom. I learned about time management, the importance of relationships and the importance of networking. You had to work around a schedule you were given and do whatever it took…if that meant studying in the morning before class or on the bus during a road trip. That was part of being a student-athlete.” Florian earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in 2009 and her Master of Science degree in college student personnel in 2011, both from Arkansas Tech. “Arkansas Tech is the primary reason I chose to make my home here in Russellville,” said Florian. “I felt like it was a wonderful fit for me. I enjoy the faculty and staff here, and I look up to the leaders on our campus. The mission, vision and values of Arkansas Tech are something that I can relate to and something I live by. The best part is being a part of a student’s life and sharing with them the life lessons that I learned from my family.” Florian uses tools like FOCUS 2, a program that assesses a student’s interests, values, personality and aspirations and sets appropriate educational goals for his or her career development. “A lot of times my primary focus with getting students educated about the degree they want to seek is the professionalism that is required to get a job,” said Florian. “When I go into classrooms and workshops, I try to use as many statistics as possible. I use real-life examples of students here at Tech that have had an internship as a junior and then been offered jobs for after graduation. We also talk a lot about networking and the importance of building a resume. It’s all about building a relationship with the students so that they will trust me.” Florian recommends that businesses wishing to employ Arkansas Tech students and alumni visit CareerLink, which is available through the Norman Career Services Web site ( As for the students that she works with, Florian continues to polish their professionalism skills until they shine for employers. “If you make it fun, the students are more receptive,” said Florian. “Our employers are willing to hire our students because they are hard workers and well-educated, but they are less likely to put them in front of a big client right away. Our role is to find a way to help students understand the importance of polish. It all comes down to experience. Once they have an internship or another work opportunity in their chosen field, they learn how to dress, how to have their resume stand out and about business etiquette. We offer workshops that teach those skills, and we also offer resume paper, business card paper and other resources for students. We want to do anything we can to get students involved with Norman Career Services so that we can help them.”]]>