This week the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees honored the wishes of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith Student Government Association, passing a resolution to rename the Lion Pride Food Pantry for Dr. Dave Stevens.
UAFS Chancellor Terisa Riley wrote in a campus email following the board's approval, "I am thrilled to share that the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas unanimously passed the resolution to name our food pantry in honor of Dr. Dave Stevens, Dean of Students. Created by the Student Government Association and supported by campus leaders, the Board has named our pantry the “Dave Stevens Lion Pride Pantry.” It will be a pleasure to formally name the pantry this fall at an event that will allow us to display new signage and will give us all a chance to thank “Dr. Dave” for being a tireless champion for student success."
Earlier this spring, the SGA unanimously passed a resolution advocating to name the university’s Lion Pride Food Pantry for Dr. Dave Stevens, dean of students.
During the SGA’s weekly meeting, held Tuesday, April 7, via Zoom, Ana Hernandez, SGA secretary, announced the resolution to name the Dave Stevens Lion Pride Pantry, stating, “Dr. Dave Stevens has shown exceptional attentiveness, compassion, and generosity towards the students he serves and collaborates with other offices across campus to provide counseling and support for students in crisis … The SGA recognizes his vital role in the success of current resource programs available to students on campus such as the Lion Pride Food Pantry, the Grab-and-Go Sack Lunch Program, and the Student Emergency Fund, and there have been multiple instances in which Dr. Dave Stevens has gone above and beyond what is required of him in order to help students, especially through the aforementioned programs; THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, in honor of the contributions Dr. Dave Stevens has made to UAFS and of the lives of UAFS students, the SGA recommends the official name of the needs pantry be the Dave Stevens Lion Pride Pantry.”
“We wanted to include your name in the very first resolution to expand the pantry,” SGA President Jordan Dart shared on the Zoom call. “It has been so encouraging to see how many students and leaders on campus were so excited at the idea of honoring Dave. I want future UAFS students to know that Dave was a vital part in offering the resources they benefit from.”
“The pantry is so much more than one person,” said Stevens, who accepted the honor humbly after its unanimous passing. “This means so much. I do this because I care about students, and I hope that that shows in the work that I do. I hope that you gain something each and every day from the work that we do with you guys.”
“To be so well thought of and appreciated by this group means a great deal,” he continued, “and I just want to say thank you.”
“I’m not crying, you’re crying,” laughed UAFS Chancellor Terisa Riley as the Zoom call moved to her camera for comment. Riley brought forward the resolution to the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees this week at their May 21 meeting.
“Higher education has a wonderful tradition of naming programs and centers of excellence for the founders or individuals who have left incredible legacies through personal dedication and contributions,” she said. “In this case I happily accept this resolution and look forward to advocating with our Board of Trustees to name the Lion Pride Food Pantry for Dr. Dave Stevens, the dean of students.”
“Dr. Stevens is a student champion, and in particular he has become a student needs champion,” Riley continued. “He works tirelessly to collect donations -- monetary and physical contributions -- to create a Lion Pride Food Pantry that will support students who need nutritious food, hygiene products, and other paper goods or school supplies. At UA Fort Smith, no student will go without basic needs being met for as long as Dr. Stevens is on the job!”
"Honestly, I am completely humbled. I had no idea that they were planning to do this," added Stevens. "There are a number of people who have contributed to this project, and I am fortunate to be one of them. I love college students. I was a first-generation college student, and I went into this profession to help students like me. I believe this is my calling, and I’m so thankful to have this opportunity to serve these students. I realize the sacrifice they’re making, and I also recognize the life-changing power of education. "
"The work that we do in the pantry is important," he continued. "The food we provide helps to meet a basic need, and it allows students to focus on their education. My hope is that they will one day graduate, find work that they enjoy, and give back. I hope they will remember the help they were given and that they will choose to pay it forward. That’s what I believe I am doing every single day."
The pantry was opened in its initial form, as a large wooden blessing box, Friday, August 23, 2019. In just seven months, the pantry has grown by leaps and bounds, from a few carts of food filling a blessing box to overflowing a room at the Recreation and Wellness Center, stocked with a deep freezer and walls of shelves.
Thanks to Stevens’ commitment to meeting every student’s needs, during a time when food insecurity is at an all-time high due to mass layoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the pantry has been able to offer more food than ever.
In the first week of April alone, more than 40 students and their families received food from the pantry.
A 2019 survey from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, College, and University Basic Needs Insecurity: A National #RealCollege Survey Report found that more than 41 percent of students at four-year colleges and universities had experienced food insecurity within a month. Further, 44 percent of students from four-year institutions worried about running out of food, and nearly half of the students surveyed could not afford to eat balanced meals.
Stevens began at UAFS in 2006 as an advisor for the Western Arkansas Technical Center before being promoted to the coordinator of WATC in 2009. In spring 2012, Stevens was named the director of campus involvement before being promoted to Dean of Students in 2015. In his role as dean, he oversees the Student Life Office, serves as the chief student conduct officer for the university, and collaborates with offices across campus to provide resources, counseling, and support for every student on the UAFS campus, in times of joy and times of crisis.
Stevens holds a bachelor’s degree in history and political science and a master’s degree in college student personnel from Arkansas Tech University, and a Doctorate of Education in human resource and adult education from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
In an effort to reduce in-person shopping, the pantry has partnered with the University of Arkansas Fort Smith Foundation to open a means of monetary donations. Food donations may be dropped off during the weekly hours of operation. After-hours deliveries may be at the University Police Department in the UAFS 51st Annex. Call ahead to schedule an after-hours drop-off at 479-788-7140.