Fort Smith Mayor George McGill visited the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith Wednesday, January 27, 2021, to sign a proclamation recognizing UAFS students who brought forward innovative ideas to improve the quality of place of the City of Fort Smith, and to name the students official Fort Smith Ambassadors.
McGill spoke to students about the importance of putting ideas to action, and cultivating a community that draws, impresses and keeps young people. "People used to search for a job and land in a city," McGill said, "But now people search for a city they love and find a job in that city. You are helping us make Fort Smith a city people will love, a city people will search for."
During the fall 2020 semester, students in Dr. Brandon Chase Goldsmith’s three Introduction to Speech courses were assigned a call-to-action speech which required them to research and propose solutions for an outdoor activity or recreation area or an indoor entertainment complex they believed the city needed. Mayor McGill acknowledged the efforts of these students to improve their city and to think critically about the future of the River Valley.
“I am proud to see students not only taking a personal interesting in their city, but problem-solving ways to bring their ideas to life,” said Dr. Goldsmith. “When I explained the various ideas, my students had for the City of Fort Smith, Mayor McGill was impressed by their vision and the fact that some of these projects were very feasible. These students are the future of our city, our future leaders. We need to listen to them. The best way to improve Fort Smith is from the inside out, creating a place where our youth and young professions are excited live in and raise their families.”
Dr. Goldsmith, an adjunct professor at UAFS, said he has assigned this project for five years as a group speech, but changed it to an individual call-to-action in 2020 as a result of his class moving fully online.
“This has provided a bigger picture of how each of my 80-90 students would transform their city. Over the years our students have painted an economic development blueprint for the River Valley, and I am extremely excited Mayor McGill is recognizing their innovative ideas.”
This project required students to combine critical thinking and research with oral presentation skills, which are valuable assets in any career field.
"What are often considered soft skills, like public speaking, are viable across disciplines,” said Dr. Susan Simkowski, interim department head for Communication and Theatre Arts. “All of our communication faculty work diligently to make a general education course like speech applicable to the students' professional goals."
The honored students included Jennifer Francisco, Giovanni Hernandez, Megan Hoelzeman, Grace Hollenbeck, Damaris Ramirez, and Sonali Shah, all of Fort Smith; Alberto Delatorre of Temecula, California; Holly Farrar of Bokoshe, Oklahoma; Lynde Morland of Greenwood; Steffany Papp of Van Buren; Leah Sheffield of Arkoma, Oklahoma; and Devin Yocum of Cedarville.
In closing, McGill gave the students pins to indicate their place as proud citizens and Ambassadors of the city of Fort Smith, telling the students that he expected to hear from them in the future. "You've examined how to create these ideas, you've researched implementation and cost, so I want to hear from you. I want you to check in and say 'Mayor, how's my project coming?' or 'Mayor, I've found an investor, how can we move forward?'"
Videos of the student pitches can be viewed at:
- Damaris Ramirez’s Southside Walking Trail at Highway 253
- Holly Farrar’s Bikejoring Track
- Grace Hollenbeck’s Riverfront Activity Center with Ice Rink
- Leah Sheffield’s Riverfront Indoor Recreation Center with Ice Rink
- Steffany Papp’s Riverfront Dog Park
- Megan Hoelzeman’s Indoor Basketball and Volleyball Arena at Highway 71
- Devin Yocum’s Downtown Tree Foundation
- Alberto Delatorre’s Indoor Soccer plaza at the Former ArcBest facility on Rogers Ave.
- Lynde Morland’s Indoor Soccer Plaza at North O
- Giovanni Hernandez’s Indoor Soccer Plaza at Zero Street
- Sonali Shah’s Indoor Soccer Plaza at Ben Geren Park
- Jennifer Francisco’s Indoor Soccer Plaza at TGB Field House