The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith Alumni Association announced the Top 10 Alumni of 2021, part of the Feb. 26 Homecoming 2021 “Lucky to Be a Lion” event slate. The honor acknowledges alumni for their contributions in their field of study, service to their community, professional accomplishments, and/or philanthropy work in support of worthy causes.
Due to the virtual format of this year’s homecoming celebrations, the UAFS Alumni Association modified its typical awards structure with the Top 10 taking the place of the traditional Diligence to Victory, Young Alumni, and Honorary Alumni awards.
- Kaci Collins has been involved with UAFS directly and indirectly since graduating in 2012. She is the co-owner of Card + Cloth and opened a second location in late 2020, making it one of the top small shops in Fort Smith. Through serving as a recruitment advisor for Delta Gamma Fraternity to supporting other alumni-owned businesses, Collins continues to advocate for UAFS in both her words and actions.
- Kacie Carroll is a school-based mental health therapist who has worked with local school kids to deal with the stress and anxiety that this pandemic has brought into our world. Children have been expected to deal and cope with this pandemic just like the adults in their lives, and shift rapidly to changes in their norms. Kacie has made herself available to zoom at any time her students need her.
- Kaity and Gabriel Gould, founders of Fort Smith Coffee Co., continue to be faithful UAFS supporters. Kaity is also serving this year as a young alumni mentor. In 2020 the couple opened a second location and adapted their first location to add a drive-through in order to better serve their community.
- Stephanie Long was involved on campus as a student and then utilized those skills to launch not one but two businesses all while continuing her job as director of operations at Shake's Frozen Custard. Long now owns and operates The Cake Occasion and The Kinship Collective (started with her sister) and has donated her treats to different departments and functions hosted by UAFS.
- Cody Newton has served his community by providing outstanding care as a nurse at Baptist Health as well as working as a travel nurse in areas that were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Working for a FEMA crisis staffing agency, Newton tended to patients in tent hospitals and emergency rooms throughout Texas, including Longview Regional Medical Center, Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen, University Medical Center in El Paso, and Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.
- Nycole Oliver is a local DNP who has worked numerous hours providing COVID testing and vaccinations. She recently presented as a guest speaker for WATC class events as an example of what a powerful woman can do.
- Logan Parks graduated UAFS with a theatre degree and has recently begun working at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Parks also does remote social media work for the Sebastian County Conservation District in an effort to serve others and make the world a better place.
- Sarah Thompson was recognized as an invaluable asset to both the Fort Smith community and UAFS for her work as a nurse in long-term acute care at Select Specialty Hospital while also teaching in the Western Arkansas Technical Center at UAFS. She has adapted to changes quickly in order to better care for her patients as well as teach her students and is considered a great example for upcoming alumni and students.
- Charolette Tidwell, a community leader and founder of Antioch for Youth and Family, was recognized for her work providing thousands of area residents with food and commodities. She was previously recognized for her efforts with a cover story in a 2016 issue of “The Bell Tower,” the UAFS alumni magazine. She also received international acclaim when she was named recipient of the 2020 Karen T. Fondu Impact Award for L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth.
- Jessica Walton teaches third grade and specializing in literacy in an integrated (general and special education) classroom. She has shown tremendous effort within her Zoom classes and in-person students, adapting to teach English and pronunciation to the best of her ability while wearing a mask.