The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts recently announced the hiring of Ashley Bennett as the school's new director of institutional development.
Bennett, who most recently served as an associate director of development at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, takes over for Sara Brown, who had been in the role since Nov. 2019. She will oversee the operation of the Office of Institutional Advancement and the ASMSA Foundation.
She said she is excited about the opportunity and feels that it was meant to be. Her oldest daughter is a senior at ASMSA this year.
"I love ASMSA, my daughter loves it here, and ever since I got here, everyone's been so welcoming," she said. "It just feels like I'm supposed to be here. I think the school's incredible and I think that it has so much to offer for the state of Arkansas. And so not only am I thrilled to be here myself, but I'm just excited to see what I can bring to it as well."
Bennett and her fiance, Jon, live in Benton with their children. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology, along with a master's degree in college student personnel administration, from Arkansas Tech University. She is currently working on her Certified Fund Raising Executive certification and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Arkansas Chapter.
As a first-generation college graduate from Searcy, she wants all students from across the state to have the same access to a quality education.
"I never had the opportunity to come here as a high school student and the fact that my daughter does, I think, is incredible. Watching her bloom, and her art has just blossomed over the past year, that's really exciting for our family," she said.
She said one of her main priorities at ASMSA is parental involvement, noting she thinks it is a piece that has been missing at the school.
"I really want the parents to understand how important it is that, you know, they are entrusting us with the education of their children," she said. "And I think not only current parents, but past parents, having their engagement with the institution is critical."
She also aims to cultivate more alumni and community involvement to help broaden the school's reach and further advocate its offerings.
"I want people to understand that ASMSA is doing so much for this local community, but really for the state of Arkansas as a whole. You know, it is graduating students that are going out there and changing the world. They are doing critical work and coming back into the state, and they really are the future of the workforce for the state of Arkansas. And I just really want Arkansas to understand what ASMSA is doing," she said.
She notes one of the challenges is trying to get the school at the "forefront" of people's minds. ASMSA is the third institution within the University of Arkansas System she has worked, as she worked at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock prior to UAMS.
"I think when they think University of Arkansas, they always kind of think of some of the bigger institutions," she said. "And that's a little bit of a challenge. They don't tend to think of the Arkansas School for Math, Science and the Arts ... I want ASMSA to be at the forefront. I don't think they always think of ASMSA, the Arkansas School for Math, Science and the Arts, and I want them to."
Bennett said she wants donors to have an understanding of what the school brings to the state as a whole, noting that as one of her goals.
"I'm very happy to be here and I want to be an advocate for the school. I think that ASMSA advocates for people within the state, the students within the state and their families, and I just want to be an advocate for them as well," she said.