Staff Spotlight: Ava Coleman

By Spencer Watson

“I really can’t say enough how much we appreciate Ava’s enthusiasm for our programs and the support she gives to prospective and current students,” said Patricia Cowan, Ph.D., RN, dean of the College of Nursing. “Her smile and her support lift everyone around her.”

Colman was hired as a recruitment specialist and, with her two-year anniversary nearing this month, was promoted over the summer to assistant director of student enrollment for the college.

But recruitment is still a big part of her job, and she’s grateful for it.

“I love recruiting. I love to be on the go. I love to be out talking to people. That’s my passion,” she said. “I love getting to know people, building relationships with them. I feel like that’s what recruiting is.”

Because of the diversity of programs offered in nursing, those relationships are forged with all types, from high school students to nurses who’ve been in the field 20 years. Nothing makes Coleman happier than seeing those people find a program that works for them.

“When we talk about why you choose to be a nurse, we can talk about the wide variety of things you can do in this field,” she said. “I am constantly learning more every day about the opportunities like the nurse anesthetist program we’re working to launch or psychiatric and mental health or working in conventional nursing areas like insurance claims. There are so many different ways to be successful.”

Coleman’s calling, she said, is to help others find that success. A long-time devotee of community support and the power of education – a passion Coleman said was awakened by her experience as a parent of a student in the UAMS Head Start program – she speaks a language of empowerment and empathy.

“I’m not an educator. That’s not my gift. But I see the need for support. I like to support others in their educational journey, whether it’s a parent, student or people just trying to find their way,” said Coleman. “I feel like I’m a servant, and with a servant’s spirit I’m able to help people. That’s my passion.”

That passion is fed by the people around her.

“One thing I love about coming to work here is the support I have, from the dean, faculty and staff. Every department here, all the faculty members, they embrace me. They help me deliver the message. They support me and welcome my questions because they want me to do well in my job,” she said. “That gets more students into their programs, and I love that.”

For the students themselves, Coleman is more than a salesperson. She’s also a champion, whether it’s in helping them find resources like the newly launched Stocked and Reddie food pantry or academic support for students struggling with the rigors of higher education.

“We have prospective students interested in applying with very high GPA’s  because they’re good students. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re always going to be good nursing students,” she said. “It takes a student who has the passion and drive to want to take care of others. We can train any student on the skills and techniques of nursing. But it takes special individuals who have the love for all people to be extraordinary nurses.”

Ultimately, she wants the same thing students and their loved ones do: their success and evolution into the best person they can be.

“That can be hard even when you know how,” she said. “I often use the analogy of making Rice Krispie Treats. They only have three simple ingredients: the cereal, butter and marshmallows. But people mess them up all the time. All. The. Time.”

In Coleman’s kitchen, however, she tries to make sure the recipe for student success comes out right every time.