2 years ago
If you happen to see a roadside vegetable stand this summer in Conway that is donating its proceeds to ASMSA, don’t be surprised if you see Diana Arms hawking the extra tomatoes and other vegetables she will grow in her garden.
Arms retired at the end of the school year after serving 15 years as a counselor. One of the first things she plans to do this summer is raise a garden. Her past attempts haven’t been as successful as she’d like because she and her husband would take vacations in June or July, the months she was off. While she was gone on vacation, the Arkansas summers would burn up anything she had planted.
When a coworker asked what she would do with all the extra tomatoes she might end up with, someone else suggested Arms start a roadside stand with all the benefits going to ASMSA. Arms laughed and said she thought that sounded like a good plan.
She said her husband, Jon, a professor of Spanish language and literature at Hendrix College in Conway, had been trying to get her to retire for three years. He has cut back his teaching schedule at the college after more than 40 years at the institution.
Arms said she tried to retire twice before but that she just didn’t have the nerve to do it. In February, she let Bob Gregory, dean of academic affairs, know that she was thinking about retiring this year and would have an answer for him after Spring Break in March.
After 15 years of living between two residences — her Conway home and her home in Hot Springs Village — Arms decided it was time retire. That doesn’t mean she won’t have ASMSA on her mind on Aug. 1 when the new school year begins.
“I’ll have regrets I’m sure. I’ll probably have withdrawal symptoms come Aug. 1. Or I’ll think in October, ‘Ohhh somebody needs to write letters for National Merit Scholarship.’ I’ll wonder who the kids will be,” she said.
Arms became a counselor at ASMSA in 1999, but it wasn’t the first time she had been on campus. She was a recruiter for Hendrix for 21 years before becoming a counselor at ASMSA. She had been on campus many times to recruit ASMSA students to Hendrix. Arms spoke to the first class of students as juniors and then she began to attend each year’s college fair.
When the previous counselor decided to leave ASMSA, she let Arms know that she would recommend Arms for the job if she applied. Arms didn’t have a degree in counseling and questioned whether that would be a problem.
Arms said she was hired in October 1999 for her ability to get students into college, which would be beneficial for ASMSA’s graduates. She later earned a certification in secondary school counseling from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to go along with her bachelor’s degree in art from Hendrix and master’s degree in higher education administration from Vanderbilt University.
Once Arms was on campus for several years, she saw that many new students needed help to transition once they arrived on campus. She started the Peer Mentor program, using a select group of students to help mentor their classmates in various subject areas. Arms would work through study hours at night four nights a week, overseeing the program in its infancy in the old library.
The original plan was to only offer the program during the first semester, but it became so successful that administrators suggested that the program continue for the whole year.
Arms said it was also important for her to focus on the social skills of students in addition to academics. Whether it was helping them deal with a roommate or classmate or a breakup or even which fork or knife to use in a formal setting, Arms was there to help. Students today may be more tech savvy and be more involved socially online, but they still have the same issues.
“They still miss home, still miss mom and dad and their family. They still have trouble getting along with a roommate. Some have study issues. Some have social issues,” she said.
“That was probably my favorite thing — working with students, getting to know them as a person and watch them grow and develop.”