Mary Alice Serafini and Pork Chop
Join members of the Division of Student Affairs in celebrating the retirement of Mary Alice Serafini, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Executive Director of the Pat Walker Health Center.
The walk-in event will take place from 3:30-5 p.m., Wednesday, March 30, at Unity House, 1002 W. Maple St. Please RSVP by March 27 here.
Serafini started at the U of A in 1991 as Deputy Director of Administration for the U of A Health Center. She has been at the University of Alberta through four Chancellors, several acting chancellors, as well as a few vice-chancellors and a vice-rector for student affairs. What has been consistent in Serafini’s career at U of A is her commitment to the student experience, doing what she can to help students succeed and not just seeing the big picture of health. and student welfare, but working hard to make it happen.
“Mary Alice is the consummate advocate for everyone in the University of Arkansas community,” said Melissa Harwood-Rom, acting vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students. “However, she reserves her highest level of energy for the students. She has always been the voice in the room asking ‘How will our decision here today affect the students?’
“She has been recognized for her support and advocacy of international students and scholars, and she has been steadfast in her leadership of diversity and inclusion programs,” Harwood-Rom said. “Many will associate Mary Alice with the two essential building projects that are the Pat Walker Health Centre. I will always think of her heart which is bigger than the football stadium.”
When Serafini started in 1991, the health center was in a small building just north of Maple on Razorback Road. This space has been expanded and renovated and now houses the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing. The current health center is in an incredible space on Garland and Maple and is now known as Pat Walker Health Center.
“We’ve been so far ahead since I started in 1991. I love change, and we’ve pursued it through vision, partnerships, and professional development. I truly believe in the holistic model of medical care, health care mental health and well-being, all related to education,” Serafini said. “Watching and realizing that students are gaining skills in holistic health as well as caring is very encouraging. Being part of the educational process and working with professionals from Pat Walker Health Center, student affairs and the campus as a whole is energizing. .”
The health center was established in 1875 by members of the Fayetteville community to isolate communicable diseases. As communicable disease control became more secure, the health center expanded from medical care to also include mental health care and wellness and health promotion. The Pat Walker Health Center opened in 2004 and it was already known that future expansion would be needed. On May 4, 2018, the PWHC celebrated the opening of this new, state-of-the-art 20,000 square foot addition.
“Mary Alice has been a constant champion of mental health services and resources on our campus. Under her leadership, the Counseling Center has grown significantly, not only in the number of counselors, but also in creating a beautiful and welcoming to our work at the Pat Walker Health Center,” said Josette Cline, Director of Counseling and Psychology Services at Pat Walker.
There really isn’t enough space to write about all of Serafini’s contributions to the U of A, the student experience, and the student affairs profession. She has touched the lives of so many over the years.
“Mary Alice leaves a truly unparalleled legacy at PWHC. Her entire career has been in service to others and she is hands down the most compassionate leader I have ever worked with,” said AJ Olsen, Director of Medical Services at PWHC. “Countless people have received exactly what Mary Alice is striving for: a service to care for and improve themselves. Services can be medical care, counseling assistance, wellness coaching, abuse assistance (sexual, substance, physical) or education. She will be greatly missed. yet never far considering the footprints she leaves as a guide to which others aspire.”
James Stewart was a student at the University of Alberta and a graduate assistant at the health center from 2005 to 2007. “Mary Alice is to date one of the most influential supervisors for whom and with whom I have had the pleasure to work in. She served as a role model by being the pinnacle of integrity, honesty and ethics,” said Stewart, who is now chair of the academic department. Continuity and Commitment for the Veterans Affairs Office at DePaul University. “She also showed me how to be a professional in this field while including her activism, sense of humor and full autonomy in her work.”
Katie Austin was a graduate assistant under Serafini’s supervision from 2008 to 2010. “It was such an impactful experience for me. Even as Associate Vice-Chancellor, Mary Alice took the time to guide me, to ask me what I was hoping to get out of my time at the U of A and really make sure I got really hands-on experiences in my role as AG,” said Austin, who is now director of housing and residence life at Wichita State University.” She let me attend a wide variety of important meetings and events — anything I expressed interest in or thought I could learn from. Mary Alice has always been student-focused, goal-oriented, and passionate about uplifting others. I wish she is the best in retirement and I know she left a lasting impact on the University of Arkansas. The institution is better thanks to her!”
In addition to the PWHC, the University Career Development Center was also part of Serafini’s portfolio of responsibility during his time at the university.
“Mary Alice Serafini was an incredible supervisor and mentor when I was Assistant Vice Chancellor of the University Career Development Center. Under her leadership of the University Career Center and the Pat Walker Health Center, the quality and number of services provided to students and to the number of employees has increased dramatically,” said Angela Williams, Assistant Professor of Education and former Assistant Vice Chancellor of the Career Development Center. “These services have been and remain critical to the success of our students. She has an unwavering commitment to putting the needs of U of A students first. She is one of the kindest people and a lovely person. I have always been amazed by the respect, empathy, vision, mentorship and inspiration she has given me and others.”
Mary Alice graduated from the University of Besançon in 1968, her bachelor’s degree in modern languages from Knox College in 1969, and her master’s degree in multicultural education from California State University in 1978. She spent many years as a volunteer and Peace Corps teacher in Sierra Leone and Niger. She was heavily involved with NASPA, the student affairs trade association, and helped inspire undergraduates to consider student affairs as a viable career path through the NUFP mentorship program. She’s always been one to see the bigger picture.
“When I think of Mary Alice, I think of her lifelong goal of service, beginning in the Peace Corps and creating the legacy that is Pat Walker Health Center,” said Huda Sharaf, physician. – head of the center. “She has lived her life and career trying to provide needed services to communities, especially advocating for underserved groups.”
“The University of Arkansas is not an island,” Serafini said. “We are part of a larger community, our city, our state, our nation, our world. Together, we can build an inclusive world that respects each individual in their own way.”
“Mary Alice has been a beacon on the University of Alberta campus for the past 30 years,” said Acting Chancellor Charles Robinson. “We have benefited so much from her leadership, her kindness and her constant concern for others, and for my part, I will miss her brilliant presence on campus. However, something tells me that she is not nearly finished to make a difference in our community.”
Serafini has never been one to sit idle and she has no intention of sitting still during her retirement.
“The future will finally include being able to spend time with my family and friends all over the United States. In Fayetteville, I will continue my interest in public policy and my efforts to ensure access to vote in all elections. I plan to discover new ways to volunteer and still be part of a thriving community,” Serafini said of her retirement. “My garden also needs a lot of attention.”
Student Affairs invites you to the drop-in event celebrating Serafini, which will be held from 3:30-5 p.m., Wednesday, March 30, at Unity House, 1002 W. Maple St. Remarks will be delivered at approximately 4 p.m. Please RSVP by March 27.