Ross Owyoung, a 2018 graduate of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, was recently announced as Director of UA Little Rock Downtown, an extension of the UA Little Rock campus in the heart of the River Market.
“That encompasses a lot of different things,” Owyoung said of his role as director. “It’s building the foundation of this place, really getting the programming started, and determining what it’s going to be and how it’s going to run and operate.”
Owyoung sees the new facility as a multi-use space that will serve a variety of purposes for the university, including raising university visibility and awareness while assisting in student recruitment and alumni engagement.
Much attention has been given to the facility’s reflection room, which houses artist Joe Jones’ “The Struggle in the South,” a 1935 mural depicting the lives of southern sharecroppers. The Clinton School of Public Service will partner with UA Little Rock on a public program to discuss the mural on Wednesday, January 16. But the downtown space includes other benefits to draw public interest, including a faculty lecture series, community classes, seminars, and workshops.
“Growing up in Arkansas, I would come on field trips to downtown Little Rock,” Owyoung said. “I think being in this space and being in this part of the city, it does connect people to the university. It will be a front door to the campus.”
Raised in McGehee, Ark., Owyoung earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where he served on the student alumni board. He applied to the Clinton School after learning about the school’s Master of Public Service degree from a fraternity brother who enrolled a year before Owyoung.
“I always knew of the Clinton School even though I didn’t know exactly what they were doing,” Owyoung said. “But I was raised to always be a servant and lend a helping hand when someone has a need.”
Owyoung entered the Clinton School with volunteer experience at the Boys and Girls Club and the Department of Human Services. While in school at UAF, he said he can remember being called home by his father, Jeff, the mayor of McGehee, when the town experienced flooding in March 2016.
“My dad called my brothers and I to come down, to get with the city workers and start loading sand bags,” he said. “And that was normal. We were just taught to help however we can.”
How did you get connected with UA Little Rock?
It started with the Clinton School. I wanted to stay in Little Rock when I graduated. I was on a student alumni board at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. I ran into Ryan Miller, who was involved with the Alumni Association in Fayetteville and is now the Alumni Association Director at UA Little Rock, around the time I was graduating. He suggested I apply for an opening at UA Little Rock. A big part of it was having worked with a previous alumni association and wanting to return to that environment.
What made you apply to the Clinton School?
This is going to sound cheesy, but growing up, my parents really did raise me to be a servant, to always give back and volunteer. Community service was always a huge aspect of my life.
I was really involved in EAST Lab and Beta Club in high school. EAST was founded here in Little Rock and is a service learning class using technology and what other resources you have in your community. Basically, we were doing mini Clinton School projects from 7th grade all the way up to 12th grade. For one project, I worked with a nursing home, setting up younger, elementary school kids to play Wii with nursing home patients. That’s the type of stuff we would do.
I got to college and did the same thing. I was really involved on campus and I volunteered at a homeless shelter there. Service was just my whole life.
What were some of your standout experiences at the Clinton School?
There were several good ones. I’d say my main one was Practicum. I worked with the Jericho Way Day Resource Center. My team and I conducted a gap analysis of the homeless services in central Arkansas.
We did a behavior and health service analysis of the behavior and health services offered to the homeless population in central Arkansas. I got to interview homeless service providers and homeless people who use these services. Conducting those interviews and hearing the wide range of stories from homeless individuals was eye-opening. I learned a lot about the homeless population and homelessness in general. It gave me a different perspective.