Residence: Fort Smith
Education: B.S., agricultural business; M.S., agricultural business, University of Arkansas; Ph.D., agricultural business, Purdue University
Professional background: Settlage leads academic operations for various business and industry programs. She also is responsible for supporting the operations of the Center for Economic Development, which supports business owners in the Fort Smith metro, and the Western Arkansas Technical Center, which serves high school students in concurrent classes across the state. Settlage is a Girl Scouts Diamonds of Arkansas board member, past president of the Downtown Fort Smith Rotary Club and has authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles.
What was your dream job as a kid and why? I wanted to be an educator, though at that age, I did not appreciate the possibility of teaching at the college level or the opportunity to serve in education administration. I simply loved learning and school.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry? Be ready to accept new challenges when those opportunities present themselves. A trusted mentor once told me that when a door opens, you must choose to walk through it or risk the same door not opening again. When I reflect on my career in higher education, each growth point corresponds to some change in responsibility or additional assignment that I agreed to. My experience is that initiative and hard work result in transformative change.
What’s the next big personal or career challenge you plan to take on? I am chairing the 2022 annual conference for the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering (ATMAE), which will be held in Louisville, Ky. This role requires coordination with several individuals and institutions around the globe. The goal of our planning committee is to produce an exceptional conference but also to provide next year’s conference planning group with a detailed operation plan that can be easily executed.
What is a leader’s best asset? Honesty. You cannot build trust or make courageous decisions without it. It is also critical in establishing accountability for actions and results. A good leader must be honest when assessing individual performance, when measuring progress toward team goals, and when coaching colleagues.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life? A great mentor is someone who allows you to work through elements of a decision or situation that you may not see initially. The mentor does not offer opinion on the direction you should take. I am thankful to have established several such relationships. Conversations with these individuals help me to maintain perspective and reflect on progress in reaching my professional and personal goals very early in my career. Having been mentored by some exceptional individuals, it is now my responsibility to be available as a mentor. I have several such mentee relationships, which is a joy.
Why do you think companies would benefit from having more women at the top? In general, women tend to be more detail-oriented and empathetic. An appreciation for details can be helpful when managing budgets. Empathy is needed in our society whereby the pandemic has shifted work-life preferences.
What’s unique about your company’s culture? UAFS is a special place to work because our entire team — from faculty to staff to leadership — is focused on student success. We want our students to not only graduate with a credential but to graduate as career-ready professionals. This requires that we maintain close relationships with the Fort Smith community to ensure that we are offering relevant programs that promote economic development in the region.
What is something distinctive that people would be surprised to know about you? My background is in agriculture. My bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. are in agricultural economics. In my youth, I showed beef cattle in the county fair and judged dairy through 4-H at the national level. In college, I interned with Arkansas Agricultural Statistics and worked as a program assistant for our local Cooperative Extension Service.
Favorite Fort Smith-area restaurant? Rolando’s.
Most recent book you’ve read? “Every Family’s Business: 12 Common Sense Questions to Protect Your Wealth” by Tom Deans.
If you have a bucket list, what are the top three things on it? I love to travel, so these will all connect to that theme. First, I would love to tour Alaska with my family. Second, I have yet to travel overseas, so I need to do that. Third, I want to tour the Canadian national parks.
You stay busy professionally. How do you take care of yourself and maintain good mental health? Prioritizing daily and making time for my family, especially during time off. It helps to choose vacation spots where wireless service is limited!