New director appointed for Upward Bound

March 21, 2018

Harding University Center for Student Success appointed Stephanie O’Brian as director of Upward Bound, effective immediately, following the retirement of Katrina Smeltzer. O’Brian previously served as director for academic resources.

Upward Bound is a federally funded program that assists underrepresented high school students by helping to prepare them for college, specifically working with eligible students, school officials, family members in White and Woodruff counties.

“I am sincerely excited about this new opportunity,” O’Brian said. “I worked for Upward Bound immediately after completing my undergraduate work in 2010 and taught three of its summer academy courses. I fell in love with the program so much that I decided to forego my plans, and I stuck around and worked in the Upward Bound office during the year and helped to tutor and mentor the kids. Throughout graduate school, I continued to tutor students in the summers. I have always believed in Upward Bound’s mission — it is all about educating, empowering and encouraging the students to reach their true potential.”

Because of her past involvement with the program, with tutoring and supplemental instruction in the Center for Student Success, and with the First Year Experience program, O’Brian had the necessary experience with students who were transitioning from high school to college.

“Stephanie brings a great deal of passion for helping underserved students be successful, and she has a familiarity with the Harding community and, because she has lived in the Searcy community now for several years, is familiar with the area,” said Dr. Kevin Kehl, dean for student success. “She is a good fit for the institution, program and students.”

O’Brian describes the appointment as surreal but in many ways like home.

“I am very much looking forward to getting to know my new students and not just helping them academically thrive but also really looking at the holistic picture and helping to empower and equip them to lead beautiful lives,” O’Brian said. “I know it will be a challenge, but it is one I am excited about!”

For more information about the Upward Bound Program and other academic support services, visit, or call 501-279-4170.

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Categories: Academics, Faculty & Staff, and University.