Rogers State University alumna Andrea Hunt (’02) was a first-generation college student when she came to the hill. She was determined to receive a good education, but she needed a small campus with faculty who could support her big dreams and ambitions.
Hunt was part of RSU’s inaugural bachelor’s degree graduating class in 2002. Along with sixteen of her fellow classmates, they became an integral part of RSU’s history. A native of Coffeyville, Kansas, Hunt graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social and behavioral sciences.
“Being a part of the first graduating class meant that we were a part of building something special. My story is like the story of so many people in the region that have found opportunities at RSU that have changed the entire trajectory of our lives,” Hunt said.
It was important to Hunt to do meaningful work, to make a difference and support others. RSU’s student-led programs allowed her to serve, mentor and advocate for others, all of which became an essential part of her future.
“I have been doing work in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion for my entire career. My interest in this area really started while I was a student at RSU. We took part in service learning and internships, and through these experiences I was able to learn more about supporting others and ways to create sustainable change,” Hunt said.
Professor Dr. Frank Elwell knew that Hunt would have a successful future ahead of her.
“I have been a college professor for some 40 years, with hundreds of students. I rank Andrea Warren Hunt among the top 1 percent, and perhaps even the very best,” Elwell said. “She is knowledgeable, has a great work ethic, boundless enthusiasm for people and social causes, and one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Andrea was an outstanding student; she has become an active scholar, an advocate for those in need, and a fine human being. I am so proud to know her.”
After graduating from RSU, Hunt attended the University of South Alabama and earned a master’s degree in sociology and a Ph.D. in sociology from North Carolina State University.
Hunt is currently employed at the University of North Alabama. She is an associate professor of sociology and is the founding director of the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion. She was recently named as the special assistant to the vice president for diversity, equality and inclusion.
UNA’s center aims to advance the common good and to support education, research, community, and advocacy by working with diverse groups on campus, in the community, and across the state and region.
As an educator, she nurtures and fosters an inclusive environment so that her students feel valued and known. Her class’s respectful dialogue and personal growth model a lifetime of learning and a commitment to kindness, empathy and consideration.
“I am passionate about service and wanted to create that same sense of belonging for students at UNA that I felt when I stepped foot onto the RSU campus,” Hunt said.
Hunt is giving back to RSU through a yearly scholarship for a student enrolled in the department of psychology and sociology.
“It is so meaningful to help a student who is in the same program that I graduate from. I know how special RSU is and how hard students work today to pursue their education. I am grateful to be a part of someone else’s educational journey,” Hunt said.
Hunt was recently awarded the George Merida Huckaba Endowed Professorship for 2020-2021 to support two research projects – one focused on preparing students for careers in human and social services and the other examines the experiences of first-generation graduates after they transition out of college. She is currently pursuing a degree in counseling to better serve her students and community.
“Andrea is making a difference,” Steve Valencia, vice president for development, said. “By staying involved and investing in her alma mater, she is demonstrating her lifelong commitment to education. Andrea is wonderful example of service to our institution by helping a student earn a college degree each year.”
Hunt encourages students to get involved on campus, support programs and missions and be an active participant in making the world a better place for all.
“There are so many amazing people in this world who are making a difference in their communities. It is important that we learn from others who are doing this work and find ways to support and collaborate in those efforts. There are a lot of ways that students can use their voices today, and I encourage them to use their platform to create change,” Hunt said.