Students in Need Have Someone to Turn To; UK Hires 1st Basic Needs Coordinator

photo of Arion Jett-Seals, the new basic needs coordinator at UK
Arion Jett-Seals is UK's first basic needs coordinator. Pete Comparoni | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 16, 2020) The University of Kentucky is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the ways it puts its students first.

At the forefront of this effort is Arion Jett-Seals, who has been hired to serve as the university’s first basic needs coordinator.

With more than 10 years of experience working in the field of human services, Jett-Seals will ensure all students have access to resources that can provide them with basic necessities for well-being on campus, including housing and food security.

“This position speaks to UK’s commitment to strengthening the student experience and assisting in the delivery and expansion of basic student needs,” Jett-Seals said.

Jett-Seals reports to the Dean of Students Office, a division of Student and Academic Life. She brings her own personal experience to the table, allowing her to connect with students on a deeper level.

“When I was in college, I experienced struggles with basic needs, and during that time it was simply accepted as ‘college life,’ but it shouldn’t be that way,” Jett-Seals said.

After battling a diagnosis for an eye condition, Jett-Seals felt defeated and unsure about continuing her education. However, with determination and grit, she pressed on.

“Had there been a basic needs program available to help me navigate campus and community resources, connect me to the Disability Resource Center, the counseling center and other applicable options for support, I believe my last semesters would not have been as stressful and overwhelming,” she said.

Jett-Seals earned her bachelor’s in social work from UK and a master’s in social work from the University of Louisville. Prior to her new role, she served as a Family Resource Center coordinator for Fayette County Public Schools.

With her valuable leadership, the future for UK students is bright.

“When many students show up on campus, they show up with struggles and difficult life circumstances that are not always conducive to their determination for success,” she said. “I believe we should meet those students where they are, provide wraparound services that encourage success and an opportunity to obtain a degree and career that will hopefully allow those students to not have to experience food, housing and financial insecurities as a working adult.”

“Arion is an asset to the UK community, and her work reflects our commitment to putting students at the center of everything we do,” said Kirsten Turner, associate provost for academic and student affairs.

“I’m excited to see the university take another step toward enhancing student well-being on our campus," said Andrew Smith, assistant provost for student well-being. "I know, with her leadership, Arion will bring new insight and perspective to the student experience.”

For students wanting to find more information on basic needs, click here to visit the basic needs website.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.