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.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.