Atkins Transitions to President of CRLA’s Heartland Chapter


WyKeshia Atkins, director of learning assistance programs with Southeast Missouri State University’s Academic Support Centers, began her duties as president of the Heartland Chapter of the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) in April 2021.

Atkins will serve as president for one year. She was named president-elect in May of 2019, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Atkins agreed to extend her position.

“The chapter was unable to host a conference and elect a new president-elect, and I volunteered to extend my position without hesitation,” she said. “I’m dedicated to this organization and my decisions resulted in other officers following my lead.”

CRLA (formerly WCRLA) is a group of student-oriented professionals active in the fields of reading, learning assistance, developmental education, tutoring and mentoring at the college and adult levels. CRLA’s most vital function and overall purpose is to provide a forum for the interchange of ideas, methods and information to improve student learning and to facilitate the professional growth of its members. The Heartland Chapter includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

“As president, one of my main objectives is to strengthen the relationships of higher education professionals within the five-state region,” Atkins said. “One of the benefits of conducting business virtually is the widespread impact. I plan to offer more networking and professional development opportunities, not only for faculty and staff but for students in peer-assistance positions. I believe that the emphasis is placed on providing opportunities and support for those who coordinate and direct programs. We need to consider the students as well.”

In her role as president, Atkins is responsible for chairing the Heartland CRLA Board of Directors meetings and all general membership meetings; appointing the membership coordinator, historian and webmaster; serving as a liaison between CRLA and the Chapter; representing the Chapter at CRLA conferences and leadership retreats; mentoring the president-elect; and maintaining all records to conduct the business of the Chapter.

Being president is also an opportunity to connect with other organizations and universities, she said.

“I wish to partner with organizations like ours in the area,” said Atkins, who is also serving as the marketing and communications officer for the Missouri Affiliate of the National College Learning Center Association (NCLCA). “There are various opportunities to collaborate with this organization. This will allow us to have a greater impact and share resources which will, in turn, strengthen support of faculty, staff and students state-wide.”

Not only does Atkins plan to support institutions in the five states served by Heartland CRLA, she will continue to improve services offered to Southeast students.

“The pandemic has resulted in a need to pivot. Institutions are modifying their services and providing resources in new and innovative ways” Atkins said. “In addition, administrators are reflecting on services to determine if they are accessible and equitable. In this role, I will gain a better understanding of best practices within learning centers across a five-state region. I will be able to share these practices with student-facing offices on Southeast’s campus while incorporating the practices within Learning Assistance Programs. This will improve the quality of services available to Southeast students and assist in attainment of our retention and graduation goals”.