January 28, 2021

Meet Nicki Spencer, M.H.A., and Rachel Hale, M.A., TRI Community Engagement Program Managers

Nicki SpencerHow long have you worked at UAMS? How long have you been in your current position?

Nicki – UAMS – nine and half years, (current position: six years)



Rachel Hale

Rachel – UAMS – nine and half years, (current position: two and a half years)




What is your favorite part of the job?
Nicki –  With a Masters in Health Care Administration, I worked for nine years at a local non-profit organization before coming to UAMS.  My position on the community engagement team allows me to mix my education with my experience and passion.
Rachel – I love working with the Community Engagement Core – I love my team! Outside of my team, I love the variety of projects we are able to assist/advise including projects on the Northwest Arkansas Campus.  Pre-COVID-19, I really loved all the travel and meeting various community partners across the state.

Are there any challenges?
Nicki – Currently our biggest challenge is COVID-19.  Relationships are at the heart of community engagement and COVID-19 and the need for social distancing presents a challenge.
Rachel – I think the greatest challenge has been transitioning most of our work into the virtual area. Thankfully, we have had a smooth process and maintained fantastic relationships with academic researchers and various community partners. The other challenge would be the short deadlines we sometimes face, but again we have yet to meet a challenge we haven’t been able to solve collectively/creatively.

How does your work interact with other groups on/off campus?
Nicki – There are three parts of our work that must come together for a message to be received within the community – Message, Messenger, and Delivery. Each of these are important to including and informing all participants/investigators involved in research.
Rachel – Our team works with various colleges/departments across many UAMS campuses. This year we are working on implementing a new program where I work closely with the Office of Educational Development and various UAMS faculty to create online modules.

How do you/your group handle problematic issues?

Nicki – Fortunately, our group does not have many problems.  When we do encounter them, we are good about talking them out.  Working out a problem usually involves taking time to cool off/reflect on the situation along with private conversations about what the issue is, what went wrong and how it can be fixed.
Rachel – We are a consensus-based group who aims to ensure everyone’s heard, respected, and validated in their concerns. We tend to be solution-based and are able to overcome most challenges.

Can you describe that more fully?
Rachel – While program planning, there are various opinions regarding content. As a team, we bring everything to the table. Due to our respect for one another, we are able to heed another person’s reasoning and be open to informative criticism/concerns.

How many project/programs do you work on annually?
Rachel – This is a hard question to answer as we offer quite a few services to UAMS researchers and implement capacity building programs for both academic and community partners. Our services range from community review boards, providing assistance with community advisory board development, providing community grant (or mobile app) reviewers, providing various training, development of new partnerships across the state, and the list can go on. Dr. Jessica Snowden recently shared her experience working with our team.  https://tri.uams.edu/community/community-engagement-services/community-review-boards/

Any last thoughts on your work as community engagement program managers?
Nicki – I have the pleasure of working with a really great team that works well together.  That makes logging into work (during COVID-19) much more enjoyable.
Rachel – I feel very fortunate to have found my home at UAMS and with my current team. I look forward to our team meetings, our engaging work, and the new opportunities afforded to us by our incredible supervisor, Dr. Kate Stewart.

Nicki Spencer

How about after hours? What do you do for fun?
In life before COVID, my daughter and I spent large chunks of our time hanging out with family and friends.  We went swimming and to museums, and movies and restaurants. Life now looks like lots of games and LEGOs, and playing dolls. Life now looks like lots of National Geographic and Disney Channel.

What personal skill or hobby don’t most people know about you?
Family and close friends know that I enjoy reading so much that before I became a mom I could (and often did) read a book a day.  Now, I can read a dozen books a day or the same book a dozen times.  They’re just much shorter.

Nicki Spencer with daughter  Nicki Spencer with daughter


Rachel Hale

How about after hours? What do you do for fun?
Typically, I’m either reading, doing some sort of artwork (painting, knitting) and hanging out with my three “fur kids” – Georgie (Shepherd-Corgi mix) and my two cats, Josephine and Tonks. I love redoing rooms and most recently helped my best friend paint three rooms of her new home.

  Rachel Hale with dog Rachel Hale’s knitting example. Multicolored fabric on a white background.








Rachel Hale kayaking with her brother

Rachel Hale posing with two children in costume

I also love spending time with my 15 year old brother and my three godchildren.

What personal skill or hobby don’t most people know about you?
I love organizing and decluttering spaces (either my own or my friends).


Community Engagement Services
Community Programs and Funding