Alumni Spotlight: Christa Neal

November 9, 2023

By Emma Donley, Staff Writer

November 9, 2023

Ouachita is always excited to invite alumni back to its campus to join the faculty and staff in making our school a great place to call home. Ouachita invited Christ Neal ‘08 to be the Title IX Coordinator for Ouachita. She oversees all of Ouachita’s Title IX complaints and informs faculty, staff and students about Title IX policies at Ouachita. She also advises the community and family services major under the Pruet School of Christian Studies, a major for students wanting to go into human services. 

Neal visited Ouachita for the first time with a friend when she first fell in love with Ouachita. She grew up in Greenwood, Arkansas, where she lived until she moved to Arkadelphia as a Freshman at Ouachita. She was a member of the Women of EEE social club and a “big sister” with Campus Ministries. 

“Ouachita really is home for me,” said Neal, “I met my friends here. I met my husband here. I was hesitant to come back to Ouachita after grad school, but I feel like this is exactly where the Lord has called my family.”

After graduation, Neal attended John Brown University to obtain her master’s in community counseling and marriage and family therapy. She participated in three semesters of a clinical internship in northwest Arkansas, which were extremely formative in what she is doing today. 

“It stirred the trajectory of the work that I did after that,” Neal said.

A noticeable need in Arkadelphia opened her eyes to her calling and the difference that she would be able to make with her prior experience and education.

“I spent some time doing school therapy right after grad school,” Neal said. “I really saw the need for trauma-enforced counseling. I saw a lot of kids that had experienced abuse and picked up that the systems were not able to provide the best response or support for those kids or families.”

It was this realization that opened doors in her heart when she was approached to be the founding director of the Percy and Donna Malone Child Safety Center. 

“There was a board that was formed here to try to establish a children’s advocacy center here in town,” Neal recalled. “I was hired as the founding director of the center. I had to quickly learn how to start a nonprofit.”

The work was taxing but rewarding. 

“I look back to see that I was super young and maybe young enough to be naive enough to actually try it,” Neal noted. “I like to joke that the person who had the experience that was maybe needed to be the founding director might have needed to be paid more than I was.”

With Neal’s drive and fulfillment of a vision, the Percy and Donna Malone Child Safety Center was founded in 2009 and began seeing children right away.

“I knew there was a need, but I had no idea the extent,” Neal said. “I was blown away with the response from the area. I truly believe that is why God brought us back to the area.”

At the time Neal was hired, the center was just in its beginning stages. There was not a building to house the center; there were no policies or procedures in place and most importantly; there were no other staff members. Neal truly raised the center from the ground up. She worked as the director for about 9 years, and she still works there as a trauma therapist, specializing in several evidence-based models including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT), Parent-Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. 

After her service to the Child Safety Center, Neal returned to her alma mater, Ouachita, to fill the role that she is in now. Neal graduated from Ouachita in 2008 with a degree in psychology and a minor in chemistry. At the time, there was not a major that fit well for a person wanting to go into clinical psychology. So, years down the line, she advises one that does.

“That’s why I’m passionate about what I’m doing now,” said Neal, “I think this program does a great job equipping students on both sides of the coin, the clinical side and the research aspect.”

Neal is making an incredible difference in the lives of so many. By helping students who are going into fields of human service, not only is Neal touching the lives of her students and the children she still works with directly, but she is also impacting the lives of the thousands who will benefit from the work of those she is equipping.

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