5 Minutes with a Northwest Arkansas Mom: Elizabeth McKinley

Elizabeth McKinley loves pickle ball, her family and spending time in nature. Find out more about this vivacious mama here:

Kids’ names and ages:

Dillon (20), Aidan (18), Tucker (16), and Grace (11)

Where do you live, and what brought you to NWA?

I’ve lived in NWA and the River Valley for the past 17 years. I moved to Arkansas from Upstate New York to start my career in college athletics, but then met my husband and transitioned to the academic side of higher education.

Tell us about your role at the University of Arkansas:

I am currently the Director of Academic Advising and Student Initiatives for the College of Education and Health Professions. We get to work with and provide academic support for our future teachers, nurses, physical therapists, speech pathologists, and counselors, every day. We work with these students from the first day they step on campus at New Student Orientation until they walk across the stage at graduation. We have 18 people in our office who are dedicated and focused on student academics, retention, and student support, as they meet degree requirements and transition into the “helping and caring professions.”

What would your “perfect NWA day” look like?

A perfect day in NWA would look like waking up and getting outside, either on the bike trail or the pickle ball court. That’s a new activity we play at Sbanatto Park in Tontitown.

There are so many parks and trails around NWA that make it easy to have a variety of outdoor activities to choose from. We would probably stop by our local pizza place, Guido’s, for dinner and end with some cards around the table or enjoying the night around the fire pit.

What did you want to “be” when you grew up?

I grew up in a teacher family, where my grandmother, mom, dad, sister, and aunt were all in elementary or secondary education. So, I always thought I would be a teacher. Life has a funny way of working out. While I didn’t end up in a k-12 classroom, I did find my place in higher education. 

Name 3 things you have with you at all times:

My keys, phone, and wallet. In my wallet I keep a prayer card my dad gave me when I was expecting. It says, “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom his love commits me here; Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen”

What’s one of your guilty pleasures?

Reading one of Danielle Steel’s romance novels while on vacation. 

Pet peeves?

When people don’t choose to use utensils to eat their food.

What’s a piece of advice about parenting that you loved so much you passed it along to others:

Everyone will give advice freely, but you and your spouse are the ones raising your children, so whatever you decide, be on the same page as them and do what works best for your family. 

What was the worst piece of advice?

Don’t hold the baby while they sleep, you will spoil them. Hold the baby all you want – they will not stay that small very long!

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

So many good memories, but most revolve around family time at the lake. The most memorable is when our neighbor, Don, would hang the flat, wooden swing from the tree. Once that was put up, it was the “sign” that summer had started.

Who do you most admire?

My grandmother, Edith Caroscio, would be who I admire the most. She was one special lady. Her parents came over from Italy with three of her siblings, but she was born in the U.S. She married my grandfather who was a WWII veteran and served on the police force.

Growing up we would always go to Grandma’s for Sunday dinner, she would cook a full course meal and always had a pasta dish for my sister and I, in case we didn’t want to eat the main dish or pork or chicken. She had the gift of hospitality and always had a way of making you feel most special. She was such a giver and her faith was unwavering. She was the strongest and kindest person I have ever met. 

 What are some of your favorite family traditions?

Family Fridays. We keep Friday night as a time for our family. This usually involves take out from Guido’s and homemade popcorn while watching a movie upstairs in the bonus room on the 100 inch screen. (One day it will be a real theater room, but you know … kids.) 🙂

Another favorite is hiding the pickle ornament in the Christmas tree for the kids to find. Something I’ve learned is that most of the memories and traditions happen in our home around the dinner table. Making that special meal for holidays or birthdays is what we all remember.

One word to sum me up: Vivacious