Harding’s finance chief recognized as Arkansas Business Education CFO of the Year

Mel Sansom, vice president of finance and CFO for Harding University, was recognized as the 2018 Arkansas Business Chief Financial Officer of the Year for Education. He was honored at a special luncheon held at Embassy Suites in Little Rock Wednesday, Nov. 7.

The awards are part of an annual event produced by Arkansas Business that honors lifetime achievements and chief financial officers in several categories. Winners are selected by an independent panel of judges.

According to Mitch Bettis, president of Arkansas Business Publishing Group and publisher of Arkansas Business, a chief financial officer is a historian and fortune teller responsible for recording what has happened and for predicting what will happen with a company’s financial performance. “The honorees here represent the perfect combination of intelligence, judgment, loyalty, integrity, high energy, balanced ego and impressive ability to see around corners.”

University President Dr. Bruce McLarty cites similar reasons for nominating Sansom.

“Dr. Sansom has wider-ranging responsibilities at Harding than just about anyone realizes,” said Dr. McLarty. “He oversees our finances, our physical resources department, our relationship with our food services and custodial provider and our human resources department. It is so important to me to have someone in this role whose word and work I can trust completely. I am thankful for Dr. Sansom’s excellent service and for his deep commitment to Harding University.”

Sansom joined the Harding team as CFO in 2002. During his tenure he has made significant improvements in planning construction, communication and funding projects. Over the last four years Sansom’s work has helped decrease University debt by approximately $20 million.

“It is such an honor,” Sansom said. “I am very blessed to be working in higher education and especially at Harding on a beautiful campus with wonderful people all around me and excitement on campus every day. Our finance team at Harding, along with all the other members of our division in finance and operational areas, are a joy to work with and do an amazing job in this very special place. They make it all happen, and I am very grateful.”

Sansom holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Harding and a doctorate in higher education administration from University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Other finalists in that category were Paul Cherry of Central Baptist College in Conway and Don Swanson of Pulaski Academy in Little Rock.

“I am thankful to God who blesses us with all good things, including this special honor and the entire experience,” Sansom said.

Harding’s American Studies Institute honors local veterans at annual breakfast

The Harding University American Studies Institute (ASI) hosted Breakfast with a Veteran Monday, Nov. 12 in the Founders Room of David B. Burks American Heritage Building on Harding’s campus. Veterans and their guests enjoyed a complimentary breakfast and a program paying tribute to individuals who serve or have served honorably in uniform.

“Today, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, we honored local men, women and their families that have served our country,” said Kim Kirkman, executive director of ASI. “It was a privilege to hear some of the stories of their service and to have some of our students serve and sit with them. The message today charged us to keep telling these important stories to our families and next generations so the stories can live on and we can get a glimpse into the sacrifices that were made.”

Sam Jeffrey, director of the criminal justice program at Harding and former special agent in the CIA, delivered a keynote address praising military veterans for their sacrifice and commitment.

“The U.S. military is the greatest in the world, and it has repeatedly been used to bring freedom to oppressed people and to defend liberty,” Jeffrey said to those in attendance. “Antarctica is the only continent in the world that does not have a people that were defended and/or freed by the U.S. military. No other nation can claim such a legacy. That is your legacy.”

The campus organization began hosting the annual breakfast event in 2015 as a way to connect students and local veterans. Attendants enjoy an informal atmosphere sharing in food and conversation with students, members of the community and fellow veterans.

Harding teams up with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield to provide meals for neighbors in need

Harding University teamed up with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and The Pack Shack to pack 254,000 meals in under two hours for the food insecure in White County and surrounding areas. The meal-packing event took place Wednesday, Oct. 24 and involved approximately 600 volunteers including campus organizations and athletic teams.

The event was sponsored by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield who launched a “Fearless Food Fight” campaign earlier this year to mark its 70th anniversary. The company has committed to packing 700,000 meals to fight food insecurity in Arkansas.

“Arkansas Blue Cross will continue to take a multifaceted approach to improving the health of our state,” said Curtis Barnett, Arkansas Blue Cross president and chief executive officer. “Our company already supports and will continue to support programs addressing the social determinants of health. However, we want to make a concerted effort to work with other organizations in the state that are committed to helping people have access to nutritious food. Great work already is being done throughout Arkansas, and we want to continue to do our part in helping to ensure our most vulnerable citizens have access to healthy food.”

Arkansas ranks second in the nation for food insecurity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to a recent report, nearly 20 percent of Arkansans (roughly 1 in 5), do not know from where they will receive their next meal. The state ranks No. 1 nationally for very low food security, with 8.1 percent of Arkansas adults and children experiencing deep hunger. They may cut back or skip meals frequently. Arkansas also ranks No. 5 for senior hunger, with an estimated 240,000 Arkansans age 60 and older struggling with having enough food. Nutrition is one of several social determinants of good health.

“I think this event is a huge answer to prayer,” said senior Lexi Hoagland, student organizer for the event. “God worked in cool ways through Harding to help impact our community. I hope the meals that were made last night can let our neighbors have peace of mind knowing where their next meals will come from. I’m very thankful for The Pack Shack, Arkansas Blue Cross and Harding for letting this event come alive.”

The meals are being distributed to food pantries, churches and nonprofits throughout the area — providing a quarter of a million meals to the local community. According to a news release from Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the meals will go to:

  • Downtown Church of Christ – Searcy

  • New Horizons International – Searcy

  • Lightle Senior Center – Searcy

  • First United Methodist Church – Searcy

  • Crowley Ridge Development Center – Augusta

  • Cabot Church of Christ – Cabot

  • Community Action Program of Central Arkansas – Conway

  • Highway Church of Christ – Judsonia

  • Park Hill Church of Christ – North Little Rock

  • Gardner Memorial United Methodist – North Little Rock

  • Van Buren County Foods-Life – Clinton

  • First Southern Baptist Church – Bryant

  • Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene – Bryant

  • Partners for Progress – Perryville

  • West Point Baptist – West Point

  • Batesville Help & Hope – Batesville

  • Broadmoor Baptist Food Pantry – Brinkley

  • Grace Community Food Pantry – West Helena

  • River Valley Food Bank – Russellville

  • Community Outreach Services – Paris

  • First Christian Church – Ozark

Learn more about the Fearless Food Fight at


About Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Founded in 1948, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is the largest health insurer in Arkansas. Arkansas Blue Cross and its affiliates have more than 2,900 employees.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is comprised of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans that collectively provide healthcare coverage for nearly 106 million members – one in three Americans.

Harding University increases quality measures, takes third in WSJ rankings for student engagement

Harding University posted increases in key education quality measures, continuing multi-year trends of rising student retention, higher ACT and SAT scores, and boasting its highest ever four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates with an overall graduation rate of 67 percent. These positive indicators come during a difficult period for many colleges and universities as college enrollment in the United States has fallen for the past six years.

The University’s total enrollment for 2018 is 5,122, representing a 5 percent decrease in credit hours generated over the previous year. Undergraduate student enrollment is 3,975 and graduate and professional enrollment is 1,147. The number of first-time-in-college freshmen is 856, a decrease of 89 from 2017. Spring 2018 commencement had the second largest number of graduates in school history, after spring 2017 commencement.

“While our total enrollment is lower than last year, our academic performance continues to exceed expectations, and leading indicators are strong,” said Dr. Bruce McLarty, university president. “Harding is responding to the challenging environment by providing new and enhanced degree programs and focusing on student engagement and retention as well as restructuring financial aid and strengthening value to our students.”

On Sept. 5, for the second year in a row, Harding was listed by The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education US College Rankings 2019 as a top school for engagement, ranking third out of all listed schools, nationwide. The rankings recognize colleges with the highest scores for the degree to which students feel they are engaged with their professors, their peers and their education. Harding was ranked eighth in 2017.

Harding’s other notable increases for 2018 include a record high average ACT score among freshmen at 25.3, a 16 percent increase in students with ACT scores of 31 and above, higher diversity retention, and increased overall diversity for the sixth straight year.

“These statistics not only reflect Harding’s academic excellence, they reflect the kind of students who choose Harding for the unique and transformative environment we offer,” McLarty said.

Licensure exam pass rates in its health sciences programs include 100 percent pass rates for multiple years for nursing, family nurse practitioner, physician assistant, physical therapy and speech language pathology.

Harding Music department announces 2018-19 performance series

The Harding University department of music has announced its 2018-19 Arts and Life performance series. The series includes performances by Tom Gallant with the Tesla String Quartet, Russian Renaissance, David Payne, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Rosana Eckert, Janoska Ensemble and Andrew Harnsberger. 

Thomas Gallant, oboe, and the Tesla String Quartet
Thursday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m.

The award-winning Tesla String Quartet will collaborate with Thomas Gallant, one of the world’s finest virtuoso solo and chamber music performers on the oboe. Together they will present an evening of memorable classics.

Russian Renaissance
Sunday, Oct. 7, 3 p.m.

With classic Russian instruments, Russian Renaissance blends traditional folk music with an infusion of modernity. Their program reflects this diversity with its broad range of works by classical composers to jazz favorites.

David Payne, “An Evening with C.S. Lewis”
Tuesday, Nov. 6, 7 p.m.

Back for an unprecedented third year in a row, David Payne will portray C.S. Lewis again as intimate conversation with the late Christian author of “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “Mere Christianity” unfolds on Harding’s stage. 

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
Friday, Feb. 1, 7 p.m.

The Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet is one of the most multifaceted groups in any genre. The group is comprised of four uniquely accomplished musicians bringing a new energy to the concert stage with programs ranging from Bluegrass to Bach.

Rosana Eckert, Valentine’s Day themed benefit dinner
Tuesday, Feb. 12, Dinner at 5 p.m., Concert at 7:30 p.m.

The second annual Arts and Life Valentine’s Dinner in Harding’s Cone Chapel will feature live music, delicious food and a romantic atmosphere. Following the dinner prepared by Harding’s new Executive Chef Anthony Tally, Rosana Eckert will perform an evening of romantic songs with the Harding University Jazz Band. 

Janoska Ensemble
Wednesday, March 27, 8:15 p.m.

The Janoska Ensemble, made up of three Slovakian brothers and their German brother-in-law, seeks to restore the lost art of improvisation to the classics. The group, now based in Vienna, is famous for a hybrid of musical genres. While they may begin a classical piece on their violins, piano and double bass, the music quickly evolves, smoothly crossing over to jazz, Latin and other popular styles in lively musical banter.

Andrew Harnsberger
Friday, April 26, 7 p.m.

Andrew Harnsberger enjoys a versatile career as a performer, composer and educator. He has performed in musical venues across the globe. Enjoy the energizing sounds of one of the percussion world’s great performers in concert with Harding’s Percussion Ensemble.

All performances will be held in the Administration Auditorium except “An Evening with C.S. Lewis,” which will be held in the Benson Auditorium. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Season passes are available for $35. Tickets to attend the Valentine’s dinner will be sold separately. For tickets and more information, visit harding.edu/artsandlife or call 501-279-4343. For other Harding events and free or low-cost services available to the public, visit harding.edu/community.

Harding’s Center for Professional Excellence partners with JCPenney to host “Suit Up” event

On Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018, in partnership with Harding’s Center for Professional Excellence, JCPenney will be closing their doors to the public and opening their doors to the Harding community for the evening.

From 6-9 p.m., Harding students, faculty and staff will be able to “Suit Up” at the local JCPenney location in Searcy with a 40 percent discount on professional clothing, accessories and shoes as well as products from the beauty salon and Sephora counter within the store. In addition, prizes will be awarded throughout the evening, Sephora will be providing mini makeovers, and the salon will offer free consultations and discount coupons for future visits.

Brian Harrington, director of the Center for Professional Excellence (CPE) located within the Paul R. Carter College of Business Administration (COBA), coordinated the event and is excited about the opportunity for students, especially in light of upcoming career fairs, on-campus interviews and networking opportunities as students prepare for a first job.

“For many students Harding is a long way from home, and they cannot run home to get a suit,” Harrington said. “First impressions are extremely important during the interview process, and we want students to be able to present themselves in the best possible way.”

Harding American Studies Institute announces 2018-19 Distinguished Lecture Series speakers

The American Studies Institute has announced the speakers for the 2018-19 Distinguished Lecture Series, which kicks off in September with former Federal Reserve Chief Economist Michael Cox and wraps up in March with Pro Football Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy.

“The mission of the ASI Distinguished Lecture Series is to engage critical issues that embody the spirit of the American Studies Institute, including free enterprise, education, the Harding Read, and the indomitable human spirit,” said Dr. Bruce McLarty, university president. “I think we’ve done that exceptionally well with this year’s lineup, and we couldn’t be prouder to bring these outstanding speakers to Harding.”

Michael Cox, founding director of the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business and former Federal Reserve chief economist, will lead off the series Tuesday, Sept. 25addressing the present and future of the global economy, all based on historical financial data and diligent research.

The second presentation is part of the Harding campus read of “Mere Christianity.” It will be held Monday, Nov. 5 and will feature noted C.S. Lewis scholar Devin Brown and a discussion with Douglas Gresham, stepson of C.S. Lewis who was featured in the C.S. Lewis biographical film “Shadowlands.” Brown, a Lilly Scholar and professor of English at Asbury University, has extensive knowledge and experience with the works of Lewis. In addition to his 40 years of teaching and researching, Brown has published 11 books and more than 50 articles, essays, scripts, poetry and more on the writings of Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Christine Darden, former NASA mathematician featured in the book “Hidden Figures” that was also a movie, will continue the series Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. Darden has been recognized with dozens of awards and honors, including two NASA medals and a Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award. This lecture also serves as our annual ASI Educator Appreciation Night — all educators in attendance will receive special seating and recognition.

The lecture series will conclude Thursday, March 28, 2019, with Tony Dungy, former head coach of the 2007 Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts and current football analyst for NBC Sports. Dungy is a New York Times bestselling author, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and founder of the Dungy Family Foundation.

Admission to ASI lectures is free. All events will be in the Benson Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. and are open to the public. For more information, visit www.harding.edu/asi or call 501-279-4497. For other Harding events and free and low cost services available to the public, visit www.harding.edu/community.

Harding International programs names new director for study abroad program in Latin America

Harding University’s Office of International Programs announced Jeremy Daggett as the new director of the Harding University in Latin America (HULA) international studies program.

Daggett first became involved with the University’s study abroad programs in 2000 when he was 12 years old, and his family led a group of students participating in the Harding University in Florence, Italy (HUF), program.

“That was my first memory with Harding’s International Programs, and I decided then that I would  attend HUF spring of my sophomore year [of college],” Daggett said. “I did indeed return in 2007 and loved the experience to get to do HUF as a student.”

Daggett joined the Harding University staff in 2009 working with both the Honors College and International Programs. He has also served as the field director for Harding in Zambia (HIZ) and faculty for HUF.

“I feel like I really started to get it at HIZ,” Daggett said. “It was an incredible learning experience as I was tasked to help open students’ eyes to new ways of viewing the world, even as I was just experiencing Zambia for the first time myself. It was at that point that I realized that International Programs are a unique ministry experience. With Harding’s study abroad, students get to experience other countries, cultures, histories, and languages as a community. That’s a powerful combination and leads to many questions, growth, and seeing God and the world with new eyes.”

Since 2014, Daggett has been serving as a missionary in Arequipa, Peru, where he ministers to small faith communities and works in health and education development with the Christian Urban Development Association, a nongovernment, nonprofit, faith-based organization working with vulnerable communities in Peru to overcome cycles of poverty.

As director of HULA, Daggett will oversee day-to-day operations of the program based in Viña del Mar, Chile, a seaside resort city located 70 miles northwest of Santiago. He will supervise faculty and students as classes are conducted and they explore the region. His wife, Katie, will work as adjunct faculty for the program.

“I am so excited to live, travel, and learn with future HULA students as together we open our eyes to what God is doing in the world,” Daggett said. “I believe what our world needs, and what Harding students need, is opportunities to see just how much we all have in common, all over the world. I want to play a small part of opening up HULA students’ eyes to what God is doing in the world as they live and travel in South America. And it’s because I believe that, at the end of the day, God is glorified when people from different countries, languages, cultures, and experiences learn from each other, worship together, and practice love of (global) neighbors.”

Daggett received a B.A. in Spanish and missions from Harding and a M.Div. from the Harding School of Theology.

Daggett, Katie and daughter, Adileen, will make the journey to Chile in February to prepare for the spring 2019 semester.

Harding’s study abroad program in Latin America began in 2004. The program includes study of the Spanish language and culture, Latin American history, and several extensive field trips to Santiago, Easter Island (the most remote landmass on earth), Argentina, Torres del Paine, the Atacama Desert region, the Amazon rainforest, Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable lake in the world), the Colca Canyon (one of the deepest canyons in the world), and the ancient Inca civilization of Machu Picchu, Peru.

Harding offers semester-long study abroad programs in Australasia, Latin America, England, Greece, France, Italy and Zambia as well as numerous short-term study abroad opportunities.

For more information about Harding’s international programs, visit www.harding.edu/international or call 501-279-4529.

Harding University’s College of Bible & Ministry to launch online undergraduate degree program

The Harding University College of Bible and Ministry Center for Distance Education will offer an online Bachelor of Arts in Bible and ministry beginning fall 2018.

The program is designed for non-traditional students with some college credit who are adult learners age 24 and older. The degree functions as a two-plus-two program, meaning students may earn the equivalent of two years toward their liberal arts and some elective credits from Harding or another institution, and the remaining credits in Bible may be earned through the College of Bible and Ministry. Students may finish in as little as two years.

“Harding has been teaching online Bible classes since 2005 in an effort to provide expanded learning opportunities to students around the world seeking advanced training in ministry and Bible,” said Dr. Tim Westbrook, associate professor and director of the Center for Distance Education in Bible and Ministry. “Our B.A. in Bible and ministry for adult students as well as our certificate programs offer quality Harding learning experiences in an affordable and accessible format.”

Structured with working professionals in mind, the online format allows for increased flexibility and maximum engagement with faculty and other participants in the online environment. Students can log on to complete coursework when it is most convenient for them. While all courses are interactive engaging learning environments, they are also taught asynchronously — meaning you do not have to be online at the same time as your professor — and may be worked into students’ busy schedules.

“It is our goal to provide training in Bible and ministry to all who wish to enhance their knowledge and skills for serving God and the church,” Westbrook said. “Harding has been educating ministers and missionaries for nearly 100 years. This program represents the evolution of ministry education and our continued commitment to equip individuals to go into all the world.”


To learn more about the programs and services offered by the Center for Distance Education and College of Bible and Ministry, visitwww.harding.edu/cde or call 501-279-5290.

Harding University psychology professor discusses human perception of political figures

On Tuesday, Feb. 2, Dr. Jeremiah Sullins, assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Harding University, spoke on UALR Public Radio, the Arkansas branch of National Public Radio, about research that he and his students are doing on human perception of political figures.

In the interview segment, titled “The Psychology of Voters Deciding Who to Support for President,” Sullins discussed details and findings from his research. Sullins said the idea was developed surrounding the current presidential race.

“When you are talking about a political election, every day that you wait to talk about results, it becomes less relevant, especially in something like this,” Sullins said. “I wanted to get this out to as many people as possible because I feel like it is important information.”

Sullins said that the research explored two specific areas of human perception of political figures: initial judgments based on appearance versus informed judgments based on speech content and linguistic qualities of political candidates’ speeches. Research subjects were shown pictures of current presidential candidates and asked to rate them on presidential qualities, such as trustworthiness and humility.

“Regarding the candidate images, we are finding contradictions between the way voters make judgments about top-tier candidates and lower-tier candidates,” Sullins said. “More specifically, the top-tiered candidates are judged to be more ‘presidential’ than the lower-tired candidates when participants are basing their opinion solely on the image of the candidate. These differences vanish when participants read the speeches, not knowing what speech belongs to whom.”

Sullins said the second part of the research analyzed the linguistic qualities of different candidates, political parties, etc. by looking at aspects of speeches such as the amount of narrative used and sentence complexity.

“We found striking similarities between the speech characteristics of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, we found similar speech patterns between Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders,” Sullins said. “We are still in the process of exploring the linguistic qualities of the lower-tiered candidates and how these might be different from the top-tiered candidates. Furthermore, we are continuing to explore differences between political parties and regional differences.”