New faculty mentor to move into Lyon’s Spragins House

Lyon’s Spragins House will have a new faculty mentor this fall, and she comes ready to bring a unique perspective.

As a first generation college student from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Cassia Oliveira understands the struggles of college life.

“I grew up with not a lot of financial means” she said. “Living abroad, I learned so much to be independent and to be strong because it was either that or go home… I understand the struggle though, because no matter where you come from, those struggles are similar.”

Man and woman holding hands of a small child standing on a green lawn in front of a brick house.

Spragins House is located in the center of Lyon’s campus, and the faculty mentor living there aims to engage members of the Lyon community through programming. Specifically, the mentor focuses on four learning outcomes: effective communication, community building, diversity, and retention.

As faculty mentor, Oliveira wants to use her experience to help students transition to college life.

“Students come to college with various levels of preparedness,” she said. “It will be my job to help students feel integrated and supported from the beginning.”  

She will also rely on her experiences to see students’ perspectives.

“We have to really try to see what’s beyond the facade because we don’t understand the struggle sometimes. There are a lot of things going on within a person’s life that if we knew, we would have more appreciation and respect for them, so I always try to keep that in mind to not be judgmental but really try to see how I can help them.”

However, Oliveira did not immediately apply for the position, not until she received some encouragement from one of her students.

“He pretty much bossed me around and told me I had to do it,” she laughed. “It was really him that changed my mind because instead of thinking about why I shouldn’t do it, I started thinking why I would be good at it.”

Her hesitation was because as faculty mentor, she and her family would leave their house in Batesville and move into Spragins House to live on campus for four years.

“When you think about it, you give up some of your privacy, but you are gaining other things— the contact with the students [and] the community,” she said.

Oliveira already has several ideas for programming during her family’s next four years in Spragins House, including graduate school talks, talks sponsored by the career center, and depression and suicide prevention. She wants activities “where students can feel safe and welcome.”

“I also want to have minority groups [and] international groups,” she said. “I don’t think you can fit everybody in a year, but I plan on being organized and just throughout my time that I reach out to everybody.”

Along with programming, Oliveira also wants students to take advantage of Lyon’s liberal arts education.

“I really hope I can help students understand that, especially at Lyon, it’s not about the destination but it’s really the journey that’s going to change you,” she said. “The liberal arts are an important component of changing your life, how having this broad education is going to help you not only just be a better thinker, but also a better person.”

Most importantly, Oliveira wants to help students help others.

“When you help others succeed, you’re actually helping yourself,” she said.

Oliveira, her husband Dr. Ehsan Shakiba, their son Darius, and their three cats will move into Spragins House this summer.

Lyon College confers 127 degrees to class of 2019

Lyon College conferred 127 degrees to the 2019 graduating class on Saturday, May 11, in its 147th commencement ceremony.

Keynote speaker Dr. Thomas A. Furness, III, professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, shared on his experiences as a virtual reality pioneer and military scientist. He originally wanted to be an astronaut, but his life went in another direction that he says unfolded in ways even more favorable than he imagined.

“I pray that your journey into the heavens as you blast off will be thrilling, full of wonder and memories and that you have some good favors in your life that help you go in other directions you may think that will be better than the ones you necessarily planned on,” Furness said.

“Think about what lies ahead,” he said. “Yes, you’ll be leaving here, but you really never will leave here because you’ll be accumulating more and more of these memories as far as you go.”

Additional speakers included Taylor Donnerson, student government association president and Samantha Sharp, senior class president.

Perry Wilson, chairman of the Lyon College Board of Trustees, announced Dr. Wesley Beal, associate professor of English, as the recipient of the Lamar Williamson Prize for Faculty Excellence. The Board of Trustees established the Williamson Prize in 1979 in memory of Lamar Williamson. A memorial fund established by the late J. Gaston Williamson supports the silver cup and stipend awarded to the Williamson Prize recipient.

Dr. David Hutchison, vice president of advancement, also welcomed the graduates into the alumni community.

“We have made an investment in you to go and make a difference in the world, and I challenge you to stay invested in this place,” he said.

Big Coca-Cola mural equals big opportunities for Lyon students

Lyon College art students have been busy the past few weeks repainting the historic Coca-Cola mural in downtown Batesville. Painting on approximately a 30-by-90 foot canvas brings big opportunities for the students, including Coca-Cola paying them for their work.

“Having this on your resume [that you’re] working for Coca-Cola is kind of huge,” said senior art student Kacy Perkins. “Because of the mural class we’ve had, I’ve gotten other [projects].”

A large mural of a Coca Cola advertisement covers the side of a brick building.

Perkins said she has been asked to work in costuming with San Francisco Ballet when she returns home after graduation. She isn’t the only one enjoying the fruits of her labor.

Senior art student Mckinley Streett will move to Florence, Italy, after graduation to attend the Studio Arts College International. Streett said her favorite part of repainting the historic mural is the “unique opportunity” to paint an advertisement and to be paid by Coca-Cola.

“I’m not afraid of a 30-by-90 foot canvas anymore,” Streett said. “I probably would not have been able to have this opportunity without Lyon.”

Lyon’s Associate Professor of Art Dustyn Bork taught a murals class last semester which resulted in Lyon art students working on other murals in the Batesville community.

Senior art student and Batesville native, Morgun Henson, said the community’s response to repainting the mural has been overwhelmingly positive, and she is happy to see murals in Batesville “blooming.”

“Art is becoming a growing, important part of our town, which is really awesome, especially as a Batesville native because I love Batesville, and I love art, so it’s great to see those two combined,” Henson said.

Henson is taking a directed study with Bork, focusing on mural painting. She recently completed a mural at White River Medical Center, and she has started another mural downtown.

To repaint the large-scale mural, Bork and his students have been using a lift to scale the building, donated by MCS Construction, and they are using paint donated from Home Depot and Behr.

The opportunity to repaint the mural, which Bork said was originally painted in the late 1920s or early 1930s, came about when the Batesville Chamber of Commerce Tourism Director and Lyon graduate, Kyle Christopher, contacted Bork.

“Kyle’s been really instrumental at making this happen,” said Bork. “[The mural] was clinging for dear life, and [Christopher] orchestrated it [being repainted].”

At Christopher’s suggestion, Bork and his students wrote a proposal to Coca-Cola requesting funding, which Coca-Cola granted. The Batesville Chamber of Commerce and the non-profit Main Street Batesville also contributed funds and materials.

Bork’s favorite part about repainting the mural is his students.

“They’re really taking ownership of this,” he said. “Their craftsmanship is impeccable. I have confidence in any one of them that they could, from start to finish, execute a large-scale mural like this on their own.”

The mural is expected to be finished next week. The Batesville Chamber of Commerce will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, May 9, at 2 p.m., on the corner of Central Avenue and Main Street to celebrate the mural.

Lyon graduate publishes research in JAMA, featured on CNN

Dr. Clare Brown, ‘13, was recently interviewed by CNN for her research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

For her doctoral dissertation at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Brown studied the effect of Medicaid expansion on low birth weight and preterm birth. She and her colleagues found that the expansion improved disparities between black and white infants.

“Through Medicaid expansion, low-income women are more likely to have continual insurance coverage, [meaning] these women could potentially be healthier because of access to health services [before, during, and after pregnancy],” Brown said.

Brown defended her dissertation this past December and submitted her research for publication at the insistence of her advisor and co-author, Dr. J. Mick Tilford, UAMS professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management.

A week after submission, Brown and Tilford “got really excited” because they had not heard back from JAMA, meaning the article had not been rejected but rather was being reviewed for publication.

On March 14, JAMA contacted Brown and Tilford to inform them their research was published. Brown recalls the day was “pretty emotional.” It was her late grandfather’s birthday, and Tilford has advised Brown since beginning her master’s in public health in 2013, so he, too, understood the importance.

“We both had a few tears in our eyes that day,” Brown shared. “Dr. Tilford had heard many stories about my grandpa, and he knew it was an emotional day for me overall.”

Brown said her interest in research began at Lyon when she conducted research outside of Mexico City with Professor of Political Philosophy Dr. Scott Roulier and psychology professor, Dr. Patrick Mulick. They evaluated the outcomes of ProSalud, a project aiming to prevent common diseases and reduce healthcare costs.

“That [research] really opened my eyes to evaluating public health and social programs,” she said.

When selecting a college, Brown could have been “in competition in other programs,” but she chose Lyon because she “loved the environment at Lyon and how close-knit of a community it was.”

Brown’s mother, Dr. Verona Bebow, family physician and also a graduate of UAMS, shared that Brown’s older brother attended Harvard for undergrad, and Bebow felt that Brown could have gone to a number of “elite” schools, but after visiting Lyon, she was decided.

“It turned out to be a great fit for her,” her mom said.

Brown’s father, Dr. Larry Brown, who has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Vanderbilt, said “I’d put Lyon up against Harvard any day. It was a great experience for Clare because of the quality of the classes and the faculty.”

Brown said her experience with faculty mentorships “translates to

[her]

teaching” at UAMS today. She helps her students with their research and tries to be readily accessible to them.

As for what’s next, Brown plans “to stick around UAMS and continue [her] research.” She is currently an instructor at UAMS.

So far, her research has been featured in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette and Arkansas NPR. According to UAMS Communications Specialist Ashley McNatt, Brown’s research has been all over the news, and they expect more interviews to come.

Brown’s college within UAMS, the College of Public Health, has recognized that “this publication makes it the first time in history that a study originating in the College of Public Health has been published in JAMA.”

Brown graduated with her B.A. in psychology from Lyon College in 2013. She earned her MPH from UAMS in 2015, and she completed her Ph.D. in Health Systems and Services Research from UAMS in December 2018.

Murals class paints the town

Starting last fall, Lyon College has offered a murals class, where students spend the semester working on a mural project for a building in Batesville. Students from the class have created four murals so far, the first of the spring murals class having just been completed.

“Last semester we had the opportunity to work on three murals,” said art student Morgun Henson. “We learned from a couple outside artists about different techniques they used, and we also learned about the process of working with the stakeholders to agree on a design.”

Under the direction of Associate Professor of Art Dustyn Bork, Henson and five other students worked with artists Steve Adair and Grace “PHLOX” Engel to paint a mural in Pocket Park on Main Street, another mural at the Law Offices of Fuller Bumpers on Broad Street, and a mural at the dispatch office for the Independence County Sheriff’s Department.

“It’s awesome to see the visual impact in the community,” said Bork. “Batesville is experiencing a bit of a Renaissance downtown and it’s been rewarding to play a small part in that.”

The fourth and most recent project is Henson’s mural in The Stepping Stone at White River Medical Center, an adult psychiatric unit. The mural depicts stepping stones leading toward a mountain in the distance.

Henson first took the murals class in the fall semester, and she is now taking the course again as a directed study with Bork.

“When Dustyn [Bork] suggested the Stepping Stones location I was immediately interested,” said Henson. “The idea of creating art while making a positive impact is something I am very passionate about, so I said yes right then and there.”

Henson said her inspiration was her passion for mental health.

“I wanted to make sure it was calming, peaceful, and encouraging,” she said. “The facility has very bare walls, and it exudes a mundane vibe, so I deliberately chose vibrant colors that draw the viewer’s attention…I played around with several ideas, and decided on the mountains to represent the challenges we all have to overcome. The journey can be rough, but after you get to the top you feel like you can conquer the world. This is the message I wanted to convey and I think it is very appropriate for the setting it is in.”

Henson said she has received positive feedback so far from the facility and its patients.

“I had some amazing conversations with patients about the impact art has on their life,” she said. “It brings back good memories for them, and it was incredible to give them a slice of joy in an oftentimes scary place. I hope this mural continues to bring those happy feelings in the patients’ lives.”

Lyon faculty elected to U.K.’s Royal Historical Society, will benefit students

Associate Professor of History Dr. Mark Wallace was recently accepted into U.K.’s Royal Historical Society (RHS), joining the approximate 10 percent of U.S. “fellows” in the society.

Man wearing blue shirt and bowtie.
Dr. Mark Wallace

Established in 1868, RHS is a voluntary organization made up over 3,000 historians and scholars. According to RHS, to be accepted, a candidate must have made “an original contribution to historical scholarship.” Wallace met this requirement with his work studying the Scottish Enlightenment and the publication of his book The Great Transformation: Scottish Freemasonry 1725-1810.

Joining the society offers several benefits to not only Wallace but also Lyon students.

“This network will allow me to put students interested in research opportunities in contact with historians and academics who potentially will further assist them in their academic endeavors,” he said. “For example, I am supervising a student as part of an honors contract, and the work that my colleagues are doing is relevant to her interests. Ultimately, I want to encourage collaboration among students and established academics in an effort to give students experience in working with others who are passionate about history and can provide avenues for further research.”

For Wallace, he may now use the distinction “FRHistS” at the end of his title. He will also be able to connect with fellow historians who share his interests.

“There are also opportunities for funding and research through the society,” he added. “So, the resulting exposure to new ideas and areas of research would be available to myself and, as an extension, Lyon College.”

Wallace is also honored by the recognition the distinction entails.

“It signifies the acceptance of my work by an academy and my colleagues, and the respect with which my work is viewed,” explained Wallace. “I am very honored to have been nominated by Professor Andrew Prescott at the University of Glasgow, and deemed by my peers to meet the standards of admission as a fellow to the RHS. I look forward to contributing more to my field, and to the Royal Historical Society as well.”

Lyon College announces $1 million gift

Lyon College has announced that it has received a $1 million gift from the John W. Edwards trust, which was made public this month.

According to Vice President for Advancement David Hutchison, the Edwards name is one that is well-known throughout the history of both Lyon College and the Batesville area. John W. Edwards, a former Batesville banker, made the lead gift to construct a new dining hall addition for the college in 1983. At the time, that represented the largest gift ever made to Lyon College by a Batesville resident. Now, that record is broken by Edwards’s trust.

The trust, left by John W. Edwards to his brother, James Edwards, was joined by two other trusts that James set up to provide for his son, John Preston Edwards. The provisions of the trusts stated that, upon the passing of Mr. John Preston Edwards, the John Edwards’s original $1 million trust would be gifted without restrictions to Lyon College for greatest needs at the college.

“Lyon College has been fortunate to benefit from the vision and leadership of thoughtful trustees throughout its history,” said Lyon President Joey King. “Clearly John W. Edwards cared deeply for this college and this community. His philanthropy and stewardship are exemplary. The students, faculty, and staff are grateful for his legacy.”

The trust also stipulates that after John Preston Edwards’s passing, funds from the trust will be used to establish the James R. Edwards Scholarship Fund, with the First Presbyterian Church of Batesville serving as the administrator.

This new scholarship fund will aim to support young people seeking full-time college education, with a preference given for students who choose to attend Lyon College, and a priority given to students who share a connection to the Presbyterian faith or Arkansas heritage.

“We are so honored that James Edwards has given First Presbyterian the unique ability to provide young men and women with opportunity and access to a higher education,” said Rev. Leslie Roper, pastor of First Presbyterian.  

An active, dedicated member of college’s governing board for many years, Mr. John W. Edwards served as a trustee through the 1960s, a period of great growth and expansion for then Arkansas College. Through these estate gifts, the Edwards family has continued its legacy of supporting both Lyon, as well as the Presbyterian tradition and education in North Central Arkansas for generations of students to come. 

Jacobi named Lyon’s new director of marketing and communications

Lyon College announced on Friday that Keli Jacobi will be the new director of marketing and communications. She started on Monday, March 4.

Woman wearing a dark suit and striped blouse.
Keli Jacobi

In her new role, Jacobi will supervise the marketing team and oversee strategic direction, execution, impact assessment, and sustainment of the College’s marketing initiatives, including those of the College’s four-year strategic plan. Jacobi will also develop and execute an annual marketing plan for the College.

“I am excited to have Keli Jacobi joining our campus and community,” said Vice President for Enrollment Services Matt Crisman. “Keli has an extensive background in strategic planning, public relations, and spearheading a comprehensive marketing team. I look forward to watching her lead and mentor our talented marketing staff.”

As the associate director for the Office of Communications/Marketing at University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Jacobi launched several strategic communication projects, including a CASE-winning campaign for UA Little Rock’s food pantry. She also supervised a creative team and managed the university’s marketing content.

Jacobi has a media and news background, previously working as a news director for UA Little Rock and public information representative for the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Jacobi also received her national accreditation in public relations (APR).

When asked about her plans for the position, Jacobi said she wants to support the College’s strategic plan and lead the marketing department.

“My hope is to bring the same innovative leadership and data-informed decision making that President King and his administration have begun to implement so Lyon will continue to grow enrollment and increase retention rates for the students it exists to serve,” she said. “I was immediately impressed with how much talent and enthusiasm there is within the existing marketing and communication team. My primary goal is to serve that team by demonstrating visionary leadership that inspires them to build on their existing skill sets and contribute to the strategic goals set forth by the college.”

Jacobi is a candidate for the Master of Science in Data Marketing Communications from West Virginia University. She also has a Master of Arts in history from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications from UA Little Rock.

“I’m a big believer in the power of a liberal arts education to promote critical thinking and develop the soft skills so many employers are expecting in the digital economy,” she said. “Lyon is a true gem tucked away in one of the most beautiful parts of Arkansas, and I count myself fortunate to have landed here.”

Lyon College welcomes new addition to the office of advancement

Man wearing a blue suit in front of a building with columns on the porch.
Elliott Sampley

The Lyon College Office of Advancement has announced that Mr. Elliott Sampley, currently serving as Lyon’s associate athletic director and head softball coach, has accepted a new role at Lyon College in the Office of Advancement, where he will serve as the Executive Director of Athletics Advancement.

“I am very happy for Coach Sampley as he moves into his new role at Lyon,” said Director of Athletics Kevin Jenkins.  “It is always great to see a member of your team advance in their career. He has done a great job with our softball program and I congratulate him as he takes on his new responsibilities here at Lyon.  Working alongside him and the advancement team will bring additional support to our athletic program to ensure our student-athletes’ success both on and off the competition field. Our events, alumni and fans will all benefit greatly from Elliott’s passion and professionalism.”

In this new role, Sampley will be responsible for strengthening the College’s relationship with its athletic alumni and friends, as well as creating lasting opportunities to support Lyon College. 

“As a graduate and member of the Scots athletics program, Elliott is uniquely suited to this important new role, and I look forward to working with him to advance Lyon College’s mission to prepare our students for fulfilling personal and professional lives committed to lifelong learning and service,” said Vice President for Advancement David Hutchison.

Sampley, who graduated from Lyon College in 1996, will continue in his current role and complete the current softball season, before beginning his new role on July 1, 2019. 

“I am extremely excited for the opportunity to help grow Lyon College,” said Sampley.