Ouachita Baptist receives $1 million unrestricted gift

For the second consecutive year, Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia has received an unrestricted $1 million gift from an anonymous donor.

“The gift is significant for its size and nature as well as its impact,” said Dr. Ben Sells, Ouachita president. “The contribution supports the President’s Innovation Fund that is focused on advancing the university’s new strategic plan, which includes new academic programs.”

An unrestricted gift means that Ouachita can freely decide where to use the money – no strings attached. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, colleges and universities in the United States received only 15 unrestricted gifts of $1 million or more in 2017.

“Ouachita is becoming more innovative, which is crucial to meeting the needs of students and responding to challenges in society,” Sells said. “For example, we recently launched a partnership with Baptist Health for students to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at a pace that helps nurses enter the workforce faster, thus addressing Arkansas’ nursing shortage issue.”

The President’s Innovation Fund also supports enrollment and fundraising efforts. Earlier in the fall, Ouachita announced a 7.5% increase in enrollment including its highest freshman-to-sophomore retention rate of 83%. The university also reported receiving a record $17.2 million in private support in academic year 2017-2018.

“We are so thankful for this friend’s confidence in the vision, mission and values of Ouachita and hope it encourages others to do likewise,” Sells said. “Ouachita is rising, and we are empowered by students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who embrace and invest in dreaming a larger dream to advance our university.”

Ouachita music students chosen to sing and study in Italy

Ouachita Baptist University students filled one third of the competitive spots for this year’s Opera in Concert in Italy program. Five Ouachita students were selected for the three-week program for college students to study opera and Italian language while submerged in Italian culture. Students from around the nation and Canada auditioned, and 15 were selected in total.

The following Ouachita students studied with the program in 2018: Micah Brooks, a senior musical theatre major from Rockwall, Texas; Bonnie Gentry, a junior musical theatre major from Arlington, Texas; Lizzy Griffin, a senior musical theatre major from Pittsburg, Texas; Hannah Saunders, a senior musical theater major from St. Paul, Ark.; and Rachel Webber, a senior musical theater from Longview, Texas.

(From left) Ouachita students Micah Brooks, Hannah Saunders, Lizzy Griffin, Rachel Webber and Bonnie Gentry with Dr. Gary Gerber, dean of the School of Fine Arts.

“It is an honor to have any Ouachita student chosen for this program, but to have five students selected to attend the program is outstanding,” said Gary Gerber, dean of Ouachita’s School of Fine Arts. “It is such a rich cultural, educational and musical experience for them. They are immersed into the culture of Italy and are using the language every day. They are singing Italian operatic arias that are at the heart of the music in that country. It is truly a wonderful program for our students to experience and have on their resumes.”

“This experience was so beneficial in so many ways,” Saunders said. “I had the opportunity to study with world-class vocal coaches and teachers. I was immersed in the Italian language in a way that I never would have been able to in a classroom or lecture setting, and I got to experience an entirely new culture in an incredibly personal way.”

Through Opera in Concert in Italy, which is based in Urbino, Italy, students studied Italian language and opera business, received vocal coaching, auditioned for area opera companies and performed at various concert venues and opera houses throughout Italy. Students also traveled to Venice, Ravenna and the Adriatic coast.

“Studying in Italy this summer not only gave me the opportunity to learn another language, but it opened my eyes to another culture,” Brooks said. “It’s helped me decide what I want to accomplish before I graduate and gave me an outlook into my career beyond school.”

“Besides making some amazing connections in the field that I want to enter, I’ve learned a lot about not just music and performing, but also how to better understand different cultures,” Saunders added.

To learn more about the program Opera in Concert in Italy, visit www.operainconcert.org/study-in-italy/. To learn more about Ouachita’s vocal music programs, contact Gary Gerber at gerberg@obu.edu or (870) 245-5128.

Ouachita receives second recognition from the American College of Sports Medicine

Ouachita Baptist University has received, for the second time, the credential of Silver Status from the Exercise is Medicine® program, an initiative of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). ACSM is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world.

Exercise is Medicine On Campus - Ouachita Baptist UniversityOuachita was awarded Silver Status for its Department of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies’ work with the Exercise is Medicine program; it first earned Silver Status recognition in 2016. ACSM launched its recognition program in 2014 to honor campuses for their participation and engagement in living a healthy lifestyle; universities can earn gold, silver or bronze status based on their involvement and commitment to health.

Ouachita received the honor at the ACSM Summit in Minneapolis this summer alongside larger universities such as Georgetown and Arizona State University. Dr. Amber Chelette, assistant professor of kinesiology and leisure studies, accepted the award for Ouachita.

“It is a very humbling credential and award to have,” said Dr. Terry DeWitt, chair of Ouachita’s Department of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies. “It shows what we do in our department in regards to physical well-being for college students and other people.

“For a small school like Ouachita to be on the same level as some of the larger schools is phenomenal, so I am excited for our whole program,” DeWitt added.

In order to earn the credential, universities in the organization must host a noncompetitive event that promotes exercise and shows people how to improve their everyday life by doing things such as: improving their flexibility, eating a healthy diet and learning how to exercise.

Ouachita’s kinesiology department hosts events in both the fall and spring semesters. In the fall, typically during a home basketball or volleyball game, they place stations around the building targeting college students and their health needs. This spring, Ouachita partnered with local elementary schools to work specifically with second and third graders. OBU students taught healthy lifestyle skills in a way that was fun for the kids.

“We’re not only on our campus but also on elementary campuses, and I think that’s a really neat thing,” DeWitt said.

This past year, Ouachita advanced the program by partnering with Baptist Health to provided water bottles, pedometers to measure steps and other health promotion literature for OBU students and faculty to pass out at their events.

The kinesiology department has many plans to continue to achieve goals and grow its academic program. In the last ten years, it has seen a 40 percent increase in the number of declared majors. In addition to its major in kinesiology and leisure studies, the department offers emphases in teaching K-12, recreation & sports administration, recreation & sports ministry and pre-professional studies. It also offers minors in exercise science, recreation & sports administration, recreation & sports ministry and coaching, as well as a teaching endorsement in coaching.

Ouachita Department of Communications & Marketing honored at ARCom Awards

Ouachita Baptist University’s Department of Communications and Marketing was honored with two Prism Awards during the 2018 ARcom Awards ceremony held Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock.

Ouachita at ARCom Awards

Tyler Rosenthal, left, and Brooke Zimny, right, accepted two Prism Awards on behalf of Ouachita’s Office of Communications and Marketing at the annual ARCom Awards banquet.

The ARcom Awards were presented by the Arkansas chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators of Arkansas. PRSA and IABC hosted the joint event to recognize exceptional marketing and communications professionals from a variety of organizations around Arkansas.

“We have so much respect for our peers across the state who participate in the ARcom awards, and we’re grateful to participate and be honored this way,” Zimny said.

Ouachita’s Department of Communications and Marketing was recognized as a finalist in three categories and took home two winning awards. Ouachita’s recognitions included:

  • Prism winner in “Marketing Communications: NonProfit” for their “Texas Recruiting Campaign.”
  • Prism winner in “Multimedia: More than One Minute” for “Ouachita Campus Life Video.”
  • Finalist in “Promotional Printed Pieces” for “Ouachita Baptist University Viewbook.”

“It’s always nice to be recognized for a job well done, but these awards are particularly special since we put so much work into each of these projects,” said Brooke Zimny, director of communications and marketing. “I’m thankful for each member of our team and their key roles in creating this outstanding work.”

More than 30 PRSA professionals from across the nation served as judges to select the 2018 Prism finalists for each division, and each judge held an Accreditation in Public Relations certification.

In addition to Zimny, Ouachita’s Department of Communications and Marketing staff includes Ashley Carozza, graphic design coordinator; Rachel Moreno, editorial coordinator; Tiffany Pickett, recruitment communications coordinator; and Tyler Rosenthal, digital content coordinator. Former staff members who contributed to the work that was honored include Trennis Henderson, former vice president for communications, and René Zimny, former assistant director of graphic services.

For more information, contact Ouachita’s Department of Communications and Marketing at 870-245-5208.

Ouachita receives $500,000 National Science Foundation grant for biology education

Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the prestigious National Science Foundation to advance the incorporation of cell culture-based research into undergraduate classes. Through the creation of the Cell Biology Education Consortium, Ouachita is now leading a national effort for innovation in undergraduate biology education.

The grant capitalizes on Ouachita’s strengths of high-impact learning and a tradition of incorporating research in the classroom.

The foundation for the grant was a three-year pilot program at Ouachita centered on cancer metastasis and neuron differentiation, which was funded by Arkansas Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) and the Center for Advanced Surface Engineering (CASE).

“Since we started this journey three years ago, we’ve been able to improve and expand the modules created in the initial pilot research project,” said Dr. Nathan Reyna, Associate Professor of biology at Ouachita. “This course-based research experience will transform the cell biology learning experience for our students because they will be able to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and directly apply it in the lab.”

Ouachita has incorporated research into all phases of the undergraduate biology curriculum, allowing hundreds of students to conduct authentic research.

As part of the Cell Biology Education Consortium, students work on new techniques to use in research and develop written and video protocols for those techniques. Additionally, students have the opportunity to interact with scientists from around the world to expand their professional development experiences and create their own independent research projects.

Students are also building on class projects as independent research projects. To date, 16 students have worked in Dr. Reyna’s lab and have co-authored a cancer research publication.

“The fact that students are not only doing the research but are able to publish the data in a peer-reviewed science journal shows our combination of teaching and research works,” said Dr. Reyna. “This innovative, student-centered approach was recognized by the National Science Foundation and was one of the deciding factors for our funding. Students are more engaged, have ownership of their projects and are growing in their knowledge of cell biology.”

The ultimate objective is to send more Ouachita students into graduate level coursework or directly into the workforce.

“The National Science Foundation award – along with the university’s growing enrollment, highest retention rate ever and record level giving – provides further evidence that Ouachita is rising,” said Dr. Ben Sells, president of Ouachita. “I’m grateful for the leadership of Dr. Reyna and others in securing this competitive funding for the benefit of our students.”

“The Signal” earns Gold Medalist rating from Columbia Scholastic Press Association

The Signal, Ouachita Baptist University’s student newspaper, and its accompanying website was awarded a Gold Medalist rating from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in the category of College Hybrid News. The highest rating given by CSPA, the award was announced last week and included a critique of both the print and web editions during the 2017-18 academic year.

Katie Kemp, a 2018 mass communications graduate and the editor of the 2017-18 print edition, said the award resulted from the talent, dedication and hard work of everyone on the staff.

“We are proud of the work we put in every week, but receiving high praise from such a prestigious press association is so exciting,” Kemp said. “The Signal is the publication it is because of the team behind it, and I’m so grateful to anyone who has written a story or picked up a copy in the past year.”

Ethan Dial, a junior communications and media/multimedia journalism major from Little Rock, Ark., won the Online Editor of the Year award from the Arkansas College Media Association last year. He continues his role as online editor this year.

“It is such an honor to hear that the publication I have dedicated so much time and energy to throughout my college career has received this award,” Dial said. “This was only made possible due to the countless hours of hard work put in by each and every staff member. Good journalism is much more than a series of words. It’s when those words are written with passion and jump of the page that great journalism is acquired. The heartbeat of The Signal is in each of its writers, photographers and videographers as they creatively tell stories that make a lasting impact.”

Julie Williams, a senior mass communications and political science double major from Arkadelphia, Ark., is the 2018-19 editor of The Signal and was news editor of the paper last year.

“I think it is a true testament to the skill, hard work and dedication of The Signal staff,” Williams said. “While Ouachita is a ‘bubble,’ that bubble and the surrounding Arkadelphia community have created a home that all of us feel and have a passion for serving, even in our journalistic pursuits. It is a joy to know that even outside networks, like the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, can sense that feeling of home.”

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association, based at Columbia University in New York, is the nation’s largest news organization for college students. The Signal and the online Signal are products of the Rogers Department of Communications. The department’s media emphases combine to represent one of the largest majors on campus with 116 students involved in productions ranging from the yearbook and newspaper to video/TV programming and livestreaming of campus entertainment and sports. Advisers of The Signal are Drs. Jeff and Deborah Root. Dr. Tiffany Eurich advises the online Signal.

More than 770 Ouachitonians serve on Fall 2018 Tiger Serve Day

A total of 774 students, faculty and staff from Ouachita Baptist University served the community of Arkadelphia during Tiger Serve Day on Saturday, Sept. 22, all while rain came down periodically throughout the morning. A total of 89 Tiger Serve Day projects under the theme “Lending a Hand” were completed by 103 volunteer teams.

“Volunteers have the opportunity to build community with each other and those they serve. In the process we are all reminded that we need each other,” said Judy Duvall, associate director of Ouachita’s Elrod Center for Family and Community, which coordinates the event. “As a result, we become a little more like Christ who did not come to be served but to serve and give His life; that’s our goal.”

Every year teams ranging from about six to eight volunteers serve in various capacities all over the community. The projects reached senior adults, individuals with disabilities, non-profits and schools. Some volunteers were able to clean up Lake DeGray and work at the Clark County Library, organizing, cleaning and painting within the building.


“Well the rain definitely didn’t start as a good thing, but it ended up being so awesome,” said Hannah Eddington, a senior business administration/marketing major from Benton, Ark., and chair of the volunteer teams for the Tiger Serve Day Leadership Team. “The teams showed up in the cold rain ready to serve; it was a pretty cool testament to Ouachita’s focus on lives of meaningful work.”

“I love Tiger Serve Day because it signifies a set time each semester Ouachita can help those in need,” said Davis Wadley, a senior social justice studies major from Batesville, Ark., and chair of tools for the Tiger Serve Day Leadership Team.

Ouachita sets retention record, enrollment increases

Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia begins the fall semester with a record freshman-to-sophomore retention rate of 83.4 percent and student enrollment of 1,660, an increase of 7.45 percent from a year ago.

The enrollment figures account for students in the undergraduate residential, online, and concurrent programs.

“We are pleased that students are choosing to further their education at Ouachita and remain here,” said Dr. Ben Sells, president of Ouachita Baptist University. “Higher retention represents higher student satisfaction and leads to higher graduation and placement rates.”

Recent data from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education shows a 75 percent average retention rate for private universities and a 72 percent average for public universities, positioning Ouachita well over the state and national averages.

The undergraduate residential program includes a significant increase in out-of-state students of 18 percent.

“Our success in attracting out-of-state students is a compliment to Ouachita and demonstrates the growing reputation of our university,” Sells said.

There are 472 new students, including freshmen and transfers. Of new freshmen, 43 percent had high school grade point averages of 3.9 or higher.

“We are very fortunate to have exceptionally well-qualified students, representing our commitment to academic and Christian excellence,” stated Sells.

This year, Ouachita launched a new and innovative nursing program in partnership with Baptist Health that enrolled an inaugural class of 23 students. The university also achieved a record level in private giving and completed three important building projects.

“Ouachita is rising,” Dr. Sells said. “We are empowered by the commitment of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who believe in the vision of dreaming a larger dream to advance our Christian higher education mission.”

Ouachita Tiger Tunes wins national award for Outstanding Student Advancement Program

Ouachita Baptist University’s annual Tiger Tunes was named the 2018 Outstanding Student Advancement Program by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Affiliated Student Advancement Programs at the recent national Conference for Student Advancement in Louisville, Ky.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) is an international association that serves educational institutions and professionals who work on their behalf in communications, marketing, alumni relations and development. ASAP, the Affiliated Student Advancement Program, is an organization within CASE that helps organizations like the Ouachita Student Foundation to elevate their program and learn best practices from other programs in the nation.

Over 700 universities were represented at CASE ASAP this year with 200 universities present at the convention. Eight other colleges were nominated for this award, including notable universities like University of California in Los Angeles and Smith College. This national recognition comes after the Ouachita Student Foundation (OSF), the student-led organization that is responsible for hosting Tiger Tunes, joined CASE ASAP in the fall of 2017.

“When we joined CASE ASAP last fall, I knew I wanted to nominate Tunes with the anniversary coming up – not knowing if we would even be considered since we just joined the organization this year,” said Jon Merryman, Ouachita’s director of Alumni Relations and the Ouachita Student Foundation.

Tiger Tunes is a fundraising event held during Ouachita’s Homecoming weekend every fall.

The student-produced song-and-dance competition features student performers from campus organizations and social clubs, and proceeds are awarded to junior and senior Ouachita students as scholarships. This year will be the 40th anniversary of Tiger Tunes, which has raised more than $1.5 million since its founding. This award is following a record-breaking year where the program raised $100,000 in the fall of 2017.

“The award is significant because it shines a light on the amazing work of OSF members past and present – and especially the creative structure of the event yielding so much money for student scholarships,” Merryman said. “Other universities have reached out asking about how they can create something similar, which is fun since Baylor University’s Sing event is what we modeled Tiger Tunes after, just with a philanthropic goal for scholarships. I think our students can be proud that the work they do with Tiger Tunes was recognized in such a big way at CASE.”

Student representatives from OSF were given the opportunity to network with students from other universities and learn about their student advancement programs. These representatives of OSF also received the CASE ASAP annual ROLL Call Spirit Award on the first night of the conference.

“For me personally, it was so rewarding to see the hard work of my peers and friends pay off. It takes so much to prepare for Tiger Tunes each fall, from directors planning the shows, students spending hours in practice every night and all the behind-the-scenes work to get the show up and running,” said Alec Edmonds, OSF president. “To come back after receiving this award and see how much pride it brings to students in OSF, Tiger Tunes directors and my friends in class to put this event on for student scholarships is just incredible.” Edmonds is a senior mass communications major from North Little Rock, Ark.

In addition to receiving the two awards, the Ouachita Student Foundation was invited to present at next year’s national conference in Baltimore.

The 40th anniversary performances of Tiger Tunes will take place Sept. 27-29, and tickets are available at obu.edu/boxoffice.


Speer, Ouachita archivist, recognized by national Council of State Archivists

Dr. Lisa Speer, associate professor and university archivist, has been honored with the Victoria Irons Walch Leadership Award by the national Council of State Archivists (CoSA). This award recognizes her leadership as former state historian and director of the Arkansas State Archives. Speer began serving at Ouachita in February. She accepted the award this month at the Joint Annual Meeting of CoSA, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators and the Society of American Archivists in Washington, D.C.

Photograph of 6 men and women.

Dr. Lisa Speer (far right) recently received the Council of State Archivists’ Victoria Irons Walch Leadership Award. She is pictured here with other CoSA award winners, including: Tim Baker, CoSA president and Maryland state archivist; Jim Corridan, former Indiana state archivist; Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos; Ali Rahmaan from the District of Columbia Office of Public Records; and Anne Ackerson, former CoSA executive director.

“The Council of State Archivists selected Dr. Speer because of two conspicuous leadership attributes,” said Dr. Ray Granade, director of library services and professor of history at Ouachita. “First, Dr. Speer’s leadership is a collaborative one that extends to those who work at the state archives but also to stakeholders in the larger archival world, particularly in Arkansas but also beyond. Second, her leadership looks forward, encompassing the brave new digital world that lies before all archives. Both traits illustrate her inclusive leadership style and her belief in active archival outreach instead of a passive waiting approach.”

“It is both a privilege and a pleasure to welcome Dr. Lisa Speer to the position of archivist in Riley-Hickingbotham Library’s Special Collections,” Granade added. “We have been blessed to have exemplary leadership in Special Collections, and we know that Dr. Speer will continue that tradition of excellence.

The Council of State Archives (CoSA) acknowledges institutions, individuals and programs that have enriched and strengthened state and territorial archives. The Victoria Irons Walch Award recognizes the sustained leadership and outstanding contributions of an individual or institution in the field.

“My first thought when I saw the email with the ‘Congratulations’ subject line was that it had been sent to me in error,” said Speer, who also is a Ouachita alumna. “I was stunned, especially after I read the nomination sent in by my former colleagues at the state archives. To know that they considered my time at the state archives to be ‘transformative’ was incredibly humbling. Then to know that their nomination had been supported and affirmed by the Council of State Archives Awards Committee and the CoSA Board of Directors, both of which are made up of state archivists, is truly a career highlight.”

In her colleagues’ nomination submission, they said Speer’s “leadership and service at the Arkansas State Archives left it a changed place and continue to benefit the organization she led and the archival staff she supported. It is not enough to say that Lisa Speer did her job and directed the archives; Dr. Speer changed the archives’ direction.”

“I’ve never worked with a more cohesive and dedicated group of people,” Speer said of her former colleagues. “I am so proud that I had the opportunity to work with them and to serve the state of Arkansas.”

In addition to the outstanding team at the Arkansas State Archives, Speer acknowledged her passion for her work and as a major contributing factors to her success.

“Regardless of the type of archives one works with, you are playing a role in something so much bigger than you. You are just a dot on the continuum helping to preserve the historical record for the ages,” she said.

“I also love working with people,” Speer added. “Sometimes you make lifelong friends of donors and researchers by simply helping them find information or making a big decision about where to donate their records. That’s very rewarding.”

In addition to her work in Ouachita’s library, Speer will coordinate Ouachita’s public history program in the Department of History, bringing her years of experience to the classroom for the benefit of the students in Ouachita’s Sutton School of Social Sciences.

Ouachita Baptist University’s Riley-Hickingbotham Library physically houses an open-stack main book collection of about 170,000 volumes, about 330,000 selected federal and state government publications and some 400,000 non-book items in addition to serial and journal titles, multimedia resources and access to numerous electronic databases. In addition to university archives, Riley-Hickingbotham Library Special Collections include archives of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and Clark County Historical Association, as well as a rare books collection and political papers from U.S. Representative Jay Dickey, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, U.S. Senator John L. McClellan and U.S. Representative Mike Ross.