WBU Unveils “Renewing Minds, Transforming Lives” Strategic Vision

Williams Baptist University has unveiled its strategic vision for the future in an initiative named “Renewing Minds, Transforming Lives.”  The vision, recently approved by WBU’s faculty and its board of trustees, will guide the university’s planning efforts over the next three to five years.  The university also released its newly stated Core Values.

“’Renewing Minds, Transforming Lives’ reflects extensive evaluation of the strengths of this great university and the needs it will address moving forward.  The result is a bold vision that will help establish WBU as a preeminent Christian university in the state of Arkansas beyond,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of Williams.

The strategic plan is the result of the collaborative work of administration, faculty, and other members of the university community.  The resulting vision is set forth in six broad goals:

  1. Enhance Employee Quality of Life
  2. Develop Innovative Academic Programs
  3. Enrich Christian University Identity and Culture
  4. Strengthen Enrollment Management and Marketing
  5. Improve Campus Infrastructure
  6. Increase Student Support through Endowed Scholarships and Innovative Programs

“The initiatives outlined in this vision will move WBU forward in a significant way,” Norman commented.   “This plan outlines goals for enhanced support of faculty, staff, and students, expanded academic offerings, strengthened marketing and student recruitment, improved facilities and, above all, a continued emphasis on our identity as a Christian university.”

Each of the goals includes a detailed set of initiatives, as well as a vision for what the goals will accomplish for Williams by the year 2023.  The WBU president said the strategic vision will now be used to establish priorities for the university each year in its budgeting and planning processes.

“We developed an exhaustive list of needs and objectives that we want to address over the next three to five years, and then we prioritized those objectives and categorized them accordingly.  ‘Renewing Minds, Transforming Lives’ is a strategic vision that provides a clear roadmap for WBU as it plans for the future,” Norman said.

The strategic vision places a high priority on enhancing quality of life for WBU employees, which includes enhancing salaries and making other improvements for faculty and staff.  “WBU will continue to strive to provide the highest possible level of employee benefits, including health care, retirement, and university housing.  WBU will also work to improve fitness and recreation opportunities for faculty, staff, and their families,” the document states.

In developing innovative academic programs, the plan aims to expand the university’s influence and mission through both graduate and undergraduate programming.  The vision says, “Although not limited to the following areas, WBU will proactively identify and strategically implement educational initiatives and degree programs in the fields of health care, counseling, business, education, and ministry. WBU will be known both for excellence in the quality of academic programming and for innovation in the use of technology for all educational initiatives.”

The vision also places a priority on enriching WBU’s Christian university identity and culture, stating, “WBU will enrich its identity and campus culture, producing an environment befitting an outstanding Christ-centered university.  Christian commitment will be pervasive and transformative in all aspects of university life.”  Among the areas to be addressed are spiritual life programs, student life activities, strengthened alumni-relations, enriched school traditions, and improved strategic branding initiatives.

To continue to grow its student body, the plan calls for WBU to strengthen its enrollment management and marketing functions, asserting, “By 2023, WBU will have increased image and heightened brand awareness locally and nationally.  Special attention will be devoted to increasing marketing initiatives within the state of Arkansas.”  The plan specifically targets student recruitment, donor support, alumni involvement and brand awareness for growth.

Improving the university’s infrastructure is a priority, as well.  “WBU will develop and implement a plan to meet the needs of growing academic and athletic programs, space for the fine arts programs and performances, student resident facilities, and other projects as identified.  Resources to fund these initiatives will be identified and developed through strategic-planning processes,” the vision notes.

Finally, the strategic vision aims to help Williams students find the resources to attend the university, noting, “WBU will aggressively expand existing scholarship programs as well as increase scholarship resources to recruit and retain targeted populations.  The university will launch innovative programs and initiatives to assist students in funding their WBU education.”

Full details of “Renewing Minds, Transforming Lives” can be found on the WBU website at https://williamsbu.edu/renewing-minds/.

Along with its strategic vision, WBU released its Core Values, which summarize foundational principles and priorities of the institution.  The Core Values were developed this fall by a task force of faculty, staff and administration.  They are identified as:

  1. Christ-Centered Focus
  2. Academic Excellence
  3. Spiritual Formation
  4. Nurturing Community
  5. Servant Leadership

Each of the Core Values includes a detailed explanation of its impact on WBU.

“These Core Values are not new to WBU, but rather reflect what this institution has endeavored to do throughout its 77-year history.  Countless lives have been changed at WBU because of these Core Values, and this document simply codifies those values in writing.  These beliefs embody the biblical commitments that have guided the university in the past, and we believe these convictions will continue to direct us as we work to advance our mission of distinctive, Christian higher education,” said Norman.

The Core Values were also approved by the board of trustees at their meeting Dec. 7.  They can be read in full at https://williamsbu.edu/core-values/.

WBU Board Welcomes New Members

The Board of Trustees at Williams Baptist University welcomed seven new members at its meeting Friday, Dec. 7.  The board, which met on the WBU campus in Walnut Ridge, Ark., also approved a new minor in political science and heard an upbeat report on student recruitment.

It was the first meeting for seven trustees who were appointed this fall to the 24-member board.  The new trustees include: Jamar Andrews, pastor of Word Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ark.; Cliff Cabaness II, a businessman from Ft. Smith, Ark.; Dr. Jeff Crawford, lead pastor of ministries at Cross Church in Springdale, Ark.; Dr. James Nichols, pastor of First Baptist Church in Marion, Ark.; Zac Reno, lead pastor at Summit Church in Benton, Ark.; Dr. Jim Shaw, pastor of discipleship at First Baptist Church in Rogers, Ark.; and Dr. Jody Smotherman, vice president at White River Medical Center in Batesville, Ark.

“This is a great new group of trustees that has quickly embraced the mission of Williams Baptist University.  They are enthusiastic about serving on our board, and we are very excited to have them join us as we continue to expand the influence of WBU across the state of Arkansas and beyond,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of Williams.

In academics, the board approved a new minor in political science, and also voted to change the name of the history department to the Department of History & Political Science. The new minor will be available to WBU students starting next fall.

The board got good news on student recruitment for next year.  Angela Flippo, vice president for enrollment management, reported that applications from prospective new students are up 47 percent compared to the same period last year, and inquiries from interested students have doubled.  WBU has also seen a 58 percent increase in the number of interested students making campus visits this fall.

The Williams board had voted at its last meeting, in September, to enter into an agreement with Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a prominent national firm that specializes in student recruitment and financial aid.  Flippo credited the firm with helping WBU boost its recruitment numbers so far this year.

WBU trustees are appointed by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, and they serve three-year terms.

WBU Science Students Selected for Bosch STEM Program

Williams Baptist University has selected three science students for a pilot research program in marine conservation.  The program is made possible by a grant WBU received this year from the Bosch Community Fund to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

WBU students chosen to take part in the program are Caleb Hickman of Pine Bluff, Ark.; Paige Johnson of Saffell, Ark.; and Kyrsten McLemore of Paragould, Ark.  Hickman and Johnson are both juniors at Williams, and McLemore is a sophomore.

The students will participate in preparatory activities and study during the spring semester and will then accompany three faculty members to Titusville, Fla., in May.  Once in Florida, they will spend one month conducting research projects in marine conservation and performing community service to improve environmental quality in their work area.

Dr. Ann Paterson, Nell Mondy Chair of Natural Sciences and professor of biology at WBU, will accompany the students for their Florida research, as well as Dr. Christopher Polachic and Dr. Steve McMann of the Williams science faculty.

The research is being done in conjunction with A Rocha, a Christian nature conservation organization.

WBU received a $12,000 STEM grant from the Bosch Community Fund to launch the research project.  The Bosch Company operates a plant in Walnut Ridge.

Pictured above are (left to right) Dr. Ann Paterson, Kyrsten McLemore, Paige Johnson, Caleb Hickman and Dr. Christopher Polachic.

WBU Alumni Honors Presented to Daniel, Guenrich

Williams Baptist University alumni David Daniel and Jake Guenrich were honored during Homecoming festivities Saturday, Nov. 3.  Daniel was recognized as WBU’s 2018 Distinguished Alumnus, while Guenrich was presented the Outstanding Young Alumnus award.

Daniel, a 1974 Williams graduate, serves as the director of athletics for Jonesboro Public Schools.  During Daniel’s nine years in that role, Jonesboro has won 41 state championships and made several notable upgrades to its athletic facilities.  He has worked a total 43 years in the field of education, coaching on all levels from 7th grade to NCAA Division 1 basketball.

Daniel (pictured above at right with Dr. Stan Norman) is active in a wide range of community and athletic organizations, and the City of Jonesboro declared David Daniel Day in his honor in 2012.  He and his wife, Beverly, have two sons and four grandchildren. They are actively involved at Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro.

Guenrich, a 2010 WBU graduate, is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Walnut Ridge.  The church has baptized 107 new members during his tenure as pastor and has added several new ministries, including a community food closet.  Guenrich also remains active on the Williams campus, including assisting the student move-in activities each fall.

Guenrich and his wife, Stephanie, have four children.

“One of the great pleasures of Homecoming is recognizing alumni who have graduated from WBU and gone on to make a major impact through their careers and their Christian service.  Mr. Daniel and Rev. Guenrich epitomize just how Williams shapes the lives of its students to make a difference in this world, and we were proud to honor both of them at Homecoming,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of WBU.

Both alumni were honored during the annual Homecoming Celebration, which was held before a large crowd in Manley Chapel.

WBU Eagle EDGE: Empowering Digital Global Education

Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge has announced that, starting next fall, all full time, on-campus students will be provided iPads. School officials say the iPads will become an integral part of the learning process at WBU.

As a first step in the initiative, the liberal arts university supplied iPads to faculty, coaches and administrators last week. Williams personnel will spend the coming months training on the devices and learning how to incorporate them into their classes. Pictured above, Dr. Amy Schmidt (left) of the WBU English faculty and Heather Parson, chair of the Department of Business, unpack their new iPads.

The initiative has been dubbed the WBU Eagle EDGE, which is an acronym for Empowering Digital Global Education.

“With our Eagle EDGE initiative, WBU is embracing the technology that is so much a part of our lives today. This is the way today’s college students communicate and gather information. We are harnessing these innovations and incorporating them into a cutting edge university education,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of WBU.

“We believe this initiative not only provides our students with the best technology for their educational experience at WBU, we also believe this initiative equips our graduates in the most up-to-date technology trends for diverse work and vocational opportunities.”

All on-campus students at Williams will receive iPads when they enroll next fall. The cost of the devices will be covered by their student fees, and after four years the students will be allowed to take their iPads with them as they continue their careers. Students who graduate or otherwise leave WBU sooner than four years will have the option of buying their devices at a significantly reduced cost.

WBU has considered the iPad initiative for the past several months. Dr. Brad Baine, vice president for academic affairs, led a mobile learning initiative task force of faculty and staff in studying the proposal.

“Our task force has done great work in developing the Eagle EDGE initiative. As we examined the proposal, our team became very excited about the prospect of incorporating this technology into the learning process,” said Baine.

Baine said students will use their iPads for a wide array of educational tasks, both inside the classroom and out. The devices will come equipped with educational apps, and electronic books and articles will be available to them.

“WBU constantly strives to provide the best education possible for its students,” Baine said. “This innovative approach helps us to fulfill the WBU vision, to produce exceptional graduates prepared to competently engage local and global cultures through a Christ-centered worldview.”

WBU Announces New Scholarships for Fall ‘19

Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge has announced a new package of scholarships for incoming students.  The new scholarships are for freshmen and transfer students who enroll at Williams for the first time in the fall 2019 semester.

Angela Flippo, vice president for enrollment management at WBU, said the new awards will help incoming students and their families keep a university education affordable.

“We understand what a financial commitment college can be for families, so we have simplified the scholarship process, and we have provided financial awards that will make it affordable for students to get an outstanding, Christian education at WBU,” Flippo noted.

Under the new scholarship structure, incoming freshmen who have a 27 or higher composite score on their ACT exams will be eligible to receive the Founder’s Scholarship, which is worth $12,000 a year.

Those with an ACT score between 22 and 26 will receive the President’s Scholarship, which is worth $10,000 a year.

Students who score from 19 to 21 on the ACT will be eligible for the Dean’s Scholarship, valued at $8,000 per year, and those who make 17 or 18 on the entrance exam will receive the University Grant, which is worth $5,000 each year.

Flippo says the freshman merit awards are renewable for up to four years, provided students meet their academic standards.

Students transferring to Williams from other institutions next fall will also have new scholarships available to them.  Flippo says transfer students who have a grade point average of 3.5 or above will receive the Summit Scholarship, which is worth $8,000 per year.

Transfer students who have a GPA from 3.0 to 3.49 are eligible for the Excellence Scholarship, which is worth $6,000 per year.  And those who have a 2.5 to 2.99 GPA can receive the Transfer Grant, which is valued at $3,000.

“We have also simplified the scholarship process for our incoming students.  Their application for admission to WBU also serves as their scholarship application, so there is no need to fill out a second application.  This process is designed to make it as easy as possible for students to enroll at Williams,” Flippo said.

Flippo noted that it is free to apply to Williams, and she encouraged prospective students to apply online at williamsbu.edu/apply.  Those wanting more information can contact the WBU Office of Admissions at admissions@williambu.edu or by phone at (870) 759-4120.

Norman Inaugurated as WBU President

Dr. Stan Norman has been officially installed as the seventh president of Williams Baptist University.  The inauguration ceremony was held Friday morning, Sept. 28, before a packed house in WBU’s Manley Chapel.  The crowd included state and denominational dignitaries, as well as representatives from a number of other colleges and universities.

J.R. Cox of Walnut Ridge, chair of WBU’s Board of Trustees, performed the investiture and then placed the school’s presidential medallion on Norman.

“We entrust to you the task of leading this institution, under God’s divine providence, to be of ever greater service to its students, to the world, and ultimately to Christ’s Kingdom.  As you assume these responsibilities, we pray that God’s blessings will be upon you; that He will grant you wisdom, strength, and courage, and that He will anoint you with vision and leadership as you faithfully and obediently walk with Him,” Cox said.

Dr. David Dockery.

The main speaker for the ceremony was Dr. David Dockery, president of Trinity International University and former president of Union University.  Dockery has been a longtime mentor to Norman and nominated him for the presidency at Williams.

In presenting his presidential charge to Norman, Dockery noted, “I truly believe that exploring every aspect of the life within the Williams community from the vantage point of the Christian faith and the Baptist heritage will both shape and sharpen your focus. We pray that you will be able to do so while relating to one another in love, humility, and unity, bringing new life and renewed hope to the Williams Baptist University family in the days ahead.”

Presenting his response, Norman outlined his vision for Williams.  “What we do here at WBU makes a difference; what we do here matters.  Grounded upon the historical vision and founding purpose of this school, I want to cast anew a vision for Christian higher education that renews minds, transforms lives, and changes the world,” he said.

The WBU president told the audience that the need for Christian universities is greater now than it has ever been.

“We must understand the mission of Christian higher education in terms of gospel good and kingdom influence upon our families, our communities, our churches, our culture, our nation, and even our world.  Our mandate is to be faithful followers of Jesus who embrace the mission of renewing minds in such a way that God transforms our lives and, in so doing, we become a people used by God to change the world.”

Norman concluded his remarks with a challenge to his audience, saying, “I invite you, I implore you – come with me, join your hand with my hand, and let us all commit collectively, by the grace, wisdom, love, and power of our Lord, put our hands, together, to this task.  Will you place your hand with my hand, and join with me, in this task, this task to which I put my hand?”

Dr. Bob Magee leads the Inauguration Choir.

Greetings were presented at the inauguration by Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, District 60 State Rep. Fran Cavenaugh, Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp, Arkansas Baptist State Convention Executive Director Dr. Sonny Tucker, and several others.

Also having a role in the ceremony were Dr. Gene Fant, president of North Greenville University in South Carolina, Dr. David Whitlock, president of Oklahoma Baptist University, and Dr. Kenneth Startup, professor emeritus at WBU, who served as academic dean and interim president at the university.

The ceremony also featured performances by the WBU Band and an Inauguration Choir, which was composed of current members of the Williams Singers and a number of WBU alumni.

Norman came to Williams as president in April, having served the previous nine years as provost and executive vice president at Oklahoma Baptist University.  He has more than 20 years of experience in Baptist higher education

WBU is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge.  It is owned and operated by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

WBU Ranks Highly Among Arkansas Schools in US News

The latest college survey from US News & World Report shows that Williams Baptist University ranks well among institutions in Arkansas.  Of the 22 colleges and universities ranked in The Natural State, WBU comes in at number two in the Best Value category, and number four overall.

US News released its 2019 Best Colleges edition last week.

Colleges and universities across the nation are ranked in several different categories, based on their size and specialties.  The magazine then compiles a list of institutions in each of the states, listing them in order of their respective rankings on the US News website.

“With so many fine schools in this state, we are truly honored to be ranked this highly by US News,” said WBU President Dr. Stan Norman.  “Williams wants to be known around Arkansas and beyond as a preeminent Christian university, so this is a gratifying position in the rankings.”

Williams climbed overall in the US News rankings this year, rising from 35th to 27th among liberal arts colleges and universities in the South.  WBU is ranked 22nd for Best Value among the Southern schools.

Williams PBL Earns National Accolades

Williams Baptist University’s chapter of Phi Beta Lambda business society traveled to Baltimore this summer for the National Leadership Conference, winning a host of awards in the process.

Allen Thompson, Betsy Ryan, Oni Robertson

PBL, which is comprised of college business students, is the collegiate extension of the Future Business Leaders of America.

Williams student Betsy Ryan earned fourth place honors nationally for presenting WBU’s Gold Chapter Report.

Ryan and fellow WBU student Oni Robertson teamed up to win fifth place honors in two categories: Small Business Management Plan and Emerging Business Issues.

Also distinguishing himself as a WBU representative was Allen Thompson, who qualified for the final round in Business Decision Making.

The National Leadership Conference was held June 23-26.

Earlier this year, the Williams PBL group earned Gold Chapter Status at the state conference.  In order to become a Gold Chapter, PBL chapters must meet certain expectations. WBU’s PBL participated in more events at the state competition, interacted with local FBLA chapters and business professionals, completed community service projects and raised money for charity to once again earn the golden status.

Bosch Awards STEM Grant to WBU

A $12,000 grant from the Bosch Community Fund will fund a pilot research program for Williams Baptist University science students. The Bosch Company, which operates a plant in Walnut Ridge, is providing the grant to stimulate interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

Steve Engelken, operations manager, and Tracy Brock, human resources manager at the Walnut Ridge Bosch facility, recently presented the grant to Dr. Stan Norman, president of WBU, and Dr. Ann Paterson, Nell Mondy Chair of Natural Sciences and professor of biology at Williams.

Biology is the most popular major at WBU, and the grant will be used to launch a collaborative research program in marine conservation. Williams students selected for the program will participate in preparatory activities and study during the academic year and will then accompany two faculty members to Titusville, Fla., in May. Once in Florida, they will spend one month conducting research projects in marine conservation and performing community service to improve environmental quality in their work area.

“Thanks to this generous gift from Bosch, we are going to be able to pilot a program that will give our students an opportunity to participate in marine biology research, with the possibility of publishing well-done projects and presenting them at scientific conferences,” said Paterson.

“We also hope that their presentations on their work locally will inspire others in the community, such as K12 students, about the exciting opportunities available in STEM fields. We want them to see how much fun working in STEM fields can be, and to open new horizons for students who may have never considered these types of careers before,” she added.

The WBU team will work in conjunction with Dr. Robert Sluka of A Rocha, USA, which is based in Titusville.

“A Rocha is a Christian nature conservation organization, our name coming from the Portuguese for ‘the Rock,’ as the first initiative was a field study centre in Portugal,” Sluka noted. “A Rocha projects are frequently cross-cultural in character, and share a community emphasis, with a focus on science and research, practical conservation and environmental education.”

Paterson said WBU will commence with the project this fall.