Lyon welcomes professional esports player to coach esports program

Lyon College is now the only college in Arkansas with a professional esports player as the coach for its esports program. Lyon’s esports program is an official varsity program, affiliated with the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE).

Lyon College Esports Coach Austin Lonsert started his professional career as a paid competitor in 2014 with Blizzard Entertainment’s (BE) Heroes of the Storm. He played with three professional organizations—Lunatik Gaming, SK Gaming, and Cognitive Gaming, where his team ranked No. 3 in North America for Heroes of the Storm—before going on to win BE’s collegiate tournament: Heroes of the Dorm.

BE’s Heroes of the Dorm tournament starts with approximately 500 teams competing for the national title. Like the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s March Madness, the tournament is single-elimination with a 64-team bracket. In each round, two teams play three sets to determine the winner.

“For the championship, we were flown out to Seattle and were on ESPN2 for the tournament,” said Lonsert. “We won the whole thing without dropping a single set.”

Lonsert was able to apply his tournament winnings to his tuition costs and graduate from Arizona State University with minimal debt. As Lyon’s new esports coach, he wants to train players and offer them the same opportunities he had.

“All these collegiate competitions give monetary prizes,” he said. “It can then be applied to your tuition and basically help pay for school.”

Besides scholarships and the chance to compete professionally, Lonsert explained players can also benefit mentally, academically, and even professionally.

“A lot of cognitive thinking goes into it,” he said. “Just like any sport, you have to do a lot of preparation, replays, training, and have a lot of discipline.”

“It also teaches you how to be a team player,” he added. “If you’re getting into esports for competition, you have to be able to conduct yourself as a professional. I was trained through my organizations.”

For Lyon’s program, Lonsert already has five titles he wants his players to participate in: League of Legends, Rocket League, Overwatch, Super Smash Bros., and Hearthstone. The roster is currently made up of 13 players, and Lonsert is still actively recruiting. He is also recruiting players to enroll in Lyon to join the team.

“Academics come first here at Lyon, so we heavily push the academic priority,” Lonsert added. Like other varsity sports, the program will have a GPA requirement.

Players will have the opportunity to travel for tournaments and compete in online tournaments. Preparations for an esports facility are underway, which will initially include 15 setups. The college anticipates opening the facility by fall semester 2019.

The facility will be dedicated for the use of team players who will each be given official jerseys that include sponsor affiliations. Players are also eligible for Lyon College scholarships.

If you are interested in Lyon College and the esports program, contact Lonsert at or click here to fill out a recruiting form.

JBU Establishes Center for Faith and Flourishing

With commitments of more than half a million dollars, John Brown University announced today the establishment of the Center for Faith and Flourishing (CFF) at JBU. The center will provide programming, curriculum, partnerships and activities dedicated to exploring the relationship between Christianity and human flourishing.

Funding for the center’s operation will be provided by a $143,500 grant from the Charles Koch Foundation and a $430,500 grant from an anonymous donor, and includes support for CFF’s programs, activities and staff. Dr. James Bruce, JBU associate professor of philosophy, will serve as the center’s inaugural director, and Dr. Daniel Bennett, JBU assistant professor of political science, will be the assistant director.

“My dreams for this center began in the 2014-2015 academic year, and I’m excited to see them come to fruition,” Bruce said. “I am grateful to God for this opportunity, and I hope we prove ourselves to be diligent and trustworthy stewards of what we have received.”

The center will engage in and assist the university’s required Gateway Seminar for first year students and will also support the Honors Scholars Program’s new philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) courses and minor, as a way to promote a multifaceted approach to problems in our increasingly interdependent world. In the coming academic year, JBU will perform a nationwide search for a five-year faculty appointment to support Gateway and PPE.

CFF will also promote its principles through lectures and debates to foster open discussion about challenging topics; student reading groups and colloquia; and other extracurricular activities.

“JBU is deeply grateful for this wonderful financial support to launch the Center for Faith and Flourishing, and we look forward to how the work of the Center will enhance and deepen JBU students’ education,” Dr. Chip Pollard, president of JBU said.  “Dr. Bruce and Dr. Bennett will provide outstanding leadership for this work.”

The Charles Koch Foundation supports scholars and students at more than 350 colleges and universities. The foundation provides grants to support a wide range of inquiry including criminal justice and policing reform, free expression and open inquiry, foreign policy, economic opportunity, and innovation.

John Brown University is a leading private Christian university, training students to honor God and serve others since 1919. Arkansas’s top-ranked regional university (U.S. News Best Colleges, 2019), JBU enrolls more than 2,100 students from 38 states and 53 countries in its traditional undergraduate, graduate, online and concurrent education programs. JBU offers more than 40 majors, with top programs including engineering, nursing, family and human services, biology, graphic design and construction management. 

Charles King Named Vice President for Institutional Advancement of Philander Smith College

Philander Smith College has appointed Charles King  as vice president for institutional advancement. In this role, he will lead all fund development activities and oversee public relations and marketing, special events and alumni relations.

Charles King

King has over ten years of higher education fundraising experience gained from posts at Jackson State University, Prairie View A&M University Foundation and Langston University. Most recently, he served as senior major gifts officer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

A native of Blytheville, Ark., King earned a bachelor of science in psychology from Arkansas State University in addition to a professional fundraising certificate from The Fundraising School at Indiana University. 

Harding University Graduate School of Business expands, adds new master’s, dual degrees

The Harding University Graduate School of Business has added to its educational offerings with the launch of an online Master of Science in Information Systems and dual degree options for undergraduate students, combining their BBA with an MSIS or Master of Business Administration.

The MSIS is a 30-credit hour program with concentrations in data analytics and information assurance and security. Every course includes an emphasis in ethics, systems thinking, analytical and critical thinking skills, collaborative skills, written communication, creativity and technical solutions.

The IS discipline bridges the gap between business and highly technical professionals. The MSIS is carefully designed with the business professional in mind, engaging just enough technology for a deeper understanding of data and technology related decisions.

The MSIS is offered alongside Harding’s MBA, which was recognized as one of the best in the country in 2018 by, a leading provider of higher education research and college planning resources.

The fully online MBA is also a 30-credit hour program focused on principled leadership and developing leaders of integrity who can contribute to an organization’s long-term success. In addition, the MBA is adding a thesis option, which facilitates a path to a doctoral program or law school.

“These master’s programs are attractive for students who may have been in the workforce for a while and/or do not have an undergraduate degree in business,” Dr. Allen Frazier, dean of the College of Business Administration, said. “The online nature of our programs, built according to Quality Matters standards, help to ensure the caliber of our programs as well as the convenience.”

The new dual degree programs allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree in business and either an MBA or MSIS within five years or in as little as 12 months beyond their bachelor’s degree program. The offering will be available beginning in fall 2019.

“We believe the dual degree programs bring a lot of value to our existing undergraduate students,” Frazier said. “More and more employers are looking for masters-level credentials; they will also increasingly prefer job candidates with data science and analytics skills over ones without.”

The integrative dual degree is offered to Harding undergraduate students with a minimum of 90 hours and a 3.0 GPA. Students can receive dual credit for select courses by taking graduate-level and undergraduate courses concurrently. The five-year timeframe for the completion of two degrees offers a substantial savings of time and money for students as opposed to pursuing the degrees separately.

All Graduate School of Business students will receive one-to-one academic advising and support by award-winning faculty from the University’s Paul R. Carter College of Business Administration.

To learn more about the Graduate School of Business, visit, call 501-279-5789 or email

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.

Pelts Named Director of University of the Ozarks Jones Learning Center

Dody Pelts has been named as the new director of the Jones Learning Center at University of the Ozarks, effective July 1

Pelts has worked in the JLC for the past 18 years, including the last 12 as the center’s assistant director. She replaces Julia Frost, who announced her retirement in April after serving the past 25 years as the director.

“I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to serve Ozarks and the JLC,” Pelts said. “By building upon her rich history and sturdy foundation crafted by many dedicated professionals who served before me, the JLC is well-prepared to launch into the future.”

Woman wearing blue denim shirt stands on a sidewalk on a college campus.
Dody Pelts

Pelts, who has also served as the JLC’s school psychology specialist, said that unemployment and underemployment for students with learning disabilities, specifically for those impacted by social skills challenges, will be an area of emphasis for the JLC staff.

“Helping graduates gain skills beyond those of the classroom to obtain meaningful employment will be a focus of our efforts to support students as they seek to truly live life fully,” she said.

Pelts worked as the school psychology specialist for the Dover Public Schools in Dover, Arkansas, before coming to Ozarks in 2001 as the school psychology specialist. She started teaching developmental classes in the JLC a few years later and was named assistant director in 2007.

Pelts has presented at various state and national level learning disability association conferences and is a nationally certified school psychologist, a psychological examiner, and a certified school psychology specialist in Arkansas.  She is married to Jeremy and has two children: Macy, who will be a freshman at Ozarks in the fall, and Ike, a senior at Lamar High School.

“I am delighted that Dody will be taking on the new role of director of the Jones Learning Center,” said University Provost Dr. Alyson Gill. “I know that the JLC will continue to grow under her leadership and she brings with her new ideas that I am excited to explore with the group. I look forward to working with her as we think about how best to use this incredible resource.”

Frost has served as the director of the JLC since 1994. Her 30 years in the JLC included a stint as director of assessment from 1986-91.

“It has been a joy to work with Dody as the JLC assistant director for the past 12 years and to watch her become a highly respected colleague not only in the JLC, but also campus wide,” Frost said. “I am confident in her leadership abilities as she builds on the JLC past successes and looks forward with a new vision for its future.”

The Jones Learning Center is a comprehensive support program for students with documented learning disabilities, Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with average or above average intellectual abilities.  It was established at U of O in 1971 as one of the first of its kind in the country.

Six to be Inducted into University of the Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame

Six alumni have been selected to be inducted into the University of the Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019.

The University’s Sports Hall of Fame committee selected Bill Ballard ’56, Ronnie Cookson ’66, the late Charles Daniel ’71, Mandi (Carter) Koch ’07, Robby Finnell ’08 and Olivia (Fisher) Bickford ’09 to join the hall during the Ozarks Awards Ceremony in October, part of Homecoming 2019.

It’s the largest induction class for the exclusive club since 1991 when six alumni were also selected. The additions bring the total of Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame members to 57 individuals and one team, the 1983-84 men’s basketball team.

The Sports Hall of Fame committee is made up of Jimmy Clark, director of athletics; Lori McBee, vice president for advancement; Dr. Deb Sisson, associate professor of business and athletic faculty representative; Sydney Key, student-athlete representative; alumnus and hall of fame member Sylvester Benson; alumnus and hall of fame member Don Kessler; and alumnus Ian Bryan.

The 2019 inductees for the University of the Ozarks Sports Hall of Fame include:

Bill Ballard ’56 was a three-year letterman in both basketball and baseball at Ozarks. He earned Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference Pitcher of the Year honors in 1956, leading Ozarks to the conference baseball title. He coached basketball at Ozarks from 1957-60 before moving on to Little Rock University (now UA-Little Rock). As a 30-year-old, he helped UALR start its basketball program as its first head coach and athletic director from 1960-1965. He also helped the university establish its first baseball program. He was inducted into the UALR Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.

Ronnie Cookson ’66 won a total of 15 state championships in a stellar 27-year career as the boys basketball coach at Scott County Central High School in Missouri. He led the Class 1A Braves from 1970-1995, retired, then returned from 2007-09. His overall record was 694-137 (.835 winning percentage) and was a remarkable 28-2 in state final four games. Along with 15 state titles, Cookson led his program to 22 conference titles and 22 district titles. He was named Missouri’s Coach of the Year five times by the Missouri Sportswriters Association and nine times by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association. He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.

Charles Daniel ’71 played baseball, football and basketball at Ozarks and in 1957 became the only former Ozarks baseball player to play in a major league baseball game, according to the Society for Baseball Research. Daniel pitched for Ozarks in 1952 and five years later reached the major leagues with the Detroit Tigers. He signed a professional contract with Detroit in 1952 for $4,000 and pitched a total of eight seasons in the minor leagues before retiring in 1961. In a late-season matchup at Kansas City in 1957, Daniel pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and striking out two. It was Daniel’s only appearance in a MLB game. An elbow injury suffered in a minor league game in 1959 eventually forced him out of baseball. The hard-throwing right-hander’s fastball was once clocked at 95 mph. He returned to Ozarks in the early 1970s to complete his degree and had a 38-year career with International Trucks. He passed away in 2008 at his home in Hot Springs Village.

Mandi (Carter) Koch ‘07 was an all-around athlete and one of the most prolific scorers in U of O women’s basketball history, finishing second all-time with 1,538 career points. Her 826 career rebounds were also second-most in program history. An athletic 6-foot-1 forward, Carter racked up four all-conference awards, capping her senior season with all-region honors from Following her junior season, she was voted to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team. For her career, she averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and over one block per game. Additionally, Carter lettered in soccer three seasons and earned multiple academic awards in both basketball and soccer.

Robby Finnell ’08 starred for the Eagles baseball team from 2005-08 and remains the program’s all-time modern era leader in career games started (160), home runs (31), RBIs (159) and walks (73). He is also among the career leaders in hits (2nd), runs scored (3rd) and slugging percentage (3rd). He also holds the season mark in RBIs (56) and is second in home runs (13).  He was a three-time All-ASC selection, including first team in 2008. He was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America first team and the All-America second team in 2008. Helped the Eagles to a program-best 32-11 record in 2008.

Olivia (Fisher) Bickford ’09 was a three-sport standout for Ozarks from 2004-09, starring in basketball, tennis and soccer. As a four-year starter in basketball, Bickford earned All-ASC freshman honors in 2004-2005 and All-ASC All-East honorable mention honors following both her junior and senior seasons. She is fourth in career rebounding (817). In soccer, she was also a four-year starter, starting every game from her freshman to senior seasons. She was a team captain and midfielder and in 2006 assumed goalie duties for an injured teammate and had 175 saves in 19 matches. In tennis, she played No. 1 singles and doubles for four years and remains third in career singles victories (22), fourth in career doubles victories (18) and forth in singles winning percentage (.564). She was a two-time U of O Female Athlete of the Year.

JBU, North Arkansas College Sign Articulation Agreement

Representatives from John Brown University and North Arkansas College (Northark) signed an articulation agreement last week to increase opportunities for student access to and success in higher education. The partnership creates a seamless path for students to earn an associate’s degree from Northark and then complete their bachelor’s degree at JBU.

“We are very excited to announce this new partnership with John Brown University to provide more opportunities for our students to earn their bachelor’s degree,” Northark President Dr. Randy Esters said. “John Brown University is known for providing high-quality academic programs, both on campus and online. We are proud to partner with them to offer Northark students a seamless transfer to JBU.”

By clarifying transfer policies and procedures through this formal transfer agreement, the institutions will assist students so that they are not required to retake courses already achieved. Through this agreement, students are eligible to transfer into any of JBU’s traditional undergraduate programs on JBU’s Siloam Springs campus or JBU’s online undergraduate programs.

“This agreement represents the continued commitment of JBU to serve Harrison and surrounding communities through flexible, engaging online education,” Dr. Stacey Duke, JBU’s dean of online undergraduate programs and strategic initiatives, said.

Students who graduate from Northark, complete Northark’s designated program courses and hold a GPA of 2.5 or higher are eligible for admission to JBU under the terms of this agreement.

Founded in 1974, North Arkansas College (Northark) is a public two-year college offering transfer and technical degree programs, one-year technical certificates, certificates of proficiency, customized business and industry training, adult basic education (GED) classes and non-credit community education courses. In addition, partnerships with area universities provide the opportunity to achieve a bachelor’s degree in Harrison, Arkansas. 

JBU Offers Summer Campus Immersion Programs for High School Students

Registration is open for John Brown University’s weeklong residential program, Summer Academy, for high school students to gain college experience. The Summer Academy programs include hands-on experience in Construction Management (July 7-12), Engineering (July 7-12), Art (July 7-12), Computer Gamebook (July 7-12), Worship Arts (July 21-26) and Piano (July 21-27). Taught by JBU professors with decades of experience in their field, the Summer Academy gives high school students a firsthand look into university life by learning real-world concepts, interacting with JBU students, and participating in field trips and various campus activities. 

The Construction Management Academy gives students hands-on experience that is needed to construct complex buildings in the modern world. The academy will cover topics like safety planning, proper tool usage, structural steel building assembly, project scheduling and more. Students will also be able to work on a service project in Oklahoma and compete in teams at the end of the week to test their knowledge. 

Students in the Engineering Academy will learn about electrical circuits, programming, 3D computer-aided design, 3D printing, strength and mechanics of materials, smart materials, motors and batteries. They’ll not only build teamwork skills by designing, building and testing projects, but will also learn how to integrate Christian principles with engineering. 

The Art Academy offers students three specializations to choose from: photography, art and design, and digital cinema. Photography students will create images in both digital and traditional film mediums, while also being inspired by Arkansas’ natural beauty. In the art and design track, students will learn new techniques and hone their skills in painting, graphic design, digital illustration, printmaking and typography. Digital cinema students will craft a short narrative film in an indie filmmaking environment, with access to the latest gear, a film set, an editing suite and a screening room.

The Computer Gamebook Academy gives students the opportunity to write interactive fiction, a literary genre of text-based adventure games with role-playing, riddle-like puzzles and labyrinthine worlds. Students will write adventure narratives, design gamebooks and learn basic coding and graphic interface. At the end of the week, students will produce an original work of digital literature that allows readers to interact with and explore a digital world.

The Worship Arts Academy is geared toward aspiring worship leaders, church musicians and pastors. Students will be teamed up in four worship bands with both vocalists and instrumentalists and will rehearse together throughout the week. The academy closes with a combined worship service led by the four worship bands. This worship service is open to the public.

The Piano Academy offers daily, private lessons for students, as well as a chance to participate in theory and aural skills. Students will also gain insight into memorization techniques, the art of interpretation, building solid technique, accompanying congregational hymns and how to practice effectively. Students have the opportunity to perform solo and duet repertoire in master classes and recitals.

All Summer Academies, except for the Piano Academy, cost $503.75, which includes meals, housing, field trips and projects materials. The Piano Academy costs $524.50. For more information, visit or contact Lauren Huffman at or 479.524.7423 with any questions.

John Brown University is a leading private Christian university, training students to honor God and serve others since 1919. Arkansas’ top-ranked regional university (U.S. News Best Colleges, 2019), JBU enrolls more than 2,100 students from 38 states and 53 countries in its traditional undergraduate, graduate, online and concurrent education programs. JBU offers more than 40 majors, with top programs including engineering, nursing, family and human services, biology, graphic design and construction management.

University of the Ozarks President Elected Chair of APCU

University of the Ozarks President Richard L. Dunsworth, J.D., has been elected as the new chair of the board of directors of the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities (APCU) at the organization’s annual meeting in March. His term will run through July 2020.

Man wearing suit posing for photograph in front of stone building.
University of the Ozarks President Richard Dunsworth

Dunsworth has served on the APCU board since 2017. The APCU is an independent, non-profit association that is dedicated to assisting the 56 Presbyterian-affiliated colleges and universities throughout the U.S.

“I am honored to serve on the board of directors of the APCU and humbled that my peers would elect me to serve in a leadership role,” Dunsworth said.

Dunsworth became the 25th president of the university on June 1, 2013. Under his leadership, enrollment at the private-four-year Presbyterian-affiliated university has increased nearly 50 percent—from 585 in 2013 to 872 in 2018—and the university has raised more than $45 million for scholarships and facilities in its current Climb Higher Campaign.

U of O has been affiliated with the Presbyterian Church since it was founded by Cumberland Presbyterians in 1834 in Cane Hill, Arkansas.

As part of its mission, the APCU advocates the important, ongoing role that higher education plays within the Presbyterian Church (USA) and assists presidents in the development of strategies that fulfill their respective institutional missions.  APCU member institutions are eligible to participate in APCU-sponsored programs that include an insurance and risk management program, an international student exchange with institutions in Northern Ireland and a tuition exchange for children of faculty and staff members.

The APCU is governed by a board of directors consisting of presidents from 12 member institutions and the president of the Presbyterian College Chaplains Association (PCCA). The executive committee of the board includes the current board chair, the treasurer, the chair-elect, and the executive director of the association. Board members serve three-year terms.