Hendrix to Host Pulitzer Prize Winner Douglas Blackmon ’86 in September for Conversation on Dismantling Racism

Hendrix College welcomes alumnus, writer, and filmmaker Douglas A. Blackmon for “Dismantling Racism: Embracing a New Tomorrow,” Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in the Student Life and Technology Center on the Hendrix campus. The event is free to all, with in-person attendance available to the on-campus Hendrix community and remote participation open to the public. Reservations are required for both in-person and remote attendees.

Blackmon’s keynote address begins at 10 a.m. and is followed by a Q&A session; both the talk and the Q&A will be available to those participating remotely. 

Blackmon is a Pulitzer-Prize winning writer and filmmaker. 

His first book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 2009, became a New York Times bestseller and has been reprinted more than a dozen times. He was co-executive producer of the acclaimed documentary film version of Slavery by Another Name, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and attracted more than five million viewers in its first broadcasts on PBS. It has been rebroadcast thousands of times by PBS and local public television stations across the U.S.

Currently, he is completing production of The Harvest, a new film examining the breakdown of racial progress since the 1960s as seen over 50 years through eyes of a group of children, including himself, born in one small Mississippi town in 1964.

He is also co-authoring a forthcoming new book with former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., and serves as a Professor of Practice in the Creative Media Institute and director of the Narrating Justice Project at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

From 2012 until 2018, Blackmon was a member of the faculty and a senior fellow in presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, and host of American Forum, a 30-minute television interview program seen on more than 250 public television stations across the U.S.

Blackmon’s activities during his visit to Hendrix will include meeting with students and faculty to discuss issues related to race in the United States.

To RSVP for the Sept. 11 keynote and Q&A, email Lori Mulhearn (mulhearn@hendrix.edu) and specify the in-person or remote option. Due to pandemic protocols, in-person is open only to current members of the Hendrix student body, faculty, and staff, with a registration deadline of Friday, Sept. 3, at 5 p.m.; remote participation is open to all, with a registration deadline of Friday, Sept. 10, at 5 p.m. CDT. 

The event is hosted by the Hendrix College Office of Religious Life and supported by an Innovation Grant through the Central District of the Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church. 

Lyon College announces communications studies major

Lyon College has approved the addition of a communications studies major.

The new field of study will be a broad-based major that prepares students for a variety of careers in journalism, business, public relations, marketing, news broadcasting, public administration, politics and more.

Provost Melissa Taverner said communications studies will build off of the College’s journalism concentration to offer a curriculum that also includes theories of persuasion and mass communication and explores the role of technology and social media in communication.

The College will not be removing the journalism concentration from its course catalogue, only placing it under a new umbrella.

“We wanted to make sure Lyon had a solid academic major as a springboard,” Taverner said, “with internships and experiences that students could use to begin figuring out what part of communications they like.”

After consulting with the language and literature faculty, the College opted to go with a communications studies major because it would be much broader in scope than a communications major and would have applications in a variety of fields.

Nearly every company needs a communications department in the digital age, Taverner said, and what all areas of communication have in common is an interest in determining the best ways to share information between people.

“Being able to understand the mechanisms and effective ways people can communicate information, whatever the context, is going to be a really powerful skill to have in the current job market.”

Taverner said Lyon will begin the search for a tenure track founding faculty member for the communications studies program this year. The goal is for the new faculty member to start teaching in August 2022.

However, she said students can declare a communications studies major as early as this fall.

“It will be in the academic catalogue this year,” Taverner said. “The major is supported by courses that already exist in English, psychology and other departments.”

She continued, “You can get started with the core curriculum and a few of the introductory foundational courses. When the faculty member arrives, you will be ready to roll.”

The major will also include a required internship. Lyon hopes to use both the Career Center and alumni connections to secure internships where students can apply what they have learned in the classroom to real world experiences.

One of the biggest advantages of the communications studies major, Taverner said, is its practicality. Communications jobs are on the upswing for the next five years, and, based on the National Association of Colleges and Employers Salary Survey for Winter 2020, the average national salary for communications positions is around $50,000.

“You don’t have to be in New York or Chicago either,” Taverner said. “You can be virtually anywhere and find opportunities to actually do these jobs.”

She concluded, “Everyone will need these skills. If you’re trained and bring in the experience on your resume, you will have a leg up.”

Lyon unveils new loan repayment assistance program for future graduates

Does your college help you pay off your student loans?

Lyon is the first college in Arkansas to offer a loan repayment assistance program (LRAP), also known as the Lyon Pledge, to all new and incoming students starting with the fall 2021 semester. 

New and incoming students must sign up before the first day of classes on Tuesday, August 17.

“We want to show our conviction that graduates of Lyon College receive a quality education that prepares them to succeed in the workforce,” said Lyon President W. Joseph King.

“The Lyon Pledge is a promise to our students that we can help you repay your student loans if your income is low after graduation.”

The Lyon Pledge can help graduates repay their federal student, parent PLUS and private alternative loans if their income after graduation is below $43,000. 

“While we don’t believe the value of a degree from Lyon can be measured in dollars alone,” said King, “we understand that student loans are a barrier to higher education for many families. We want to ease student and parent financial concerns by offering families this financial safety-net.”

Lyon has partnered with Ardeo Education Solutions to offer the Lyon Pledge at no cost to students or families. The assistance will continue until the graduate’s income exceeds $43,000 or until their loans are completely paid off.

Eligible students must meet the following requirements after graduation to qualify for the Lyon Pledge:

  • Graduated from Lyon College
  • Working a minimum of 30 hours per week
  • Income below $43,000

For more information about the program or to sign-up, visit myLRAP.org/Lyon.

Philander Smith College Student J’Nya Thompson is selected as 2021 White House HBCU Scholar

Philander Smith College is pleased to announce that J’Nya Thompson, a junior criminal justice major from Dallas, Texas, is a 2021 White House HBCU Scholar. Thompson will participate as part of the eighth cohort of scholars selected for this prestigious honor by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The program recognizes 86 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, civic engagement and much more. 

“The HBCU Scholars announced today all have demonstrated remarkable dedication to their learning and exemplify the talent that our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities have nurtured for generations,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The students who hold this honor are committed to creating a more just and equitable society through their civic engagement. They are leaders and change-makers in their communities, and I cannot wait to learn from them as they serve as ambassadors both for the White House Initiative and their institutions of higher education.

Over the course of the 2021-2022 academic year, HBCU Scholars will serve as ambassadors of the Initiative and their respective institutions. This cohort of HBCU Scholars will also participate in national and regional events, as well as be invited to the HBCU Week National Annual Conference which will take place September 7-10, 2021.

“I am beyond delighted that J’Nya has been selected to serve as a 2021 White House HBCU Scholar,” said Philander Smith President Roderick L. Smothers, Sr. “She truly embodies the essence of a ‘Philander Woman’ and exhibits excellence and tenacity in and out of the classroom. I know that she will represent both the Initiative and Philander Smith College with the utmost distinction.”

“I am so ecstatic and proud that the White House and the United States Department of Education have selected me to represent my institution, Philander Smith College, as a 2021 White House HBCU Scholar. This opportunity doesn’t go without praise to God for continuously ordering my steps! I would also like to send a special thank you to my college president and faculty for nominating me for this honor,” Thompson said.

Thompson was chosen from a pool of over 200 students who submitted applications that included a transcript, resume, essay, and letter of recommendation. Applications also required the signature of their university president, adding a level of prestige to this process.

Lyon UBMS students accepted into National Student Leadership Congress for first time

Three high school students made history for the Lyon College Upward Bound Math-Science (UBMS) program this summer.

Camelia Eheart and Patricia Broemel, of Highland High School, and Tamyia Weatherspoon, of the Academies of West Memphis, became the first Lyon UBMS students to attend the National Student Leadership Congress (NSLC).

Only 196 TRIO pre-college students from across the United States and U.S. territories were accepted into the program. While students typically spend a week in Washington D.C. for the NSLC, this year’s event was a virtual 5-day leadership experience to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Eheart found out she was accepted while riding home from school with her brother.

“It was kind of crazy,” she said, laughing. “I was looking at my phone and was like ‘You are not going to believe this!’”

“You messaged me right after, and I found out I was accepted, too,” said Broemel. “It was exciting! I wanted to see what it was all about.”

Weatherspoon was encouraged to apply by Director of Upward Bound Math-Science Cory Godbolt.

“I had talked to him about the majors I wanted to do and how I want to be a lawyer when I grow up,” she said. “He told me this would be a great opportunity.”

The 32nd annual NLSC challenged students to find innovative solutions to today’s societal issues. Students served as members of congress, discussing their topics in small groups and presenting bills at the end of the week for the entire assembly to vote on.

The students had a week full of team-building activities and met with their Representatives and Senators to share their TRIO stories.

Broemel’s group had to decide if the government should provide broadband internet access to everyone.

“We decided wifi should be accessible to all people,” she said, “because, with the pandemic, more people had to start working and doing stuff online.”

Broemel continued, “We argued that it could help people who don’t have jobs and can’t afford internet to better themselves and that it will help businesses because everyone could order online.”

Eheart’s group had to decide if the government should forgive student loan debt. 

“Rather than forgive student loan debt,” she said, “we decided we would give more money to TRIO programs like UBMS.”

Eheart continued, “Our thought process was that if we give more funding to programs that help kids get scholarships then there would be less student loan debt.”

Weatherspoon’s group had to decide if school funding should be based on standardized testing and local taxes.

“I actually got to write the bill, which I was pretty excited about,” she said.

Her group’s stance was that school funding should receive a certain amount of funding per student rather than standardized testing or local taxes.

“We felt this would help because it would give everybody an equal amount of funding and eliminate factors that might put kids out of the race.” 

UBMS helped prepare the students for the mock congress experience, they said, because the presentations and bill-writing process were similar to the research papers and end-of-session presentations they have done at the end of UBMS courses.

Godbolt said he is proud of these students and their work.

“They are all very successful and literally made history in their program,” he said. “It felt really good to see their hard work come to a head.”

They were great fits for the NSLC, he said, and took advantage of the offerings.

“I’m very excited to see where their futures go after this,” Godbolt said.

Weatherspoon learned the value of pushing past her fear of rejection and applying for opportunities like NSLC. She also attended Girls’ State, Governor’s School, and the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) program this summer.

“I’ve had a busy summer,” she said, laughing. “My mom always told me to seize every opportunity I can.”

Weatherspoon continued, “I wasn’t going to give up because I had so much going on this year. I wanted to take in everything, and I thank God I was able to.”

Eheart said NSLC was definitely worth it.

“It was a really fun experience because [Broemel and I] are really good friends and we were experiencing it together,” she said. “We became friends with our groups and some of the group leaders who work at other colleges, so it gave us really good connections for our futures.”

Broemel said students should consider attending the NSLC even if they aren’t interested in working in an environment like congress.

“It’s a really good trial for working with other people in a more professional setting.”

Lyon faculty help set standard for AP Psychology scoring

Lyon College faculty don’t take the summer off from education.

In addition to conducting research and teaching summer courses, several Lyon faculty have played active roles in developing and conducting the scoring of  Advanced Placement (AP) exams. High scores on these exams can translate to college credit for high school students. 

Associate Professor of Psychology Drs. Jennifer Daniels and Assistant Professor of Psychology/Education Nikki Yonts have been helping set and maintain the standard for AP Psychology exam scoring for the past 10 years.

“This is my 10th year and Nikki’s 8th,” said Daniels. “We have served at every level of the scoring process, and cumulatively we’ve been doing this for almost two decades.”

Yonts said they have been primarily involved with scoring the essay portions of the exam. Typically, one question will cover psychological concepts, and the other question will be research and data-focused.

Daniels said the AP exam questions encourage “exactly the kind of critical thinking we want to see in any level of college student.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the process to go virtual, Yonts and Daniels would travel to major cities and work alongside teams of college professors and AP Psychology teachers for the live reading of the exam. The teams would live on-site for nine to 16 days, discussing how to accurately award credit on the exams.

“These live readings are some of the best professional development experiences I’ve ever had,” said Yonts.

She continued, “It has made me a better instructor in the classroom myself, not just in Intro to Psych but in all my classes in terms of understanding how to effectively assess a student’s level of learning.”

Switching to a virtual exam process has made some of the behind-the-scenes work a little invisible, Daniels said. Previously, the AP Psychology exam process would bring together about 600 readers and 80 table leaders in one huge room.

This June, Yonts and Daniels worked from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, first editing scoring guidelines which were then used to find representative training samples. The second part of the month was spent making sure table leaders had what they needed to monitor their teams of readers throughout the seven-day scoring process.

“It’s fascinating how physically exhausted you can get from having your brain going all the time,” Daniels said, laughing. 

Yonts said they would sometimes go to Bryan Lake or walk around Couch Garden during their two breaks because they “couldn’t look at a screen anymore.”

“We’re doing some of the training, too. They tell you it’s ‘high intensity’ from the start,” Daniels said. “You have to be willing to commit to this job. It’s your focus for the summer.”

“If we didn’t see something else worthwhile in it, I wouldn’t do it,” said Yonts.

She said the scoring process is a perfect example of the “collaborative learning” that Lyon promotes.

“We don’t do these in isolation,” Yonts said. “We have a goal and have to work with our team to reach that goal.”

“Everyone hates group projects, but life is a group project,” said Daniels.

Daniels said the process involves a lot of negotiation and “perspective taking,” where one professor will address why they interpret a specific concept the way they do.

“You may have a college teaching assistant who teaches Psych 101 once a year interpret a prompt one way,” Yonts said, “but a high school teacher who teaches AP Psych four times a year will have another view.”

“We always encourage perspective taking in our classes,” said Daniels. “It’s not just about having a diversity of ideas. It’s how we reach agreements and get things accomplished.”

She continued, “As professionals, we are civil to each other even in the midst of arguments.”

“That’s something we want our students to learn how to do,” Yonts said.

Daniels is very proud of the work she, Yonts and other Lyon faculty have done with the AP program.

“I think it’s high time we recognize just how much this is professional development and not just a job,” she said.

Yonts agreed, saying summer is not just a time for faculty to do research.

“I think it is so important for this community to recognize that quality teaching is something we value here so much that we take a full month out of our summer vacations to hone that craft.”

Dr. Melissa Taverner, Provost at Lyon College, said being an AP reader in any subject requires significant time and dedication not only to the essay scoring but also to the training, preparation and collaboration with professionals from all over the world.

“It truly is an opportunity to affect how the pre-college curriculum is structured and delivered,” Taverner said, “and provides insight to the scorer into the state of student preparation prior to matriculation.” 

She continued, “It helps those of us working at the college level to meet our students where they are as freshmen and bring them to the next level of understanding.”

Yonts said her hope is that more high school students will take AP Psychology classes, among others. 

“I’m excited when I see students coming in with that AP credit because I, and several other Lyon faculty, know what it means.”

Dr. Shannon Clowney Johnson is named Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs at Philander Smith College

Philander Smith College has announced that Dr. Shannon Clowney Johnson has been appointed to serve as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. The transition comes as a result of the departure of Dr. Anthony Johnson who had provided interim leadership since February 2020.

Dr. Clowney Johnson’s service to the College began in 2012 as an instructor in the Department of Language and Letters. Since that time, she has served in progressively responsible roles to include: Director of the McKinley Newton Honors Program, Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Assistant Professor-Language and Letters, and Director of the Panther Pantry & Fresh Market.  As a result of her record of service, most recently, she was promoted to Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs.

In May 2021, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, native received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Leadership Studies for Community and Social Change from the University of Central Arkansas. In addition, she holds a Masters in Public Administration and a Masters in Technical Writing, both from UA-Little Rock. Her Bachelor’s Degree from Wellesley College is in Africana Studies/International Relations.

“Dr. Shannon Clowney Johnson has long been an invaluable member of our Academic Affairs team,” said Philander Smith President Roderick L. Smothers, Sr. “And now as Interim Vice President, I am confident that she will continue to deliver the same consistency of excellence to ensure a smooth and seamless transition within the Division of Academic Affairs.”

Clowney Johnson’s appointment is effective immediately.

Lyon College receives $1 million to establish free enterprise institute

Lyon College Board Chairman Perry L. Wilson, on behalf of the Wilson family, has made a gift commitment of $1 million to Lyon College to create the endowed Michael E. Wilson Professorship of Business, Management and Social Entrepreneurship. 

The gift will serve as the foundation for the College’s Institute for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, which will be named at a later date upon receiving additional funding. Eventually, the institute would have a full time program director and would ultimately establish a comprehensive business incubator to combine academics with applied entrepreneurship, as well as a center for economic analysis and data for Northeastern Arkansas.

“This is a way to accentuate and bolster the rigorous liberal arts education from Lyon with what students will experience in the real world,” Wilson said.

Starting this year, the business division will reorganize to emphasize business and entrepreneurship to support the institute, which will focus on programming in the areas of economic development, entrepreneurship, and free enterprise. 

“Our business faculty have been planning the changes to the curriculum for some time, and the Wilson family’s gift will support the implementation of the business division’s new focus on entrepreneurship,” said Provost Melissa Taverner.

As a result, the College will start to provide additional business faculty positions, achievement of the Six Sigma Certification, and additional minors in entrepreneurship and leadership; social entrepreneurship and economic development, and health economics.

Vice President of Advancement David Hutchison expressed gratitude for Wilson’s “generous commitment to Lyon College [and] his firm vote of confidence in the role that Lyon College can play in economic vitality in the state.”

He added that the institute will make “Lyon College home to a unique incubator for the next generation of leaders who will drive growth and sustainability for our region.”

Wilson, formerly the chairman of the Economics Arkansas board of directors, said inspiration for the institute stemmed from his love for liberal arts education, entrepreneurship, and free enterprise.

“If we don’t have an educated population in the state of Arkansas, the state will fail,” Wilson said. “[With this institute] if we give students a basis upon which to go out and create something new, and they stay in Arkansas, that can only serve to better economic development for the state.”

Wilson explained that the institute’s concept is modeled after other institutes such as Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. While the concept is not new, the institute at Lyon will be distinct because no colleges in the state specifically offer it.

Wilson added, “We’re being innovative by being as small as we are and trying to establish an institute of free enterprise.”

With this gift, Wilson continues a family tradition of “undying devotion to education, entrepreneurship, and economic development” that now spans several generations. 

“Those things have been strong in my family for four or five generations,” Wilson said. “My dad, my grandfather before him, and certainly my great-great-grandfather were all about economic development for the state of Arkansas.”

Wilson remembers as a child seeing his father attend many economic development meetings while also running the family business Lee Wilson & Co., originally founded in 1886 by Wilson’s great-great-grandfather. The endowed professorship will be named after Wilson’s father, Michael Evans Wilson, who served on Lyon College’s Board of Trustees for many years.

“I’m so happy my family is in a position to do something like this for the state of Arkansas. We wouldn’t be here without my great-great-grandfather…He was a visionary in seeing that he needed to do something with what he had, to support education and economic development in the state.”

Hendrix Receives $500,000 Grant for Residence Hall Renewal Project

Hendrix College has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Sunderland Foundation of Overland Park, Kansas. The grant will support the College’s Residence Hall Renewal Project, which includes the renovation of Martin Hall and Veasey Hall, two historic residence halls at the core of campus. 

“We are deeply grateful to the Sunderland Foundation for its generous support of the College over the years,” said Hendrix President Ellis Arnold. “Their investment in the academic and student experience has enabled Hendrix to fulfill its ongoing mission as a national liberal arts college.” 

The Residence Hall Renewal Project is a major priority of A Time to Lead: The Campaign for Today and Tomorrow, the College’s $150 million capital campaign. The campaign was announced in fall 2020 after Hendrix received a $15 million grant from the Windgate Foundation, the largest outright gift in the College’s history. 

The Sunderland Foundation grant will help Hendrix meet a $2 million challenge grant from the Mabee Foundationthat the College received in April. To date, Hendrix has raised $8,407,764 in gifts and pledges for the project, which began in May 2021. Renovations will be completed in summer 2022.

“The Hendrix residential experience is distinctive and unique, and Veasey and Martin Halls are two of the most iconic residence halls on our campus,” Arnold said. “This project will allow both buildings to continue their historic traditions and provide a positive living experience and life-long memories for our students.”    

Martin Hall (37,340 sq. ft.) opened in 1918, and Veasey Hall (31,200 sq. ft.) opened in 1967. Aesthetic improvements will balance historic and modern design while improving function. Most of the upgrades will be interior. Among the renovations will be new HVAC systems to address air quality, humidity, and moisture concerns; new plumbing to streamline maintenance; new layouts for bathrooms to increase privacy; reconfigured laundry areas and study/lounge spaces to promote interaction among residents; ADA-compliant entries and living arrangements; LED lighting upgrades; stronger wireless connectivity; and new doors and flooring throughout both buildings. 

To learn more about the Residence Hall Renewal Project or to make a gift to support the renovations of Martin or Veasey Halls, visit www.hendrix.edu/giving/residencehallrenewal or contact Ginny McMurray, Associate Vice President for Development, at mcmurray@hendrix.edu.