University of the Ozarks has launched a new certification program in data analytics this summer.
The all-online program was developed in partnership with Podium Education in Austin, Texas, and will be available as credit-coursework for U of O students as well as a stand-alone certificate for the general public.
There are currently 18 Ozarks students enrolled in a summer session data analytics boot camp to launch the program. The summer boot camp consists of a pair of three-credit courses – Introduction to Applied Analytics and Data Visualization with Tableau.
The certificate program is 12 credits and can be completed over three semesters. The full program will begin in the 2020 Fall Semester.
University Provost Dr. Alyson Gill said data analytics is a much-requested skill set from both students as well as prospective employers.
“When we looked at regional market needs, we realized that there was a significant gap in training in data analytics—meaning that a significant number of posted positions listed data analytics as a preferred skill with no local or accessible program offering that training,” Gill said. “This program, which is for our current students and also as a stand-alone certificate for others outside the University, provides a ‘leg up’ in the job market. These skills are desirable for businesses as they lead to better understanding of their customers along with how to market to those customers.”
Gill said students can benefit from data analytics regardless of their major or professional interests and that they do not have to have a background in computer science or statistics.
“This certificate provides numerous transferable skills, including problem-solving, project management and critical thinking,” Gill said. “At the same time, these skills extend across all academic disciplines, and, because of this multidisciplinary impact, it benefits everyone.”
Gill said the University is exploring expanding the data analytics certificate program into a minor.
Dr. Rhyne Putman, a Williams Baptist University graduate and highly regarded theologian, is returning to his alma mater. Putman is joining the administration and faculty at WBU this fall as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Director of Worldview Formation and Professor of Christian Ministries.
In his role as AVP for Academic Affairs, Putman will serve as Dean of the Faculty and will be responsible to provide academic leadership for faculty and academic programming. As Director of Worldview Formation, he will have primary responsibility for developing and implementing strategies that facilitate worldview formation for the university community. As a member of the faculty, Dr. Putman will provide classroom instruction in the areas of Bible, Christian worldview, theology, and other courses related to the department of Christian Ministries.
Putman graduated from Williams in 2005 and went on to earn an M.Div. and Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was hired onto the theology faculty at the seminary and has been serving there ever since. He has also been the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at First Baptist Church in Kenner, La., since 2017.
During his time at NOBTS, Putman has become one of the foremost theologians in the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a recognized scholar in the areas of theological method and worldview formation. His publications include When Doctrine Divides the People of God: An Evangelical Approach to Theological Diversity and In Defense of Doctrine: Evangelism, Theology, and Scripture. His forthcoming book, The Method of Christian Theology, is scheduled for release fall of 2021.
“Dr. Putman has distinguished himself in his field of study, and he has excelled as a professor. He is one of the most prominent young theologians in the field today. He is a credit to WBU as an alumnus, and we are blessed to have him and his family return to Williams in this role,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of WBU.
“Rhyne embodies the ideals of a pastor-theologian. He has the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor. He understands the importance of local church pastors having a solid biblical foundation and a Christ-centered theological formation,” Norman said. “Rhyne is joining a Christian Ministries faculty that instills in our students a love for the Lord and a love for His church.”
Putman said he is excited to work in a university setting. He believes it is vitally important to impart spiritual truths at this stage of their lives.
“I am excited to put my training in worldview formation to use in a more global setting—to help build a robustly Christian liberal arts education in a university. We can shape minds who see the world through the lens of the gospel, develop rich habits, and stir affections for Christ,” Putman said.
“College students are away from mom and dad for the first time in their lives. They are discovering who they are, and this is a crucial time in the formation of their worldview. My hope is to help students find their place in the grand drama of the gospel. This is God’s world, and no matter what vocation we train for, we all have a pivotal part to play in the story he is telling,” he noted.
The hire is doubly special for Norman, who served as a systematic theology professor at the New Orleans seminary and taught Putman as a student. The two have remained close friends in the years since.
“Rhyne was a gifted student, and I was blessed to share in his theological formation. It has been a pleasure to see him gain prominence as a pastor and a theologian,” Norman said. “Rhyne also has a true heart for ministry and a love for the local church. As a committed churchman, he has a deep appreciation of the important role and relationship that Arkansas Baptist churches have with WBU. These traits will serve him well as he trains and prepares the next generation of ministers to serve in ministry in the local church as well as the marketplace.”
Norman noted that Putman’s influence will not be limited to Christian ministry majors. Putman will also provide interim leadership to campus ministries. “He will be a perfect fit at WBU, where he can reach students in the classroom and help shape the lives of young men and women all across this campus,” said the WBU president. “Rhyne will have the opportunity to interact with students in a broad array of academic fields who are preparing for a wide range of careers.”
Putman and his wife, Micah, are both Jonesboro natives. They have two young children.
Hendrix faculty member Dr. Kiril Kolev recently became a member of the Democratic Erosion Consortium, a collaboration of academics from more than 50 colleges and universities working to understand threats to democracy in the U.S. and abroad.
Led by Dr. Robert Blair at Brown University, the consortium seeks to promote a just and peaceful world through research, teaching, and public engagement. Its other members include more than 50 colleagues from the U.S. and abroad.
This fall, Kolev will teach his POLI 100 course, New Authoritarianism, using a consortium-wide syllabus. In addition, students in that class will participate in multiple engaged learning assignments:
Attending a campaign rally of their choice, then writing about the experience on a consortium-wide blog;
Engaging in assessment of the state of democracy in the U.S. at the beginning and the end of the semester, based on the readings and resources that the consortium provides;
Participating in the Democratic Erosion simulation, which immerses students in a fictional country undergoing challenges to its democratic model;
Using a state-of-the-art repository of data and narratives on the state of democracy around the world.
“Democratic erosion is a complex process that requires us to put the country we know best in comparative perspective,” Kolev said. “What the consortium offers is a blueprint for understanding what the United States is experiencing currently by learning about the broader world and the social-scientific theory and evidence we use to track governance and accountability. Perhaps more importantly, it pushes students to engage with their immediate communities, as well as peers at other campuses that are learning the same material. It is an excellent approach to raising awareness and interactions both locally and globally — something that defines the socio-economic and political reality of our time.”
Kolev, an associate professor who currently directs the Hendrix Odyssey Program and chairs the Hendrix College Department of Politics, joined the Hendrix faculty in 2011. After graduating from Whittier College with a degree in economics, he earned his Master of Science and Ph.D. in comparative politics at Duke University. He has taught courses on political economy, democratization, elections, research methods, and contemporary global issues. Between 2017 and 2019, he held the James and Emily Bost Odyssey Professorship, which funded his recent research on election quality, electoral systems, and political clientelism.
“In the classroom, I tell students that the best skill they can develop in college is being evidence-oriented and balanced ‘translators’ of academic knowledge for a broader audience,” Kolev said. “We often get one or the other: opinions in the numerous echo chambers on ideological right and left; rigorous but inaccessible analysis in academic journals. I believe this course will strengthen my ability to teach how we can narrow the gap between the two.”
Two Lyon College students are working in both the laboratory and the field to research the impact of poultry houses on local watersheds this summer.
Seniors Allison Mundy and Olivia Echols are researching the water quality in the Eleven Point and Black River watersheds. Poultry houses cause phosphorus and nitrogen runoffs, which can create harmful algae blooms in the water.
Mundy is working under Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Allyn Dodd, and Echols is splitting her time with Dodd and Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Maryline Jones.
They are studying the nutrients present in local streams to make sure they are at acceptable levels. If the streams are over-nutriated, then that is a sign that poultry house runoff is in the water.
“We’re also checking to see how much algae is growing in the streams,” Mundy said. “If there’s too much algae, the fish cannot survive because it depletes the oxygen in the water.”
She continued, “I’m checking the macroinvertebrates community. Basically, there are some bugs in the water that cannot live in pollution at all, so I check to see if any of those bugs are around and count them.”
Echols said she is studying the Ozark crawfish population to see how the pollution impacts the physiology of crawfish.
“We’re looking at how the nutrients have affected the osmoregulation of the crawfish,” Echols said. “Our main purpose right now is to try to sequence the genes involved in osmoregulation.”
Mundy said their work is part of Dodd’s research project in collaboration with Jones and Erik Pollock of the University of Arkansas, which was funded through a grant from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
“We are just gathering information to share with the USGS so they can publish the research on their website and get it to whoever needs it.”
She said the USGS is worried about this region of Arkansas because of the growing number of poultry houses in the area.
“They’re checking to make sure everything is okay,” Mundy said, “and that people are within their regulations.”
The Lyon College Art Program has completed a new mural in downtown Batesville.
The new mural, Blossoming Main Street, depicts an apple blossom on Main Street to represent the recent growth of Batesville’s beautiful downtown. The art department worked with Main Street Batesville and the Batesville Area Arts Council (BAAC) to finish the project.
The design was a collaboration between Professor of Art Dustyn Bork and Carly Dahl, BAAC director. Mandi Curtwright and Main Street Batesville applied for grant funding through the Arkansas Department of Heritage to complete the mural. Dahl and the BAAC provided logistical and operational support.
In addition to himself and his wife, Dahl, Bork said two current students, seniors Brianna Sanchez and Samantha Long, and an alumna, Victoria Hutcheson, helped him paint the new mural.
Hutcheson was back in Batesville due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bork reached out to ask if she would like to help.
“It felt great to be back painting murals in Batesville again,” she said. “The murals class at Lyon and Batesville shaped me so much in my life and career.”
Hutcheson continued, “It was also wonderful to talk to some current students to see how they enjoy learning about the murals and being able to give them some advice on what it’s like after Lyon and doing murals of your own.”
Long, of Cave City, felt like part of the community while working on the mural.
“The process was actually kind of stressful. Once you start painting and see the finished project, though, it’s really rewarding.”
Sanchez, of Paragould, drove all the way to Batesville to help for a week.
“Working on this project, I learned that if you step out of your comfort zone, you will earn even more opportunities,” she said. “I have already been spoken to about two potential murals of my own in Corning, Ark.”
Bork said the goal with the Blossoming Main Street mural is to inspire.
“We want to encourage visitors to see their surroundings in a new light and to encourage more foot traffic to the beautiful area of downtown Batesville.”
In the art department’s experience, he said, large colorful compositions garner great attention and are perfect for community engagement. He said this type of mural has the potential to be quite visible and be shared through social media and photography.
“We selected the apple blossom as it is the state flower. We wanted a subject matter that had local recognition and significance.”
Bork loved providing students and alumni the opportunity to get involved and help shape the community.
“They are awesome in their skills, so I know I can count on them,” he said. “This mural was a very complex painting with 22 unique colors and complex design, the most advanced we have taken on.”
The alumni and students have executed a few murals before, so Bork knew they would step up to the challenge.
“Having Victoria working with the current students was also a great teaching opportunity. Since she has executed a couple of large scale commissioned murals on her own, she was able to give them real world pointers on how to get started in their art.”
Seeing the impact of the Coke mural, the solo murals completed by students and the new Blossoming Main Street mural has been a rewarding experience for Bork.
“I am very proud of the role that Lyon and my students have played in adding to the vibrancy of our community,” he said.
Bork continued, “The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. Murals are tangible and visible products of artists’ creativity and talents.”
“All of the support from the community makes all the hard work so much more worth it,” Sanchez said. “I’m thankful to call Batesville my home away from home.”
“No matter where you’re from, art can be a really nice way to connect to your community,” said Long.
Both seniors would love to be involved in more community art projects in the future.
“I think every town deserves some color,” Sanchez said.
The Social Justice Institute at Philander Smith College (SJI) has announced a new partner for its Undergraduate Fellowship program. Wright Lindsey Jennings (WLJ), a premier law firm based in Little Rock, has pledged a two-year collaborative commitment to underwrite the Fellowship program.
Now in its third cohort, the Social Justice Fellows program offers Philander Smith College students the unique opportunity to become deeply engaged in advocacy and leadership activities. Through immersive social justice education, public policy training and personal development, Fellows are expected to gain firsthand experience in the steps and processes to policy reform and the foundation needed to build equitable systems in communities.
“We are excited to have the support of Wright Lindsey Jennings as this program moves forward,” said SJI Executive Director Tamika Edwards, J.D. “True social justice is rooted in policy reform and addresses laws that serve as a breeding ground for inequality in our communities. Through this collaboration, not only will Wright Lindsey Jennings provide program funding, but we will also work hand-in-hand to identify educational opportunities to help our students understand the critical role the legal system plays in justice-oriented work.”
Wright Lindsey Jennings has a longstanding commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity within the practice of law and within the greater community. The firm has also demonstrated a commitment to civil liberties throughout its 120-year history through the support of causes such as free speech, prisoners’ rights, equality in public education and diversity in the legal profession. WLJ provides support to missions and organizations dedicated to improving the imbalance in legal representation and access to justice and policymaking. Through firm initiatives like WLJ Tech Law, they also work with community partners to improve economic opportunities for entrepreneurs of color in the tech and startup space.
“This collaboration is just one step in our fight against racism and systemic inequality,” said Managing Partner Steve Lancaster. “In 1957, we publicly denounced segregation at Little Rock Central High School and today, more than 50 years later, the moment is no less critical. We know that there is work to do and we will continue to listen and stand with those working to promote equity and equality.”
Applications for the 2020-2021 Social Justice Fellowship are open now to Philander Smith College students with a minimum of thirty (30) credit hours. To learn more about the Social Justice Institute please visit rethinksocialjustice.org.
Lyon College’s chapter of Mortar Board received five national honors from the Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society.
The Order of the Tartan Chapter won the Gold Torch Award for the third straight year and three Project Excellence awards. Mortar Board advisor, Dr. Irosha Nawarathne, also received an Excellence in Advising award.
Madison Grant, ’20, the outgoing president of Mortar Board, said the Golden Torch Award is presented to chapters that go above and beyond. To be eligible, chapters must complete all their paperwork, have all of their membership dues paid, and perform service projects on campus.
“It was inspiring to see how the chapter came together when our whole year changed,” Grant said.
“Our Mortar Board chapter has a history of high standards,” said Melanie Beehler, ’20, “so it felt good to continue that legacy amidst what was happening outside of campus.”
Lyon received Project Excellence awards for the LEAD Conference, the virtual Student Creative Arts and Research Forum (SCARF) and the new Humanities, Arts, Sciences and Technology (HATS) event.
The LEAD Conference is held in the fall and teaches high schoolers how to be successful leaders. SCARF is held in the spring and gives Lyon students the chance to share the work they have pursued both in and outside of the classroom with their peers. HATS is a new companion event for SCARF that gives Lyon freshmen the chance to showcase the original research they have worked on during their first semester.
Nawarathne said SCARF was originally planned to be an in-person event, but Lyon students were dismissed from campus a week before it was scheduled to take place because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was really rough. We had worked so hard on SCARF, and we had it all ready to go. The students were upset, and I was upset.”
Fortunately, she said, Mortar Board and the SCARF committee worked with the Office of Strategic Marketing and Communication to hold the event virtually. The executive committee of Madison Grant, Kendra Kelley, Navy Griffin, Melanie Beehler, Daniel Armstrong, Sean O’Leary and Christen Johnson helped organize the virtual SCARF.
“We had an excellent executive committee this year,” Nawarathne said. “Everybody was well involved and ready to take on leadership roles.”
“It was heartbreaking that SCARF had to be cancelled in real-time because so many people put a lot of work into various aspects of the conference,” Grant said. “However, we did get to host it virtually, which gave the participants their chance to show off their hard work.”
Beehler and Grant said seeing Nawarathne recognized for Excellence in Advising by the national Mortar Board organization felt great.
“Dr. Irosha was a great help in moving SCARF to a virtual platform!” said Beehler. “She dedicates a lot of time to helping us with events and encouraging us to take the lead.”
She continued, “In regards to Mortar Board, she is a perfect example of what an advisor ought to be.”
Grant submitted the nomination for Nawarathne and was “so honored to then see her receive the award.”
“We held a personal award ceremony virtually for her, and it was so difficult to surprise her.”
The executive committee organized a Zoom call with Nationals to present the award to Nawarathne, along with flowers and a framed photo of this year’s members.
“She always goes above and beyond to help us be the best chapter we can be,” Grant said. “She was beyond deserving of such an incredible award.”
Nawarathne felt “truly honored and humbled” to receive the award from the national organization.
“The opportunity to work with an exemplary group of students like Lyon’s Mortar Board members is a gift I value more than any special award,” she said.
Nawarathne concluded with some advice from her personal experience being a first-generation college student in Sri Lanka more than a decade and a half ago. As much as she was supported by her loved ones, she said there was enough negativity to discourage her from reaching her dreams.
“Don’t let society define who you are or decide what you should be,” Nawarathne said. “Embrace who you are and dream big!”
She encouraged students to not only live their dreams but to also help others achieve their dreams.
A donation to Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge will fund the construction of two greenhouses. The $75,000 gift from Tekla Research, Inc., is providing the greenhouses for WBU’s Eagle Farms.
The farm operation is part of the broader Williams Works initiative, which will allow students to work their way through college.
Tekla Research CEO Dave Russell and CFO Beth Russell West, both of Jonesboro, Ark., along with company President Kevin Wilcutt of Fredericksburg, Va., are the major partners in Tekla. They provided funding for the greenhouses in memory of two close relatives, Dannah Russell Jones and Nora Leann Shuman. Dannah Jones was Russell’s daughter and West’s sister, and Nora Shuman was Wilcutt’s granddaughter.
“We’ve been blessed as a company and we wanted to share that with Williams. When I heard about the need for the greenhouses, I thought what a great way for Kevin and myself to provide a memorial for our dear daughter and granddaughter that we lost,” said Russell, who serves as chair of WBU’s Board of Trustees.
Pictured above are Rusell (center) presenting the check to WBU President Dr. Stan Norman (left), along with WBU Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dr. Doug Walker.
Eagle Farms is being developed on the western side of the WBU campus, where fruits and vegetables will be grown, harvested and marketed by students.
“The idea of new life growing and coming from such tragedy is somehow reassuring,” Russell said. “I do think it’s a fitting way for us to honor their memory, and I’m sure their memory will continue to live on even after we’re gone.”
Dave and Deb Russell lost their daughter to a sudden heart attack, while Wilcutt’s granddaughter died of a rare syndrome.
“My wife Peg and I can’t think of a better way to donate this money. Besides educating others to preach the gospel it’s a great way to educate others on the rare cause of Nora’s death, Sudden Unexplained Death of a Child (SUDC),” Wilcutt said.
“She was a healthy 2 ½ year old who went to sleep one afternoon to never wake up again. This is different than SIDS since it can happen to any child up to the age of 20. Unfortunately SUDC does not get the recognition that SIDS does and the research is not funded by the federal government,” he noted.
Russell said he and Wilcutt are excited about the Williams Works initiative and what it represents. Students selected for the program will work 16 hours per week all through the fall and spring semesters, and their tuition and fees will be covered. Those who work fulltime in the summer months will also have their room and board paid, enabling them to graduate debt-free.
“As businessmen who interview and hire new job candidates regularly we know the value of an education that includes work as well as academics. Our best new hires are people that worked their way through school with either work-study for their degree, internships or a wide variety of other jobs. In fact, one of our best entry level hires was a landscaper while in school that is now leading multi-million dollar proposals.
“Too many institutions are turning out graduates and folks with advanced degrees that may understand the concepts but don’t understand how to apply them practically in a work environment. Williams Works and Eagle Farms will give Williams graduates that experience,” Russell commented.
Wilcutt added, “It does a person good to get his/her hands dirty. What a way to get and pay for an education!”
WBU President Norman said the greenhouses will be built on the front side of Eagle Farms and will be used to start plants which will later be transplanted outdoors. The structures will also serve as the entry point for visitors to the farm.
“The greenhouses were a huge need for our burgeoning farm operation, and we can’t thank Tekla Research enough for such a generous gift. Dave and Kevin have captured the vision for the farm and for Williams Works. The memory of their loved ones will live on in a very special way through these structures, and through the lives impacted by the Williams Works initiative,” he said.
Angelica Holmes, ’15, is the new executive director of Black Outside, Inc.
BlackOutside.org says the nonprofit organization was founded with the mission of expanding outdoor “access, programming and relevancy to both Black and Brown communities across Texas.”
Holmes was already working with Black Outside as the director of the relaunched Camp Founder Girls, one of the first summer camps for Black girls founded in 1924. Alex Bailey, the founder and former executive director of Black Outside, recently started a new job, and the nonprofit was looking for someone to take over his role.
“I was one of the first people mentioned because I’m so familiar with the organization,” Holmes said. “I’ve always been on the board for Black Outside, and its mission has been close to my heart since the very beginning.”
She had to work through some “imposter syndrome” internally while preparing to take on the new leadership role.
“I’m an introvert, and I never imagined this would be my role. It’s been kind of crazy and still a lot to process.”
Holmes continued, “I’m so excited about it, though!”
She will continue serving as the director of Camp Founder Girls and working hand-in-hand with Bailey, but she will be taking the lead on programs now.
“Instead of spending all my time and attention on Camp Founders Girls stuff, I’ll be looking at the bigger picture of Black Outside’s mission.”
Holmes will help manage Black Outside’s other programs, such as the Brotherhood Summit and the Charles Roundtree Bloom Project.
The Brotherhood Summit, she said, is an annual outdoor retreat for Black male high school students. A collective of Black male teachers and mentors convene with students from across San Antonio, Texas, for mentorship, community-building and leadership development.
The Charles Roundtree Bloom Project aims to create a space of communal healing for youth impacted by incarceration and over-policing in their communities.
“It was started by my esteemed colleague Ki’Amber Thompson,” Holmes said. “Her cousin, Charles Roundtree, was 18 in 2018 when he was killed by the San Antonio Police Department.”
She continued, “[Ki’Amber] has a lot of experience dealing with over-policing in San Antonio. She wanted to give her family members and members of the community who had similar upbringings what she would have wanted when she was their age.”
Holmes said the Bloom Project facilitates healing-centered outdoor experiences and culturally relevant environmental education that helps young people “envision new possibilities for their lives, for their communities and for our world.”
She is also excited to continue working with Camp Founder Girls, which just finished its second year. The camp had to pivot to a hybrid model this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, hosting day camps with three small groups of 10 girls instead of the typical overnight model.
“With everything going on in the world, we recognized the importance of our girls having a chance to get together and convene, even if it was on a much smaller scale.”
The camp featured some “social distancing-friendly” day activities. Some were in person, and some were virtual, Holmes said.
“We just wanted to give them a little taste of camp and that sense of community.”
She continued, “It’s been really hard trying to figure out how to be as safe as possible, but I think we did a good job of making sure we were overly cautious when it came to preventing transmission of the virus or any health issues.”
Holmes is looking forward to being more involved in all of Black Outside’s programming and seeing its mission expand.
One lesson she has learned through Camp Founder Girls is the importance of giving the kids time to breathe.
“As a former teacher working with a lot of former teachers, we wanted to have every single minute planned,” she said, laughing.
Holmes said giving kids time to discover and explore on their own is important.
“As we plan for the future, we have to give the kids some time to just be outside and be able to discover, walk around and inhale and exhale outside. It’s such a blessing. We’re finding ways to work that into the schedule.”
To donate to Black Outside and its programs, visit BlackOutside.org/donate. Donors can select which program they want to support or let their donation go to the area of most need.