Philander Smith College Ranked Among HBCUs with the Highest Four-Year Graduation Rates in the Nation by U.S. News and World Report

Philander Smith College has been ranked seventh among 41 HBCUs in the nation for the highest four-year graduation rates among first-time, full-time students who started in fall 2013. This ranking was announced by the U.S. News (and World Report) Short List, that magnifies data points in specific areas for colleges and universities across the country. 

 “It is extremely rewarding to have Philander Smith College recognized on a national level for the outstanding work done by our faculty on an ongoing basis. Our mission is to graduate academically accomplished students, grounded as advocates for social justice, determined to change the world for the better,” said Dr. Roderick L. Smothers Sr., President of Philander Smith College. “This report is another confirmation that we are achieving our mission,” he added.

Among the 41 ranked historically Black schools that provided this data to U.S. News in an annual survey, the average four-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students who started in fall 2013 was around 22%. However, at each of the 11 HBCUs with the highest four-year graduation rates, including ties, more than 30% of first-year students graduated within four years. Philander Smith College’s graduate rate is 35%.

Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer for Philander Smith College, Dr. Anthony B. Johnson  said, “ The Office for Academic Affairs and the faculty of the college support Philander Smith College’s mission and strive to foster an environment that is intentional, corrective, and forward in student development. The graduation of our students is the culmination of an environment that includes a rigorous curriculum, co-curricular and experiential activities, undergraduate research and internships, and leadership and cultural studies.”

Many of the nation’s most prominent African Americans earned their undergraduate degrees from historically Black colleges and universities, commonly known as HBCUs. These schools were established during the era of segregation to grant Black Americans academic opportunities they would otherwise have been denied due to discrimination. HBCUs have a significant track record of educating influential Black leaders.

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the 15th Surgeon General of the United States and the first African American and the second female to head the U.S. Public Health Service; Lottie Shackleford, the first African American Mayor of Little Rock; and Robert Blue, former ExxonMobile executive and noted philanthropist are among many outstanding Philander alumni.  

According to U.S. News and World Report, how long it takes a student to graduate can depend on various factors. For instance, a student may elect to transfer to another school for a better fit, potentially increasing his or her time to graduation depending on how many credits are carried over. Academic struggles, changing or adding majors, financial difficulties or other personal challenges can also play a role in whether a student is able to graduate in four years.

For more information about the ranking, visit

Philander Smith College offers 20 undergraduate majors across five core academic divisions. For more information about admissions and enrollment, please visit  or call 501-370-5300. 

Philander Smith College Receives $65,000 HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative Grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Philander Smith College is pleased to announce that a $65,000 grant to support a Rehabilitation Plan for the Sherman E. Tate Student Recreation Center is being awarded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a part of its HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative program. Included in the award is a $5,000 grant from the Wunsch Americana Foundation and Chipstone Foundation that will be used to support a professional development opportunity for a Philander Smith College student.

“Philander Smith College is fortunate to have a number of beautiful and historic buildings on its campus, including the Tate Student Recreation Center which is such an important gathering place for our scholars,” said PSC President Roderick L. Smothers. “These critical funds will aid in the efforts toward its restoration and rehabilitation as we work in tandem with our alumni and other partners to preserve it for future generations.”

“Congratulations . . . The work your institution is doing to preserve its historic resources to tell the full American story is energizing and inspiring. We are looking forward to this new partnership and working with Philander Smith College,” said Katherine Malone France, Chief Preservation Officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Philander Smith College is only one of eight HBCUs across the nation to receive this inaugural grant. HBCUs have long been underfunded as a result of decades of structural racism and lack of equitable public funding, said Brent Leggs, executive director of the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, which is supplying the grants. He added, “They stand as a living testament to African American history and the ongoing achievements of highly influential Americans, but they continue to be overlooked and underfunded.”


About Philander Smith College:  Founded in 1877, Philander Smith College is one of the oldest private, historically Black institutions of higher learning in Arkansas. A four-year liberal arts college, the institution is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is the only United Negro College Fund member school in the state. The College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of NCA.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded, nonprofit organizationbased in Washington, D.C., that works in the field of historic preservation in the United States. The member-supported organization was founded in 1949 by congressional charter to support the preservation of America’s diverse historic buildings, neighborhoods, and heritage through its programs, resources, and advocacy.

Harding College of Pharmacy faculty, students assist in distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

Since December, the College of Pharmacy has partnered with several hospitals, pharmacies and other locations statewide to assist in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

After the approval of the first COVID vaccine in December 2020, the College of Pharmacy began sending students and faculty to local hospitals across the state to help healthcare workers receive their vaccines. Dr. Rayanne Story, assistant dean for experiential education and assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, said students did not delay in their assistance.

“Our finals end on Thursday of finals week, and we sent our first students on Friday and Saturday,” Story said. “Even during the week of Christmas, we sent students out. We didn’t take a break; they were out working.”

A month later, the vaccine initiative has grown through strong relationships between the College of Pharmacy and many pharmacies, hospitals and clinics across the state. Story said these relationships have allowed students to be sent across Arkansas, especially to heavily populated or very rural areas that would benefit from extra help.

“Those ties are very strong with hospitals and pharmacies around the state, so it started with them reaching out to us,” Story said. “Then we had this overwhelming need, so that’s when we started collaborating with [Arkansas Pharmacists Association] and [University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences] to try to really deploy students everywhere.”

Dr. Jeff Mercer, dean of the College of Pharmacy, said student help is useful because pharmacists have full-time jobs within their normal duties, but with the added need of administering many vaccines a day, they benefit from extra help.  

“Supply continues to build every week, but the challenge is scaling up the workforce in order to deliver it,” Mercer said. “That’s where our students come in, and our faculty and really anyone who is able to immunize because every little bit we contribute is use of the supply and encouragement for more supply to be provided to that particular community. It really is an all hands on deck situation. We’re doing everything we can to try to find opportunities for students to volunteer or to get hours for their practice experiences.”

Story said students from all four years of the pharmacy program are helping in this effort. After their first year of the program, students are certified to give vaccinations. This allows some students to give vaccinations while others help with paperwork, monitor vaccine recipients, and draw doses of the vaccine. She said the vaccination initiative was not only helping the communities the students went into but also providing valuable experience for pharmacy students in all four years.

“It’s a win-win situation because it gives a chance for our students on all four levels to be able to go face-to-face with a patient and work with them and potentially even give them a shot or drop a medication and a syringe for them,” Story said. “It also gives our students a great experience to see real-world pharmacy in action.”

Arianna Nuhung, a second-year pharmacy student, had the opportunity to give the second COVID-19 vaccine dose to one of our outstanding preceptors at St. Bernards Healthcare, Dr. Keith Rubottom.

While working at Medic Sav-On Drugs in Searcy, Arianna Nuhung, a second-year pharmacy student, has had a role in every part of the process from helping with paperwork to administering the vaccine to patients. She said her involvement in this allowed her to learn in a way that differed from many other experiential learning activities.

“Other experiential education often utilizes the ‘shadowing’ technique where a student follows a preceptor and participates through observation, verbal discussion or presentation,” Nuhung said. “Working with the novel COVID vaccines is different because it allows for a more hands-on experience. By doing so, pharmacy students gain a better understanding of the pharmacy field and retain more knowledge from their experiences.”

Despite the program requiring students in all four years to have experiential education, Mercer said many have already fulfilled those requirements but are still volunteering.

“A lot of our students are not getting any academic credit for what they’re doing,” Mercer said. “They’re volunteering their time. They’re choosing to show up and just kind of rolling up their sleeves and helping. It speaks to the service mindset of our students.”

Beyond the broad impact of assisting with the distribution of the vaccine, Nuhung said the experience has personal significance as well.

“I am proud to be able to participate in such a historical and unprecedented time where my profession was chosen to spearhead the next step in healing the world,” Nuhung said. “My grandmother lives with me at home, and I have many close friends and family who are immunocompromised or high-risk patients, so knowing that the vaccine may help keep them safe is beyond words. Being about to distribute the COVID vaccine is not only a way for me to grow professionally, but to project the pharmacy field as a leading provider and to serve my community wholeheartedly.”

Mercer said he hopes the service provided by College of Pharmacy students and faculty is beneficial to the pharmacy profession and will help bring an end to this pandemic.

“I see this as a great opportunity to truly position ourselves as the frontline,” Mercer said. “We are answering the call that will ultimately help us return back to a life of normalcy.”

Lilly Endowment Invests $1M in Philander Smith College to Strengthen Ministries in Black and Small Churches

Philander Smith College is excited to be the recipient of funds totaling $1,049,130 to help establish the Strengthening Ministries in Black and Small Churches in Central Arkansas program. It is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry. 

Earlier in the year the College received a $50,000 award from Lilly Endowment to support the development of the Thriving In Ministry grant submission. That planning grant, combined with the full grant award of $999,130, represents a total $1,049,130 investment in PSC’s effort to strengthen the pastors serving small churches in Arkansas and nearby states.

Thriving in Ministry seeks to help pastors develop meaningful relationships with wise colleagues who can help guide them through key leadership challenges, especially during transitions in their ministerial careers. The initiative builds upon recent studies that have examined the importance of colleagues and mentors who help pastors face and overcome common professional challenges. These studies include research from the Endowment-funded Flourishing in Ministry project. 

“Philander Smith College has a legacy of developing clergy who have become leaders and mentors to generations of ministers and pastors,” said PSC President Dr. Roderick L. Smothers, Sr.  “Our alumni have broken barriers, published extensively in the field of religious studies, and blazed spiritual trails for a new cohort of preachers and scholars. Funding from Lilly Endowment will help us to continue building upon this sacred foundation,” he continued.

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for Religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. Promising efforts in this initiative including the Philander Smith College program, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.” 

The grant period at Philander Smith College will run from December 2020 through December 2025.

Windgate Foundation Awards $859,000 Visual and Performing Arts Grant to Philander Smith College

Philander Smith College is pleased to announce that the Windgate Foundation of Little Rock, Arkansas, will fund a new Visual and Performing Arts Program and Visual Arts Scholarships with a $859,000 grant to be paid over the next three years, starting June 1, 2021.

“Because the arts help sustain the human spirit and are an essential cultural touchstone, we are deeply appreciative of this gift from the Windgate Foundation that will support our desire to nurture the creativity of our students. In turn, we believe that the College will be greater positioned to enrich the artistic community of our city, our state, and beyond,” said PSC President Roderick L. Smothers, Sr., Ph.D.

In response, Windgate Foundation Executive Director Patricia Forgy remarked that, “Windgate Foundation is pleased to partner with Philander Smith College as they expand their degree offerings for students to include visual art. This is a great step forward for the College and will benefit the entire community with future outreach and collaboration opportunities.”  Providing institutional support for visual arts and scholarships in higher education is one of the core areas of focus for the foundation which has funded multiple grants at Philander Smith College.

The Visual and Performing Arts Program will offer courses in applied digital media and graphic design, various studio arts, animation and photography classes, among others. Scholarship support will be available to those seeking to enroll in the program. Students who complete the program will be eligible for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in the Visual and Performing Arts. 

“Generous gifts from partners like the Windgate Foundation greatly help Philander Smith College continue to meet the needs and interests of our scholars. Providing training and instilling an appreciation for the role of the arts anchors a well-rounded educational experience,” said Charles King, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Philander Smith College.

“We look forward to working with community partners to develop an academic program and a consortium of Black artists with whom we can partner to help our students achieve a level of success in their artistic pursuits that will be unparalleled in the south and second to none among Historically Black Colleges and Universities in America,” said Shannon M. Clowney Johnson, Assistant Professor and Director of the PSC McKinley Newton Honors Academy. 

The mission of Philander Smith College is to graduate academically accomplished students, grounded as advocates for social justice, determined to change the world for the better. 

Ouachita enters partnership with Leeds United College

Ouachita Baptist University has begun a working partnership with Leeds United College and Longford International College to explore collaborative educational opportunities ranging from guest speakers to internships to full degree programs. LUC and LIC are included in the educational division of Leeds United Football Club, which is based in Leeds, England.

“Ouachita has a long history of international engagement, including our first partnership with an overseas university in the 1970s,” said Dr. Stan Poole, Ouachita’s vice president for academic affairs. “We’re especially eager to explore how this partnership can provide access to exceptional high-impact learning experiences that deepen our students’ classroom knowledge and understanding.

The institutions anticipate a collaborative working partnership drawing on the strengths of each establishment for the benefit of students. Access to facilities and educational content are among the resources each institution brings to the relationship as future programs are considered. Leeds partnership

Ouachita’s working partnership with Leeds United College (LUC) and Longford International College (LIC), which are included in the educational division of Leeds United Football Club, will explore collaborative educational opportunities ranging from guest speakers to internships to full degree programs.

“We’re really pleased to launch this new and exciting partnership,” said Spencer Taylor, director of education at Leeds United. “It will be great to see the relationship progress over time, with all parties working together to create opportunities for young students to study and learn whilst also developing important research and initiatives.”

“We believe in the power of [soccer] and education together and how it can break down cultural barriers, bring people together and make a positive difference to the lives of many,” added Professor Vincent English, president of Longford International College. “Longford College is also delighted to be part of an innovative approach to education where the rigor of academia is balanced against the practical approach.”

LIC and LUC currently offer accredited diplomas and master’s degrees in such fields as business leadership, football business and sports performance.

“We also look forward to collaborating with our partners to consider unique graduate-level programs that take advantage of the strengths of our diverse institutions,” Poole added.

“We are encouraged by the opportunity to partner in new, creative ways as we seek to expand the reach of our mission globally through unique partnerships and programs,” added Dr. Monica Hardin, associate vice president for graduate and professional studies. “As higher education continues to evolve in a globalized world, international partnerships are vital and we look towards a bright future with LUC and LIC.”

Lyon students guaranteed admission interviews with Arkansas Colleges of Health Education

President Dr. W. Joseph King signed an agreement with the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE) in Fort Smith, guaranteeing that Lyon College students, who meet eligibility requirements, will be granted an admissions interview to any of ACHE’s programs.

“This agreement is a fantastic opportunity for our students who are interested in health sciences,” said King. “Preparing students to excel after graduation is an important part of the College’s mission, and this agreement contributes to those efforts.”

These programs include the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine (ARCOM), the School of Physical Therapy (ACHE PT), the School of Occupational Therapy (ACHE OT) and the Master of Science in Biomedicine (MSB) program.

Lyon Provost Melissa Taverner said ACHE approached Lyon to establish this collaborative agreement because of the exceptionally strong preparation for healthcare careers that Lyon students receive. 

“Our admission statistics for post-graduate healthcare professional programs regularly exceed national averages and is a testament to the rigor of our programs,” Taverner said. 

She continued, “Our graduates go on to serve their communities as doctors, dentists, therapists, pharmacists, and in many other professional fields. That success is rooted in the Lyon experience.”

To be guaranteed an admissions interview, Lyon students must meet the following requirements:

  • Be either a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
  • Complete all prerequisite coursework prior to matriculation into their respective program.
  • Achieve the following minimum grade point averages (GPA):
    • ARCOM- 3.5 overall GPA, of which the overall science GPA must be at least 3.4.
    • MSB- 3.2 overall GPA, of which the overall science GPA must be at least 3.0.
    • ACHE PT- 3.5 overall GPA.
    • ACHE OT- 3.5 overall GPA.
  • Sit for a healthcare professional entrance examination and receive the following minimum scores:
    • ARCOM- Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score of 500
    • MSB- MCAT score of 490; Dental Admission Test (DAT) score of 18; or Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score of 301
    • ACHE PT- as determined by the ACHE PT Admissions Committee
    • ACHE OT- as determined by the ACHE OT Admissions Committee

ACHE’s guarantee of an interview does not guarantee admission into any ACHE program.

“We are excited to become partners with Lyon College,” stated Brian Kim, President of ACHE.  “We have a goal to educate and retain our Arkansas students in our medical education programs.  Lyon College students have a reputation of being students of excellence and we look forward to welcoming them to our campus.”

Lilly Endowment Grant to Help University Assist Rural Presbyterian Pastors

University of the Ozarks will receive a nearly $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to establish a program that will support pastors of rural and minority-serving Presbyterian Churches throughout Arkansas.

The grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry. 

The $997,322 grant will help the University establish the Arkansas Presbytery Thriving in Ministry Consortium program on campus. The program’s purpose is to “help pastors thrive in congregational leadership and thus enhance the vitality of the congregation they serve.” 

The program will be launched during the summer of 2021 and will be designed to assist and support rural pastors in areas such as launching new churches, serving communities of color, and serving small membership churches. The funding includes a new program director position who will serve as the “pastor to the pastors.”

University President Richard Dunsworth said the Thriving in Ministry program is a natural fit for the University, which has been affiliated with the Presbyterian Church since its establishment in 1834 in Cane Hill, Arkansas.

“Today, University of the Ozarks is in a position of responsibility and obligation of Christian service to step into this place of need within the Presbytery and provide a leadership role back to the Presbytery that will build bridges and foster pastoral development,” Dunsworth said. “This program is designed to support leadership and change-management programs to enable pastors to learn how to develop their own personal leadership and networking skills.”

Dunsworth said the new program stems from a planning grant that Lilly Endowment made to University of the Ozarks earlier this year through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry initiative. Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States.

The planning grant led to a series of focus groups conducted by the University this past summer with pastors from around the state.

“Pastors serving rural congregations and minority communities describe an almost unfathomable set of demands on their time, intellect and faith,” Dunsworth said. “The amazingly talented and committed women and men who occupy the pulpits of our rural and minority-serving churches are under-resourced, tired and in need of personal and professional support. With a Thriving in Ministry grant, together, we will create a supportive foundation and network to renew the faith of pastors, and ultimately strengthen the congregations that University of the Ozarks owes so much.”

Dunsworth said University’s long relationship with the Presbyterian Church and programs such as the University’s Struthers Pastoral Study Leave Program places the University in a strong position to provide a leadership role in this initiative.

The Struthers Pastoral Study Leave was established at U of O in 2005 by the late Rev. Dr. James R. Struthers of Stillwater, Okla., a long-time member of the University’s Board of Trustees. The program has brought more than 30 Presbyterian pastors to the U of O campus for personal and professional development in the past 15 years.

“We believe we are uniquely positioned to establish a Thriving in Ministry program and support these pastors,” Dunsworth said. “We have the experience and the confidence of pastors to create space for them to explore their gifts, develop new meaningful relationships and learn to manage competing demands on their increasingly scare time.”

Dunsworth said the University will begin the search for a program director in January.

Lilly Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state, Indiana. Its grantmaking in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.

Sen. Boozman Meets With Williams Baptist University Trustees

The Board of Trustees at Williams Baptist University welcomed U.S. Senator John Boozman to their regularly scheduled meeting on Friday, Dec. 4.  The Arkansas senator joined the trustees for lunch and heard an update on recent developments at WBU in general and on the Williams Works program in particular. The Senator also shared news from Washington with those gathered.

“We were honored to have Sen. Boozman back on the Williams campus and to hear firsthand about important issues facing our nation and our region,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of WBU.  “We were also grateful to have the opportunity to share with him the exciting things happening at WBU, especially about the new initiatives we recently launched as part of our Williams Works initiative.” 

WBU launched the Williams Works initiative this fall.  Students selected for the program work 16 hours per work throughout the fall and spring semesters, and in exchange their tuition and fees are covered.  Students who work full-time through the summer can also have their room & board expenses paid, giving them the chance to graduate debt-free.

“It is great to be on a campus when you can talk all about the important things that need to be discussed, but also a campus where you can share your faith and that is really at the center of everything and thanks for the great job everyone here is doing,” Boozman said. “I’ve enjoyed hearing about the Williams Works program and I think it is a great thing for students and we look forward to seeing it grow in the future.”

About half of the board attended the socially-distanced meeting in person, while other board members took part virtually.

Norman briefed the board on WBU’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, noting that the university has been able to maintain in-person instruction throughout the fall semester and plans to continue doing so in the spring semester.

“The pandemic has presented multiple challenges to our campus, and it has impacted a number of families that are dear to us.  We have taken this very seriously,” the president said. “WBU has taken a proactive approach toward contact tracing, quarantines and isolation for those who test positive, and that approach has enabled us to keep the campus open.”

Norman noted that WBU has had options for students to attend classes virtually, enabling them to keep up with their coursework if placed in quarantine or isolation due to covid-19.

“This has been a challenging year, to say the least, but in the midst of it, we have been blessed.  I am so thankful for this campus community in pulling together and meeting these challenges directly,” Norman added.

New Board of Trustee Members (L to R): Trey Stafford, Ben Rainwater and Clint Emfinger

The board also welcomed several new trustees at the meeting.  Trey Stafford of Jonesboro and Dr. Ben Rainwater of Little Rock are starting their first terms as WBU trustees, while Dr. Heather Moore of Cabot and Clint Emfinger of Searcy are returning to the board after serving previously.

The Williams Board of Trustees is composed of 24 members.  They are selected by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, which owns and operates the university.

WBU is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge.