Harding University establishes new office for graduate and professional support

Harding University has established a new office of graduate and professional support. The office will provide expanded resources for more than 50 graduate and professional programs beginning July 1.

Graduate and professional programs have been a part of the educational offerings at Harding since 1952, growing to account for close to 20% of annual enrollment in recent years and representing significant growth opportunities in the coming years due to increased demand and job requirements for graduate education.

Mitch Walton, director of the office, reports to Julie Hixson-Wallace, associate provost and vice president for accreditation and institutional effectiveness. Walton has served as director of Harding-North Little Rock since August 2017. Prior to his time at Harding, he served as director of professional development for the Arkansas Association of Educational Administration (AAEA), executive director of three AAEA umbrella organizations, and as both the superintendent and high school principal of Sloan-Hendrix School District. Walton holds degrees from both Harding University and Arkansas State University.

The office will include five additional staff members who will contribute to the recruiting, marketing and support of Harding graduate and professional programs.

Harding University appoints new leadership for the Honors College

The Harding University Honors College has appointed Dr. Kevin Kehl dean and Dr. James Huff and Dr. Jim Miller as faculty fellows following a leadership restructure.

Dr. James Huff

Huff, recently promoted to associate professor of engineering from the College of Sciences, and Miller, associate professor of communication from the College of Arts and Humanities, have been named the first two-year appointees as Honors College Faculty Fellows beginning Aug. 1, 2020 through May 2022. In addition to teaching Honors courses, the faculty fellows will help develop the Honors College curriculum and co-curriculum and help guide and mentor students through various experiential learning and capstone projects.

Dr. Jim Miller

Since its inception in 1989, the Honors Program, which became the Honors College in 1998, has provided the most scholarly of undergraduate students at Harding with special opportunities for academic and social enrichment. The Honors College is open to qualified undergraduate students from any college and actively seeks to partner with faculty in every college to provide a rich experience for their students through honors sections and courses offered with honors contracts.

“I am pleased to announce that Dr. Kevin Kehl will be the new dean of the Honors College,” said Marty Spears, provost and chief academic officer. “Dr. Kehl is passionate about helping students from all colleges and programs of studies achieve their goals. He is committed to continuing the tradition of strong leadership in the Honors College and empowering the faculty fellows to develop and pursue a vision for the future of the Honors College at Harding. Dr. Kehl also will continue to serve as the dean of University College.”

Dr. Kevin Kehl

Kehl fills the role previously held by Dr. Mike James who retired after 47 years with the University.

Kehl, Huff and Miller will be joining others currently serving in the Honors College including Dr. Scott Adair, associate professor in the College of Bible and Ministry and academic director of Honors Symposium; Mrs. Debbie Baird, Honors College administrator; and Mrs. Kristina Chance, assistant to the dean.

For more information about the Honors College, visit harding.edu/honors.

Harding University names Andrew Braxter new Director of Church Outreach

The Harding University Office for Church Relations has appointed Andrew M. Braxter as the new director of church outreach effective Aug. 10. In that role he will work to strengthen the university’s outreach to the Churches of Christ, with a special focus on minority serving congregations. Braxter will also be a part of Harding’s Multi-Cultural Consortium and serve on its Diversity Committee.

Braxter delivered his first sermon at the age of 8, traveled to his first preaching appointment away from home at the age of 12, and made his first address at the National Lectureship at the age of 21. He has worked as the assistant to the vice president for public relations and development at Southwestern Christian College and has served in churches in Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas, where he currently serves as the minister to the Rose City Community Church of Christ in North Little Rock.

Braxter earned his Bachelor of Science in religious studies from Southwestern Christan College in 2015 and is currently working on his Master of Divinity from Harding School of Theology.

The director of church outreach will serve under the vice president of the Office of Church Relations. The purpose of the Office for Church Relations is to sustain and strengthen the relationship between Harding University and the Churches of Christ across the country and to be a source of support to the servants of God by offering programs and resources for ministry staff, church leadership and church members. To learn more about the Office for Church Relations visit harding.edu/churchrelations or call 501-279-4449.

Chartwells Higher Education to introduce new campus dining experience at Harding University

Following a comprehensive review of its food service strategy and an extensive vendor evaluation process, Harding University has announced Chartwells Higher Education will be the new campus dining service provider effective May 26, 2020.

Chartwells, under the name Harding Dining, will transform the on-campus dining experience in partnership with Harding University to create a premier food service program that emphasizes quality, made-to-order food, menu customization, variety, value, student success and education, and forward-thinking innovations. Students will experience these improvements when they arrive on campus this fall.

“We are incredibly thrilled to be part of Harding University campus and community,” said Nadeem Zafar, Division President, Chartwells Higher Education. “Our program is built to set students up for success, using dining as an engagement and education tool across campus; whether it is introducing a new cultural dish, educating students on cooking practices and culinary skills through our Teaching Kitchen platform, or creating unique experience through the offered legacy events.”

As part of this student-centric program approach, students will experience several enhancements across campus, including an all new convenience store Market featuring fresh and ready-to-eat sandwiches, wraps, salads, protein plates, sweet and salty snacks, and household items. Within the Hammon Student Center, Tu Taco will replace Taco Bell and offer authentic street tacos, nachos, burritos and more. Additionally, through technology, students will be able to vote in spring 2021 for the next dining concept to occupy the space. 

The Brackett Library will welcome a local favorite, Midnight Oil, to campus to serve their delicious brewed coffees, specialty drinks, and express menu items in its coffee shop. Lastly, the COP-PA Kettle market in the Farrar Center for Health Sciences will be revamped to offer delicious and customizable salads, sandwiches and wraps. 

These new concepts will be supported by robust technology including Chartwells’ Boost mobile ordering, Sally the Robot salad vendor and ordering kiosks. Adapting to COVID-19 and keeping the Harding community safe, students will return to campus with mobile ordering and food pick-up lockers in the Hammon Student Center for guests to schedule and pick up their meals with ease.

The Charles White Dining Hall will transition to become The Range Food Hall and will welcome students as they begin classes on Monday, Aug. 24 featuring a Sweet Shoppe dessert experience and specialty pop-up stations featuring a weekly special such as bao buns and create your own quesadillas. A heavy emphasis has been placed on offering healthy foods made from scratch and an extensive allergen free program that clearly labels all foods with appropriate information so students can make safe and healthy dining choices. BalancedU communication can be found throughout the dining hall identifying vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and balanced menu items. Lastly, the FYUL wellness and sustainability program will allow for clarity boost, anti-inflammatory, and heart healthy menu items for students and student athletes to fuel their long days of studies, socializing and activity. To keep up with students’ busy schedules, Harding Dining will integrate ordering kiosks at the Flame station, which will serve grilled favorites, and the Innovate station, featuring various pop-up concepts such as made-to-order Korean BBQ, Asian, Mediterranean, and other menus on a weekly basis.

Chartwells Higher Ed will also introduce a brand new Carved & Crafted catering experience to campus along with a hyper-local focus to support local farms and farmers in the greater Arkansas community. The catering menus introduced on campus will offer different tiers of service from high-end events, everyday buffets and a student-focused guide, and a contactless and disposable catering program to choose from. For more information, visit www.dineoncampus.com/harding or follow @hardingdining on Instagram.

Harding University appoints new leadership for its physician assistant program

The College of Allied Health has appointed Mary Madill program director and Amanda Diles academic director of its physician assistant program effective April 2020.

Mary Madill, associate professor, has been with the University since 2012. Before coming to Harding Madill worked in a rural primary care clinic and hospital in Arkansas.

“It was an honor to experience the mission of the Harding PA program come to life while working as a primary care PA in rural Arkansas, and it is an honor to continue advancing that same mission as the program director,” said Madill. “I have an incredible amount of gratitude for those who lead the development of PA education and practice in Arkansas.”

Madill received her Master of Science in physician assistant studies from Harding University. She previously served as the academic director, a position now filled by Amanda Diles. Madill fills the role previously held by Dr. Michael Murphy who is retiring in July.

Amanda Diles, associate professor, has been with the University since 2014. Before coming to Harding she worked in primary care. Diles received her Master of Science in physician assistant studies and a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in health care management from Harding University.

Harding’s College of Allied Health offers high quality educational programs in some of the most dynamic and fastest growing fields in the healthcare industry including pre-athletic training, exercise science, communication sciences and disorders, physician assistant studies, speech pathology, pre-audiology and physical therapy. For more information regarding College of Allied Health news and programs, visit harding.edu/alliedhealth or call 501-279-5299.

Harding University Department of Engineering and Physics uses lab to produce 3D printed masks and face shields for Unity Health

In mid-March, the University engineering and physics department received a call from Unity Health anesthesiologist Dr. Vernon Brewer asking if they would be willing to design masks and face shields in case of a PPE (personal protective equipment) shortage in Searcy. Rich Wells, assistant professor of engineering, assembled a small team to work on designing, manufacturing and producing masks and face shields for the medical center.

The project team began work immediately and consisted of Jon White, associate professor of engineering and physics; Brian Jones, Harding Academy High School math teacher; Weston Burks, senior mechanical engineering student; David Breezeel, freshman mechanical engineering student; Kassandra Fetz and Karlee Carney, pharmacy students.

The first step in the process was to choose a design that would be safe and practical to produce. Wells spent hours researching different designs that fit three specifications.

The first factor was safety. Although the homemade cloth masks that many are making provide protection for the general populace, Wells said they do not provide adequate protection for health care workers constantly coming in contact with COVID-19 patients because they do not filter out the small submicron-size viruses. In choosing a design, they wanted to provide the highest level of protection possible. Next, Wells said he looked for a design that would fit the user’s face well.

“If you don’t have a good fit, it leaks, and that defeats the purpose,” Wells said.

photograph of personal protective equipment
Example of masks produced to help healthcare workers

The third factor was breathability. The team placed a high priority on this because if the mask was hard to breathe through, it wouldn’t do its job correctly.

Within the first two weeks, four prototypes were chosen, produced and delivered to Dr. Brewer at Unity Health. Some of the masks had different shapes, while others had different filter and flow area sizes.

“Filter material is becoming in short supply,” Wells said. “So the question became: can we design a mask that still works but doesn’t require as much filter material as a standard issue mask in order to conserve resources that are in short supply?”

Once a design was chosen, Wells and the team began printing and assembling the majority of the masks and shields using a laser cutter and 3D printer in the University engineering lab. The overall process from research to production took about three weeks to complete.

Wells said it was a good learning experience. “We enjoy engaging with our community. In this case, we are supporting those healthcare workers treating people with COVID-19.”

Harding’s Didactic program in dietetics received continued accreditation

The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) Board for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics voted to continue full accreditation of the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) until June 2027. 

Sarah Oropeza, the director of didactic program, is proud of the collaborative and caring faculty that made this possible, including former director Dr. Lisa Ritchie who was responsible for leading the development of the self-study and accomplishing a successful site visit. 

During the visit, the program’s professors reflect on improving student learning and developing new methods to assess student knowledge. The site visit allowed them to showcase the newly renovated facilities, including the food lab, and they were given insight on how to continually improve our program. 

“Students were excited to share their experiences and perspectives about the program and this reminded me of why our program has succeeded, because of our students,” Oropeza said. “Our students are what drive the program and we are especially proud of their accomplishments and their desire to pursue careers in nutrition and dietetics.”

Harding expands undergraduate and graduate degree programs for Fall 2020

Harding University announced a historic expansion in its undergraduate and graduate school offerings beginning Fall 2020. Fifteen new programs have been approved within the Colleges of Allied Health, Arts and Humanities, Business Administration, and Sciences, along with the Graduate School of Business and the College of Education’s Department of Mental Health and Wellness. These new programs include dual/accelerated degrees, interdisciplinary and innovative bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and certificates. Many of these new programs are offered in a fully online format. The new programs include:

College of Allied Health

College of Arts and Humanities

College of Business Administration

Graduate School of Business

College of Education Department of Mental Health and Wellness

College of Sciences

The College of Allied Health is adding to its educational offerings with the launch of two dual-degree programs for undergraduate students. One program will combine a B.A. in communication sciences and disorders with an M.S. in speech-language pathology. The second offering will combine a bachelor’s degree meeting required prerequisites with a new M.S. in strength and conditioning. These dual-degree programs allow students to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s within five years instead of six, saving a year of tuition and allowing graduates to enter the workforce a year earlier with higher academic credentials. While the new dual-degree programs will be offered beginning Fall 2020, a standalone M.S. in strength and conditioning will begin in Fall 2021.

“Harding’s leadership continually assesses current academic programs and research the market for new, mission-fit programs that equip our students for lives of service in their chosen vocation,” said Dr. Marty Spears, Provost, Chief Academic Officer. “The new programs approved for next year include a number of certificate programs that provide specific skills or expertise, several new bachelor’s programs including interdisciplinary majors in areas like cybersecurity or a master’s in student affairs that integrate coursework from technology and business or social work and counseling. We continue to develop new accelerated programs to save students time and money.”

Course offerings have also been expanded enabling creation of many new bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in response to student demand, job market growth and increases in professional credentials and standards. These high-quality degree programs will help equip graduates with an exceptional education and Christ-centered worldview. New degrees include:

Additionally, the University has approved six new certificates within the Graduate School of Business, the College of Allied Health, and the College of Education’s Department of Mental Health and Wellness. Business is expanding its selection with new 12-hour certificates in entrepreneurship, health care management, principled leadership and project management, which count toward an MBA or MSIS upon completion. The 12-hour certificate in American Sign Language is available to any student, undergraduate or graduate, and will teach basic ASL and an understanding of Deaf culture. The 18-hour counseling skills certificate is designed to equip those who work in ministry settings to help others with mental health concerns.

“Market trends indicate increased job growth in these segments as well as growth in demand for graduate education in these areas,” said Dr. Bruce McLarty, University President. “These new programs allow Harding to leverage existing strengths and grow into new areas as we expand graduate enrollment. As we all have been making our way through the COVID-19 crisis, Harding students and faculty have been working from home to practice responsible social distancing. However, using online ways of connecting, Harding University has been open and thriving throughout this ordeal. We have worked hard to come through this time better prepared and with better programs to offer than ever before. That is why we are so excited to announce these new offerings.”

Harding University Announces August Graduation

The University has set the date for the rescheduled spring 2020 commencement: Saturday, August 15, 2020. We plan to have multiple ceremonies as usual, and more information will be forthcoming on the times and college groupings.

As was previously communicated, students who complete graduation requirements by the end of the spring semester will have their degree conferred on schedule in May. Students who may be delayed in completing their graduation requirements will have their degrees conferred in August or upon completion. Because we were unable to hold Grad Fest, instructions will be sent shortly on how to accomplish the tasks related to graduation, such as securing caps and gowns, etc. Updated information will be posted at harding.edu/graduation.