Hendrix Professor Kolev Joins Democratic Erosion Consortium

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. 

Man wearing dress shirt and suit jacket
Dr. Kiril Kolev

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.”

Vernon Receives Distinguished Professorship

Dr. Alex Vernon, professor of English at Hendrix College, has been selected to hold the M.E. and Ima Graves Peace Distinguished Professorship.

Dr. Alex Vernon

Vernon is the third faculty member to hold this professorship. Established in 1982, the M.E. and Ima Graves Peace Professorship was first held by English professor Dr. Ashby Bland Crowder from 1982 to 2008, then by politics professor Dr. W. Jay Barth ’87 from 2008 to 2020. 

Because of the current pandemic, Vernon learned of his newest honor over the phone rather than in person. Provost Terri Bonebright delivered the news on a Monday. 

“When Terri told me, I broke into tears, because the Friday night before, my mother had died,” Vernon said. “I told the provost how nice it was to get good news. It was a very short phone call because I had to compose myself.”

Currently on a year-long research leave made possible by a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, Vernon will use some of the professorship’s funding in connection with his NEH project: a biography of novelist Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried. The professorship would support research-related travel (as the pandemic permits), along with obtaining primary source material and records, and participating in conferences.

All of which, ultimately, serve to enhance the educational experience for Hendrix students. Vernon recently taught a course on “Imagined Vietnam” and led an Oxford-style tutorial on O’Brien’s writings for a small group of Murphy Scholars in Literature and Language.

“Every time I step into a classroom and talk about books and ideas with students, it keeps me engaged, keeps me on my toes. The teaching-and-scholarship dynamic is really alive for me,” Vernon says. “The teaching really helps me think about my scholarship, and my scholarship enlivens my teaching in how I engage with students.”

Vernon earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina. He teaches a variety of courses in 20th Century American literature and writing, such as American Literature and the Environment and the Faulkner-Wideman Seminar. He has used two previous Odyssey professorships to take student groups abroad to study and perform service work in Vietnam, and to study the Spanish Civil War. Off campus, Vernon directed a two-year NEH “Dialogues on the Experience of War” program for central Arkansas veterans as well as the general public.

Vernon takes joy in sharing the same professorship as his predecessors Crowder and Barth, citing their teaching, their scholarship, and their friendship.

“I think we have an immensely talented faculty. Every day I am in awe of something a colleague has done, whether that’s inside or outside of the classroom,” Vernon says. “I’m a good teacher, but at Hendrix I feel like an average teacher on my best days. I’m amazed by my colleagues. Many of them are eminently qualified for a distinguished professorship. My oldest daughter likes to say she can’t imagine me being anything but a professor, and I tell her that I think she means a professor at Hendrix, because there’s something about this place that just fits me and my career.”

Colleagues who nominated Vernon for the professorship wrote about his work both inside and outside the classroom, including his published works—books, journal articles, and commentaries appearing in national news outlets; his pedagogical innovation and attention to engaging students in a communal learning experience; and his service in administrative and leadership roles on campus. 

“Alex’s service to Hendrix shows him to be committed to our college’s values, reflected in our statement of purpose, which he played a prominent role in authoring. The first goal in that statement is to ‘cultivate empathy.’ I must note that Alex has been instrumental in that regard on campus,” one colleague wrote. “Hendrix is often likened to a bubble, but Alex brings a rare perspective on this campus of someone who served in the military…. He may teach about war, but it is clear that his objective is to bring about peace.”

The professorship honors M.E. Peace, who attended Hendrix during the 1913-1914 academic year and went on to become a successful business owner in Magnolia, Arkansas, and his wife Ima Graves Peace, a longtime friend of the College.

Vernon joins five continuing holders of distinguished professorships at Hendrix: Dr. Peg Falls-Corbitt, the Virginia A. McCormick Pittman Professor of Philosophy; Dr. John Krebs, the Willis H. Holmes Distinguished Professor of Music; Dr. Matt Moran, the Elbert L. Fausett Distinguished Professor of Biology; Dr. Lyle Rupert, the C. Louis and Charlotte Cabe Distinguished Professor of Economics and Business; and Dr. Lawrence Schmidt, the Harold and Lucy Cabe Distinguished Professor of Philosophy.

Hendrix College Board of Trustees Welcomes New Leadership

The Hendrix College Board of Trustees approved a new slate of officers for the upcoming year: 

  • Jo Ann Biggs ’80 — Chair 
  • Hank Neely ’83 — Vice Chair 
  • Kim Evans — Secretary
  • Albert Braunfisch ’86 — Immediate Past Chair 

“Hendrix is so fortunate to have leaders who are deeply committed to this institution and give so generously of their time, resources, and diverse talent to strengthen and advance the important mission of the College,” said Hendrix President W. Ellis Arnold III ’79. “I am excited to continue our important work together, impacting the lives of our students and making a difference in the world beyond our campus.” 

Biggs, who joined the Board in 1998, is an attorney and a partner at Vinson & Elkins in Dallas, Texas. An English major at Hendrix, Biggs was the first female student to serve as Hendrix Student Senate President, and she is the first female Chair of the Board of Trustees. She also has a juris doctorate from Vanderbilt University. 

Biggs succeeds Braunfisch, who joined the board in 2006, concluded his term as Board Chair this year, and will continue to serve on the Board. 

“As a member of the Board of Trustees at Hendrix for over 20 years, I have had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, many strong and talented Board leaders, including Charles Morgan, Madison Murphy, David Knight, and most recently, Albert Braunfisch. I am honored to follow in their footsteps,” said Biggs. “I am particularly thankful to Albert for his thoughtful leadership over the last three years and his unfailing devotion to Hendrix.  

“I look forward to working closely with the Trustees and everyone in the Hendrix community,” she added. “I know that we are all dedicated to providing Hendrix students with educational experiences and opportunities that can enrich their lives and empower them for the future.”  

Neely, an economics and business major, is retired from Ernst & Young in Dallas. He joined the Board in 2010.  

“I’ve enjoyed the last several years as a board member working collaboratively with past Presidents, past and current Board members, and our very talented faculty and staff to educate and develop Hendrix students,” he said. “I’m proud to be a Hendrix alum and place great value on the role of elite liberal arts institutions like Hendrix. My Hendrix education changed my life and introduced me to treasured life-long friendships.”  

Neely said he looks forward to working with President Arnold, Biggs, and other board members to advance the mission and future of Hendrix. 

“Ellis Arnold is a talented and seasoned leader and someone in whom I have great confidence to tackle the challenges and capture the opportunities that lie ahead,” Neely said. “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with Jo Ann Biggs the last several years and look forward to teaming more closely with her in our shared stewardship of the College.” 

Evans, who joined the Board in 2018, is Senior Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international economics from Georgetown University and a juris doctorate from the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  

A former assistant attorney general of Arkansas, Evans serves on a number of nonprofit and for-profit boards that seek to improve the lives of Arkansans, including Southern Bancorp, Centers for Youth and Families, eStem Public Charter Schools, and the Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation of Dallas, Texas. Centers for Youth and Families, Inc., honored her with the 2017 Ellon Cockrill President’s Award, and she is the Junior League of Little Rock’s 2020 Sustainer of the Year. Her daughter is a 2018 Hendrix graduate.  

“As the parent of an alumna, I am proud to give back to an institution that both provides high quality education and develops civic-minded adults who serve the world around them in countless ways,” said Evans. “I also look forward to working with fellow board members who are passionate, dedicated, resourceful, and committed.” 

The slate of new Board of Trustees officers was approved at the Board’s May meeting, and the officers’ new terms began June 1. 

Sarah Donaghy Named Education Curator at Windgate Museum of Art

Sarah Donaghy has been named the new Education Curator at the Windgate Museum of Art (WMA) at Hendrix College, effective June 1, 2020. This new position, funded by the Windgate Foundation, is responsible for building strong bridges to students, faculty, staff, and community members in order to make the museum accessible and meaningful for everyone. Central to Donaghy’s responsibilities will be managing, training, and mentoring the approximately 20-25 paid student Gallery Educators employed at the museum each semester.

Photograph of woman
Sarah Donaghy

“We are delighted to have Sarah join the WMA team and bring her unique skills and talents working with Hendrix students in experiential learning opportunities to the museum,” said Mary Kennedy, Director/Curator of the WMA. “With a vision of being the premier teaching art museum in Arkansas, the WMA aspires to create opportunities for Hendrix students to build professional museum skills while engaging with a diverse array of exhibitions, educational programs, and social events. Sarah’s role will be critical to our success in achieving that vision.”

Donaghy received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Lyon College and her Master of Public Administration from Arkansas State University. Before coming to Hendrix College in 2017 as Coordinator of Community Partnerships, she held a number of education and public service positions with such organizations as Heifer International, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and University of Arkansas-Little Rock.

For more information, contact Amanda Cheatham at 501-328-2383 or cheatham@hendrix.edu.  

About the Windgate Museum of Art

The Windgate Museum of Art is the new art museum located on the campus of Hendrix College. Scheduled to open in October 2020, the museum is an 8,000 square-foot, environmentally controlled space that includes three exhibition galleries. With a vision to be the premier teaching art museum in Arkansas, the WMA will present outstanding art exhibitions, compelling educational programs, and invigorating social activities for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus. Free and open to all, the museum will use hands-on experiences to train students in all facets of museum work, including curatorial research, collection management, educational and social programming, marketing and communications, as well as all aspects of exhibition research, planning, installation, and evaluation. 

Hendrix Student Named a Goldwater Scholar

Hendrix College junior Rebecca Parham ’21 of Alma, Arkansas, has received a Goldwater Scholarship from The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. Parham, a chemistry major, is the 34th Hendrix student to receive this honor in the 32-year history of the scholarship competition.

photograph of young woman wearing glasses and a suit
Rebecca Parham

Parham’s research is in atmospheric chemistry. She is studying physical and chemical characterization of atmospheric aerosols and how they affect the warming and cooling of the atmosphere. Parham’s mentor for her Goldwater research proposal was chemistry professor Dr. Courtney Hatch ’00.

“Having been chosen as one of the nearly 400 Goldwater Scholars from across the nation is a unique honor bestowed to the most promising young scientists and future change makers,” Hatch said. “I’m extremely proud of Rebecca, and I can’t wait to see what amazing advances she will make as she continues her research career in the field of atmospheric chemistry.” 

In addition to Parham’s academic pursuits, she is active on campus as the co-founder and co-president of the Japanese Language and Culture Club, and as a three-year member of the Hendrix chapter of the American Chemical Society.

Jacelyn Hall ’22, Karen Morris ’21, and Tristian Wiles ’21 were also nominated by the College. Their research mentors were Drs. Julie Gunderson ’06, Laura MacDonald ’09, and Andrew Schurko, respectively. Like Parham, all of the other Goldwater nominees from Hendrix plan to earn a Ph.D.

Biology professor Dr. Jenn Dearolf, the current Goldwater Campus Representative, ushered Hendrix’s Goldwater nominees through the process.

“This year, over 450 institutions submitted their best students to be considered for the Goldwater Scholarship, and the Foundation selected 30% of these students to be awarded the scholarship,” Dearolf said. “Thus, we are ecstatic that Rebecca Parham was chosen to be among this group. She truly deserves this honor. And, the submission of four students for consideration for the Goldwater Scholarship and Rebecca’s selection as a Scholar would not have been possible without the high quality of all of our students at Hendrix, as well as the excellent mentors that helped shepherd our nominees through the application process.”

About the Goldwater Scholarship

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater and to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields. It is widely considered the most prestigious award bestowed on undergraduates studying in the natural sciences.

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu.

Hendrix College Senior Wins Florence Kahn Memorial Award

Photo of young woman posing in front of a landscape with snow-capped mountains in the background
Jacie Andrews

A poetry manuscript by Hendrix College creative writing major/religious studies minor Jacie Andrews ’20 has been selected as winner of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ Florence Kahn Memorial Award.

The manuscript, Sweetwork, earned Andrews a $500 cash prize, publication of her work plus 75 free copies, and a $300 stipend for travel to the NFSPS Annual Conference in June to read her poetry. Unfortunately, the 2020 NFSPS Conference was canceled recently due to the corona virus pandemic. Andrews’ Sweetwork will be published in June as a perfect-bound 6” x 9” chapbook and marketed through Amazon.com. She will receive all proceeds from her book’s sales.

Dawn Leas, judge of NFSPS’ 2020 College Undergraduate Poetry Competition, offered the following assessment of Andrews’s writing:

Sweetwork brims with diction, language, and imagery that immediately pulls the reader into a specific time or scene to learn more about what it means to have faith or to question it; what it means to keep going or give up; what it means to have an abundance of or very little hope. The poems are lean yet full of lyrical lines that often break into a run to the finish line. ‘Magic’ ends with: ‘But nobody pays / attention when you / are usually good / And I was usually good.’ Pay attention to Sweetwork.  It’s so much more than ‘usually good.’”

Murphy Visiting Fellow in Poetry Dr. Erin Hoover encouraged Andrews to submit her work after having her as a poetry student.

“Jacie has written a collection that challenges and pays homage to rural Southern life,” Hoover said. “These sensory, character-driven poems whose people know ‘damn well that / slice and salt was always / our only instruction’ offer those who have been denied power the chance to discover it, perhaps even the opportunity to heal.”

Andrews, a Springfield, Arkansas native who has spent summers during college in Florissant, Colorado, serves as the Hendrix Creative Writing Program’s student assistant, as social media intern for the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference, and as committee chair for Word Garden, a reading series featuring the best in Hendrix student creative writing.

Two Hendrix College Seniors Receive Thomas J. Watson Fellowships

Hendrix College students Claire Fleming ’20, an interdisciplinary studies (innovation and entrepreneurship) major from Bliss, Michigan, and Mackenzie Gearin ’20, an interdisciplinary studies (social economics) major and mathematics minor from Star Prairie, Wisconsin, have been announced as members of the 52nd class of Thomas J. Watson Fellows.

The Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for purposeful, independent study outside the United States, awarded to graduating seniors nominated by one of 40 partner colleges. Fleming and Gearin are the 36th and 37th Hendrix students to receive a Watson Fellowship. (See the full list

Fleming’s Watson Fellowship project, “Enhanced Livelihood: Seeking Intentional Workplace Practice,” will take her to Uganda, Kenya, India, and Colombia as she pursues her interest in studying how individuals’ socioeconomic status at birth influences their prosperity and quality of working life.

Fleming first learned about the Watson Fellowship early in her time at Hendrix from previous Watson Fellow Jessa Thurman ’16 and Bailey Library Director Britt Anne Murphy, who serves as the College’s Watson liaison. “I realized there was an entire community of people embodying the ideals I had always held as sacred and inaccessible inside my head,” Fleming said. “With that inspiration, I have sought to push past fear and try to embody the spirit of the fellowship in every step of my journey, which has led to many breakdowns and failures. I am so grateful failure has faithfully led to small pieces of invaluable wisdom for me. The most important thing I have gained is a community of friends and colleagues I owe every success to and still depend upon entirely. I am so ready and excited to join with international comrades to see standard-defying solutions to haunting workplace issues. I hope for this experience to expand my understanding of community and its role in working spaces.”

Gearin’s project, “From Persecution to Refuge: Grassroots Peacebuilding in Displacement,” includes travel to Colombia, Kenya, Uganda, India, and Sri Lanka to immerse herself in communities that have been displaced by conflict. She finds herself “both thrilled and incredibly nervous” about the opportunity.

“When lots of people think about migration, they often picture refugees and migrants scrambling to Europe and North America. The reality is that a less than 1% of all displaced peoples are resettled in the West each year, and the vast majority remain displaced,” Gearin said. “I look forward to being confronted each day with the challenge of re-thinking justice and reconciliation, and working alongside communities to re-imagine futures for the millions of displaced people with whom I inhabit this planet. I am so excited to do this project, and I am so thankful to my professors and peers who supported and encouraged me during my years at Hendrix and throughout the application process.”

Both Fleming and Gearin have spent much of their time at Hendrix pursuing experiential learning opportunities. 

Fleming has worked with the Hendrix Society of Innovators, founded Lay of the Land Designs with a fellow student, collaborated with the Department of Physics to bring a CO2 laser engraver to campus, traveled to Africa and Colorado to study social entrepreneurship through the Hendrix Odyssey Program, connected with alumni in nonprofit and community loan arenas for mentorship, and chaired the Campus Sustainability Fund Committee, which is currently working on a solar panel installation project and setting up students to live in a new Hendrix ECO Living Community for 2020-2021 school year. She also participated in the Hendrix Rowing Club and, in her senior year, joined the Hendrix Diving Team. 

Gearin has worked with a local nonprofit as a volunteer tax preparer for individuals and families with low incomes, spearheaded a new program to register undocumented immigrants and international students for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) so they can file taxes, participated in two Odyssey Program-funded summer internships working with immigrants and refugees on the citizenship process and microfinance and entrepreneurship projects, and used her Murphy Scholars Program stipend to conduct a research project with exiled writers in London and study abroad for a semester in Valparaíso, Chile. She also helped organize a grassroots student group called Time’s Up, Hendrix, which began conversation with administrators to advocate for changes to the College’s gender-based misconduct policies and to design programs for a safer campus. 

“All of our four candidates worked so well together this year – David Samuel and Megan Bellfield were the other two finalists the Honors Committee selected to put forth applications for the national competition,” said Murphy, the College’s Watson liaison. “Most years our Watson candidates know each other, and I encourage them to work together as a team from the start: sharing their writing, offering critiques and advice, and getting to know each other over dinner. This year the five of us formed very strong bonds throughout the process, which is one of the most rewarding aspects for me as liaison, and also a critical piece of the process so that I can bring forth aspects of their lived experiences that will make their applications more meaningful, and consequentially, successful.”

Murphy said that the current coronavirus pandemic will be taken into account as the new Watson Fellows schedule their travel. “Claire and Mackenzie will be working with the Watson Foundation on their plans for next year,” she said. “I have no doubt that all Watson Fellows will be taken care of by the Watson Foundation, who puts the health and safety of their Fellows first in any situation.” 

Hendrix College Student from Conway Competes in ‘Jeopardy!’ College Championship Thursday, April 9

Joe Coker, a junior at Hendrix College from Conway, Ark., will make his first appearance in the JEOPARDY! College Championship presented by LendingTree® on Thursday, April 9 (check local listings for show times and stations). Coker will face off against Beni Keown, a freshman at Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) from Evanston, Ill., and Xiaoke Ying, a sophomore at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, Calif.) from Arcadia, Calif., for a shot at the semifinals.

The complete schedule of week one match-ups is as follows. 

Monday, April 6

Marshall Comeaux, a sophomore at the University of Texas (Austin, Texas) from Dallas, Texas.
Emma Farrell, a senior at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pa.) from Telford, Pa.
Sirad Hassan, a senior at Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.) from Frederick, Md.

Tuesday, April 7

Sophie Casarico, a junior at Florida State University (Tallahassee, Fla.) from St. Augustine, Fla.
Kayla Kalhor, a sophomore at the University of Florida (Gainesville, Fla.) from Longwood, Fla.
Nathaniel Miller, a sophomore at Yale University (New Haven, Conn.) from Miami, Fla.

Wednesday, April 8

Alistair Gray, a sophomore at the University of California, San Diego (La Jolla, Calif.) from Sunnyvale, Calif.
Londyn Lorenz, a sophomore at the University of Mississippi (Oxford, Miss.) from Perryville, Mo.
Kylie Weaver, a senior at Penn State (State College, Pa.) from McLean, Va.

Thursday, April 9

Joe Coker, a junior at Hendrix College (Conway, Ark.) from Conway, Ark.
Beni Keown, a freshman at Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) from Evanston, Ill.
Xiaoke Ying, a sophomore at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, Calif.) from Arcadia, Calif.

Friday, April 10

Tyler Combs, a senior at Indiana University (Bloomington, Ind.) from Greenfield, Ind.
Natalie Hathcote, a junior at Liberty University (Lynchburg, Va.) from Parker, Colo.
Nibir Sarma, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minn.) from Eden Prairie, Minn.

The JEOPARDY! College Championship presented by LendingTree® is 10-day special event featuring 15 of America’s sharpest students. The winner claims the $100,000 grand prize and a berth in the next Tournament of Champions. To learn more about the tournament, please visit the College Championship mini-site on Jeopardy.com

Hendrix College to Celebrate Commencement May 16

Hendrix College will posthumously award the honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to Jack Singleton ’63 at the 136th Hendrix College Commencement, which will take place Saturday, May 16, at 9 a.m. in the Wellness and Athletics Center Event Gym. 

Dr. Jay Barth ’87, professor emeritus of politics, will deliver the Commencement Address.

Overflow seating will be available in the Recreation Gym, where the ceremony will be telecast. The Class of 2020 will also process and recess through the Recreation Gym.

Immediately following commencement, there will be a faculty reception for graduates in the Young-Wise Memorial Stadium Plaza (or in the Recreation Gym in the event of rain).

For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu/commencement