ENACT Fellowship Awarded to Hendrix College Professor

Dr. Peter Gess

Hendrix College Associate Professor of Politics Dr. Peter Gess has received an Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation (ENACT) Faculty Fellowship. ENACT, a program of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University, engages undergraduates across the United States in state-level legislative change. Twenty-nine colleges and universities across the United States currently offer ENACT courses. 

As an ENACT Fellow, Gess has made the commitment to teach an ENACT course at least twice in the next four academic years. The ENACT course Hendrix College offers is Arkansas Politics, which is scheduled to coincide with the regular session of the Arkansas Legislature in 2021 and 2023. 

Gess, who also serves as associate provost for engaged learning and director of international programs for the College, says ENACT presents an experience very much in keeping with the Hendrix Odyssey Program. 

“Beyond simply learning about Arkansas politics and the legislative process, students have the opportunity to experience all things state legislature,” he said. “They research and develop policy, advocate and lobby for it, and network with various organizations doing policy work in the state. I think it is very important today—when it is easy to be cynical about the state of affairs at the national level—for students to see that they can make a difference. It’s great hands-on experience for those interested in careers in policymaking or politics, of course, but also a great experience for anyone wanting to become more engaged as a citizen.”

Gess and other ENACT Fellows from across the U.S. will attend a workshop this summer at Brandeis University to prepare for engaging their students in seeking opportunities for legislative change at the state level. 

“I am really looking forward to learning from others in my cohort, workshopping ideas with them, offering ideas and support, and learning from the vast experience of the network,” Gess said. “Ultimately, this will help me become a better teacher in the classroom, and more importantly, help our students apply classroom knowledge to real opportunities to affect governance in the state. There is a real need for young people in Arkansas to commit to making a difference.” 

Gess already has experience working with members of the executive branch because of the time he spends training state government officials through the Arkansas Public Administration Consortium. The ENACT Fellowship means he will work more closely with the legislative branch to provide engaged learning experiences for Hendrix students.

“Along with coursework, students will undertake a practicum (internship) to work with an agency or organization advocating for policy changes. The support I get from the ENACT network will help me offer the best possible course-practicum experience for our students,” he said.

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’s Dr. Alex Vernon Receives NEH Fellowship

Dr. Alex Vernon
Dr. Alex Vernon

The Division of Research Programs for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a 12-month research fellowship to Dr. Alex Vernon, Julia Mobley Odyssey Professor of English at Hendrix College.

Vernon’s application was one of only 99 approved out of 1,220 received across all four NEH fellowship programs. He is the first Hendrix faculty member to receive an award of this scope from the NEH.

Citing prominent historical and art exhibits that reflect on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and the 18-hour nonfiction film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, Vernon says the time is right for also revisiting the literary history of this decade-long war.

“A lot of readers know Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried—it is one of the most assigned contemporary works of fiction in U.S. high schools and colleges. But O’Brien’s career doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There’s a rich historical, literary, and personal context,” he said. “Also, and sadly, we are losing those voices. Michael Herr, the author of Dispatches, died in 2016. Larry Heinemann, whose postwar novel Paco’s Story shocked everyone when it won the National Book Award over Toni Morrison’s Beloved, died only last month. I was very fortunate to visit with Larry this past summer. So there is some urgency to this task.”

Vernon, a combat veteran himself, integrates his interest in war literature into his course offerings. Last semester he taught a course on American war literature, and this spring he will teach a literature course titled “Imagined Vietnam,” and also an Oxford-style tutorial on O’Brien for a small group of Murphy Scholars in Literature and Language. At the beginning of the fall semester, he will begin his fellowship research, which will include many personal interviews plus the study of correspondence, drafts, and other primary documents in archives as well as in private hands. Rather than aiming for an approach rooted in literary analysis, he plans to develop a generational literary biography, accessible and appealing to the general reading public as well as scholars and students.

“For me, scholarship of this kind is service work,” Vernon said. “It’s an honor, a responsibility, and a joy. And it makes me a better teacher for my Hendrix students… the research and the teaching each deepen the other.”

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

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

Hendrix College’s 12th President Begins Tenure

Hendrix College welcomed W. Ellis Arnold III as its 12th President Dec. 31, 2019, following the retirement of President and Professor of History Bill Tsutsui. The Hendrix Board of Trustees elected Arnold as President of Hendrix College in November.

Ellis Arnold 2017_250.jpg
W. Ellis Arnold III
President of Hendrix College

“I am honored and humbled for the opportunity to play a role in advancing the College as a national leader in engaged learning and the liberal arts,” said Arnold. “It is a privilege to work with the Hendrix community and alongside our dedicated faculty and staff and talented students. Together, we will lead the College confidently into the next decade, addressing our challenges, and seizing our opportunities with determination and optimism.” 

A 1979 Hendrix graduate, Arnold received his juris doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and practiced law in Little Rock from 1982 to 1990. In 1990, he was approached by then-Hendrix President Dr. Joe B. Hatcher to serve as Vice President for Development and College Relations and lead the College’s church relations, communications, fundraising, and marketing, in addition to serving as General Counsel.

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Hendrix Team’s Research on DNA Transcription Published

The work of a research team headed by Hendrix College Professor of Biology Dr. Andrea Duina has resulted in an article recently published in the journal Transcription. The researchers working in Duina’s laboratory included Jessica Campbell ’19 and Michaela Edwards ’19, who were undergraduates at the time the work was completed, and Sydney Ozersky ’17, an alumna who worked as a technician in the lab.

Five students and their professor pose for a photograph
Members of the Duina lab attending the 2018 Yeast Genetics Meeting at Stanford University were, from left, Michaela Edwards ’19, Jessica Campbell ’19, Sam Byrd ’19, Dr. Andrea Duina, Brianna Hoyt ’19, and Sydney Ozersky ’17.

The overarching goal of the Duina laboratory is to gain further insights into the fundamental mechanisms utilized by cells to ensure proper expression of their genetic material. This research, funded by the National Science Foundation, involved studying DNA transcription, the first step in the gene expression process. Duina lab researchers use the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae for their studies, and due to the high degree of genetic and functional conservation across all species, their work provides insights into human biology as well.

“In particular, since the gene expression process is at the heart of essentially all aspects of cell and organismal functions, these studies contribute to our understanding of a process of central importance to all of life,” Duina said.

The article, “Evidence that dissociation of Spt16 from transcribed genes is partially dependent on RNA Polymerase II termination,” was published Dec. 6. 

“One of the most rewarding aspects of being a faculty member at Hendrix College is to have the opportunity to interact and mentor bright and highly motivated undergraduate students,” Duina said. “In addition to having generated the critical data that led to our most recent publication, Jessica and Michaela also presented their work at several meetings, including the 2018 Yeast Genetics Meeting at Stanford University. I believe that these types of experiences are invaluable for our students as they move forward in their careers beyond Hendrix.”

Hendrix College’s Model UN Team Named Overall Best Delegation for Second Year Running

Hendrix College’s Model UN team earned one of five “Overall Best Delegation” awards while representing Austria at this year’s American Model United Nations (AMUN) Conference, held Nov. 23-26 in Chicago. The team brought home the same honor last year, when they represented Italy. In addition to this year’s overall win, seven Hendrix students received individual Outstanding Delegation Awards for their work in committee simulations:

  • Matthew Haley ’21 and Grace Wiggins ’21 for the General Assembly Third Committee;
  • Olivia Kelley ’21 and Anthony Bennett ’20 for the World Conference on Youth;
  • Rachel Allen ’22 and Charlie McMahon ’21 for the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice;
  • Sara Hoopchuk ’20 for the Historical Commission of Inquiry on Assassinations.

Other student participants and their roles included:

  • Billy Hayes ’20 and Austin Jared ’20 (General Assembly Plenary simulation);
  • Kailey Miller ’21 and Violet Pirtle ’20 (General Assembly First Committee – Disarmament & International Security simulation);
  • Rachel McGhee ’22 and Jasmine Zandi ’20 (General Assembly Second Committee – Economic and Financial Affairs simulation);
  • Elliot Anderson ’20 (Justice on the International Court of Justice simulation);
  • Bailey Brya ’20 served as the delegation’s Permanent Representative, in charge of strategy and logistics for the delegation as a whole at AMUN.
Group of students pose for photo with their awards and a blue Model UN flag
Hendrix Model UN team show off their awards

AMUN 2019 included 77 colleges and universities, which sent more than 1,100 students to represent 113 UN Member States and Observers.

“Our team this year was very well prepared for AMUN, especially with respect to their conference strategy and knowledge of AMUN’s rules and procedures,” said politics and international relations professor Dr. Daniel J. Whelan, who coached the team. “I was enormously pleased that for the first time since we formalized the program in 2008, we broke through the ‘four award’ barrier – and that we won an Overall Best Delegation award for the second year in a row. Hendrix should be very proud of these students’ accomplishments.”

Funds to support the Model UN team’s preparation, competition, and travel were provided through Whelan’s Dr. Brad P. Baltz and Rev. William B. Smith Odyssey Professorship. Each Odyssey Professorship carries an endowment to support faculty projects that create new engaged learning opportunities for students, such as internships, service projects, and undergraduate research, as well as professional development opportunities for the professors receiving them.

Hendrix Odyssey Program Announces Funding for October 2019 Cycle

The Hendrix College Committee on Engaged Learning is pleased to announce the recipients of Odyssey grants for the October 2019 cycle. Since 2005, the Committee on Engaged Learning has awarded $4,335,706.71 in competitive Odyssey grants to support projects by Hendrix students and faculty. In that time, more than 3,000 students have participated in funded projects. In this cycle, 14 projects received $30,548 in grants.

Amy Cabrera ’21
Promoting Literacy in Arkansas
Category: Service to the World
Supervisor: Rev. J.J. Whitney, Chaplain’s Office

Kelly Gray ’20
Bringing My Environmental Knowledge Home to Malaysia
Category: Service to the World
Supervisor: Jenn Dearolf, Biology

Jane Henderson ’20
Research about Prejudice Reduction and Contextual Bible Study
Category: Undergraduate Research
Supervisor: Leslie Zorwick, Psychology

Russell Jackson ’23
Belizean Culture and the Developments of the Iguana Squad
Category: Global Awareness
Supervisor: Thad McCracken, Athletics

Helen Jeon ’22 and Monica Martinez ’22
Understanding Immigration from New York to Arkansas
Category: Special Projects
Supervisor: Peg Falls-Corbitt, Philosophy

Elizabeth Jones ’21
Arkansas Jewish Archive Internship
Category: Professional & Leadership Development
Supervisor: Sasha Pfau, History

Ashley Juniewicz ’23
Missouri Ambassadors of Music
Category: Artistic Creativity
Supervisor: Andrew Morgan, Music

Violet Pirtle ’20, Kyle O’Connor ’20, and Austin Jared ’20
Philosophy in Philadelphia
Category: Special Projects
Supervisor: James Dow, Philosophy

Theresa Thomas ’22
Surgery, Scrubs, and Pasta in Italy
Category: Special Projects
Supervisor: J.J. Whitney, Chaplain’s Office

Parker Work ’20
Hendrix Tennis Graphic Design
Category: Special Projects
Supervisor: Craig Kirchgessner, Athletics

Makaila Wright ’20
Conway Regional Physical Therapy Internship
Category: Professional & Leadership Development
Supervisor: Laura MacDonald, Biology

Prof. Melissa Gill
Puertografico: SCI Conference 2020
Category: Special Projects

Dr. Mark Goadrich
Solving Real-World Problems with Tools from Mathematics and Computer Science
Category: Special Projects

Prof. Matthew Lopas
Art Major Trip to the College Art Association Conference in Chicago
Category: Special Projects

For brief summaries of these projects, visit the Odyssey Program’s listing

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 President Announces Retirement

Hendrix College President and Professor of History Bill Tsutsui will retire in December and be on sabbatical this spring. The Hendrix Board of Trustees accepted Tsutsui’s retirement today and elected Senior Executive Vice President W. Ellis Arnold III the 12th President of Hendrix College. 

Ellis Arnold 2017_250.jpg
W. Ellis Arnold III
Incoming President of Hendrix College

Arnold will begin his tenure as the President of Hendrix College on December 31. 

“I am honored and humbled for the opportunity to play a role in advancing the College as a national leader in engaged learning and the liberal arts,” said Arnold. “It is a privilege to work with the Hendrix community and alongside our dedicated faculty and staff and talented students. Together, we will lead the College confidently into the next decade, addressing our challenges, and seizing our opportunities with determination and optimism.” 

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Hendrix Students Make a Game of Learning History

Angry mobs, cheering and jeering. Passionate pleas for change. Tears.

No, it’s not college football. It’s Dr. Allison Shutt’s HIST201: Doing History course, where students learn as they play Reacting to the Past (RTTP) role-playing games — including Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France 1791 about the French Revolution and The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE about the origins of Western democracy.

The section leaders of the Paris crowd lead the Grand Insurrection. Section leaders, from left: Citizen Andalle (Brittany Chue ’21), Citizen Hérbert (John Callahan ’22), Citizen Léon (Hunter Brockinton ’22), Citizen Robespierre (Jackson Goodwin ’22), and Citizen Danton (with a copy of Rousseau’s Social Contract in hand!) (Kourtney Lee ’23). / Photo by Madeleine Castator ’21 

Though the contexts are different, the big questions are similar.  

“Students learn about politics in crisis as they face fundamental issues about government and society,” said Shutt, who began incorporating RTTP into her teaching about four years ago. 

The games include all the elements of a rigorous Hendrix class — challenging texts, big ideas, and ethical complexity — and also immerse students in novel situations that compel them to test the ideas they’ve read about and discussed and apply them to changing (and often unpredictable) events.

Role-playing is a useful way for people to learn other historical mentalities than their own, according to Connor Johnson, a junior history major and religious studies minor from Detroit, Michigan.

In the games, students are assigned character roles with specific goals and must communicate, collaborate, and compete effectively to advance their objectives. In the process, students become intellectually and emotionally animated. They debate, they compromise, and they scheme. They think on their feet. They pull out their texts and read relevant passages to their colleagues to explain their actions and bolster their legitimacy. They get loud. They learn. 

For senior Mary Nail, a history major with a lifelong passion for theatre, a role-playing history course was a natural fit. 

“It’s just such a different approach to learning history,” said Nail, who also took the class last year and is a student mentor this fall. “Almost all other history courses at Hendrix (and most other institutions) take form in either a discussion- or lecture-based class structure, so learning history through such a hands-on way that students really get to take ownership of is so unique.

“I chose to be a mentor because I enjoyed the course so much as a student,” Nail said. “Now I’m able to help guide students and give strategy advice, [but] it can sometimes be difficult to hold my tongue when there are parts of the game that they need to figure out for themselves.”  

“I want them to develop their own problem-solving skills, but I also want to warn them of potential consequences,” she said. “I enjoy encouraging them because I do not think they realize their strengths and I want to bring that out of them.”

For the most part, beyond a little advice and encouragement from mentors and the professor, students are on their own. 

“What is so magical is that the students are in control of the class once the game begins,” Shutt said. “From my point of view as an instructor, I am there to watch students work things out. The best thing I can do is stay out of their way and let them figure it out … and they do! It’s a very different learning experience for them, and it’s a very different teaching experience for me.” 

“It’s definitely something I’ve never really experienced in other courses, but it happens so naturally in Doing History,” Nail said. “Most often, students tend to forget that Dr. Shutt is even in the room. Students really like to take ownership of the class.” 

“It felt weird at first,” said Rader Francis, another of the student mentors. “But after the first game session we didn’t hesitate on what to do to start the class each day, or on where to take it.” 

General Lafayette (Kameron Molloy ’21) reacts as King Louis XVI (Emma Sward ’20) addresses the people of Paris.

The course draws a different kind of student — from quiet and thoughtful to more outgoing students, from history majors to non-majors, from gamers to non-gamers. There is no pre-requisite, so first-year students can take the course too.  

One obvious difference from more lecture-intensive courses is the amount one is expected to talk with other students.  

“The whole experience is a lot more participatory than the typical reading- or lecture-style course,” said Johnson. 

Some students take the class to improve their public speaking skills. 

“It has been rewarding to see people develop into more confident students,” she said. “I enjoy encouraging them because I do not think they realize their strengths and I want to bring that out of them.” 

There is a high level of student engagement, emotionally and intellectually, said Shutt, adding that she especially enjoys seeing shy students come to life when they are put into a role.

Nail agreed.

“I wasn’t expecting to be so invested in my character and the game, especially because the first character I played was a Royalist in the French Revolution,” Nail said. “Students definitely become very connected to their characters.”

“The students were way more engaged with the material,” Francis said. “Everybody wanted to be knowledgeable so they wouldn’t lose the game.”

Though fun, the games are embedded in rigorous scholarship. Solid preparation is the key to winning the game. 

“If students are playing well, they’re reading outside of class,” Shutt said.

“Though there is a large amount of work outside of class and core-text reading — Rousseau and Plato are some dense dudes — what I love about Doing History is that the homework never feels like work,” Nail said. “Students spend multiple hours every week outside of class meeting with their groups, but they are having so much fun scheming and strategizing to get ahead in the game that they never really complain about the work.”

Role-playing games can require a greater investment in understanding the historical content and a competitive nature, said student mentor Megan Bellfield.

“In order to do well in each session, you must know the values of each faction and how that affects the government,” she said. “I enjoy a little competition, and I think that helped drive me to be more engaged.” 

Role-playing also allows students to stumble and struggle in order to have a deeper understanding of historical context, said Bellfield.   

Hendrix alumnus Dr. Nick Proctor ’90, a history professor at Simpson College, a liberal arts institution in Iowa, is also a proponent of using games in teaching.  

Proctor will return to his alma mater in March 2020 to work with Shutt and her students, running a simulation another history game-in-development for a course Shutt is developing on game design. 

The course is part of Shutt’s work under the College’s James and Emily Bost Odyssey Professorship, a three-year award she received last year.

Gates Foundation Key Player to Meet with Hendrix Students

Dr. Orin Levine, who leads Global Delivery Programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will visit the Hendrix College campus Monday, Nov. 18, to interact with students, share about the work of the Foundation, and discuss potential career paths with undergraduates. 

Following a series of student-focused meetings on campus, Dr. Levine will deliver a public talk at 4 p.m. Monday afternoon in Worsham Student Performance Hall. It includes time for students to ask questions about his career and learn about the work of the Gates Foundation in fighting disease across the globe.

“Dr. Levine’s visit will help students understand the many and varied career path options in the sciences, not to mention the global impact of the Gates Foundation,” said Leigh Lassiter-Counts ’01, director of the Office of Career Services at Hendrix. “And, his visit ties in perfectly with the mission of the Hendrix College STEM Scholars program.” 

The College’s STEM Scholars program is funded by a National Science Foundation S-STEM grant and provides scholarships, support, and research opportunities to talented Pell-eligible students as they prepare for careers as professional scientists.

“It’s truly an amazing opportunity to have Dr. Levine visit Hendrix College,” said Dr. Laura MacDonald ’09 assistant professor of biology. “His work truly aligns with the mission we have at Hendrix, which is to prepare students to be engaged citizens in ways that transcend fields of study.  I’m thrilled that he will be able to visit with my class on epidemics and also share his career progression with the Hendrix College STEM Scholars. The work that he does is so interdisciplinary — he embodies what it means to be a scientist solving global problems.”

An epidemiologist and a former professor at the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr. Levine began his work with the Gates Foundation began in 2012. In addition to leading Global Delivery Programs, he serves as the Gates Foundation’s focal point for engagement with the Gavi Alliance, whose mission is saving children’s lives by increasing access to immunization in poor countries. 

Before joining the foundation’s Global Development Program, Dr. Levine was a Professor of International Health, and Executive Director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. He has also served as a Steering Committee Member of the Decade of Vaccines Collaboration and Co-Chair of its Global Access Working Group, as well as President, Committee on Global Health, American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene. 

Dr. Levine graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College and received a Ph.D. in epidemiology from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

This opportunity is presented by the Hendrix College Office of Career Services and the Department of Biology and Health Sciences.