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

Hendrix Names New Vice President for Enrollment, Dean of Admission

Hendrix College has named Ryan Cassell to be its new Vice President of Enrollment and Dean of Admission, effective June 1. 

photograph of man wearing a navy blue suit with an orange necktie.

Cassell comes to Hendrix from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he has worked since 2009 and currently serves as Associate Dean of Admission. Prior to his promotion to Associate Dean, he served as Director of Admission.  

His responsibilities range from developing Sewanee’s long‐term, strategic enrollment initiatives to overseeing day-to-day enrollment operations, including supervising and training staff members. During Cassell’s tenure, the number of applications increased from 2,800 to more than 4,900. 

“We are thrilled to have Ryan join the Hendrix community,” said Hendrix President Ellis Arnold. “With the breadth and depth of his experience and knowledge of the current higher education landscape, I am confident he will lead our enrollment program into a new era.” 

Prior to his tenure at Sewanee, Cassell was a faculty member and Assistant Director of College Advising at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, where he advised students throughout the college search and selection process, taught anatomy and zoology, and developed the school’s Advanced Placement Environmental Science curriculum. 

“I am excited for the opportunity to lead the enrollment program at Hendrix and to introduce prospective students and families to this incredible institution,” Cassell said, adding that he and his family “felt an instant connection to campus and to Conway.”  

“When we visited, we saw firsthand the strong sense of community that is a hallmark of Hendrix,” he said. “We can’t wait to build new relationships and contribute positively to Hendrix and its future.”  

An alumnus of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, Cassell earned a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in general biology, and a Master of Arts degree, majoring in student affairs administration in higher education. He also earned a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of Indianapolis. He currently serves as president of the Southern Association of College Admission Counseling (SACAC). Cassell and his wife, Erin, have four children. 

Nobel Laureate to Speak at Hendrix College March 3

Hendrix College welcomes Dr. Ira Helfand of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for a public lecture on Tuesday, March 3, at 11:10 a.m. in Lecture Hall C of the Mills Center for Social Sciences. Helfand is the recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize and co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the founding partner of ICAN, which is also the recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Ira Helfand

Helfand speaks frequently about the perils of nuclear war, and how to prevent it (see his 2016 TEDx Talk). At Hendrix, he will frame this topic in light of current tensions with Iran and that country’s recent decision to pull out of significant elements of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly called the Iran nuclear agreement.

In addition to his roles with ICAN and IPPNW, Helfand is also co-founder and past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, IPPNW’s U.S. affiliate. He represented ICAN at the Oslo and Nayarit Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear War, and in September of 2015 he addressed a special session of the United Nations General Assembly. In May 2016, he led the session on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war at the United Nations Open Ended Working Group meeting in Geneva that led to the successful negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in the summer of 2017, and on Sept. 20, 2017, he represented IPPNW at the signing ceremony for the Treaty. 

An internist and urgent care physician, Helfand has published studies on the medical consequences of nuclear war in the New England Journal of Medicine, the British Medical Journal, the Lancet and the World Medical Journal, and has lectured worldwide on the health effects of nuclear weapons.

Following his lecture, Helfand will attend a lunch with a small group of Hendrix College students who have expressed interest in learning more about his work.

Twelve Women Physicists from Hendrix College Attend the 2020 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics

Ten Hendrix College students and two Hendrix College Department of Physics faculty traveled to the University of Oklahoma January 17-19 to attend the 2020 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP). The CUWiP meetings are a series of regional conferences held simultaneously around the U.S. and Canada for undergraduate women interested in physics. The conference series encourages undergraduate women to pursue careers in physics by giving them the experience of a professional conference, information about graduate school and professions in physics, and access to women in physics of all ages with whom they can share experiences, advice, and ideas. Currently, only 20 percent of U.S. students who earn a bachelor’s degree in physics are female, and CUWiP is part of the effort to increase that number. 

photograph of students
From left: Jaycee Hall, Ashtyn Bell, Cassidy Favorite, Inaya Molina, Mayra Velazquez, Sarah Nicholson, Hanna Detar, Alexis Rivera, Megan LaPlaunt, and Grace Turner.

Hendrix students who attended the conference include Inaya Molina ’20, Sarah Nicholson ’20, Hanna Detar ’20, Cassidy Favorite ’21, Megan LaPlaunt ’21, Alexis Rivera ’21, Ashtyn Bell ’22, Grace Turner ’22, Jaycee Hall ’22, and Mayra Velazquez ’23. 

Molina presented a research poster at the conference and brought home the “Best Presentation” award. Molina’s presentation, titled “Polymerization of Aniline by Photosystem I Proteins,” was rooted in research she carried out in an REU program in the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE) during the summer of 2019. “I am very passionate about renewable energy, and this research experience gave me the opportunity to work in research and development of renewable energy technologies,” Molina said.

The students were accompanied by two Department of Physics faculty, Dr. Ann Wright and Dr. Julie Gunderson ’06. 

“The CUWiP meetings are an important platform for encouraging women to persist in physics at the undergraduate level and to seek out careers in physics after graduation,” said Gunderson, an assistant professor of physics. “Research shows that gatherings such as this conference play a positive role in the retention of women in physics. We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation Department Initiative Grant, funded by the College’s Mellon Foundation Grant, which aims to promote diversity and inclusion at Hendrix, for providing funding to make this trip possible.” 

The Department of Physics at Hendrix has sent students and faculty to CUWiP meetings every year since 2013.

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.”