Lyon College announces communications studies major

Lyon College has approved the addition of a communications studies major.

The new field of study will be a broad-based major that prepares students for a variety of careers in journalism, business, public relations, marketing, news broadcasting, public administration, politics and more.

Provost Melissa Taverner said communications studies will build off of the College’s journalism concentration to offer a curriculum that also includes theories of persuasion and mass communication and explores the role of technology and social media in communication.

The College will not be removing the journalism concentration from its course catalogue, only placing it under a new umbrella.

“We wanted to make sure Lyon had a solid academic major as a springboard,” Taverner said, “with internships and experiences that students could use to begin figuring out what part of communications they like.”

After consulting with the language and literature faculty, the College opted to go with a communications studies major because it would be much broader in scope than a communications major and would have applications in a variety of fields.

Nearly every company needs a communications department in the digital age, Taverner said, and what all areas of communication have in common is an interest in determining the best ways to share information between people.

“Being able to understand the mechanisms and effective ways people can communicate information, whatever the context, is going to be a really powerful skill to have in the current job market.”

Taverner said Lyon will begin the search for a tenure track founding faculty member for the communications studies program this year. The goal is for the new faculty member to start teaching in August 2022.

However, she said students can declare a communications studies major as early as this fall.

“It will be in the academic catalogue this year,” Taverner said. “The major is supported by courses that already exist in English, psychology and other departments.”

She continued, “You can get started with the core curriculum and a few of the introductory foundational courses. When the faculty member arrives, you will be ready to roll.”

The major will also include a required internship. Lyon hopes to use both the Career Center and alumni connections to secure internships where students can apply what they have learned in the classroom to real world experiences.

One of the biggest advantages of the communications studies major, Taverner said, is its practicality. Communications jobs are on the upswing for the next five years, and, based on the National Association of Colleges and Employers Salary Survey for Winter 2020, the average national salary for communications positions is around $50,000.

“You don’t have to be in New York or Chicago either,” Taverner said. “You can be virtually anywhere and find opportunities to actually do these jobs.”

She concluded, “Everyone will need these skills. If you’re trained and bring in the experience on your resume, you will have a leg up.”

Lyon unveils new loan repayment assistance program for future graduates

Does your college help you pay off your student loans?

Lyon is the first college in Arkansas to offer a loan repayment assistance program (LRAP), also known as the Lyon Pledge, to all new and incoming students starting with the fall 2021 semester. 

New and incoming students must sign up before the first day of classes on Tuesday, August 17.

“We want to show our conviction that graduates of Lyon College receive a quality education that prepares them to succeed in the workforce,” said Lyon President W. Joseph King.

“The Lyon Pledge is a promise to our students that we can help you repay your student loans if your income is low after graduation.”

The Lyon Pledge can help graduates repay their federal student, parent PLUS and private alternative loans if their income after graduation is below $43,000. 

“While we don’t believe the value of a degree from Lyon can be measured in dollars alone,” said King, “we understand that student loans are a barrier to higher education for many families. We want to ease student and parent financial concerns by offering families this financial safety-net.”

Lyon has partnered with Ardeo Education Solutions to offer the Lyon Pledge at no cost to students or families. The assistance will continue until the graduate’s income exceeds $43,000 or until their loans are completely paid off.

Eligible students must meet the following requirements after graduation to qualify for the Lyon Pledge:

  • Graduated from Lyon College
  • Working a minimum of 30 hours per week
  • Income below $43,000

For more information about the program or to sign-up, visit

Lyon UBMS students accepted into National Student Leadership Congress for first time

Three high school students made history for the Lyon College Upward Bound Math-Science (UBMS) program this summer.

Camelia Eheart and Patricia Broemel, of Highland High School, and Tamyia Weatherspoon, of the Academies of West Memphis, became the first Lyon UBMS students to attend the National Student Leadership Congress (NSLC).

Only 196 TRIO pre-college students from across the United States and U.S. territories were accepted into the program. While students typically spend a week in Washington D.C. for the NSLC, this year’s event was a virtual 5-day leadership experience to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Eheart found out she was accepted while riding home from school with her brother.

“It was kind of crazy,” she said, laughing. “I was looking at my phone and was like ‘You are not going to believe this!’”

“You messaged me right after, and I found out I was accepted, too,” said Broemel. “It was exciting! I wanted to see what it was all about.”

Weatherspoon was encouraged to apply by Director of Upward Bound Math-Science Cory Godbolt.

“I had talked to him about the majors I wanted to do and how I want to be a lawyer when I grow up,” she said. “He told me this would be a great opportunity.”

The 32nd annual NLSC challenged students to find innovative solutions to today’s societal issues. Students served as members of congress, discussing their topics in small groups and presenting bills at the end of the week for the entire assembly to vote on.

The students had a week full of team-building activities and met with their Representatives and Senators to share their TRIO stories.

Broemel’s group had to decide if the government should provide broadband internet access to everyone.

“We decided wifi should be accessible to all people,” she said, “because, with the pandemic, more people had to start working and doing stuff online.”

Broemel continued, “We argued that it could help people who don’t have jobs and can’t afford internet to better themselves and that it will help businesses because everyone could order online.”

Eheart’s group had to decide if the government should forgive student loan debt. 

“Rather than forgive student loan debt,” she said, “we decided we would give more money to TRIO programs like UBMS.”

Eheart continued, “Our thought process was that if we give more funding to programs that help kids get scholarships then there would be less student loan debt.”

Weatherspoon’s group had to decide if school funding should be based on standardized testing and local taxes.

“I actually got to write the bill, which I was pretty excited about,” she said.

Her group’s stance was that school funding should receive a certain amount of funding per student rather than standardized testing or local taxes.

“We felt this would help because it would give everybody an equal amount of funding and eliminate factors that might put kids out of the race.” 

UBMS helped prepare the students for the mock congress experience, they said, because the presentations and bill-writing process were similar to the research papers and end-of-session presentations they have done at the end of UBMS courses.

Godbolt said he is proud of these students and their work.

“They are all very successful and literally made history in their program,” he said. “It felt really good to see their hard work come to a head.”

They were great fits for the NSLC, he said, and took advantage of the offerings.

“I’m very excited to see where their futures go after this,” Godbolt said.

Weatherspoon learned the value of pushing past her fear of rejection and applying for opportunities like NSLC. She also attended Girls’ State, Governor’s School, and the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) program this summer.

“I’ve had a busy summer,” she said, laughing. “My mom always told me to seize every opportunity I can.”

Weatherspoon continued, “I wasn’t going to give up because I had so much going on this year. I wanted to take in everything, and I thank God I was able to.”

Eheart said NSLC was definitely worth it.

“It was a really fun experience because [Broemel and I] are really good friends and we were experiencing it together,” she said. “We became friends with our groups and some of the group leaders who work at other colleges, so it gave us really good connections for our futures.”

Broemel said students should consider attending the NSLC even if they aren’t interested in working in an environment like congress.

“It’s a really good trial for working with other people in a more professional setting.”

Lyon faculty help set standard for AP Psychology scoring

Lyon College faculty don’t take the summer off from education.

In addition to conducting research and teaching summer courses, several Lyon faculty have played active roles in developing and conducting the scoring of  Advanced Placement (AP) exams. High scores on these exams can translate to college credit for high school students. 

Associate Professor of Psychology Drs. Jennifer Daniels and Assistant Professor of Psychology/Education Nikki Yonts have been helping set and maintain the standard for AP Psychology exam scoring for the past 10 years.

“This is my 10th year and Nikki’s 8th,” said Daniels. “We have served at every level of the scoring process, and cumulatively we’ve been doing this for almost two decades.”

Yonts said they have been primarily involved with scoring the essay portions of the exam. Typically, one question will cover psychological concepts, and the other question will be research and data-focused.

Daniels said the AP exam questions encourage “exactly the kind of critical thinking we want to see in any level of college student.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the process to go virtual, Yonts and Daniels would travel to major cities and work alongside teams of college professors and AP Psychology teachers for the live reading of the exam. The teams would live on-site for nine to 16 days, discussing how to accurately award credit on the exams.

“These live readings are some of the best professional development experiences I’ve ever had,” said Yonts.

She continued, “It has made me a better instructor in the classroom myself, not just in Intro to Psych but in all my classes in terms of understanding how to effectively assess a student’s level of learning.”

Switching to a virtual exam process has made some of the behind-the-scenes work a little invisible, Daniels said. Previously, the AP Psychology exam process would bring together about 600 readers and 80 table leaders in one huge room.

This June, Yonts and Daniels worked from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, first editing scoring guidelines which were then used to find representative training samples. The second part of the month was spent making sure table leaders had what they needed to monitor their teams of readers throughout the seven-day scoring process.

“It’s fascinating how physically exhausted you can get from having your brain going all the time,” Daniels said, laughing. 

Yonts said they would sometimes go to Bryan Lake or walk around Couch Garden during their two breaks because they “couldn’t look at a screen anymore.”

“We’re doing some of the training, too. They tell you it’s ‘high intensity’ from the start,” Daniels said. “You have to be willing to commit to this job. It’s your focus for the summer.”

“If we didn’t see something else worthwhile in it, I wouldn’t do it,” said Yonts.

She said the scoring process is a perfect example of the “collaborative learning” that Lyon promotes.

“We don’t do these in isolation,” Yonts said. “We have a goal and have to work with our team to reach that goal.”

“Everyone hates group projects, but life is a group project,” said Daniels.

Daniels said the process involves a lot of negotiation and “perspective taking,” where one professor will address why they interpret a specific concept the way they do.

“You may have a college teaching assistant who teaches Psych 101 once a year interpret a prompt one way,” Yonts said, “but a high school teacher who teaches AP Psych four times a year will have another view.”

“We always encourage perspective taking in our classes,” said Daniels. “It’s not just about having a diversity of ideas. It’s how we reach agreements and get things accomplished.”

She continued, “As professionals, we are civil to each other even in the midst of arguments.”

“That’s something we want our students to learn how to do,” Yonts said.

Daniels is very proud of the work she, Yonts and other Lyon faculty have done with the AP program.

“I think it’s high time we recognize just how much this is professional development and not just a job,” she said.

Yonts agreed, saying summer is not just a time for faculty to do research.

“I think it is so important for this community to recognize that quality teaching is something we value here so much that we take a full month out of our summer vacations to hone that craft.”

Dr. Melissa Taverner, Provost at Lyon College, said being an AP reader in any subject requires significant time and dedication not only to the essay scoring but also to the training, preparation and collaboration with professionals from all over the world.

“It truly is an opportunity to affect how the pre-college curriculum is structured and delivered,” Taverner said, “and provides insight to the scorer into the state of student preparation prior to matriculation.” 

She continued, “It helps those of us working at the college level to meet our students where they are as freshmen and bring them to the next level of understanding.”

Yonts said her hope is that more high school students will take AP Psychology classes, among others. 

“I’m excited when I see students coming in with that AP credit because I, and several other Lyon faculty, know what it means.”

Lyon College receives $1 million to establish free enterprise institute

Lyon College Board Chairman Perry L. Wilson, on behalf of the Wilson family, has made a gift commitment of $1 million to Lyon College to create the endowed Michael E. Wilson Professorship of Business, Management and Social Entrepreneurship. 

The gift will serve as the foundation for the College’s Institute for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, which will be named at a later date upon receiving additional funding. Eventually, the institute would have a full time program director and would ultimately establish a comprehensive business incubator to combine academics with applied entrepreneurship, as well as a center for economic analysis and data for Northeastern Arkansas.

“This is a way to accentuate and bolster the rigorous liberal arts education from Lyon with what students will experience in the real world,” Wilson said.

Starting this year, the business division will reorganize to emphasize business and entrepreneurship to support the institute, which will focus on programming in the areas of economic development, entrepreneurship, and free enterprise. 

“Our business faculty have been planning the changes to the curriculum for some time, and the Wilson family’s gift will support the implementation of the business division’s new focus on entrepreneurship,” said Provost Melissa Taverner.

As a result, the College will start to provide additional business faculty positions, achievement of the Six Sigma Certification, and additional minors in entrepreneurship and leadership; social entrepreneurship and economic development, and health economics.

Vice President of Advancement David Hutchison expressed gratitude for Wilson’s “generous commitment to Lyon College [and] his firm vote of confidence in the role that Lyon College can play in economic vitality in the state.”

He added that the institute will make “Lyon College home to a unique incubator for the next generation of leaders who will drive growth and sustainability for our region.”

Wilson, formerly the chairman of the Economics Arkansas board of directors, said inspiration for the institute stemmed from his love for liberal arts education, entrepreneurship, and free enterprise.

“If we don’t have an educated population in the state of Arkansas, the state will fail,” Wilson said. “[With this institute] if we give students a basis upon which to go out and create something new, and they stay in Arkansas, that can only serve to better economic development for the state.”

Wilson explained that the institute’s concept is modeled after other institutes such as Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. While the concept is not new, the institute at Lyon will be distinct because no colleges in the state specifically offer it.

Wilson added, “We’re being innovative by being as small as we are and trying to establish an institute of free enterprise.”

With this gift, Wilson continues a family tradition of “undying devotion to education, entrepreneurship, and economic development” that now spans several generations. 

“Those things have been strong in my family for four or five generations,” Wilson said. “My dad, my grandfather before him, and certainly my great-great-grandfather were all about economic development for the state of Arkansas.”

Wilson remembers as a child seeing his father attend many economic development meetings while also running the family business Lee Wilson & Co., originally founded in 1886 by Wilson’s great-great-grandfather. The endowed professorship will be named after Wilson’s father, Michael Evans Wilson, who served on Lyon College’s Board of Trustees for many years.

“I’m so happy my family is in a position to do something like this for the state of Arkansas. We wouldn’t be here without my great-great-grandfather…He was a visionary in seeing that he needed to do something with what he had, to support education and economic development in the state.”

Lyon junior accepted into Irish American Scholars program

Lyon College junior Hailey Williams, of Memphis, Tenn., has been accepted into the Irish American Scholars program.

She will attend Ulster University in Northern Ireland for five months in spring 2022. This will be Williams’ first time traveling outside of the United States.

“I just applied for my passport in April and haven’t even gotten that back,” she said, laughing. “Once I release my passport to the program, I will get more details.”

She said Ulster University has locations in both Belfast and Jordanstown, and the Irish American Scholars program will let her know which branch she will be attending soon.

Williams found out about the program when she received an email during the COVID-19 pandemic. She had been fearing that travel abroad wouldn’t be an option before she graduated, especially since she is going to graduate a semester early.

Her chances to study abroad were getting smaller, so she decided to jump on the opportunity.

“I knew I wanted to travel abroad, especially after visiting Lyon and hearing them talk about the Nichols Trips.”

Williams continued, “People have asked ‘Why Ireland?’ I wasn’t necessarily choosing Ireland. I just saw an opportunity to study abroad and took it.”

After learning she was accepted into the program, she began researching Northern Ireland on TikTok and finding hidden gems to go visit.

“I don’t know much about the culture, so I’ll have to research as much as I can before I go.”

Her ultimate goal is to get the most out of the coursework that she can while making friends and exploring the sights.

“This will be the first semester I haven’t worked in college,” Williams said. “I’ll actually have the opportunity to live a little bit and go wherever I want.”

She is currently saving up money for the trip. Lyon College is providing financial assistance, Williams said, and she will be working during the summer and the fall to raise funds for her travels.

“I play soccer, so it’s going to be a lot harder during the fall because that’s our season.”

While the expenses are stressful, Williams believes the experience will be worth it.

“I’d rather go and hate it than to not go and always wonder how it would have been,” she said.

Williams concluded, “I’ve already talked about moving out of the country after graduation. This is a good way to do trial and error to see how I like being on my own in a new country.”

Lyon welcomes Randy Peterson as new director of institutional research

Lyon College welcomed Randy Peterson as the new director of institutional research this May.

Peterson majored in English at Hendrix College and earned his master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“I also completed everything but the thesis for a master’s degree in technical and expository writing at UALR.”

He continued, laughing, “My professional life always seemed to get in the way of writing that thesis!”

He is originally from Salem, Ark., in Fulton County.

“I grew up in this area,” Peterson said. “I have many great memories of coming to this campus for academic competitions and events in high school.”

He has always loved Batesville and believes institutions like Lyon play an important role in “improving the quality of life in the region” and opening doors for students.

“I’m very proud to be a part of that.”

Peterson said institutional research is about collecting, synthesizing and analyzing institutional data to help Lyon College’s leadership make informed decisions. The job is multifaceted- part information systems management, part social science research, part business intelligence and part technical writing.

“I’m fortunate to inherit a rich collection of resources from my predecessor,” he said. “I plan to build on what has already been done, standardize and organize the resources we already have and make them more accessible and usable to the Lyon community.”

Peterson and his wife, Sammi, moved to Batesville in May with their dog, Lilly, and their cat, Joel. 

His second vocation is teaching writing. Over the past 20 years, he has taught composition and professional writing at UALR, the University of the Ozarks and Hendrix College.

In his spare time, he has been getting into amateur astronomy and recently acquired a vintage late 1970s Celestron C5 telescope.

“When I was a teenager, I was heavily into amateur astronomy, and I’ve been trying to get back into it,” Peterson said. “I’m looking forward to trying some photography with the telescope.”

Before coming to Lyon, Peterson worked as the institutional research director at Hendrix College for five years. He previously worked at Kentucky Wesleyan University for a few years and the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville for seven years.

Lyon College’s med school acceptance rate exceeds national average

Almost every Lyon student who took the Medical College Acceptance Test (MCAT) last cycle will be attending med school in the fall.

Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Alexander Beeser said nine out of 11 applicants were successful this year. Although the number of applicants varies year to year, Lyon significantly exceeds the national percentage average of student applicants matriculating into M.D. and D.O. programs.

Melanie Beehler, McKinley Fox, Thomas Maloney, Allison Mundy, Sean O’Leary, Zach Poe and Emerson Smith will all be attending the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Hannah Zang will attend the Duke University School of Medicine, and Tressa Asbury will attend Kansas City University- Joplin Medical School.

Allison Mundy, ’21, of Bryant, said she was “over the moon” when she found out she was accepted into UAMS. She was initially on the alternate list and was waiting for a call when graduation came around.

“Saturday, I graduated with a B.S. in biology. Sunday, I got engaged to Zachary Ward, ‘21, and Monday I got the call I was going to medical school!”

Mundy continued, laughing, “I had quite the whirlwind of emotions in just three days!”

Hannah Zang, ’21, of McKinney, Texas, was “absolutely ecstatic” when she got accepted into Duke.

“It was such a long process. When I got the call, I was in complete shock,” Zang said. “I immediately called my mom afterwards crying, and we both celebrated over the phone. It absolutely made my day!”

“I am thrilled at the success of Lyon students this cycle,” said Beeser. “I think it speaks to how well Lyon academically prepares students, and the skills students obtain during their time here.”

How does Lyon achieve such high acceptance rates?

Melanie Beehler, ’20, of Pea Ridge, believes the rigorous academic curriculum and dedicated faculty prepare students for the medical school application process.

“Lyon gave me the confidence to succeed in my future goals,” she said.

Mundy agreed, saying she knew Lyon would prepare her for the academic challenges of being a physician because the College is known for its academic rigor. In addition to the foundational knowledge she received from the biology department, she said the College’s liberal arts approach pushed her to “be a better person both in and out of the classroom.

Associate Professor of English Dr. Wesley Beal and Professor of Philosophy Dr. Martha Beck helped Mundy develop communication and public service skills.

“Being a physician is much more than just knowing your sciences,” Mundy said. “You must also know how to communicate with people and learn how to meet them where they are. [Beal and Beck] taught me how to be a better local and global citizen.”

Not only does the coursework at Lyon prepare students for the MCAT, Zang said, but the College also has structures in place to help students with the entire application process, such as the Career Center and the pre-health professions program. She said Beeser was incredibly supportive in his role as the Pre-Health Profession Advisor.

“I’m lucky to have such a great mentor in my life,” Zang said.

Thomas Maloney, ’21, of Jonesboro, said the classes at Lyon may be challenging, but they forced students to develop good study habits.

“Take as many classes as you can that are related to courses on the MCAT,” he said. “Personally, I would say don’t put so much stress on whether you make an A or B in a certain course.”

Maloney continued, “It is more important that you retain the information you learn long term so you can use it to prepare for the MCAT.”

Beehler advises current students interested in medical school to find an older mentor to help them through the application process, such as understanding prerequisites and how to enhance their personal statements.

“Remember why you started the pre-med journey when it gets tough,” she said.

Zang encourages current students to explore the resources available to them, find a great support system and try new opportunities. She also recommends that they shadow physicians or volunteer at the White River Medical Center in Batesville and take the Health Coaching course at Lyon.

“The admission process is grueling, but Lyon provides all of the tools necessary to succeed,” she said.

“There is no such thing as a perfect application,” Mundy added. “There are one thousand things that ‘look good’ on an application, but it’s impossible to do them all.” 

She concluded, “You probably have achieved more than you think you have, so don’t be humble when filling out your application.”

“As the pre-professional health advisory chair, I know all of these students and am convinced they will make excellent physicians,” Beeser said.

He concluded, “This year is, by far, the largest number of students who worked exceedingly hard to get into medical school, and I could not be prouder of their accomplishments.”

Windgate Foundation funds relocation of Lyon College’s Kilted Kiln

The Kilted Kiln is now part of the Lyon campus thanks to a $25,000 gift from the Windgate Foundation.

“The Windgate Foundation has made an extraordinary investment in strengthening arts education around the state of Arkansas over the last several decades,” said Vice President for Advancement Dr. David Hutchison. 

He continued, “Lyon College shares that vision, and so we are excited to create this new partnership with Windgate.”

Visiting Professor of Art James Berry said the Kiln is now located in the Temp in the old kitchen area and will have an auxiliary building behind the Temp starting in fall of 2021. Being on campus gives the Kilted Kiln the opportunity to start a clay club and have onsite recruitment efforts through Upward Bound, APPLE and individual high school events.

“We have started referring to the space as ‘The Kitchen,’” said Berry, laughing. “Being on campus will also allow us to have demonstrations for Lyon students, faculty and staff.”

Lyon College acquired the Main Street Pottery studio in Batesville in 2018 and began leasing the commercial space downtown, allowing the College to offer ceramics classes for the first time in decades.

The studio was rebranded as the Kilted Kiln and began hosting Lyon academic courses as well as community workshops and demonstrations. In its first year, the Kiln underwent a dramatic expansion with the hiring of a full-time artist-in-residence.

The facility, which is more than a century old, lacked heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) and suffered from structural integrity issues. Its location and lack of parking limited its appeal to the community and its accessibility for students.

The Windgate Foundation’s gift allowed Lyon to fund the relocation of the Kilted Kiln to campus, allowing the College to continue keeping the direct costs low for students and free to community members.

Berry said the Kilted Kiln will host community events with local and discounted workshops for members of the Lyon community.

“I’m hoping to bridge ceramic students with the Scot Shop and a few other businesses on Main Street in fundraising efforts,” he said. 

“The College’s visual arts and ceramics have been some of its most prominent and successful programs in recent years,” said Hutchison, “and this relationship [with the Windgate Foundation] will help facilitate the growth of both as we expand our presence and offerings in the region.”