Lyon senior designs bicentennial coin for Independence County

A Lyon senior’s design has been selected for Independence County’s bicentennial coin.

Samantha Long holds the coin she designed

The coin commemorates the 200th anniversary of the county’s founding, which was established in 1820. Batesville was established in 1821, and it is the oldest existing city in Arkansas.

Samantha Long, a fine arts major from Cave City, created the coin’s design based on her own interpretation of what Independence County Judge Robert Griffin had requested. 

The front features a Native American based on the Cherokee tribe as a nod to Arkansas history and a steamboat as an homage to Independence County’s beginnings as a trade area. The back of the coin features a glimpse into modern-day Independence County, showing local farmers and businesses coming together while Independence County grows in the background.

“I felt that it was very important to incorporate farmers into the design because our community has so much to thank them for,” Long said.

She continued, “My brother gave me the idea to have them shaking hands, as a way to show the two coming together to help build our community.”

Professor of Art Dustyn Bork had approached Long about submitting a design. He told her it would be a great way to gain experience for her fine arts major.

“This is an excellent example of a Lyon student seeing their design come to fruition in a tangible way,” Bork said. “What an awesome opportunity for Sam and to celebrate our community.”

“It’s honestly an honor to be selected for something so important!” Long said. “I couldn’t believe it at first, and I did feel a bit anxious during the process.”

She concluded, “But by the end of it, I was very proud to have had the opportunity to leave my small mark on Independence County.”

Lyon students named ‘outstanding delegates’ at Model UN

Lyon students were recognized as “Outstanding Delegates” for the first time at the Arkansas Collegiate Model United Nations (ACMUN) on Nov. 6.

Kristen Towery, Samantha Baxley, Timmy Tignor, Charles Fancyboy, Taylor Fitterling and Jihye Jung participated in this year’s conference. Baxley and Tignor were named Outstanding Delegates, and Towery, Fitterling and Fancyboy were named Honorary Outstanding Delegates.

“Lyon did really well this year,” said senior Timmy Tignor. “We had three new students who had no Model UN experience, and we did awesome!”

He continued, “The standout moment was that Lyon had never won an Outstanding Delegate before. I was so happy to see that we were able to do this well.”

Jihye Jung said the students have been meeting every Thursday with Assistant  Professor of Political Science Dr. Jaeyun Sung to practice opening statements, speech scripts and how to write resolutions for Model UN. They even virtually practiced in a preliminary session with the Model UN team at Harding University before the conference.

The ACMUN conference is usually held at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway, but the event was held virtually over Zoom this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I think everyone adjusted pretty quickly,” Jung said. “Also, since the Zoom meeting makes us change our username and background, it was even easier to notice delegates and their representative countries.”

Jung said this year’s topic was “Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.” The students worked to solve the problem by establishing a new council, which they named the Arab Cooperation and Defense Council (ACDC).

“It was impressive that we made our own council, named it, and made our own rules,” Jung said. “Our first resolution was unanimously agreed upon, and we all applauded together.”

“The hard work put into drafting and passing two committee resolutions by other members of the Council of the Arab League was truly inspiring,” said junior Taylor Fitterling said. 

Fitterling chose to represent Syria and enjoyed researching his country’s stances on particular issues. 

He said he learned three mains lessons at the conference: be careful when choosing a country that has not engaged in much international activity, be certain to “go beyond or expand upon your country’s ‘official’ position to deliver persuasive arguments and obtain support for your resolution,” and be willing to collaborate and compromise with other student delegations in order to foster a friendly and cooperative “international” environment.

Jung enjoyed how a small group of students was able to share their thoughts, resolve the problems at hand and achieve peace.

“Seeing us come together, I imagined a world without conflict and dispute.”

She is planning to attend graduate school to study international affairs, peaceful resolution and human rights in particular.

“Even though it’s just a Model UN, all the delegates were serious and critically thinking about the issues that the Middle East has today,” Jung said. “I found that we can definitely make a better world.”

Lyon’s Model UN team will compete again at the Midwest Model UN (MMUN) in February.

“The Model UN team this year brought well-deserved outcomes. They really worked hard throughout the semester,” Sung said. “I believe our students are prepared to face the next level of competition.”

Lyon College and Stone Ward announce data science partnership

Lyon College and Stone Ward have created a data science partnership, which provides real-world experience to students by allowing them to collaborate and work alongside Stone Ward’s analytics team.

The partnership will focus on analyzing client data and offer analyses and recommendations to Stone Ward and its clients to help move their business forward. In addition to hands-on experience, Lyon students will also have the opportunity to earn academic credit by participating in micro-internships with Stone Ward. 

Stone Ward, a Little Rock based advertising agency, contacted Lyon after the College announced its addition of the data science program this past spring. Lyon College is the first private college to add data science as a major in Arkansas. 

“Stone Ward is committed to building good for our clients and the community. This collaboration will allow us to share our knowledge and resources with the students at Lyon College to help advance the field of data analytics,” said Millie Ward, president of Stone Ward. “With today’s business climate becoming increasingly more digital-driven, we hope that more students will consider data and analytics as a career path for their future.” 

Lyon’s new data science professor, Dr. Torumoy Ghoshal, said finding access to real-world data can be difficult, so the partnership is a great opportunity for students. Working with “real-world data” will prepare students “for real-world challenges,” he said.

Associate Professor of Computer Science David Sonnier agreed, “The use of real data will allow us to bring our students from the ‘toy data’ level to the next level, which reflects the real world.”

“As one of the first agencies to form this type of innovative partnership, Stone Ward will have even greater access to some of the brightest, up-and-coming analytical minds in the state to enhance our already deep business insights into custom algorithms, models, and machine learning,“ said Brett Parker, director of media and digital services at Stone Ward. “Our marketing analytics will be even stronger moving forward, which is a desperately needed business solution amid the exponential growth of data in virtually all aspects of life.”

“The projects they will complete are likely to make their resumes stand out,” said Ghoshal. “The potential internship opportunities will give them first-hand experience with industry level data science projects.”

According to the organizations’ memorandum of understanding, students will use the consumer information in several ways to help clients, such as selecting media channels to promote a particular product, determining company performance, and finding effective price points on particular products or services.

Provost Melissa Taverner added that the partnership “also will require students to practice effective interpersonal communication with Stone Ward professionals.”

“This kind of experience is ultimately our goal for all of our students,” she said.

Lyon College students make mountain of research out of anthill

Lyon students and faculty are studying local ants for a national research project.

Biology professors Dr. Allyn Dodd, Dr. Maryline Jones and Dr. Cassia Oliveira have partnered with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., for a national ant DNA barcoding project.

“DNA barcoding allows researchers to identify species by DNA sequences,” Dodd said, “and can be used to identify invasive species.”

She said researchers across the country are gathering as many ant species as possible, based on a list provided by the DNA Learning Center. They will soon begin identifying their samples, extracting the DNA from the ants, amplifying it and isolating it to send back to the center for sequencing.

Oliveira had received a message about the project, and she, Jones and Dodd submitted an application. The Lyon team was one of four selected for the Ozarks region in Arkansas and Missouri. They will cover Northeast Arkansas and parts of the river valley.

“The thing I love most about this project is that it allows us faculty to collaborate and model collaborative research to our students,” Dodd said.

Junior Briar Miller and freshman Catalina Terlea had reached out to the biology department about their interest in research, and the faculty thought the ant DNA barcoding project would be a great way to get them involved.

Miller, of Cave City, has collected specimens of different ant species around his home and yard. 

“Since I am a local, I became involved in this project in August to gain valuable experience,” Miller said, “and to become more involved at Lyon and in the science department despite this semester’s remote learning.”

Terlea, of Little Rock, has collected ants on the trails around Batesville and the Lyon campus. She first heard about the project in her biology course. A few upperclassmen in the Honors Fellows program with her mentioned that Dodd may need help collecting ant samples, so Terlea decided to reach out about being part of the project.

“I thought it was a very neat project because I am interested in genetics,” she said.

Miller and Terlea have also helped identify the ants that other researchers have collected and will participate in the DNA extraction of each species once the lab materials arrive.

Both students have learned a lot through the course of the research project. Miller said he had not thought about the different species of ants native to this area before and has enjoyed learning about the diversity of the species in north central Arkansas. Terlea agreed, saying she was “surprised at the range of sizes and colors” of local ants.

“When I first started collecting ant samples, it took a long time because most ants camouflage with their environment,” she said. “Over time, I learned some efficient collecting techniques, such as using an aspirator, sifter and stunning the ants.”

Miller said ants can be difficult to catch not only because of their small size but also because of their ability to communicate with each other.

“In addition, different species live in a wide range of different environments, such as trees, underneath rocks and logs, in houses and on the outside of different surfaces,” he said.

Terlea said her favorite moment was when she and Dodd hiked a trail and discovered a group of ants living among the different fungi.

“We were very excited about how the fungi and ants coexisted, and we decided to sit in the middle of the trail and collect them,” Terlea said. “I learned a lot from [Dodd] that day in the field about ants and habitats.”

She believes this experience and knowledge will help her have a better understanding of animal behavior and symbiotic relationships in future courses at Lyon.

“I am very interested in genetics, and the experience I will gain from running PCR analysis will benefit me in my future research and the courses I plan on taking.”

Miller said the project will give him the chance to learn more about DNA coding and extraction.

“That will be important in upper-level biology courses,” he said, “and will also be helpful in my career and postgraduate goals, since I am considering attending optometry or medical school after Lyon.”

Dodd said she, Jones and Oliveira enjoy how this project gets Miller and Terlea out in the field and gives them experience with insect identification as well as important laboratory techniques.

“Catalina and Briar will present the data we collect at future conferences, most of which are virtual right now,” Dodd said. 

She concluded, “This will give them the opportunity to practice their presentation skills, disseminate their findings and receive feedback from other scientists.”

Lyon College student Harmon contracts with Army National Guard

A Lyon sophomore is continuing a family legacy by contracting with the Army National Guard. She is the first Lyon student to contract under the College’s new military science concentration.

Blysse Harmon was inspired to join Lyon Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) by her uncle, who is a Lieutenant Colonel and chaplain with the Army National Guard. 

“I’m really close with him. He’s like a father figure to me,” Harmon said.

Her uncle talked to her about ROTC and its benefits her senior year of high school. She considered joining the program before accepting a basketball scholarship at Lyon.

“They didn’t have an ROTC program at the time, so I was like ‘Maybe it wasn’t meant to be,’” Harmon said.

She continued, “I prayed about it, and two days later, I get a call from my uncle that ROTC is coming to Lyon. It kind of felt like it was meant to be.”

Lyon College began offering a military science concentration in fall 2019, and ROTC courses were part of the curriculum.

After contracting, Harmon has been awarded a three-year scholarship at Lyon. Not only are her tuition and fees covered, but she will also receive a monthly stipend, an annual book stipend and E-5 pay every month for drill.

“The good thing about the program is it gives you a head start in life,” Harmon said. “Once I graduate, I’ll be an officer and have three years of job experience under me.”

While basketball and ROTC are both big time commitments, she said the ROTC staff have worked around her schedule.

“That was one of the only reasons I was hesitant about joining ROTC,” Harmon said. “I wasn’t sure I would have time for both, but my ROTC teachers kept reassuring me they would work around my basketball schedule and they really have.”

Basketball and ROTC also work together better than she would have expected.

“I have to stay in shape for basketball and for the Army National Guard,” she said. “Now when I get through a basketball workout I get two things out of it.”

Harmon is majoring in psychology and minoring in Spanish with a concentration in military science. She plans to get her master’s degree in occupational therapy after graduating from college.

“The Army National Guard will pay for that schooling,” she said. “If I can get an opportunity within the National Guard to work in occupational therapy, then that’s what I want to do.”

Her favorite part about ROTC so far is the community environment.

“It’s a really good environment that teaches you a lot of respect and discipline,” Harmon said. “For a lot of people, that sounds scary, but it’s kind of awesome because you build bonds with people.”

She concluded, “I really love to work out and be active, and with ROTC you get to do that with people going through the same things you are.”

Lyon’s Leftwich advances from ‘shy kid’ to college mentor

Senior Dimir Leftwich defined himself as an athlete in high school, but he wanted to be more than that in college.

Young man wearing a football jersey
Lyon College senior Dimir Leftwich

“When I was in high school all I did was play football and run track,” he said. “I was a really shy kid. I didn’t like talking to people unless you were my teammate.”

During his time at Lyon, he has not only grown out of his shyness but has also grown into his role as a leader.

Leftwich, of Philadelphia, Penn., realized that if he wanted to achieve his goal of being a football coach then he would have to learn how to connect with people.

“You can’t really be a shy coach,” he said, laughing. “How are you going to get the best out of your team?”

He knew the first step to getting out of his comfort zone would be getting more involved on campus. When Dana Bennett, Coordinator of the Lyon Experience, sent students an email about Enrollment Services’ student ambassador program, Leftwich seized the opportunity.

“The student ambassador program forced me to talk to people,” he said, “because I’m talking to three to four kids who are thinking about coming to Lyon every day.”

Leftwich continued, “Joining the organization has forced me to take that leap of faith where you’re going to break out of your shell whether you want to or not.”

While he initially wanted to become a coach because of his love of football, the student ambassador program helped him discover a new aspect of his dream: the chance to positively impact young athletes’ lives.

“I used to think I wanted to coach in the National Football League if I could,” Leftwich said. “I’ve gotten to a point where I’d be perfectly content if I could coach college ball and stay around college students.”

He continued, “I love seeing people grow further and further to be the best version of themselves they can be.”

Over time, Leftwich became even more involved on campus. He is an officer in the Black Students Association, a resident assistant, a Diversity Recognizes Everyone’s Actions in the Movement (DREAM) Scholar, a member of the Diversity Council and a member of Motivational Monday Meetings (M3).

The goal of M3, he said, is to motivate everyone in the group to be the best they can as students, as athletes and as people on campus and in the community as a whole. Most of the members are football players and try to motivate each other on and off the field.

“We try to motivate each other mental health-wise, too,” he said. “College is exhausting. Add on being an athlete to that, and it’s even more tiring.”

The DREAM Scholar program has similar goals. A group of about 12 students from diverse backgrounds live together on the first floor of Young House, he said, and push each other to do the best they can within their classes.

Both groups are meeting virtually this fall while Lyon continues remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Being on the football team has helped Leftwich learn how to spot when students in the M3 and DREAM Scholar programs are struggling and motivate them.

“You can tell when someone is discouraged. You can see it on their face,” he said. “What I personally like to do is sit down and have a conversation with them about what isn’t clicking, whether it’s about succeeding on the field or in the classroom.”

As a double major in business and English, Leftwich has also learned valuable time management skills in his courses that help him balance his many commitments in the Lyon community.

“There’s a lot of time in one week for you to do the things you need to get done.”

He continued, “It’s all just a time management thing. You have to know what you can take on as an individual. I like being busy. It’s a grind that I embrace.”

Leftwich encourages other Lyon students interested in being more involved not to be scared.

“I know if I had been scared, I would still be one of those students who goes to class, goes to practice and goes home.”

He concluded, “I feel like it’s the students who take that leap that get the most out of college because they’re taking advantage of everything they can.”

Lyon announces plans for spring semester

Lyon College President W. Joseph King announced that the College intends to be in residence for the spring semester. The announcement was shared internally Oct. 1.

In his message to campus, President King shared some of the plans and actions the College’s Covid-19 taskforce has implemented to be prepared for the spring. His message is below.

Dear Lyon Community,

I want to take a moment to laud your resilience as we have endured this strange and difficult time. We did not want a virtual fall semester, yet you prepared and adapted, making this the best virtual semester possible at Lyon College.

While we have persevered, I recognize we are all eager to return to campus life, even if it’s in a new normal. I want to assure you that we expect to be in residence for the spring 2021 semester.

Your safety continues to be our top priority, and we acknowledge that the pandemic is a fluid situation. However, the Covid-19 taskforce has taken several actions in order to efficiently prepare for a residential semester. Over the past few months, the task force has:

  • Observed the challenges of colleges that returned to in-person instruction and based off those observations, developed policies for returning to campus designed to avoid such challenges, such as the need for additional quarantine space;
  • Arranged a team of three registered nurses and a COVID Coordinator position to coordinate testing and contact tracing;
  • Entered a partnership with the COVID Health Project to ensure the College has accurate and ample Covid-19 tests available for students, faculty, and staff for the spring semester;
  • Planned and successfully conducted campus wide Covid-19 testing for faculty, staff, and any students remaining on campus, which the College intends to do again in segments when students return;
  • Started using the CampusClear app, which requires all campus members to screen themselves daily;
  • Purchased PPE and medical supplies for students, faculty, and staff, including masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and wall-mounted thermometers;
  • Installed barriers and signage to enforce social-distancing, mask-wearing protocols, and size restrictions on groups and extracurricular activities; and
  • Planned safety renovations to dining areas such as Edwards Commons and the Salty Dog Coffee Shop, which will be complete by the spring semester.

Those are just a few of the actions we’ve taken to prepare for students’ return. More are in the works. As always, our goal is to bring everyone back to a safe learning and living environment, and we will adapt as necessary to this ever-changing situation. Nevertheless, we are ready to face this new normal together, on campus, as the Lyon community. 

Remember, we will all be expected to do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19—following the College’s safety protocols will be a part of the Lyon College honor and social codes.

Please continue to check your email for updates from me, Provost Taverner, and Dean Hunter. We are exploring a range of instructional strategies that will serve students on campus while still including our remote community members as they transition gradually back to Batesville. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Students, good luck on your midterm exams. Remember the College’s motto, and know that we all miss you terribly. Faculty and staff, I repeatedly state it, but please know I appreciate you. You are the epitome of “Perseverance Conquers All, God Willing.”

Sincerely,

Joey

Lyon graduate becomes financial manager for STARS Academy

Lyon graduate Iva Popović, ’20, is stepping off the volleyball court and into her new role as financial manager for STARS Academy in Batesville.

STARS Academy is a locally-owned therapy clinic and developmental preschool. As financial manager, Popović maintains financial services by assisting the executive management team

with budget planning and by offering insights and financial advice that will allow the team to make the best business decisions for the company.  

“My job allows me to implement the theoretical knowledge I learned at Lyon and see it work in real life,” she said.

Popović learned about the theory of corporate finance from her economics and business finance professors, preparing her for her current position.

“I am learning how a small business actually runs, not just from a financial standpoint but also from a human resources and, in STARS Academy’s case, a therapy standpoint, too.”

She continued, “It feels great that I am finally able to practice what I was learning about for five years.”

Popović also collects, interprets and reviews financial information, predicting future financial

trends and reporting them to management. She reviews, monitors and manages budgets for both of STARS’ North and South locations in Batesville.

“My favorite part of working at STARS is that I indirectly get to help the kids and work with an

awesome group of people,” she said, “including Lyon men’s basketball alum, David Brogdon, ’93.”

The job opportunity also allowed Popović, a native of Novi Sad, Serbia, to stay in Batesville.

“International students like myself have limited employment options during our time in college,” she said.

This obstacle was made even more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Finding a job during a global pandemic was extremely challenging and stressful,” Popović said, “but I believe that every stressful situation in life only makes us better and stronger.”

“Perseverance does conquer all!”

She recommends students interested in similar careers participate in as many internship and job shadowing opportunities as possible.

“That experience is very valuable later on,” Popović said. “Network and put yourself out there as much as possible.”

She encourages students to keep an open mind when looking for a career.

“Don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone and be open to all opportunities that come your way, especially in the times we are in.”

Lyon named “Best College” by U.S. News & World Report

Lyon College has been named a 2021 “Best College” by U.S. News & World Report. 

Lyon ranked #166 overall in National Liberal Arts Colleges and continued its streak as a top performer in social mobility, ranking #45. Though the College has made the list of top national liberal arts colleges for many years, it broke into the numbered rankings for the first time since 2014. 

“We are proud to be among the ranked again, and we expect this positive trajectory to continue in the coming years,” said President W. Joseph King. 

U.S. News & World Report considers several aspects when determining colleges’ rankings. For the list of top national liberal arts colleges, U.S. News reviews indicators such as student-faculty ratio, average federal loan debt for graduates, and undergraduate academic reputation.

For the social mobility ranking, U.S. News considers colleges that are successful at “enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students awarded with Pell Grants.”

Lyon has ranked as a top performer in social mobility the past five years. In fall 2019, which would be the academic year U.S. News reviewed for this ranking, almost half of Lyon’s students received a Pell Grant, and over 40 percent of its first-year students were the first in their families to attend college.

President King added, “Our rank in the top 50 in terms of social mobility illustrates our deep commitment to the mission and purpose of Lyon College.”

He concluded, “As we continue to improve our national public profile and sustain our selectivity, I am confident that the rankings will reflect it.”