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.”

Cave City commissions Lyon art program to create library mural

Outside businesses are now approaching the Lyon art program to create murals.

Professor of Art Dustyn Bork said Crystal Crow, Marketing Director for the Bank of Cave City, invited the art program to make a mural for the Cave City Library. The Bank of Cave City sponsors the library and provides the space for it, so they sponsored the mural project as well.

“Crystal is hoping this is the first of many murals in Cave City and in the broader region,” Bork said.

“She is exploring ways of creating a mural trail through the Ozark Gateway Region.”

Lyon art graduate Sarah Winters, ’18, created the design, which will be a shelf of books with the words “Cave City Library” and a bookend with the Bank of Cave City’s logo.

“The mural is going up in historic, downtown Cave City,” Winters said, “so we wanted to make sure we kept some of the nuances of older advertisements while incorporating some more modern design styles.”

She and Bork brainstormed several ideas. Winters would sketch them out and, after settling on a design, she fleshed it out into a more thorough piece that was used to map the mural onto the wall.

“I still don’t think I have fully grasped that something I designed is going up on a giant wall in the middle of Cave City!” Winters said.

She continued, “I have always loved seeing murals in different cities, so this is such an incredible opportunity.”

Bork has a big group of current and former Lyon students helping to bring Winters’ vision to life, including Sam Long, Molly Mellor, Abby Rutter, Victoria Hutcheson, ’19, Hayley Cormican and Bonnie Roberts.

“This is an awesome opportunity for our students and our alumni to branch out and share their creativity and talents with a much broader audience,” Bork said.

“Art doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it’s great to bring our studio practice to a wider community audience.”

The project offers practical experience and opportunities for students on how to line up a mural, how to work with stakeholders and how to navigate the logistics involved in mounting a large public work. 

For example, this is the first mural the art program has attempted on raw unpainted brick, where the color of the brick will remain unpainted in the background and become part of the design itself. This new challenge changed their approach to the project.

Bork has enjoyed seeing current and former students for the project while the College continues remote instruction this fall.

“There is no substitute for being around other people and creative types.”

One benefit, he said, has been the way alumni and current students share art ideas and career options with each other.

“The returning students and alumni have been sharing with the newer students what to expect in a career in the arts and how to get your start,” Bork said.

He continued, “I am fortunate to be able to do what I love and be surrounded by so many like-minded artists.”

Senior Sam Long, who is from Cave City, has been excited to work on another mural project.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to see some of my classmates again,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to forget about what’s going on and just do something for my community.”

Long continued, “I never thought I would have the opportunity to help out on a mural in my own hometown. It’s kind of a dream come true to be honest.”

Team of nurses to aid Lyon’s COVID-19 response

A team of intensive care unit (ICU) nurses are assisting Lyon College with its COVID-19 response this school year.

Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Patrick Mulick announced on Aug. 17 that nurses Lauren Pickle, RN, Melonie Koch, RN, and Cassie Mohlke, BSN, will be covering the Office of Health and Wellness.

Mulick said the nurses will be available for student needs, will help with the College’s COVID testing procedures, will care for any quarantined students and will work with Lyon’s COVID Coordinator Shawn Tackett. Additionally, they will work closely with the medical staff at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) North Central Clinic in Batesville for students who need to be seen by a physician.

Pickle said the team of nurses will rotate their call days for Lyon and its students.

“We all work in the ICU full-time still, so we based our on-call days off of our schedules,” she said.

The nurses can be contacted at health@lyon.edu or (870)307-7425. They are available by phone 24/7 at (870) 205-0259 for any medical needs.

Pickle graduated from the University of Arkansas Community College in Batesville in December 2018 and previously worked as a bariatric medical-surgical nurse at Northeast Arkansas Baptist Memorial Hospital. She transferred to the White River Medical Center (WRMC) in December 2019 after taking maternity leave so she could be closer to home and work in the ICU.

She spent a lot of time in and out of school undecided on any career until she worked as a certified nursing assistant at WRMC for about four years.

“I would have never considered nursing until doing that,” Pickle said. “It’s one of the most rewarding jobs, and it’s never boring.”

She has been part of the ICU COVID team at WRMC since the pandemic began.

“As far as training with this pandemic, it’s a day-to-day basis,” Pickle said. “We are informed on the most up-to-date policies at work almost daily.”

She continued, “I also spend a lot of time following information and reading articles and studies in my own time. That’s just part of being a nurse or a healthcare professional in general. There is constant education and information made available daily.” 

Koch received her licensed practical nurse (LPN) degree in 1994 at Ozarka College in Melbourne, Ark. She worked at the Cave City Nursing Home for three years before going to work at WRMC. She has since worked on the medical-surgical floor at the hospital, at Cave City Medical Clinic and at the Arkansas Health Education Center in Mountain View.

She returned to Ozarka in 2013 to receive her registered nurse (RN) degree and began working in the ICU at WRMC.

“I always liked helping people, and nursing seemed to be a career that would always allow me to do that,” Koch said. “I love the challenges and opportunities that nursing has.”

Mohlke graduated from Arkansas State University with a bachelor’s of nursing in 2019 and began working in the ICU at WRMC. She is also trained in hemodialysis and telemetry.

“I have been taking care of COVID-positive patients since it occurred in our area due to my ability to take care of ventilator-dependent patients,” she said, “and my knowledge of using different medications to treat them.”

Mohlke continued, “It has not been an easy five to six months, but I believe this is what God has called me to do.”

Koch said the team is looking forward to serving at Lyon College.

“I grew up in Newark, and I recently bought a home near Batesville with my husband, who I married in May,” Mohlke said.

She continued, “I’m excited to plant roots where I was raised and to take care of my community.”

Pickle said the most important thing to remember is that everyone is affected by the pandemic.

“It’s a real thing and it can be scary, but as ICU nurses we are seeing the worst of it and we want to do our part to keep everyone safe before they have to see us in the hospital.”

She continued, “We want to do our best to give students and parents peace of mind, knowing if anything happens with them medically that they are in capable hands.”

Lyon College freshman researches potential lung cancer treatments

A Lyon freshman spent her spring and summer developing small molecules in an organic chemistry research laboratory that could one day be used to treat lung cancer. 

Nikkolette Perkins, of Brookland, Ark., researched 1,4-naphthoquinone, an organic compound with significant biological activities, with Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Irosha Nawarathne. These biological activities include anticancer, antimicrobial, antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Woman wears safety gear in a laboratory
Nikkolette Perkins

Perkins would develop chemical methodologies to make novel modified naphthoquinones by adding groups to the core structure to make effective lung cancer treatments. She used organic reactions, such as Michael addition and click reaction, and organic techniques and instrumentation like analytical and preparative scale thin layer chromatography (TLC), flash column chromatography, solvent extraction, UV-Vis spectroscopy, Infra-Red spectroscopy and mass spectrometry during those developments. 

While Perkins previously did research at Arkansas State University Biosciences Institute, this was her first undergraduate research experience.

“When I was in high school, I did not quite understand the science I was doing,” she said, “but here, with my undergraduate classes that I have taken, I understand a lot more of what I am doing.”

That knowledge made the experience more fun for her.

“I am able to learn more about chemistry from what I am doing in the lab, and it makes me feel very prepared for my future classes at Lyon.”

Perkins continued, “I am also doing science I enjoy more than I did in high school, which makes it more fun.”

Her courses at Lyon prepared her for some of the lab techniques she used this summer. Now a rising sophomore, she believes her lab experience will help her in future courses.

“Some of the things I have done, I already knew the basics from some of my general chemistry classes,” Perkins said. “I think understanding the applications of what I have done this summer will really help me understand the in-class material when I take Organic Chemistry.”

She spent most of the summer developing molecules with azido or alkyne groups. One of her favorite moments from her summer research was when she successfully combined two different modified naphthoquinones, which contained alkyne and azido reactive groups she developed in the lab, into a new hybrid product by using click chemistry. 

“It ended up working! This new click product will hopefully help in fighting against lung cancer.” 

Lung cancer remains the most common cancer worldwide, in the United States, and in Arkansas. According to the American Cancer Society and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, more people die as a result of lung cancer each year than from breast, colorectal and prostate cancer combined.

The molecules Perkins helped develop are being tested for their anticancer and antimicrobial activities at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where Lyon has research collaborations.

She plans to continue doing undergraduate research this semester. Her goal is to eventually obtain her Ph.D. in chemistry.

“I am unsure what I quite want to do for my future, but I think I might want to do research after how much I enjoyed researching this summer.”

Ghoshal to lead new data science program at Lyon College

A new faculty member is helping Lyon College develop its data science program.

Dr. Torumoy Ghoshal started teaching at Lyon this fall as the new Visiting Assistant Professor of Data Science. He is currently teaching Introduction to Programming in Java, Operating Systems and Introduction to Programming in Python.

Man wearing suit
Dr. Torumoy Ghoshal

“In the first semester, I will be focusing on understanding the existing courses at Lyon and developing data science courses accordingly for the upcoming semester.”

Being able to create and foster data science courses was one of the main things that drew Ghoshal to Lyon.

“Data science is a developing field,” he said. “This opportunity allows me to give a structure to my experience and output them in the form of courses that students will hopefully find beneficial.”

Lyon approved the addition of a data science major in April 2020, making it the first private institution in Arkansas to offer this path. The program began in fall 2020.

The major is available in addition to the computer science major. Data science focuses on algorithms and how they apply to data, combining mathematics and computing. The program lays out the essential tools for data analytics and allows students to pursue one of three tracks: science, business and economics or social sciences/humanities/fine arts.

Ghoshal has completed a Ph.D. in engineering science, with an emphasis in computer science, from the University of Mississippi. His dissertation involved machine learning and data science. He previously taught for about two and a half years at the University of Mississippi as a graduate instructor.

One of his goals at Lyon is to make students more interested in core computer science concepts, machine learning and data science after taking his courses.

“I enjoy that process,” Ghoshal said. “Besides, my own understanding becomes deeper when I teach.”

Lyon partners with COVID Health Project for campus testing

Lyon College is partnering with the COVID Health Project (CHP) for campus testing this fall.

CHP, headquartered in Austin, Texas, is a partnership of scientists, healthcare professionals, industry advisors and independent lab owners. The firm will provide turnkey coronavirus testing to help the college resume day-to-day operations.

“One of our most critical requirements is testing — ensuring capacity and rapid results — so that everyone feels safe coming back to campus,” said President Joey King. “Thanks to CHP, we are now COVID ready.” 

Lyon’s partnership was covered by Arkansas Business and on the COVID Health Project’s website.

Lyon College is pilot for Austin-based tech company

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lyon College was the first to bring on new support services from an Austin-based technology services provider that serves over 400 higher education institutions across the country.

Apogee, with clients ranging from Johns Hopkins University to Arizona State University, partnered with Lyon to improve its technical infrastructure and remote-learning capacity. 

Specifically, Lyon adopted Apogee’s desktop, classroom, and server support, which enables blended learning opportunities for students to connect to live lectures remotely and view recorded lecture material online.

The partnership is mutually beneficial: using Apogee allows Lyon personnel more time to focus on strategic projects. An estimated 15-20% of departmental time has been saved, and technical capacity has dramatically increased.

“With Apogee, Lyon now has the capacity to remotely teach courses that are comparable to our in-person courses,” said Director of Institutional Research Andrew English. “It’s also allowed us to rebuild 95% or our server core.” 

An upgraded server core means faster services, backup, and better security, which will all be imperative for remote learning practices. 

“Apogee Managed Campus has empowered us to more effectively carry out our mission of fostering critical, creative thought and fulfilling personal and professional lives. It does this by foundationally providing the digital resources we are increasingly using to become a 21st century liberal arts college of the first order,” said Lyon College President W. Joseph King.

Lyon joins ARE-ON, secures additional research opportunities for students

Lyon College has joined the Arkansas Research Education Optical Network (ARE-ON), providing access to national research networks and allowing the College to collaborate with other higher education institutions. 

ARE-ON is a consortium of all public degree-granting institutions in Arkansas and other selected higher education organizations.

Lyon’s Director of Information Services Jeremiah Cherwien said Lyon is the first private college in Arkansas to join. Apogee, Lyon’s network services provider, will manage the connection for Lyon.

By being part of ARE-ON, the College will be able to share data, research and resources with other colleges and universities across the state. Cherwien said these connections mean big opportunities for Lyon’s academic programs.

“For example, the University of Arkansas in Little Rock shares data sets with other schools and transfers those quickly with ARE-ON. I’m hoping we can use that for our data science program.”

ARE-ON will also give them access to Internet2, a national research network that allows colleges to communicate online without commercial traffic, like ads.

ARE-ON provides a high-speed fiber optic backbone network throughout the state with 1Gb, 10Gb, and 100Gb Ethernet connections to its members, affiliates, national research and education networks, regional optical networks, and commercial service providers. The network consists of approximately 2,200 miles of long-haul fiber optic cable and about 85 miles of metro fiber in twenty-four cities and four neighboring states. 

ARE-ON’s extensive reach allows institutions to connect, collaborate, and innovate within the organization’s core agendas: education, telemedicine, research, and emergency preparedness.

Cherwien said this network will provide 10 times the bandwidth Lyon currently has, which will help the College facilitate online instruction this fall.

“Faculty and students might notice that things download quicker and transferring files from those other universities will be faster.”

He said Lyon plans to use ARE-ON in the future to develop a disaster recovery site, a place to have the College’s servers running somewhere outside of Batesville.

“That way, if something happens here, we can keep working,” Cherwien said.

ARE-ON completed a site survey in July, and Lyon is expected to be connected to the network this fall.

Lyon alum researches new treatment options for tuberculosis

Daniel Armstrong, ’20, researched new treatment options for tuberculosis (TB) at Lyon College this summer.

Armstrong worked with Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Irosha Nawarathne on developing new antibiotics to treat multi-drug resistant TB.

“This TB strain can be deadly, so new treatment options are always very useful,” Armstrong said.

He used the drug rifamycin, a well-known TB treatment and a broad-spectrum antibiotic, as a precursor to develop new rifamycin derivatives. Using a reaction called an “enabling reaction,” he incorporated an azide group to the complex rifamycin S, something which has not been done before in scientific literature.

“I primarily studied ‘click chemistry of rifamycins,’ which is a type of reaction that occurs between two specific chemical groups: alkynes and azides,” Armstrong said.

After modifying rifamycin so that it had an azide functional group on it, he added different alkyne molecules to it in order to create the new rifamycin derivatives. During the project, he would frequently run reactions and later purify the products using chromatography, a laboratory technique for the separation of a mixture.

He also used techniques like infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry to identify products.

“I think the coolest moment for me was when I realized that the antibiotics I made had never been made before,” Armstrong said.

Nawarathne said the novel rifamycins developed by Armstrong are currently being tested by other researchers for their antimicrobial and anticancer activities.

“It’s exciting to think that some day the drugs made in Dr. Irosha’s lab could possibly help treat TB,” Armstrong said.

He believes this research experience will help him when he enters the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Pharmacy this fall.

“This research gave me insight into the drug discovery process,” Armstrong said. “So much work goes into the process of developing just one drug molecule, and I think appreciation for that is important.”