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.”

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.