Ouachita students earn nine finalist honors in state NATS competition

Seven Ouachita Baptist University music students earned nine finalist honors at the 2020 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition. Over 170 students from colleges throughout Arkansas competed for a place in the final round of auditions, which were held at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., earlier this semester. Of those competing, 25 Ouachita students earned finalist or semifinalist honors.

The competition is judged by member teachers of the Arkansas Chapter of NATS. They evaluate the technical proficiency, interpretive skill and overall artistry of each singer and provide written critiques and feedback. Following the preliminary round, students advance through a semi-final round and then, depending on their scores, a final round. Finalists are awarded first through fifth place or receive an honorable mention.

“Our students who participate in state and regional NATS conferences most always achieve a higher level of singing than their counterparts,” said Dr. Jon Secrest, Addie Mae Maddox Professor of Music and coordinator of Ouachita’s vocal studies program. “They are exposed to many different singers during this event by attending recitals, master classes and observation of the final round of competition. These elements of the experience teach them so much about what to do, and what not to do, in their own performances.

“Ouachita continues to enjoy a strong representation of singers in the finals each year and affirms the work ethic of our students, as well as the investment of time and talent put forth by our faculty,” Secrest added.

NATS auditions provide students with an opportunity to receive professional critiques, audition experience and cash awards.

“The judges and other students have taught me a lot about the art of singing and performing, and it’s inspired me to see how hard students work for what they love,” said Chaney Campbell, a freshman musical theatre major from Rogers, Ark. Campbell was named a finalist and earned second place in the lower college music theatre women division.

“This competition is an opportunity to perform and share what I love to do with others,” said Kinsey Potts, a sophomore musical theatre from Wylie, Texas. Potts was named a finalist and earned third place in the lower college music theatre women division. “I was very proud of myself for it being my first time to make all the way to finals.”

The following are finalists from Ouachita, listed in order of hometown:

Allen, Texas – Logan Dooley, a junior musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned third place in the junior men division and fourth place in the upper college music theatre men division.

Arlington, Texas – Bonnie Gentry, a senior musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned third place in the upper college music theatre women division.

Rogers, Ark. – Chaney Campbell, a freshman musical theatre student of Dr. Glenda Secrest, earned second place in the lower college music theatre women division.

Siloam Springs, Ark. – Payton Hickman, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned second place in the sophomore men division and was a semifinalist in the lower college music theatre men division.

Waxahachie, Texas – Sammy Campione, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned second place in the lower college music theatre men division.

Wylie, Texas – Clay Mobley, a senior music industry student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned first place in the senior men division and second place in the upper college music theatre men division. Kinsey Potts, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, earned third place in the lower college music theatre women division.

Other Ouachita students named semifinalists, in order of hometown, include:

Alexander, Ark. – Hannah Adair, a junior musical theatre student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theatre women division.

Benton, Ark. – Briana Penn, a junior music and choral education student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the junior women division.

Cabot, Ark. – Elizabeth Ring, a junior musical theatre student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the junior women division.

Caraway, Ark. – Karlee Sanders, a sophomore choral music education student of John Alec Briggs, was a semifinalist in the sophomore women division.

Cleveland, Texas – Hannah Gothard, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the sophomore women and lower college music theatre women divisions.

Conway, Ark. – Abby Shourd, a junior choral music education student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the junior women division and upper college music theatre women divisions.

Fort Smith, Ark. – Eryn Riley, a freshman choral music education student of Dr. Natilan Crutcher, was a semifinalist in the freshman women division.

Greenwood, Ark. – Alex Marrin, a senior musical theatre student of Dr. Glenda Secrest, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theatre men division.

Little Rock, Ark. – Mallory Cain, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the lower college music theatre women division.

Plano, Texas – Paige Price, a junior musical theatre student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theatre women division.

Prattsville, Ark. – Anna Holiman, a freshman music and choral education student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the freshman women division.

Rose Hill, Kan. – Carlin Campbell, a junior musical theatre student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theatre men division.

San Pedro Sula, Honduras – Keren Fernandez, a sophomore music student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the sophomore women division.

Sheridan, Ark. – Madeline Martin, a junior musical theatre and communications & media/multimedia journalism student of Dr. Jon Secrest, was a semifinalist in the upper college music theatre women division.

Texarkana, Ark. – Makenna Schaeffer, a sophomore musical theatre student of Dr. Margaret Garret, was a semifinalist in the lower college music theatre women division.

White Hall, Ark. – Clara Taylor, a sophomore choral music education student of Dr. Margaret Garrett, was a semifinalist in the sophomore women division.

Wichita, Kan. – Hailey Smith, a junior musical theatre student of John Alec Briggs, was a semifinalist in the lower college music theatre women division.

Ouachita’s collaborative pianists for the competition included Kristen La Madrid, Susan Monroe and Phyllis Walker.

For more information, contact Dr. Jon Secrest at secrestj@obu.edu or (870) 245-5134.

Ouachita students Alexander, Slone receive “Best Delegate” awards at Midwest Model U.N.

Ouachita Baptist University students Cole Alexander and Rylie Slone were recognized with “Best Delegate” awards for their representation at the 60th annual Midwest Model United Nations Conference, which was held in St. Louis, Mo., Feb. 19-22. Alexander and Slone, along with Ouachita’s other four delegates in attendance, represented Italy in this Model U.N. simulation, which assembled hundreds of student delegates from approximately 40 colleges and universities.

Alexander, a senior political science and business administration double major from Forney, Texas, was one of three recognized among 12 delegates for his representation on the Food and Agricultural Committee. Slone, a senior political science and Christian studies/Christian missions double major from Bella Vista, Ark., was one of two recognized among 15 delegates for her representation on the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Both Alexander and Slone also received two of four “Honorable Mention” awards among 30 delegates for their representation on the Economic and Social Council Plenary.

Rylie Slone

Additionally, Ouachita’s Spencer Worth, a junior political science major from Cabot, Ark., received one of six “Honorable Mention” awards among 50 delegates for his representation in the General Assembly.

“This was perhaps the best delegation that I have had in my 23 years of taking students to the Midwest Model United Nations,” said Dr. Kevin Brennan, Ouachita professor of political science. “All six of Ouachita’s student delegates performed very well.”

Other Ouachita delegates included Jaime Bunting, a senior political science and social justice studies double major from Germantown, Md.; Caleb Byrd, a senior communications & media/integrated communications, political science and Spanish triple major from Little Rock, Ark.; and Donovan Kelly, a senior political science major from Arkadelphia, Ark.

“The Model U.N. experience is very hectic, yet invigorating,” Alexander said. “My favorite part of the week was getting to meet new people – some from the other side of the world.

Spencer Worth

“It always feels great to be recognized after putting in so much hard work in the class,” he continued. “Dr. Brennan does a great job preparing our delegates to perform even in the midst of schools whose Model U.N. delegations are the main focus of their extracurricular activities.”

For Slone, who was attending Model U.N. for the first time, “it was really special to win a couple of awards,” she said, adding, “to be recognized among the masses was very humbling.”

“I definitely learned a lot more about diplomacy, and specifically how consensus and compromise really shapes the way our world cooperates in harmony,” Slone said. “The experience was very rewarding. I learned a lot as to what diplomacy looks like in practice.”

Midwest Model U.N. is an all-college simulation which provides students with the opportunity to practice politics and other skills through the role of acting as a diplomat. At Ouachita, students enroll in a three-hour course in order to learn how the United Nations functions and about the country they will represent, focusing specifically on both the country’s foreign policies and domestic politics. Each student delegate then serves on a different committee when they attend the simulation to discuss different topics and advocates for policies to include in resolutions that would accurately support their country’s interests.

“This is what is now known as active learning,” Brennan said. “It is another method of education in addition to traditional ways of learning. It teaches the skills of other kinds of government officials, such as legislators. Students learn deal-making and public speaking skills used in business, law and other fields, as well. Thus, it is not just for students who like politics.”

“The impact of this experience, personally, is primarily opening my eyes to the varied perspectives and interests of the different countries around the world,” Alexander said. “I feel that Model U.N. works to educate participants about countries outside the U.S. Delegates must open the horizons of their worldviews to accept differing perspectives, forcing delegates to represent some perspectives that may be the antithesis of what they might personally agree with.”

Ouachita reports second consecutive 99% career outcomes rate for graduates

Ouachita Baptist University reported yet another graduating class found success in their post-graduate pursuits as 99% of the 2019 graduating class currently is employed or furthering their education. The number also exceeds the most recent national average of 93% for colleges and universities.

“This outstanding statistic is reflective of many years of hard work by our students and the faculty and staff who prepare them for the next step after Ouachita,” said Dr. Ben Sells, Ouachita president. “Ouachita is the #1 ‘Best Value’ college in Arkansas, according to Niche.com. This is further evidence that Ouachita provides true value to its students.”

This is the second consecutive year Ouachita’s student career outcomes rate has exceeded the national average reported by the National Association for Continuing Education (NACE). Last year, Ouachita’s 99% placement rate surpassed the national average by 15%.

The “career outcomes rate” – often called a placement rate – is the percentage of graduates who are working full or part-time or attending graduate school within six months of graduation.

“I am extremely proud of our graduates and will continue to strengthen key partnerships with employers who are eager to hire our students because they demonstrate high levels of performance and strong principles,” said Rachel Roberts, Ouachita’s director of career and calling.

Ouachita’s student career outcomes rate is based on its First Destination Survey, which follows the standard established in the annual data collection by NACE each year.

Of the 330 Ouachita graduates who were contacted, 83% completed the survey compared to a national knowledge rate of 75%. Nearly a third of Ouachita’s most recent class of graduates, 30.9%, are attending graduate or professional school.

Ouachita Baptist University students win 11th annual Ouachita Business Plan Competition

Photograph of five college students
(From left) Brandon Matros, Allie Studdard, Savannah Edwards, Olivia Brown and Sheldon McCown received first place in the 2019 OBU Business Plan Competition on Dec. 5 for their business proposal ImmunoSense. The team was advised by Ouachita’s Dr. Blake Johnson. Photo by Bryan McKinney.

Ouachita Baptist University students Olivia Brown, Savannah Edwards, Brandon Matros, Sheldon McCown and Allison Studdard received first place and a $4,000 cash prize for their business proposal, ImmunoSense, during the 11th annual OBU Business Plan Competition held Thursday, Dec. 5. The competition, hosted by the Hickingbotham School of Business, allows students from various disciplines to present their entrepreneurial ideas to a panel of business professionals for evaluation and cash prizes.

“We started this competition over ten years ago in hopes of infusing the campus with a spirit of entrepreneurship,” said Bryan McKinney, dean of the Hickingbotham School of Business. “The results of this year’s competition are satisfying because teams from across campus thrived.”

Brown is a senior biology major from North Little Rock, Ark.; Edwards is a senior biomedical sciences major from Searcy, Ark.; Matros is a senior finance major from Arkadelphia, Ark.: McCown is a senior biology major from Nacogdoches, Texas; and Studdard is a senior biomedical sciences major from Benton, Ark. The ImmunoSense team was advised by Dr. Blake Johnson, Ouachita assistant professor of biology.

According to McCown, ImmunoSense was the result of a class project. In his histology class, Dr. Johnson challenged students to create a test that would fill a current gap in the medical field.

“Type 1 Diabetes is a growing issue, and there is currently a lack of early detection tools, so we began looking for ways to create an early detection test,” McCown said. “Our test detects the auto-antibodies that cause a patient’s own immune system to attack the pancreas; these auto-antibodies are present in the body years before the disease reaches dangerous stages. Current tests detect the disease once the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas have already been destroyed, but our test allows for detection of Type 1 Diabetes in its beginning stages, prior to pancreatic destruction.

“We are extremely excited to have won the competition,” McCown continued. “We have all worked extremely hard in developing this business plan, and it’s encouraging to have our work pay off.”

“I always look forward to these Business Plan Competitions,” McKinney said. “The academic theory students are learning in class integrates with real-world application, and it’s a tremendous experience for all of us. … And, I think the judges enjoy coming back to campus and sharing wisdom with our students.”

TailGame earned second place in the competition. TailGame, which proposes saving tailgaters both the time and hassle of setting up and tearing down before and after a sporting event, was presented by Josh Lantzsch, a senior finance and business administration/entrepreneurship major from Rogers, Ark., and Spencer Sutterfield, a senior business administration/management major from Greenbrier, Ark. They were advised by Ouachita’s Dr. Justin Keeler, assistant professor of business administration, and received a $3,000 cash prize.

The OBU Business Competition is “one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had,” said Lantzsch, who also competed and placed in the 2018 event. “It’s a fun way to make money, but especially to gain experience talking to companies and getting their feedback on your idea.

“Winning second with TailGame was icing on the cake because, for me, it’s more about the experience,” he said.

Michael Neathery, a senior biology major from San Antonio, Texas; Beau Pennington, a junior biomedical sciences major from Bee Branch, Ark.; Tyler Riebock, a junior biology major from Rockwall, Texas; Catie Shirley, a senior biology major from Wylie, Texas; and Kyla Soden, a senior biology major from Cabot, Ark.; received third place for their business proposal, Kainos Diagnostics. They also were advised by Dr. Blake Johnson and received a $2,000 cash prize.

Kainos Diagnostics develops inexpensive tests for early detection of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, that revolutionizes treatment and improves the overall quality of life for those diagnosed.

“We are developing the miMEMORY test, a blood test for the early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease,” Neathery said. “This test could be implemented in annual adult check-ups to help physicians diagnose Alzheimer’s in their patients before symptoms of the disease set in. … As we looked at peer-reviewed, published research on the detection of Alzheimer’s, we found that early detection of Alzheimer’s via a blood test is possible and would be extremely convenient and helpful in medicine today.

“Winning third place in the 2019 Business Plan Competition was a great feeling, not only because it validated how important our idea is and the value of a product like this in the current market, but because it gives us the chance to continue promoting and refining Kainos Diagnostics and the miMEMORY test,” he continued.

These three teams will advance to compete against the winners of Henderson State University’s competition during the OBU/HSU Business Plan Competition, which will take place in February 2020.

Ouachita’s Business Plan Competition is open to students from any discipline. Students are advised by faculty as they develop and practice the presentation of their business plan.

In recent years, Ouachita students also have competed and placed in the statewide Governor’s Cup Business Competition, the same competition that Ouachita’s is modeled after.

Ouachita’s Jon Merryman appointed Council for Christian Colleges and Universities alumni affairs commissioner

Jon Merryman

Jon Merryman, Ouachita Baptist University’s director of alumni relations and the Ouachita Student Foundation, recently was appointed as a commissioner to the Alumni Affairs Directors Group with the national Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU). Merryman is one of seven directors from the U.S. and Canada appointed to the group by the president of CCCU, Shirley Hoogstra.

According to the CCCU website, the organization is a global higher education association based in Washington, D.C., with the mission to protect and advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help its institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. There are more than 180 Christian institutions around the world that are a part of the organization, including Ouachita. In addition, there are approximately 3.6 million CCCU alumni.

“What we do at Ouachita, and the way we do it, matters,” Merryman said. “Our students matter. Our alumni out there making a difference matter. In the CCCU, we are not alone but stronger together championing each other as we continue our work in Christian higher education.”

To fulfill its mission and meet current needs of its member institutions, CCCU staff and commissioners provide services for administrators, faculty and students in three strategic areas: public advocacy, professional development and scholarship and experiential education.

As a commissioner of the Alumni Affairs Directors Group, Merryman will serve a three-year term as a volunteer to advise the CCCU president and staff in alumni relations, as well as organize the annual Advancement, Alumni Affairs, Communications and Enrollment Conference.

“Jon is an innovative and creative leader who has devoted many years of service to his alma mater, Ouachita,” said Keldon Henley, Ouachita’s vice president for institutional advancement and chief of staff. “Being named to this national leadership group is a well-deserved honor for Jon, and it will allow other Christian colleges and universities to benefit from his extensive experience and knowledge, as well.”

Merryman will serve alongside colleagues from Houghton College, Messiah College, Lipscomb University, Bethel University, Concordia University and Point Loma Nazarene University.

“My supervisors throughout my time at Ouachita have always encouraged me to pursue professional development and have given me everything I need to serve Ouachita in alumni relations and the Ouachita Student Foundation,” Merryman continued. “Being recognized for the work I do in my field is an honor, and I look forward to serving the CCCU during my term on the commission.”

Dr. David Bebbington discusses evangelical history, trajectory in Birkett Williams lecture at Ouachita

Dr. David W. Bebbington spoke at Ouachita Baptist University on Oct. 7 as part of the university’s Birkett Williams Lecture Series. A world-renowned scholar on evangelicalism, Bebbington focused his lecture on the history of evangelicalism and its relevancy to the modern Christian.

Dr. Bebbington began by talking about evangelical revivals, America’s First Great Awakening and England’s Evangelical Revival, which took place in the 18th century, and mentioning the impact of leaders like John Wesley and George Whitfield.

“These people led major movements that transformed the Christian sea on both sides of the Atlantic, for it was a protestant, trans-Atlantic phenomenon in America, as well as in Britain, leaving an incredible mark on both countries over the long term,” he said.

Bebbington, who has authored more than 20 books pertaining to the topic of evangelicalism, proceeded to characterize evangelicals, retrace their history and assess their current trajectory based on his research “Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be,” which he conducted alongside scholars Mark A. Noll and George M. Marsden, who also are known for their work in evangelical history. The book is set to be released in November.

In order to define evangelicalism, Bebbington identified four enduring characteristics of the evangelical faith: the Bible, the cross, the concept of “being born again” and activism.

Citing recent developments in U.S. politics and evangelicals who face criticism for association with the name, Bebbington reminded the audience of the broader picture of evangelical faith.

“Evangelicals should consider the record of the evangelical movement over time,” Bebbington said. “Especially, they should think how habitually evangelicalism has been the seabed of reform.”

Among other examples, Bebbington referenced how evangelicals led the campaign against the slave trade in Great Britain under William Wilberforce from the 1780s until its abolition in 1807, as well as the abolition of slavery in the United States during the Civil War in 1863.

Bebbington also proposed that American evangelicals should consider the positions and activities of other contemporary evangelicals around the globe as “there are evangelical Christians in many denominations in virtually every land.”

For example, British evangelicals are more likely to lean towards reform than against it, he said.

“British evangelicals are likely to be swing-voters,” he said. “They change their vote, that is to say, due to the circumstance of the times, and they are not enmeshed with a single political party. And that shows that evangelicalism is not necessarily a dimension of a political front, and need not be so.

“It must be insisted that the evangelical movement is religious and not political,” Bebbington continued. “The evangelical movement has often generated reform, time and time again, and evangelicals should not drop the word because circumstances at one political juncture seem to point in that direction. … If you believe the Bible, if you cherish the cross, if you want to promote conversions and if you want to pursue activism, then recognize the identity that you actually have as being an evangelical Christian. Value, then, the evangelical tradition from the premiere of the 18th century. We can rejoice in the commitment of our tradition to changing lives for good in the name of Jesus Christ.”

After teaching since 1976 at the University of Stirling in Scotland, Bebbington recently retired as Emeritus Professor of History. Currently a non-resident senior fellow on the history of religion for Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, Bebbington also has taught for the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Regent College in Vancouver; University of Notre Dame in Indiana; and University of Pretoria in South Africa. Bebbington also is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and he is part of the Royal Historical Society.

Some of Dr. Bebbington’s notable books on evangelicalism include “Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s,” “The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody” and “Baptists Through the Centuries: A History of a Global People.”

Ouachita’s Birkett Williams Endowed Lecture Series was established in 1977 thanks to a gift from the late Birkett L. Williams, a 1910 Ouachita graduate. His generous endowment established the lecture series as an opportunity to extend the concepts of a liberal arts education beyond the classroom by bringing renowned scholars and public figures to Ouachita’s campus. Ouachita’s Pruet School of Christian Studies hosted Bebbington’s lecture. He also delivered Ouachita’s chapel address on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Ouachita names 2019 Alumni Milestone Award recipients

Ouachita Baptist University recognized five outstanding alumni in the 10th class of Ouachita Alumni Milestone Award recipients at its Homecoming football game on Saturday, Oct. 5: Mauricio Vargas, Dr. Jim Spann, Brad Sullivan, Dr. Sarah Beth Harrington and Laura Cox. This year’s honorees represent the graduating classes of 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999 and 2009, respectively.

Honored for their professional achievements, community service and dedication to their alma mater, they were selected by a committee of Ouachita faculty, staff and President Ben Sells to represent their respective classes during the Homecoming festivities.

Ouachita President Ben Sells (right) congratulates the 2019 class of Alumni Milestone Award recipients, including (from left): Laura Cox, Dr. Sarah Beth Harrington, Brad Sullivan, Dr. Jim Spann and Mauricio Vargas. Photo by Justin Trostle.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ouachita with a major in Spanish in 1969, Mauricio Vargas moved with his wife, Carolyn, to New Orleans, La., to attend New Orleans Theological Seminary. While in New Orleans, Vargas served through the New Orleans Seaman’s Mission and was integral in starting Hispanic missions at local churches. Vargas later moved to North Carolina, where he served with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) and spread the gospel to Hispanics in North Carolina. Later serving 20 years with the Missouri Baptist Convention, Vargas was the recipient of the “Hispanic Church Planting Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Home Mission Board Language Department and the “Hispanic Heritage Award” from Missouri’s Office of Administration. He and his wife have four children and six grandchildren, and he currently serves as pastor of Enon Baptist Church in Russellville, Mo.

A child of missionaries and second-generation Ouachitonian, Dr. Jim Spann earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and physics from Ouachita in 1979, followed by a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Arkansas. In 1986, Spann joined NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where he spent more than 30 years. He now leads the space weather-related research for NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington, D.C. He has two children and three grandchildren.

After graduating from Ouachita in 1989, Brad Sullivan earned his master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Arkansas. He has served in various roles in the field of education over the past 29 years, from teacher to his current position as superintendent of the South Pike County School District. Sullivan and his wife, Jill, married while students at Ouachita and had two daughters, Bethany, who is now 24 years old, and Hannah, who passed away at the age of 17 after a year-long battle with brain cancer. As a result of their experience with Hannah, they co-founded a nonprofit ministry called While We’re Waiting.

After graduating from Ouachita with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry in 1999, Dr. Sarah Beth (Milam) Harrington earned an M.D. from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine in 2003. After serving as faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., she moved back to Little Rock, where she currently serves as the director of the Palliative Medicine Division at UAMS and chief of palliative care at the VA. She and her husband, Brooks (a 2000 Ouachita graduate) have two sons, Cole and Patrick.

Laura Cox graduated from Ouachita in 2009 with a major in English. She went on to teach English in Kosovo through the International Mission Board and then earn a Master of Arts degree in English language and literature from the University of Arkansas. After teaching for a few more years in Germany and then California, Cox then earned a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School. Returning to Arkansas, Cox clerked for Hon. Bobby E. Shepherd (’73). She currently practices law as an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in Washington, D.C.

Ouachita’s Blake Johnson receives $75,000 grant from UAMS’ Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program

Dr. Blake Johnson, assistant professor of biology at Ouachita Baptist University, has been awarded a $75,000 grant from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ (UAMS) Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program (ABCRP) to support his project “Identification and functional characterization of exosome-derived GPI anchored proteins in breast cancer.” The goal of Johnson’s research is to discover new and less-invasive methods to detect breast cancer earlier and to monitor the disease’s progression during treatment instead of relying on intrusive surgery for testing.

Johnson’s research and funding for the grant is supported by UAMS and its breast cancer research program, ABCRP. The research program, a division of UAMS’ Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, has promoted innovative cancer research aimed at early detection and therapeutic intervention for more than 20 years.

“Grants of this significance indicate the type of work that our faculty are capable of doing,” said Dr. Tim Knight, dean of Ouachita’s J.D. Patterson School of Natural Sciences. “It is a credit to Dr. Johnson that he has built the potential for us to participate in this type of research in the short time he has been a part of the faculty.”

Johnson’s research began in September 2019 and will continue through August 2020. He will be joined in his research by Dr. Yuchun Du of the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.

In contrast to utilizing methods that test and diagnose breast cancer through surgical procedures, Johnson plans to research biological markers of breast cancer that could be detected in real-time from body fluid.

“Various molecular cancer diagnostic assays have been developed for the management of early-stage breast cancer,” Johnson said. “These assays, however, capture only a limited amount of tumor information as they rely on invasive biopsy tissue. This is problematic as aggressive tumors are often highly heterogeneous and not accurately assessed by small portions of tumor cells.

“Unlike tissue-based biopsies, which require invasive surgical procedures, extracting biological information from cancer-specific exosomes is non-invasive and would allow for early disease detection, as well as ongoing monitoring for signs of potential disease progression during therapeutic intervention,” Johnson explained. “Diagnostic assays that provide real-time information and can be readily performed using only a small portion of bodily fluid are desperately needed in breast cancer.”

Johnson began working at Ouachita in 2017. Originally from El Dorado, Ark., he graduated from Ouachita in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in biology. He later earned his Master of Science in human molecular genetics from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and his doctorate in biomedical sciences from the University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Johnson also was trained as a post-doctoral fellow at UAMS’ Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and has served as a visiting scientist at Stanford Research Institute.

For more information, contact Dr. Tim Knight at knightt@obu.edu or (870) 245-5528.

Ouachita continues to grow residential enrollment, with largest campus community since 2012

The 2019 fall semester marks the third consecutive year of growth in residential undergraduate enrollment at Ouachita Baptist University increasing from 1,492 to 1,506 since last fall. Fueled by growth in new students, Ouachita also recorded its largest residential enrollment since 2012.

Ouachita’s three years of successive growth, including this year’s 1% increase, is noteworthy given the 9% decrease in the number of students enrolled in all of the state’s colleges and universities as reported in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on June 23.

“The growth is further evidence that Ouachita is rising,” said Dr. Ben Sells, president. “Ouachita is increasingly recognized by students and their families as well as by those who rank universities.”

Recent recognitions include:

  • #1 “Best Value College” in Arkansas by Niche.com, which considers costs, student debt, graduation rates and alumni earnings, along with reviews from students and alumni.
  • #2 “Regional College in the South” (a 12-state region) by U.S. News & World Report.
  • #1 in student satisfaction among all universities in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas by College Consensus

“We’re especially pleased with the ‘best value’ recognition,” Sells said. “It reflects Ouachita’s affordability, high-impact learning and commitment to spiritual growth that contribute to a 99% career outcomes rate, 15 percentage points higher than the national average.”

The career outcomes rate reflects the percentage of graduates who are either employed or continuing their education within six months of graduation.

Including undergraduate residential, online and concurrent programs, Ouachita’s current enrollment stands at 1,633 students.