Williams Baptist University Board Approves Strategies & Master Plan, Welcomes New Members

The Board of Trustees at Williams Baptist University approved a strategic vision and a campus master plan at its regularly scheduled meeting Friday, December 6.  The board also welcomed five newly appointed trustees to the group.

Photograph of men and women some of whom are seated and some are standing.
Williams Baptist University Board of Trustees

The board approved key strategies for WBU’s strategic vision, known as Renewing Minds, Transforming Lives.  The trustees had earlier approved the six broad objectives of the vision, which will guide the university strategically over the next three to five years.  The key strategies approved Friday provide specific goals and timelines.

“These key strategies focus our efforts toward specific objectives that will significantly benefit our students, as well as our employees, and above all these objectives will equip WBU to continue to transform lives with an outstanding, Christ-centered university education,” said Dr. Stan Norman, WBU’s president.

The key strategies include new facilities for academics, athletics, fine arts and student life. They also target expansion of degree offerings in several academic disciplines, including health sciences, psychology and ministry.  Other key strategies include improved compensation and benefits for employees and enriched campus traditions.

The board also approved a detailed master plan for the WBU campus.  Developing such a master plan is one of the key objectives adopted with Renewing Minds, Transforming Lives.  Conway architect Rik Sowell developed the plan, which provides five, ten and fifteen year objectives for new facilities and campus improvements.

“It is critical that we set our sights on the facilities we are going to need, and just as importantly that we envision a layout of our campus that is conducive to a great learning environment and robust campus life.  Mr. Sowell has done that, through extensive consultation with our administration, and we believe all members of the WBU family will be very pleased with the resulting master plan,” Norman commented.

Five new trustees began their service Friday and were welcomed to the board.  The new board members are Luke Colley of Bentonville, Ark.; J.R. Cox of Walnut Ridge; John Lane of Paragould, Ark.; Barney Larry of Mountain Home, Ark. and Bryant Marshall of Jonesboro, Ark.  Cox and Larry have served previously on the board, while the other three are beginning their first terms.

“We have a great Board of Trustees, and these new members are great additions to it.  They are already lending energy and excitement to our work, and they are supporting the outstanding work of WBU.  We look forward to serving with them in the years ahead,” Norman commented.

WBU has a board of 24 members, all appointed by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, which owns and operates the university.

The trustees also voted to make Dr. Bob Hodge, a pharmacist from Paragould, a board member for the WBU Foundations for the Future.  That organization functions as an advisory and support body for the university.

Cox Implement Donates Tractor to Eagle Farms

Eagle Farms, a major component of the new student work initiative at Williams Baptist University, has taken a big step forward with the donation of a tractor.  Cox Implement of Hoxie, Ark., delivered a new, 75 horsepower Massey Ferguson tractor to the university Monday.

“Cox Implement and the Cox family have made a tremendous gift to WBU, and in doing so they are expressing great faith in the Williams Works initiative.  This initiative is going to make an academically excellent, Christ-centered education affordable for many young people, and Cox Implement will long be remembered for getting our farm operation started with this crucial piece of equipment,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of WBU.

Eagle Farms will be developed in coming months on the west end of the Williams campus, converting a previously unused piece of ground into a fruit and vegetable farm.  The farm will employ students who are working their way toward a WBU education through the recently announced Williams Works initiative.

“Eagle Farms and Williams Works are a perfect fit for this university, this community and this region, and our family is just very excited to play a part in the launch of such an exciting initiative,” said J.R. Cox of Cox Implement.  “WBU is a huge asset to our community, and this initiative means many more students will be able to receive the great Christian education that Williams provides.”

Cox, his sister, Mary Stone, and brother, Jerry Cox, made the gift possible, as well as other members of the family involved with the business.  The tractor is valued at more than $40,000.

J.R. Cox is a member of the WBU Board of Trustees and former chairman of the board.

Picture at top are (Left to right) Matthew Cox, Blake Cox, Dr. Doug Walker (WBU VP for Advancement & Operations), Brad Flippo (WBU Farm Manager), J.R. Cox, Mary Stone, Dr. Stan Norman (WBU president), Angela Flippo (WBU VP for Enrollment Management), Dr. Kenneth Startup (WBU interim VP for academic affairs) and Dr. Brett Cooper (WBU VP for creative services and technology).  Unable to attend was Jerry Cox.

Williams Works will enroll its first students next fall, with 40 incoming freshmen to be chosen for the inaugural class.  Another 40 will be added each of the following two years, with more expansion planned for the years beyond.

For more information on Williams Works, go to https://williamsbu.edu/williamsworks/.

Williams Baptist University’s Polachic Co-Authors Book on Scientific Discovery & Meaning

Dr. Christopher Polachic believes in finding meaning within scientific discovery.  He and his co-author argue in their new book that if a discovery has no real meaning behind it, then why should it matter?

“But how far can we press the cleverness of math in the pursuit of knowledge of a world that we can never observe directly?  Does every equation provide meaningful information about physical things?” asks Polachic, assistant professor of natural science in physics at Williams Baptist University.   

Polachic and Dr. Chary Rangacharyulu, professor of physics at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, confront such questions – and more – in their newly released book, From Atoms to Higgs Boson: Voyages in Quasi-Spacetime (Jenny Stanford Publishing, 2019). 

The two authors search for physical meaningfulness in theories and mathematical equations, not just interesting and clever interpretations. 

Polachic and Rangacharyulu have been discussing the physical world together for over 20 years. Rangacharyulu was initially invited to write the book, and he agreed only on the terms that he could have a co-author. 

Polachic said he was “honored and delighted” when his former professor asked him to fill the co-author position, noting, “We enjoyed a real synergy in thinking through the logic of our critique and building off of each other’s strengths.”

The book contains a critique of 20th century physicists’ practice of uncritically pairing abstract mathematical concepts to the usual philosophy of physical reductionism, which says the structure of physical things is always reducible to smaller parts. This, in turn, leads physicists to employ a “quasireal” description of the universe that no longer provides direct information about the real subatomic world. 

The authors argue that the recent discovery of the Higgs boson may be an example of this kind of quasirealist interpretation of a mathematical theory. A multi-year experiment carried out by CERN, a physics lab in Geneva, Switzerland, concluded in 2012 that they had discovered a small bump in their data. Thus, the Higgs boson was born. 

“A Higgs boson is a subatomic particle associated with the Higgs field,” Polachic said.  “The Higgs field is the really important thing. In the theory, it is supposed to kind of grip onto the ripple-particles of all the other fields, thus creating the property of matter we call mass. In this picture, your mass is nothing but the interaction between the most elementary particles of your body interacting with the Higgs field.” 

Polachic and Rangacharyulu suggest that a universe of non-physical entities have taken the place of the physical in much of modern physics thought, thus creating a “quasireal” picture of the microscopic universe. 

The field theories that predict Higgs bosons have changed the study of particle physics. Polachic said that he and Rangacharyulu question whether “this discovery has actually taught us something important about the real physical world, or just the mathematical models of quantum field theory.”  

Polachic noted that while it is not a religious book, “the discipline of physics has many important points of contact with my Christian worldview.” He dubs himself a “scientific realist,” meaning that he believes the physical universe exists and awaits discovery, whether we are willing to look for it or not. Polachic said he tries to pay attention to the original meaning of the mathematical expressions used in theoretical physics, so that he can keep from mischaracterizing the world that God has created. 

Polachic urges other physicists to be “sufficiently self-critical in their own work” so that the general public can maintain trust in their research and findings. “We should be especially careful with the truth,” he added. 

Polachic said he and Rangacharyulu hope their book is readable by not just professional physicists, but anyone interested in the physical world.

From Atoms to Higgs Boson: Voyages in Quasi-Spacetime (Jenny Stanford Publishing, 2019) is available from the website of the distributor, Routledge (www.routledge.com), or on Amazon.

Williams Baptist University Launching Student Work Initiative

Williams Baptist University will soon give students a chance to work their way through college, with the potential to graduate debt-free.  The private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark., announced Monday that it is launching an initiative known as Williams Works, a program that will allow students to work part-time jobs to have their tuition and fees completely covered.

“WBU understands the financial strain students and their families are facing.  It is a hurdle that makes it very difficult for many to even attend college, so we are providing a way for students to get past that financial hurdle and receive an outstanding, Christ-centered education at Williams,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of WBU.

The centerpiece of Williams Works will be Eagle Farms, a fruit and vegetable farm where students will plant, cultivate and harvest the crops, as well as market the produce. The farm will be located at the northwest corner of the WBU campus, on land that is currently undeveloped.

“This initiative will involve a farmers market and several other outlets for our produce, and we also plan to develop our own line of WBU-branded products.  With over 100 pecan trees already on our campus, we plan to sell Eagle Farms pecans as well as other specialty farm products,” Norman said.

Norman said Eagle Farms will begin by growing fruits and vegetables in the early stages, but future plans call for the addition of agri-tourism elements, such as a fall festival, and he said the farm will expand into other endeavors as needed to provide jobs for students.

WBU will also utilize community partners to provide jobs, including industries in the nearby Walnut Ridge Industrial Park.  Custom Pak, the nearest industry to the Williams campus, has agreed to hire 25 students through Williams Works when the program launches in the fall of 2020.  The company has expressed interest in expanding that number in future years.

“To be clear, Williams Works will involve real jobs with real responsibilities,” Norman said.  “This program is for students who are prepared to work through the college years.  Those who do so will be rewarded richly with the chance to avoid student loan debt after they graduate.”

The WBU president noted that Williams Works is more than just a program for the university.  Rather, he said it marks an institutional turning point.

“The current tuition-driven model of higher education is not working as it should for students or for the institutions.  The costs to students are higher than many can afford.  Colleges and universities are facing declining enrollments and falling revenue.  The paradigm needs to shift, and Williams Works reflects our commitment as a university to move in an entirely new direction,” Norman commented.

WBU will accept 40 incoming freshmen into Williams Works next fall, and it anticipates adding 40 more freshmen into the program in each of the next two years.  The university plans to add greater numbers to the works initiative in subsequent years.

Norman said the work initiative is a natural fit for WBU on many fronts.  The university is in a rural setting and has land available on its campus to be developed into a farm.  The concepts of work and farming are reinforced in the regional culture.

It also reflects the history of the school.  Dr. H.E. Williams, who founded the institution as Southern Baptist College in 1941, operated a print shop, a woodworking shop, a rice and soybean farm, an auto repair business and other enterprises created to provide jobs for many students in the early decades of the school.

Norman noted that work matches the spiritual and academic standards of WBU, as well.

“The Bible begins with God at work in creation, and we read that work was God’s plan for Adam and Eve even before the fall.  Scripture is filled with numerous examples and exhortations about work.  This initiative gives us a great new platform for teaching a Christian ethic of work to our students,” he said.

“Educationally, we are equipping tomorrow’s leaders for work across a broad spectrum of careers.  Incorporating the values of hard work and responsibility into the educational process will be of great value to these students and their future employers.”

Students who are selected for Williams Works will agree to work 16 hours per week, and they will work every week of the fall and spring semesters.  Those who complete their assigned hours will have their cost of education covered, which includes tuition and fees.

Some students will also be allowed to work in the summer months to cover their room and board expenses for the following year.

“It has become painfully clear to us that many students and families have reached the point where a university education is a significant financial burden.  Williams Works is our attempt to ease that burden for those families, and to give graduates a chance to start their adult lives without a crushing amount of student loan debt,” said the president.

Williams Works is open to first-time freshmen who have a 2.6 cumulative high school GPA or higher and an ACT composite score of at least a 19.  The initiative aims to help those with the greatest financial need, so primary, though not exclusive, consideration will be given to applicants who are eligible for federal financial aid.  Students must be willing to work at least 16 hours per week during the fall and spring semester and be enrolled full-time.

Applications for the inaugural class of Williams Works will be accepted through February 1, 2020.  Interested students can get more information and apply for the initiative at williamsbu.edu/WilliamsWorks.

“We believe it is time to change the paradigm of higher education, to make it financially obtainable for every qualified student.  As Williams Works expands in coming years, we expect to produce graduates free from the burden of excessive student loans.  These graduates will be able to pursue careers of their choosing without those undue financial constraints,” Norman said.

Work will begin in coming weeks to develop the first phase of Eagle Farms, and the farm operation is expected to be fully functional by the start of the 2020-21 school year.

The president said a director will eventually be added to run Williams Works, but Dr. Brett Cooper will lead the work initiative in its early stages.  Cooper, who is vice president for creative services & technology and special assistant to the president at WBU, chaired the task force that developed the Williams Works strategy.

Norman went on to note that while Williams Works will make a college education more affordable to many, the value of the education itself will remain undiminished.

“The ultimate goal of Williams Works is to give students the opportunity to receive an academically outstanding education that is thoroughly Christ-centered,” he said.  “Our aim is always to produce graduates who are able to make a difference for good, whatever career they may pursue. We believe Williams Works opens the door for more students to experience that transformative education.”

Williams Baptist University Announces 12 Percent Enrollment Jump

A record freshman class has pushed enrollment up by more than 12 percent on the campus of Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, Ark.  The university announced its fall enrollment numbers as the WBU Board of Trustees met in regular session Friday, Sept. 13.

Enrollment is up across nearly all categories at WBU this fall, led by a class of 198 freshmen.  That figure represents a 26.9 percent increase over last year’s count of 156 freshmen.  The freshman class is the largest since Williams became a four-year institution in 1984, and is one of its largest ever.

Williams has an on-campus enrollment of 517 this semester, which is a 12.6 percent jump from the 459 students who were enrolled last fall.

“We are elated with the fall enrollment numbers, which reflect the hard work of many people across the WBU campus.  We especially commend Angela Flippo, our vice president for enrollment management, and her entire team in the admissions and financial aid offices.  They have done incredible work over the past year, and we are reaping the rewards this fall,” said WBU President Dr. Stan Norman.

Total enrollment at WBU, which includes on-campus, online and off campus extension numbers, stands at 553, an improvement of 11.6 percent over last year’s number of 497.

The university also enjoyed an increase in its full-time equivalent (FTE), which is an important budget number for colleges and universities.  The total FTE at Williams stands at 538 this year, which is a 12.3 percent spike.

In other business, the Board of Trustees approved the formation of a prayer advisory board at WBU.  The group will be composed of volunteers who agree to pray regularly for the university and its students, and to lead efforts to have others pray for the school, as well.

“As a Christian institution, we believe firmly that God is the provider of all our blessings, and that his providence has brought WBU to where it is today.  The prayer advisory board takes seriously the work of prayer for Williams and commits to keeping the institution the subject of prayer for our many supporters,” said Norman.

The board also elected officers for the upcoming year.  Dave Russell of Jonesboro will continue his service as chair of the Williams board.  James Miller of Melbourne will serve as vice chair, while Theodis Brown of Hot Springs will be the secretary.

WBU has a 24-person board, and its members are appointed by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.  Williams is owned and operated by the ABSC.

Aaron Andrews Named Bursar at WBU

Williams Baptist University has named Aaron Andrews to the position of bursar.  Andrews, a 16-year veteran of WBU, had been serving as interim bursar since earlier this year.  In the position, he oversees the financial affairs of the university.

“We asked Mr. Andrews to fill a critical position in our business office, and he quickly proved adept at everything he was called upon to do,” said Dr. Doug Walker, vice president for advancement and operations.  “His organizational ability, people skills and hard work serve him and the institution very well. We are delighted to have him in the role of bursar on a permanent basis.”

Andrews has served at WBU since 2003, and he was previously director of annual giving and alumni relations.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Hannibal-LaGrange University and a master’s in Christian education from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“I am excited to take on new responsibilities and new opportunities with this position.  We have a great business office at Williams with a committed, experienced staff that believes passionately in the work of Christian higher education.  It is a pleasure to work alongside them in serving WBU and its students,” Andrews said.

New WBU Health Studies Degree Emphasizes Gerontology

A new degree program at Williams Baptist University will help students prepare for careers related to healthcare, with an emphasis on those who are aging. WBU is launching the Bachelor of Science in Health Studies: Gerontology this fall.

The hybrid degree program includes courses from several academic disciplines, and it is intended to provide students a well-rounded background for careers related to health care.

“This interdisciplinary degree includes courses in biology, psychology, business, physical education and Christian ministries and could be suitable for a student whose primary interest is in any of those areas, not just someone interested in health professions,” said Dr. Ann Paterson, Nell Mondy Chair of Natural Sciences at WBU.

The new degree program is intentionally flexible, aimed toward students whose desire is working with senior adults across a variety of career paths. Paterson, who helped design the curriculum, said that is one of the strengths of the hybrid program.

“There is a wide range of options, and students will tailor the degree to their specific interests,” Paterson said. “For example, someone interested in medicine would need electives in chemistry and physics and may want additional upper level science classes. Someone interested in a career in psychology, such as counseling, will need psychology electives. Those interested in Christian ministries need to tailor their degree for future careers or further study.”

Biology/pre-medicine is the single most popular major at WBU, due to the large number of students who are preparing for health related fields. Paterson noted that the new major is distinct from the biology degree in a number of ways, but she said it could still be a great course of study for those interested in a career in medicine.

“Many students are highly interested in health professions and may want to focus differently, including other relevant areas such as psychology. For example, a medical professional needs to know how to work with all sorts of patients. Some may want to know about running a business or about healthcare administration, which are not requirements for a biology degree, even though all degrees offer electives,” she said.

Paterson added that such a health studies program is a natural fit for a Christian university like WBU. “We attract students who want to serve and to make their world a better place,” she noted.

“We hope that students graduating with this degree will be well-prepared with expertise that helps them help people in multiple ways, with knowledge about how healthcare works, about unique needs of the elderly, about psychological needs at different stages of development, and with a solid foundation in Christian ministries and teachings from which they can help others face the most difficult times in their lives with hope and support.”

Dr. Stan Norman, president of Williams, said he is enthused about the health studies: gerontology program because it embraces a growing career field, and because it is an ideal extension of WBU’s mission.

“We want WBU graduates to be equipped to serve and to make a difference where they are needed most,” Norman said. “With an aging population, the need for professionals in the field of gerontology is going to be great. We believe this new program will help educate a new generation with academic excellence and Christ-like compassion to meet that need.”

The new program will be available at WBU starting this fall.

Williams is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.

Williams Baptist University English Students Present Research at Conference

Three Williams Baptist University students represented WBU at the international conference of Sigma Tau Delta, English honor society. The conference was held at St. Louis in March.  Bethany Jaques, Melanie McKuin and Warner West were invited individually to present research completed for their courses at Williams.

Three college students stand in front of a wall.

West (left in photo), a senior from Walnut Ridge, Ark., presented a paper titled, “Vampirism as a Metaphor for Sin in Stevenson’s ‘Ollala.’” Based on his research of gothic literary vampires, West argued that the condition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s characters in this short story should be viewed as a metaphor for the total depravity caused by sin.

Following graduation in May, West will attend graduate school at the University of Oklahoma on a full assistantship, to pursue both a master’s degree in English and a master’s in Library Science.

Jaques (center), a senior from Jacksonville, Ark., read her paper, “Beyond Duality in ‘Markheim.’” Her paper examined the work of Robert Louis Stevenson through a Calvinist lens. Her argument centered on examining the main character, who changes from an unrepentant sinner to follow the irresistible grace offered by a Christ-figure.

Once she completes her studies at WBU, Jaques plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in academia.

McKuin (right), a junior from Dexter, Mo., presented “Battling Grief: Sethe Edition,” which analyzes Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved. McKuin’s argument illustrated how the character of Sethe moves through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief to heal from the death of one of her children.

McKuin plans to attend law school to study family and juvenile law after she graduates from WBU.

All three students are English majors and members of the WBU chapter of Sigma Tau Delta. Currently, McKuin is the chapter’s president, and Jaques serves as its vice president. While attending the conference, McKuin represented the chapter at the annual business meeting, and Jaques moderated a panel of her peers presenting their work.

The Department of English at Williams offers majors in English and secondary English education.

WBU is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge.

Williams Baptist’s Watson Honored for Doctoral Work

Dr. Andrew Watson, director of financial aid at Williams Baptist University, has been honored for his work as a doctoral student.  Watson was named this year’s Outstanding Doctoral Student in the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at Arkansas State University.

Photograph of man smiling.
Dr. Andrew Watson

The award was presented for a combination of Watson’s doctoral coursework and dissertation. He completed his Ed.D. at ASU in December of 2018. His dissertation was entitled “Perceptions of College Faculty Toward Student-Athletes in Small, Athletic-Enrollment Driven Liberal Arts Institutions Located in Rural Settings.”

Watson is a Walnut Ridge native and graduate of WBU.  He and his wife, Heather, live in Paragould with their two young sons.

WBU is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.