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 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.”

Hendrix College Department of Physics Granted Membership in APS-IDEA Network

The Hendrix College Department of Physics has been accepted into the Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Alliance (IDEA) network of the American Physical Society (APS).

APS is one of the largest professional organizations for physicists in the world. The APS-IDEA network is a new initiative meant to establish an international community of departments and organizations working to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

“The department wrote an application for a team that includes each faculty member, our lab manager, a senior student, and a sophomore student,” said Dr. Todd Tinsley ’98, professor of physics. “That application described the strides we have made in our department in creating a welcoming place for women, and we described the ways we want to broaden that work to include a more intersectional vision for diversity in our department.” 

In its application, the department specifically mentioned increasing attention to recruitment and retention of LGBTQ+ students and students of color, considering activities, events, and practices that acknowledge the diversity of physics majors and also help to foster a bond among those students and with the department, regardless of their individual identities.

Tinsley also credited Associate Provost for Faculty Development Dr. Leslie Templeton ’91 in the efforts that led to the department achieving the designation. “Her work as has been critical to our past successes and our thinking about the future,” he said.

The APS-IDEA Application Review Committee provided positive feedback to the Hendrix Department of Physics, applauding the department’s previous efforts to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion, its significant support from the administration, and the proposed team’s makeup. The team is reflective of all the stakeholders in the department—faculty, staff, and students:

  • Julie Gunderson ’06, Assistant Professor of Physics
  • Jacob Nordin ’21, Senior Physics Major
  • Damon Spayde, Professor of Physics
  • John Steward ’94, Lab Manager
  • Todd Tinsley ’98, Professor of Physics, Department Chair
  • Mayra Velazquez ’23, Sophomore Physics Major
  • Ann Wright, Professor of Physics, Natural Sciences Area Chair

“On May 30, President Arnold challenged our community to ‘demonstrate our support of our students and our community, not just with statements on paper, but with acts of genuine love and support,’” Tinsley added. “Our department believes that the IDEA network is a way for us to focus on those acts, and our team is excited to get started on this work.”

‘Film Matters’ Partners with Hendrix College, Names Dr. Kristi McKim Online Editor

Film Matters, a magazine celebrating the work of undergraduate film scholars, has announced a new partnership with the Hendrix College Film and Media Studies program and Department of English.

Woman wearing scarf and sweater

Dr. Kristi McKim, chair of English and professor of English/Film and Media Studies, has been appointed online editor of Film Matters. In this role, she will guide undergraduate students in serving as joint authors and editors of Film Matters online, in cooperation with Film Matters home institution at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. With McKim’s guidance, Hendrix students will provide mentorship and peer review to fellow undergraduate authors worldwide through the drafting and editing process, while learning crucial publishing and project management skills on the job. Sophomores Sydney Boone, JaZmyn Shambley, and Sophia Stolkey—students who have studied film and writing in multiple courses and who hope for future careers in writing, editing, publishing, and film criticism—will comprise Hendrix’s first Online Editorial Board.  

“I am thrilled that this opportunity gives our Hendrix students a chance to gain precious experience as writers and editors,” McKim said. “It’s a chance for students to call for and curate what they want to read and learn, to gather work from students internationally, to generate a virtual home for undergraduate conversation about film and moving image media. Film Matters is singular in what it offers to students: the only international film/media undergraduate magazine of its kind. Film Matters’ ever-supportive editors-in-chief have been generous to entrust us with this charge, and I hope that our work will continue to earn this trust. Even as this work involves added responsibility, it is the kind of responsibility that yields community joy and pride. My English Department colleagues, and especially my comrade in Film and Media Studies, Dr. Joshua Glick, have been enthusiastic in supporting this opportunity for our students and in shaping future mentoring experiences with the magazine. I’m proud to lead this charge, and I’m grateful to share it with my colleagues and students, without whom none of this would be possible.” 

Published by students, for students, Film Matters includes features, reviews, profiles of film studies departments, articles that engage the undergraduate film studies community and prepare students for graduate study in the field, and resources and opportunities for undergraduate scholars. This partnership complements the focus on engaged learning provided through the Hendrix Odyssey Program, which offers a structured experience of active learning throughout students’ undergraduate education. 

McKim has been a longtime member of the Film Matters advisory board and has served as a guest editor in the past. At Hendrix, she has received multiple honors for her work with students, including the 2014-15 United Methodist Exemplary Teacher Award and the 2019-20 Carole Herrick Award for Excellence in Academic Advising. She has written the books Cinema as Weather: Stylistic Screens and Atmospheric Change and Love in the Time of Cinema, in addition to essays in a range of magazines and journals; her current project considers film as a natural history.  

“My own writing and teaching grow out of a love of experiencing films and reading books, which—in college and grad school, thanks to my peers and professors—helped me to find my own closest friends and truest self. As an undergraduate student, working together with my co-editor of our college literary magazine, I learned the power and intimacy of a friendship built through collaborative writing and shared inquiry,” McKim said. “Such opportunities that blend our learning with community, our professional interests with personal passions, are those that I always want to nurture in my students.” 

Starting in September 2020, current undergraduate students and recent alumni looking for online publication opportunities with Film Matters will now work with Hendrix College. Student writers, in addition to filmmakers seeking interview or review coverage, may email submissions or emails of interest/introduction to  

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.”

Walton Foundation Makes Gift to University of the Ozarks in Honor of Dr. Rick Niece

The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation has made a $525,000 gift to University of the Ozarks in honor of the University’s long-time former president and foundation board member, Dr. Rick D. Niece.

Niece was president of Ozarks for 16 years – from 1997 to 2013 – and served as a director on the Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation (WFCSF) from 1997 to 2019. Niece and his wife, Sherée, are retired and living in Hot Springs Village.

In its December board meeting, the foundation approved the gift to the University to honor Niece’s 22 years of service to the foundation and to “preserve the lasting impact that he has made for hundreds of students from the U.S. and around the world.”

A majority of the gift – $500,000 – will go into the Dr. Rick and Sherée Niece Endowment for Student Enrichment fund, which provides competitive grants to students in support of their research, creative projects, and professional preparation through internships and study abroad. The remaining $25,000 will be invested in the Lewis H. and Dortha J. Geyer Niece Scholarship Endowment Fund, named in honor of Niece’s parents and provided for students majoring in performing arts and communications.

Jim Walton, past chairman of the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, said, “Dr. Niece’s vision, generosity and sense of service made a lasting impact for the University, our state and the field of education, as well as for our family. He and my mother, Helen Walton, worked closely and shared a commitment to creating access to opportunity through education for students in Arkansas and across the world.”

Under Niece’s leadership, the private, Presbyterian-affiliated University saw student enrollment increase by 20 percent, the endowment grow by more than 200 percent, and the number of full-time faculty increase from 28 to 48. The University also raised nearly $150 million during Niece’s tenure and added several new facilities, including four apartment-style residence halls, the Walker Hall teacher education and communications center, the Rogers Conference Center and the Mabee Student Fitness Center.

Niece was named president emeritus by the University in 2013.

“We are excited and humbled that the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation would choose to honor Dr. Niece’s service in this special way,” said Ozarks President Richard Dunsworth. “He and Sherée certainly left an indelible mark on Ozarks through their work, and these gifts to the endowments they established will build on their efforts to change students’ lives for generations to come.”

Niece, who was vice president of the WFCSF for several years, said it was an honor to serve on the board of a foundation whose mission includes the support of higher education.

“I have served on a number of boards during my lifetime, and the 22 years as a member and vice president of the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation were the most memorable and rewarding,” Niece said. “The foundation’s generosity has done so much for so many. I am especially proud of our generous gifts to several Arkansas universities for academic programs and student needs.”

The Nieces established three endowed programs at Ozarks, including the two endowments that will benefit from the Walton gift.


“Sherée and I are eternally grateful to the Walton family and the foundation for touching our lives, once again, in such a moving and significant manner,” Niece said. “Our association with the Waltons is an honor beyond compare.”

The foundation was established by the family of Walmart founder Sam Walton and his wife, Helen Walton, who had a 50-year association with Ozarks. That connection started in 1956 when she sent her son, Rob, to a Presbyterian Church summer camp that was being held on campus. Helen Walton was first elected to the University’s Board of Trustees in 1975 and was elected honorary lifetime chair of the board in 1985.

Helen Walton spoke of her long-time connection with Ozarks during a campus talk in the late 1990s.

“Forty years ago when I brought my son Rob down here to go to camp, I was amazed at the friendliness of the faculty who were greeting everybody and the students who were there to help in any way they could to get us settled into places,” she said. “There was something about this campus that simply caught me. At the time, I said to myself, ‘There’s something about it. It’s a very special place.’ I think part of that was that I knew it was a place where so many young people were going to get an education they probably would never have received had they not come here.

“Then I learned that it was a mission school for the Presbyterian Church. Maybe that was part of what made it so special. There was that sense of mission, that sense of helping those who really needed help. This school has always played an important role in advancing the Church’s emphasis on education and personal enlightenment. It holds a special place in my heart because of its work to build the character of, and improve the quality of life, for many young people.”

Niece gave the eulogy at Helen Walton’s funeral in 2007.

“Mrs. Walton was an amazing woman and about as common a lady as you’ll ever meet,” Niece said in his eulogy. “I feel sadness now, but knowing that her influence will continue to touch generation after generation of students is a good feeling.”

Niece was named the University’s 24th president in July of 1997. Only former presidents F.R. Earle (1858-1891) and Dr. Wiley Lin Hurie (1923-1949) served longer tenures than Niece in the University’s 186-year history.

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.”

Williams Baptist University Notches 12% Enrollment Gain

A challenging time for higher education hasn’t slowed enrollment growth at Williams Baptist University.  WBU’s on-campus enrollment for the fall semester increased more than 12 percent over last year, marking the second straight year of double-digit gains for the private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.

Numbers were up across the board at WBU, including a record-breaking freshman class.  The growth was propelled by the university’s new Williams Works initiative and strong recruiting numbers for WBU athletic teams and music groups, among other factors.

“There are many people across campus who worked very hard to bring these students to Williams, overcoming the hurdles of a very challenging year.  Beyond that, it is clear to us that these incredible enrollment numbers far exceed our human abilities.  Simply stated, God is blessing WBU in a mighty way, and we are both humbled and deeply thankful to Him,” said Dr. Stan Norman, president of the university.

WBU’s on-campus headcount this fall is 581 undergraduate students.  That number reflects a 12.4 percent jump from last fall’s figure of 517.  Williams saw an even larger increase in its full-time equivalent, or FTE, which is a critical budget figure for colleges and universities. The on-campus FTE stands at 594, a 14 percent increase over last year.

WBU has 220 freshmen on campus this fall, a record in the modern history of the university, in addition to 67 students who transferred to Williams or are otherwise new to the school since last year.  The total population of new students is up eight percent over last year.

Returning students also gave WBU’s enrollment a boost.  The 294 on-campus returners reflect a 17 percent increase.

More students are living in WBU campus housing, as well.  Williams has 422 students in its residence halls this fall, an increase of 11 percent.

“Everyone at WBU deserves a thank you for their hard work in bringing students to this institution.  Vice President for Enrollment Management Angela Flippo and the admissions and financial aid staffs did amazing work.  Our coaches and the directors of our music groups recruited diligently and very effectively for their programs, even with the many restrictions necessitated by the pandemic.  The effort by our entire university family was tremendous,” Norman commented.

“The Williams Works initiative brought in more than 40 students in its first year, accounting for a significant share of our growth, not to mention the level of excitement it continues to generate both on and off campus,” the president said.  WBU launched Williams Works this fall, giving selected students the opportunity to work in exchange for their cost of education.

In addition to its on-campus numbers, WBU saw growth in its online programs.  Williams offers two online master’s degrees in education, as well as an online bachelor’s in criminal justice.  Combined, those programs account for 39 students this fall, a 30 percent increase.

Total enrollment moved above the 600 mark, with 620 enrolled overall at WBU, and that number stands to increase as off-campus extension sites report numbers in the days ahead.

“The most exciting thing is what these numbers and percentages represent.  These numbers reflect young men and young women with their adult lives before them, lives that can be transformed by the Christ-centered commitment and academic excellence of Williams Baptist University.  It is humbling to realize the impact WBU will have on their lives, and the impact their lives will have on the world,” Norman said.

It is the second year in a row for WBU to experience double-digit percentage growth.  On-campus headcount has increased by 126 students since the fall of 2018, which is a 27 percent jump over two years.

WBU began its fall semester on Tuesday, August 18.  Enrollment figures were compiled after the university’s fall enrollment period ended Friday.

Three New Members Join Hendrix College Board of Trustees

The Hendrix College Board of Trustees announces three new members to fill open at-large positions. The new trustees, all of whom are Hendrix alumni, will begin their three-year terms at the Board’s October meeting.

Susan Farris DeBoard ’71 of Conway is a retired educator. In addition to her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix, she earned a Master of Arts from the University of Central Arkansas in 1983. She spent much of her career teaching high school and served as a visiting instructor at Hendrix in English and German from 2007 through 2013. Her service to the College has included membership on the Alumni Association Board of Governors. DeBoard is not the first in her family to serve on the Hendrix Board of Trustees; her father, Bill Farris, was a Board member in the 1990s. She and her husband, Charlie, have three adult children, one of whom is also a Hendrix alumnus (Charles, class of ’91).

Luke Duffield ’91 leads Blackstone Construction in Russellville, Arkansas. A former Hendrix athlete who is passionate about the liberal arts, Duffield has supported several of the College’s athletics-related capital projects in recent years, and served on the committee for the recent Be Hendrix capital campaign, through which he provided support for the construction of the Dawkins Welcome Center. He is a member of the Russellville City Planning Commission, the Russellville Regional Economic Development Alliance Board, and a board member of Friendship Community Care and John L. Rankin Senior Living, a low-income housing project for seniors in Russellville. Duffield and his wife, Stephanie, have four daughters. 

Derrick Smith ’97 of Little Rock is an attorney with the Mitchell Williams Law Firm and serves on the firm’s Board of Directors. His practice focuses on insurance regulatory law, government relations, and energy and utility law, where he represents clients in their interactions with Arkansas governmental entities and state insurance departments throughout the United States. He has previously served as chair of the firm’s Regulated Business practice. Smith has been named in The Best Lawyers in America for Administrative/Regulatory Law for 2016-2020 and one of the “250 Most Influential Leaders” by Arkansas Business in 2019. He is a member of the Pulaski Academy Board of Trustees and a former member of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission and the Arkansas Lottery Commission. His past service to the College includes a term on the Alumni Association Board of Governors, of which he was President in 2003-2004, and as a member of the Be Hendrix campaign committee. He and his wife, Dr. Gwendolyn Bryant-Smith, have one son.

“We are excited to welcome these three outstanding individuals to our Board of Trustees,” said Hendrix President Ellis Arnold. “Hendrix has enjoyed a long history of visionary board leadership, and I am confident our new members will continue that tradition and work with their fellow Trustees for the long-term success of the College.”

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.