University Welcomes New Faculty, Staff

University Welcomes New Faculty, Staff

University of the Ozarks welcomed more than 30 new faculty and staff to the campus community this week during the University’s annual opening workshop, held on Aug. 14, in the Rogers Conference Center.

Among the new employees for the 2019-20 academic year are (pictured, seated, from left) Dr. Argelia Garcia Saldivar, visiting assistant professor of Spanish; Tina McCain, academic support coordinator in the Jones Learning Center; Heaven Oliver-Kozup, instructor of biology and health science; Dominique Broadus, assistant women’s basketball coach; Jennifer Amatya, director of the Walton International Scholarship Program; Nicole Justice, international program and global outreach manager; Suzanna Gardner, strength and conditioning coach; Austin Huckfeldt, public safety officer; Dr. Dennis Bublitz, assistant professor of psychology;

(Standing, from left) Tucker Hughes, assistant baseball coach; Dr. Chris Skinner, assistant professor of health science; Brandon Barnes, office of administrative services assistant; Jaime Encinas, instructor of marketing; Justin McCormick, associate director of alumni engagement; Thomas Orr, assistant men’s basketball coach; Dr. Yassine Dguidegue, assistant professor of sociology; Vinny Barber, assistant wrestling coach; and Valerie Hardesty, campus store manager.

The new employees not pictured include, James Bowen, public safety officer; Grace Brown, women’s clay target coach; Lance Brown, men’s clay target coach; Morgan Frazier, adjunct professor; Jane Harris, adjunct professor; Katelynn Hopson, adjunct professor; Jessica Mongeon, adjunct professor; Gene Morgan, public safety officer; Tyler Mosby, assistant director of residential life; Shane Rogers, public safety officer; Melissa Rooney, adjunct professor; Janette Russell, public safety officer; and Will Vick, public safety officer.

Though they’re doing it in markedly different ways, 2016 graduates Liliam López and Debora Castro are each using their University of the Ozarks business degrees to make a positive impact in their respective Central America countries.

The two former Walton International Scholars visited campus recently and talked about their professional careers.

López, (pictured, left) a marketing and management/business administration major living in Choluteca, Honduras, is an analyst coordinator for the Agrolibano Group, one of the top cantaloupe-producing companies in the Americas.  Castro, an international business and management major living in San Salvador, El Salvador,  is a partnership/advocacy technical assistant for a USAID project called Bridges to Employment, which helps at-risk youth in the country gain training and find employment.

The Agrolibano Group exports more than 4,000 large shipping containers of melons each growing season, which runs from December to May. While the fruit is shipped around the world, about 50 percent of the melons head to either the United States or Europe. López is the coordinator of the Great Britain account, handling financial reports, quality control and customer service.

López, who has worked for the company for almost three years, said it is especially satisfying to know that she is helping to promote and advance Honduras through her work.

“I’m really proud when I hear about melons from Honduras that are eaten around the world,” she said. “People will send me pictures of the stickers and it’s really neat to see. I know the passion that the growers in Honduras have for their melons and I know the work that is done to produce them, so I’m especially proud to play a small role in producing something that is in demand all over the world.”

López credited Ozarks’ diverse student population for helping her prepare to work for a global company.

“At Ozarks, you learn to get along and interact with so many different cultures and that’s been very beneficial to me,” she said. “I work with clients from all over the world and I strongly believe that my time at Ozarks has helped me in my daily interactions with my clients. Ozarks helped instill in me a cultural sensitivity and openness to others.”

Castro has worked for almost three years for the non-profit Bridges to Employment project, which is funded by USAID and implemented by DAI Global, LLC.  The program works with at-risk and vulnerable youth between the ages of 16-29 in El Salvador to “successfully integrate them into the workforce as fully qualified and productive citizens to help boost the economy, lower crime, and reduce illegal immigration.”

Castro said the type of work she is doing is what she envisioned when she first came to Ozarks as a Walton Scholar.

“When I was selected as a Walton Scholar, I had dreams of going back home and helping my country, but I didn’t know exactly what that would look like or how I could do that,” Castro said, “Now I’m working with a program which uses national and international cooperation that, working together, we actually change things for the better. It’s very fulfilling, professionally, for me because I’m contributing to the development of my country and actually making an impact. That’s exactly what I wanted to do.”

Castro said her time at Ozarks and her involvement in service-oriented organizations like Enactus, PBL and Alpha & Omega helped her understand and appreciate the importance of giving back.

“The volunteering and service opportunities I had at Ozarks really opened my eyes to the impact that we all can have on others,” Castro said. “My desire to help others was definitely boosted at Ozarks and now that’s what I do for a living. My education and experiences at Ozarks prepared me perfectly for this.”

Justin McCormick has joined University of the Ozarks as the new associate director of alumni engagement.

McCormick will be a part of the University’s Advancement and Alumni Engagement Office and, working with the director of development and alumni engagement, will lead Ozarks’ alumni relations efforts. He brings experience in event planning, fundraising and managing volunteers.

He most recently served as events and tours manager for the Peel Compton Foundation in Bentonville, AR. Before that he was the coordinator of Parent and Family Programs at the University of Arkansas from 2017 to 2019. He also served as a graduate assistant in the Office of Greek Life at the University of Missouri from 2015 to 2017. In all of these capacities, McCormick engaged in fundraising and relationship building.

“I am honored and excited to work with the amazing network of alumni who have established their commitment to Ozarks, while assisting in the expansion of alumni engagement opportunities for future graduates,” McCormick said. “My hope is to bring my knowledge of working with students, alumni and families from other institutions and apply it to a University that means a great deal to the area that I love.”

McCormick earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri.

“I am looking forward to finding engaging ways for our alumni to stay connected to Ozarks and bring innovative ideas to the table,” he said. “Working with diverse individuals in a higher education setting is my passion. This position will allow me to work directly with current students and alumni so that they know how important they are to the University and its mission.”

A native of nearby Altus, McCormick and his husband, Jerred, have been married for a little over a year and have one son, Hayden. His hobbies include, being outdoors, hiking, four wheeling, kayaking and traveling to new places with his family.

He is also an animal lover, with three dogs and two cats. He is an advocate for children in foster care and children with disabilities and also dabbles in event planning, photography, interior design and florals in his spare time.

University of the Ozarks will welcome more than 300 new students to campus on Aug. 16 for the start of First Week 2019, the official kickoff for the 2019-20 academic year. Classes for the Fall 2019 Semester will begin on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

Total enrollment is expected to top 900 for the first time in the University’s 185-year history.

The incoming class of first-time students is expected to include approximately 275 freshmen and 40 transfer students.

First Week, which runs from Aug. 16-19, is an on-campus orientation program to help new students become acclimated to the University.

First Week begins on the morning of Aug. 16 with faculty, staff and upper-class students helping the new students move into the residence halls. The residence halls will open at 9 a.m. for the new students to move in.

First Week 2019 will include a mix of developmental, academic, social and engagement orientation opportunities.

One of the highlights of First Week is the Matriculation Ceremony, where the University officially welcomes the new class to campus. The Matriculation Ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m., Aug. 16, in Munger-Wilson Chapel.

Highlights of First Week:

Aug 16 — A welcoming program at 1 p.m.; a parents resource fair at 1:45 p.m.; Matriculation Ceremony at 3 p.m.; a President’s Welcome Picnic at 5 p.m.; Clarksville social at the Chamber of Commerce at 7 p.m.
Aug 17 — Introduction to First Week at 8 a.m.; Student Life at Ozarks presentation at 12:45 p.m.; Choose Your Own Adventure sessions at 7 p.m.
Aug 18 — Chapel service at 11 a.m.; Ozarks Block Party at 7 p.m.
Aug 19 — Transfer and international student orientation at 8 a.m.; Student Resource Fair at 10 a.m.; Opening Convocation for all students at 4 p.m.; Welcome Back Tailgate for all students at 5 p.m.; Madness on the Mall at 7 p.m.
Aug. 20 — Classes begin

Important dates for the Fall 2019 Semester:

Labor Day Holiday: Sept. 2
Homecoming: Oct. 17-20
Fall Break: Oct. 24-25
Thanksgiving Holiday: Nov. 27-29
Last Day of Classes: Dec. 4
Final Exams: Dec. 6-11
Fall Commencement: Dec. 14

Jennifer Amatya has joined University of the Ozarks this week as the new director of the Walton International Scholars Program (WISP).

Amatya most recently served as the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) compliance officer and international student and scholar advisor at the University of Missouri – St. Louis since 2013.

As the director of WISP, Amatya will oversee the administrative components of the program on campus, including tax preparation, visa and immigration documents, health insurance and annual reporting.

I’m excited to bring my nine years of experience with international students to University of the Ozarks to enhance the Walton International Scholars Program,” Amatya said. “I’ve always been inspired by the way international education impacts public policy and international relations, and it’s such an honor to impact Central America’s political and economic structure by changing lives one citizen at a time through educational opportunities.  I’ve been so impressed by the overall commitment to diversity and social justice at the University and look forward to working with such a fantastic team.”

Amatya earned her undergraduate degree in international studies, religion and politics from Baylor University. Her master’s degree is in public policy administration from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. She has been selected by the National Association of International Educators for the last two years to represent the state of Missouri on Capitol Hill in DC advocating for immigration reform.

She also spent three years working at Missouri Baptist University, holding positions of graduate studies advisor, international student services coordinator and assistant to the director of international student services. 

Her hobbies outside of work include spending time with her two little girls, Myah and Millie, and her cat, Kitsi; reading; traveling internationally (most recently taking a bus tour through the Scottish Highlands); and advocating for children in foster care as an adoptive mom.

Amatya replaces Dr. William Clary, professor of Spanish, who is returning to full-time teaching after serving as WISP director since 2017.

The University of the Ozarks’ Alumni Association Board of Directors mixed business with a dose of community service during its recent board meeting on July 27 in Clarksville.

Following its annual summer meeting, several board members took part in a community service project to paint the outside store front of a downtown business, Master Printing of Clarksville, Inc.

It’s a new tradition for the board to give of their time to benefit the University and the city of Clarksville. Last summer, board members volunteered in the University’s Food for Thought Garden.

Alumni Community Service“As alumni of the University, it is a pleasure to give back to a community that meant so much to us while we were students at Ozarks,” said Shannon Huggins ’91, president of the alumni board. “We appreciate the Alumni Engagement Office and the Chamber of Commerce for connecting us with Master Printing to provide this volunteer opportunity. We come together for the Alumni Association board meetings a few times a year so it provides us a chance to give as a group. Last year we pulled weeds in the garden, and this year we painted a downtown store front. Who knows what we will be doing next time.”

Master Printing owner Danna Schneider said she “cannot fully express my appreciation to the University of the Ozarks Alumni Association board members for painting the front of my shop.”

“They worked tirelessly and professionally until the job was completed and I couldn't be happier with the outcome,” Schneider said. “What a privilege to have U of O alumni who volunteer their time to the community they called home while attending school here.  Clarksville is fortunate to have a University that produces such civic-minded graduates. A special thanks also to Jessica Gunn with the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Arkansas for pulling it all together. They are making an impact on our downtown, with help from University graduates and others.”

Gunn, executive director of the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, said the board members’ assistance in painting the store front is part of a larger plan to revitalize downtown Clarksville.

“I am so grateful to have had the U of O Alumni Association volunteer in our community revitalization project this past weekend,” Gunn said. “It was especially interesting that many of the volunteers had moved and no longer live in the community. To see them working hard for their alma mater's home speaks volumes for the University’s ability to build connections.”

Among the board members who helped with the project included, Huggins, Cori Dyson ’97, Lisa Gruben-Inness ’93, Scarlett Morris ’86, David Morris ’83, Wendy Blackwood ’90, Courtney Taylor ’09, Elizabeth Allcon ’91 and George Pittenger ’91. Also helping was alumnus Dan Dooley ’90.

Dr. Radwan Al Faouri, visiting assistant professor of physics at University of the Ozarks, has had a paper accepted for publication in the prestigious academic journal, Scientific Reports.

Scientific Reports is an online, open access journal from the publishers of Nature.  Nearly 1.5 million people visit Scientific Reports each month and the journal has an impact factor of between 4.0-4.5 , making it higher than 87% of all other journals awarded an impact factor.

Al Faouri joined the Ozarks faculty in 2018. The title of his paper is, “An Effective Electric Dipole Model for Voltage-Induced Gating Mechanism of Lysenin.”

“The paper is considered a part of a project where we are trying to design a controlled pore or channel to be used in drug delivery applications,” he said. “For such purpose liposomes, a spherical lipid holders, are used to be loaded by the drug and then released through the surface of these liposomes. In this paper, we revealed the mechanism of voltage gating of a channel, made by a protein named lysenin, where we proposed that alterations of charge distribution could influence the function of the channel. Based on the surface charge distribution of the protein, we proposed the existence of an electric dipole which interacts with external electric signals, such as action potentials in the nerve cell leading to close or open the channel. In this paper, we modified the charge on the protein by amino acid substitution and therefore the effective electric dipole strength of the protein. We have employed a novel combination of experimental and computational techniques in examining this model, where we got interesting match results.”

The paper will be published in the journal in August.

Scientific Reports as part of Nature publications is a peer reviewed journal that publishes very good researches in natural and clinical sciences,” Al Faouri said. “To have my work published in Scientific Reports means personal appreciation of my novel science which might be cited and used by other scholars all over the world. On the other hand, it also means appreciation to University of the Ozarks as my affiliation.”

A native of Jordan, Al Faouri earned his Ph.D. and master’s degree in biophysics from the University of Arkansas. He also has a master’s degree in nuclear physics from Al-Balqa Applied University and a bachelor’s degree from Yarmouk University in Jordan. His research on graphene won first place at the Arkansas INBRE Conference in 2016 and his research on lysenin pores took third place at the conference.

A motivational actor and wounded U.S. Army veteran, productions of “The Nutcracker” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a rising star on the Caribbean music scene highlight the University of the Ozarks’ 2019-20 Walton Arts & Ideas Series.

The theme for the upcoming series is “Art in Motion,” and the lineup will feature six engaging and captivating events throughout he academic year. The public is invited to attend all the events and there is open, general seating and no fees or tickets required for admission.

The Walton Arts & Ideas Series, in its 27th season, is made possible through an endowment by the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation.

The 2019-20 lineup:

JR MartinezJ.R. Martinez
Sept. 19, 2019
7 p.m., Rogers Conference Center

Jose Rene “J.R.” Martinez, an American actor, author, motivational speaker and wounded U.S. Army soldier, will speak on “Facing Adversity with Optimism and Resilience.” In March of 2003, Martinez was deployed to Iraq and one month later he sustained severe burns to over 34 percent of his body when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb. Since his recovery, Martinez has since become a highly sought-after motivational speaker. He has traveled around the country speaking about his experiences to corporations, veteran’s groups, schools and other organizations. Martinez began his acting career on the Emmy Award winning daytime drama “All My Children.” Since then he’s appeared on numerous television shows. Many remember best him as the Season 13 champion on “Dancing with the Stars.”  He is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit.” Martinez serves as a spokesperson for Operation Finally Home, as well as for the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and Glasswing International.

Performance StageInstitute of Jugglology
Oct. 17, 2019
7 p.m., Walton Fine Arts Center

Based in Fayetteville, AR, the Institute of Jugglology is where the science of juggling and the art of performance meet. Arkansas native Galen Harp juggles to get out what’s inside. His performances explore the interaction between humans and objects. Humans are object manipulators, constantly moving things around to suit their needs. Juggling is a state of arrested decay: a pattern woven through time and space that is constantly falling apart only to be rebuilt in the same moment. The Institute of Jugglology’s performances create giant sand paintings using innovative juggling props filled with sand. The sand slowly spills out, creating an ethereal environment where every throw becomes a line, and every catch is a splash of color. In 2014, Harp won the world championship of juggling awarded by the International Jugglers Association. The Institute of Jugglology has been creating unbelievable juggling tricks and amazing audiences all over the United States for over a decade.

NutcrackerThe Nutcracker
Nov. 30, 2019
7 p.m., Walton Fine Arts Center

The Western Arkansas Ballet Company will present a one-show performance of the classic Christmas story ballet, “The Nutcracker.” Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1816 fairy tale, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” it tells the story of a little girl who goes to the Land of Sweets on Christmas Eve. Ivan Vsevolozhsky and Marius Petipa adapted Hoffmann's story for the ballet and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed the music. Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov designed the dances. “The Nutcracker” was first performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, in December 1892 to a modest success. Despite the failure of its initial performance, “The Nutcracker” has become the most frequently performed of all ballets and has served as an introduction to classical music for many young people. Founded in 1979 as the Fort Smith Civic Ballet, the Western Arkansas Ballet Company is comprised of 25 members under contract for all productions with members selected from an annual open audition. Company members take class and rehearse at the Western Arkansas Ballet studios. “The Nutcracker” is in its 34th year of production by the company.

Midsummer Night's Dream 3A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Feb. 22, 2020
7 p.m., Walton Fine Arts Center

For one night only on the U of O campus, the American Shakespeare Center on Tour will present William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night's Dream.”  Shakespeare casts a theatrical spell powerful enough to make audiences of all ages believe in anything. This mischievous comedy of lovers, heroes, fairies, and rude mechanicals is his tribute to humankind's power of imagination, and reveals that the "course of true love" can alter with just one touch of magic. The American Shakespeare Center recovers the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theatre, language and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education. Year-round in Staunton, Virginia’s Blackfriars Playhouse — the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre — the ASC’s innovative programming and “shamelessly entertaining” (The Washington Post) productions have shared the delights of Shakespeare, modern classics and new plays with millions over the past 30 years.

Fly_Like_a_GirlDocumentary: Fly Like a Girl
March 17, 2020
7 p.m., Rogers Conference Center

The directorial debut of Floridian Katie McEntire Wiatt, “Fly Like a Girl” is an award-winning, feature-length documentary about young girls and women relentlessly pursuing their passion for aviation, a field currently dominated by men. This film features first-hand stories from girls and women who dared to aim higher. From a Lego-loving young girl who includes female pilots in her toy airplanes, to a courageous woman who helped lead shuttle missions to space, “Fly Like A Girl” shows us that women are in charge of their own destiny. Wiatt is a producer/director at the Lakeland, Florida, film company, Indie Atlantic Films. Before joining Indie Atlantic Films, she was an elementary educator. It was during her time as a primary school teacher that she first developed the idea for “Fly Like a Girl.” As part of the Indie Atlantic Films team, Katie has produced, edited, and directed films for broadcast and web. Wiatt is a member of Women in Film & Television-Florida and is a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Michael BrunMichael Brun
April 4, 2020
6 p.m., Rogers Conference Center

Michael Brun is a Haitian DJ and record producer, known for blending electric dance music (EDM) genres such as progressive house with native Haitian styles. Born to a Haitian father and Guyanese mother who loved music, Brun’s influences stretched from the percussion-heavy Rara and Afro-groove music of his native Haiti, to Hip-hop and R and B. He played guitar and piano from a young age, and took up DJing and music production as a hobby at 16 after winning a full scholarship to attend military school in the U.S. Today, Brun has emerged as the face for a new generation of Haitians, working with international stars and home-grown musical heroes to share the richness of his island’s culture with a wider audience. His singular take on traditional Haitian sounds have caught the ears of tastemakers like Diplo and Arcade Fire, seen him land consulting work for Spotify, collaborate with superstars like J Balvin, sell out multiple headlining U.S. tours and notch up tens of millions of streams across tracks like Bayo, Soweto, Gaya and Spice. Esquire magazine said, “Michael Brun might be the biggest thing to come out of Haiti in the 21st Century.” In June, Brun released to rave reviews his new album, Lokal, a collection of contemporary Haitian music. Brun will present a talk followed by a concert at U of O.

Nicole Justice, a 2018 graduate of University of the Ozarks, has joined the University’s Office of Admission as the international program and global outreach manager, effective July 15.

Justice will manage all international programs and activities, including study abroad programs. Also, in collaboration with the director of the Walton International Scholarship Program, she will lead and support other global outreach initiatives on campus.

“I am very excited and happy to return to Ozarks,” Justice said. “During my undergraduate studies Ozarks became my second home. The community, values and experiences at Ozarks are unique and special. I am excited to promote, engage and explore new global opportunities for students. Overall, I am truly grateful and honored to return and serve as the international student liaison on campus.”

A native of Panama, Justice graduated from Ozarks with majors in political science and international business with Summa Cum Laude honors. She is completing a master’s degree in international relations from the University of London Institute in Paris, France.

“I strongly believe in the importance of international education, global diversity and the life-changing impact it has on international students as well as on the campus community,” she said. “If an international student has passion, dedication and a commitment to their education, I want to provide them with an inclusive environment where they can foster their personal development and succeed globally.”

As a student at Ozarks, Justice worked in the Office of Student Affairs, the International Office and the Jones Learning Center. She also previously worked as an independent contractor for the Forrester-Davis Development Center as a grant writer and administrative assistant.

Several members of Nicole’s family are also U of O graduates, including her father, Tom Justice ’89; her mother, Lilia Carrion ’90; and her brother, Michael Justice ’17. Also, her fiancé, Aaron England ’16, is an Ozarks graduate.

Outside of work, Justice enjoys hiking, exploring the outdoors, traveling and learning about different cultures.

University of the Ozarks alumna Taylor Plugge, who has served in the Office of Admission since 2013, will transition into the director of student engagement position in the Office of Student Affairs, effective July 1.

A 2013 graduate of Ozarks, Plugge has been the assistant director of admission since 2017. As director of student engagement, she will lead the areas of student activities, new student orientation programs and student organizations.

“I am excited to be joining student affairs and working with a talented group of colleagues to build a student engagement program that is dynamic and inclusive,” Plugge said. “My goal is to work with students, faculty and staff from across campus to create a vibrant student experience that contributes to student success, retention and to the University’s mission.”

Plugge replaces Bendex Stevenson, who was named director of campus recreation in May.

“Taylor is an outstanding addition to the student affairs team,” said Luke Morrill, dean of students. “She has spent her career at Ozarks directly impacting the undergraduate experience and developing meaningful connections with all the students she interacts with. As Taylor transitions into her new role, I have no doubt that she will bring the same student centered approach to developing a vibrant student engagement program.”

As part of the admission staff, Plugge played an integral role in helping the University set record enrollments in each of the past three years.

Plugge said one of her priorities in leading student engagement is to support the integration of the University’s growing international student population into the campus community.

“Ozarks has one of the most diverse small campuses in the region and that’s part of what makes this University special,” Plugge said. “Ozarks has a long history of embracing student diversity through values such as hospitality, justice and inclusion. I want to help continue that legacy through the student engagement office.”

A native of Hartman, Arkansas, Plugge graduated from Ozarks with cum laude honors while earning a degree in economics. As a student at Ozarks she worked in the University’s Advancement Office in a work-study capacity.

She and her fiancé, Aaron, have a 4-year-old daughter, Addison. Outside of work, Plugge enjoys hiking with her family, camping on the weekends, exploring the different state parks around Arkansas, and spending time on her family’s farm.