Project Poet to Cap 14th Year in Homecoming Finale

Project Poet to Cap 14th Year in Homecoming Finale

By Jake Sawyer

Fourteen years ago, University of the Ozarks English Professor David Strain had an idea only a mad poetry scientist could cook up. Strain and his fellow English professors were looking for a way to boost submissions to the department’s annual Falstaff literary magazine when inspiration struck from an unlikely source: the reality TV show Project Runway. That epiphany would eventually become the annual Project Poet competition, which is currently enjoying its 14th season as a cornerstone of Ozarks campus life.

No one has seen the impact of Project Poet more than English Professor Brian Hardman, who served as the host for nine seasons of the event, more than any other host.

“I was interested from the start because of how unique the event was, and I loved the idea of giving students across campus a creative space to push themselves and to share their voices,” Hardman remembers.

Project Poet’s run at Ozarks has seen a number of transformations on campus and has changed itself along the way.

“The event has moved locations several times, which has allowed it to grow and evolve. The show is also more sophisticated in its use of atmosphere and production quality, and the talent has increased year after year,” Hardman says. “I hope it continues to grow and evolve, and I hope that it continues as a powerful venue for students to express their talents, voices, and experiences.”

Though the venue and atmosphere may have changed over the years, the competition itself is essentially the same. Each fall semester, one member of the English department sends out a poetry challenge to the campus community, and the students who enter must submit an original poem that meets the challenge, which may vary from a poetic self-portrait to a sonnet or haiku. There are five separate challenges over the five-week competition, and the poets must write a new poem for each challenge.

The poets themselves come to Project Poet from all walks of campus life and for all sorts of reasons. Some, such as Jarret Bain, a junior psychology major from Nassau, Bahamas, enter Project Poet as a way to get out of their comfort zone. “I didn’t expect to get very far, but whether or not I made it far, I was in it for the experience,” Bain explains.

For Bekah Moore, a senior biology major from Alma, AR, what was initially an extra credit opportunity quickly became a new passion. Though Moore’s high school had largely treated poetry as “a necessity that students and teachers alike were more than willing to cross off of their to-do list,” she was blown away by the inclusive artistic community she found at Ozarks through Project Poet. “The reverence this campus has for the arts, and its various forms, will always amaze me,” Moore says.

Both Bain and Moore placed among last year’s five finalists, and their diverse backgrounds and motivations are not unusual in the competition.

“Project Poet draws students from across campus and from all disciplines,” Hardman says. “It really says something that, as often as not, English majors aren't the ones who always win the crown of Poet Laureate of the Spadra Valley.”

Entering a poem for the challenge is only the beginning though. After writing their original poem, the poets must perform it before an audience of their peers and a panel of three faculty judges, all of whom vote for their favorite poems. For most contestants, this performance is the most stressful component of the competition. On the night of Project Poet, many of the poets arrive early to Munger-Wilson Chapel, pacing the flagstones of the chapel plaza or rehearsing their poem one last time. Then there is nothing to do but watch the trickle into the room until the host pulls a name from a faded tweed cap: “Next up, welcome to the mic”— and the applause roars.

The stress is real too. As the Project Poet motto goes, “In poetry, one day you’re a bestseller, and the next you’re out of print.” Each week’s challenge ratchets up the difficulty to a new level, and each week a few of the poets “go out of print.”

This season’s contestant pool has narrowed to the five poets who survived the semifinal round, or “Winter Formal,” which is arguably the most difficult round, as it requires the poets to compose in strict poet forms such as a sonnet or villanelle. The five who “stayed in print” qualified for the Project Poet Finale during Homecoming Weekend. There they will vie for the title of Poet Laureate of the Spadra Valley, as well as the $1,000 cash prize that comes with it.

Despite the high stakes involved, for most contestants Project Poet is as much about collaboration and personal expression with other poets as it is about competition.

“Every time I come into this project, it’s with the mindset that I am able to share parts of my unique human experience through a healthy platform that encourages creative thinking and honest expression. The fact that I get to participate for one week, or three, or five makes no difference,” Moore explains. “I consider myself extremely lucky to have stood beside such a unique and admirable set of poets.”

Bain seconds her opinion. “I’m honestly not a huge fan of competition,” he says, “but being able to go up against other talented poets has been an enlightening experience.”

For Bain, the moments before he steps to the mic are often ones of humility. “I usually think about how great everyone else is, and that if I lost then I deserved it because everyone else has worked hard to earn their spot.”

If the past years of Project Poet have proven nothing else, it is that no one can predict who will end up with the Poet Laureate crown, and if asked, the current poets will agree. One thing is certain though: they will be at the final round on October 19th, either to perform their own work or to support their friends. As Moore sums up, “One thing Project Poet never fails to do is surprise me. Participating or not, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

(Editor’s Note: The Project Poet Finale will take place in the Robson Library rotunda at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, during Homecoming Weekend and is open to all students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni. The five finalists are, Jarret Bain, Lily Marlow, Bekah Moore, Chava Roberts and Maddy Windel.)

University of the Ozarks Associate Professor of Art Dawn Holder will present some of her latest artwork during a Sabbatical Research Artist Lecture on Friday, Nov. 1.

The lecture will begin at 2 p.m. in Baldor Auditorium in the Boreham Business Building. The campus community as well as the public are invited to attend and there is no cost for admission.

Holder worked on her sabbatical project during the 2018-19 academic year. The project included doing research and creating art in reaction to local Confederate monuments.

“I examined how these public spaces, structures and sculptures have been utilized and aestheticized to promote racial segregation, reinforce social hierarchy and define ethnic and political boundaries,” Holder said. “My recent travels and creative projects in Europe have widened the scope of my research, allowing me to analyze the rich visual history of monuments, with a particular focus on Roman antiquities. My current sculptures, installations and photographs reference the equestrian and obelisk imagery shared by both Roman and Confederate monuments, as well as their inscribed texts and relationship to the landscape. By deconstructing these iconic forms, my art endeavors to destabilize their messages through the lenses of fragmentation, decay, and rearrangement.”

Holder said that during the lecture she will, “discuss this new body of work, and share images of sculptures, installations and photographs that I created while on sabbatical.”

Selections of Holder’s new artwork can be seen in the upcoming exhibition. “Whence This Glory Perish,” at the Stephens Gallery on the U of O campus from Jan. 23 through Feb. 19, 2020. There will be a reception to meet the artist from 6-7 p.m. on Jan. 29, 2020.

University of the Ozarks has once again been featured in multiple categories in U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings.

In its 2020 edition of Best Colleges, released this week, U of O ranked 7th overall among more than 80 regional colleges in the South — the 21st consecutive year Ozarks has been ranked in the “top tier” among regional colleges in the South.

Ozarks has been ranked among the top 10 in the 12-state South Region in each of the past nine seasons. The overall rankings examine such criteria as academic reputation, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

In addition, Ozarks ranked 19th among the “Best Value Schools” in the South. The value rankings evaluate the cost of attending a university relative to the quality of the institution and takes into account such things as the percentage of students receiving need-based financial aid and the average institutional aid those students receive.

“These rankings continue to confirm that University of the Ozarks is providing a high-quality, personalized and innovative education at a great price,” said President Richard Dunsworth. “We remain committed to controlling costs and limiting student debt while fulfilling the mission of the University.”

The magazine’s annual late summer publication that analyzes institutions of higher education also had U of O ranked No. 1 in the South Region in the category of “Most International Students,” with 21% percent. The University was also ranked 25th in the South in the category of “Campus Ethnic Diversity.”

The publication’s South Region consists of primarily undergraduate colleges and universities in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia.

A record number of students from both Johnson County and abroad highlight University of the Ozarks’ 2019 Fall Semester enrollment numbers.

A total of 825 students are enrolled at U of O as of Tuesday afternoon, the official day of record for the semester. It’s the second-largest enrollment in the University’s 185-year history and 47 students fewer than last year’s all-time high of 872.

This year’s numbers include 112 students from the University’s home county, Johnson County — the most in the history of the college. There are also a record 183 students from the Arkansas River Valley counties of Johnson, Pope, Conway, Franklin, Logan and Crawford.

Reggie Hill, vice president for marketing and enrollment, said the University continues to emphasize the River Valley in its recruiting efforts.

“We’ve been successful in conveying the message that high school students from the River Valley don’t have to leave the area to get a high-quality, private education,” Hill said. “It makes our jobs easier when these students we’re recruiting have heard of the successes of other students from their schools who have come to Ozarks. Those students came to Ozarks, received a great education, graduated in four years and went on to get accepted into top graduate schools or found great jobs in their chosen profession. These are wonderful testaments of the value of an Ozarks education.”

This year’s student body is one of the most geographically diverse in the University’s history with a record 213 international students from 21 countries, including the Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Congo Republic, Haiti, Guatemala, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Panama, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

“We continue to build strong relationships both locally and abroad,” Hill said. “The geographic diversity of our student body is one of the things that makes an Ozarks education unique and special. Providing a high quality education in a multinational environment helps prepare our graduates to work in an increasingly global economy.”

A total of 363 students hail from Arkansas, with 39 of the state’s 75 counties represented. Ozarks also has students from 25 states, stretching from Alaska to Florida.  The top states represented include Texas (119), Oklahoma (44), Florida (14) and Missouri (9) and Tennessee (9). 

The incoming class, which includes first-time freshmen and transfer students, is 240, one of the largest incoming classes in the University’s history.

Enrollment at Ozarks is up 41 percent since 2013, when 585 students were enrolled.

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.

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.

University of the Ozarks has announced its academic honor lists for the 2019 Spring Semester.

To be included on the President’s List, a student must carry at least 12 hours and maintain a 4.00 grade point average. To be included on the Dean’s List, a student must carry at least 12 hours and achieve between a 3.5 and 3.9 GPA.

President’s List

  • Olivia Allard, Rogers, AR
  • Sara Ambrocio, Guatemala
  • Katherine Barnwell, Van Buren, AR
  • Sarah Birchfield, Huntsville, AR
  • Yailin Blackman, Panama
  • David Bondy, Dallas, TX
  • Shelby Carlton, Clarksville, AR
  • Xin Yi Chen, Malaysia
  • Maria Corea Dubon, Honduras
  • Fabrice Cotin, Haiti
  • Lauren Dotson, Harrison, AR
  • Stacey Ettiene, The Bahamas
  • Monica Flores, Clarksville, AR
  • Ronald Flores, El Salvador
  • Makara Frazier, Camden, AR
  • Laura Gochez, El Salvador
  • Haley Hanks, Carthage, TX
  • Logan Harderson, Oark, AR
  • Fernanda Hernandez, Mexico
  • Mary Hoiland, Clarksville, AR
  • Jacob Holland, Meadows Place, TX
  • Elodie Jabouin, Haiti
  • Ralph Jean-Pierre, Orlando, FL
  • Isaac Julio, Panama
  • Nadine Karabaranga, Kingsville, TX
  • Brooklyn Keeling, Farmington, AR
  • Cole Lankford, Knob Noster, MO
  • Twanesha Lightbourn, The Bahamas
  • Megan Madden, Flower Mound, TX
  • Jenna Mandel, Collinsville, OK
  • Abigail Mansur, Little Rock, AR
  • Daniel Martinez, Honduras
  • Alec Mertin, New Blaine, AR
  • Julio Molina Pineda, Honduras
  • Hendrick Octavius, Haiti
  • Edith Olivas, Mexico
  • Carlos Orozco, Nicaragua
  • Isaias Ortiz, Nicaragua
  • Tonya Palmer, Monticello, AR
  • Brilliant Pasipanodya, Zimbabwe
  • Stephanie Payton, Hackett, AR
  • Fernanda Pichardo, Nicaragua
  • Jehanne Rameau, Haiti
  • Janna Rhinehart, Danville, AR
  • Maria Rivas Morales, El Salvador
  • Gabriela Rivera, Clarksville, AR
  • Kenia Roa Reyes, Costa Rica
  • Candace Rogers, Batesville, AR
  • Ohany Roman, Nicaragua
  • Jasmine Rosales, Berryville, AR
  • Brenda Sandoval, Guatemala
  • Danitra Sargent, The Bahamas
  • Jacob Sawyer, Mena, AR
  • Sade Seymour, The Bahamas
  • Emma Sisson, Clarksville, AR
  • Manuel Tambriz, Guatemala
  • Jamy Teni, Guatemala
  • Sarah Vardal, Hot Springs, AR
  • Catherine Wellborn, Metairie, LA
  • Cory Wilhelm, Ratcliff, AR
  • Madeleine Windel, Ozone, AR
  • Angela Wyatt, Coal Hill, AR
  • Bahar Yapal, Germany

Dean’s List

  • Bailey Albertson, Shell Knob, MO
  • Christopher Alexandre, Haiti
  • Ingrid Alonzo, Guatemala
  • Gladis Alvarez, Guatemala
  • Abby Asencio, Gentry, AR
  • Emily Autry, Hot Springs, AR
  • Jarret Bain, The Bahamas
  • Skyler Barnes, Farmington AR
  • Lamara Bazashvili, Russia
  • David Beck, Conway AR
  • Paul Bien-Aime, Haiti
  • Shayanah Bien-Aime, Orlando, FL
  • Shelby Bosken, Valley Center, KS
  • Megan Boughman, Oologah, OK
  • Donna Bouzi, Waltham, MA
  • Kerigan Bradshaw, Harrison, AR
  • Hailey Bromley, Hensley, AR
  • Kevvin Brown, The Bahamas
  • Petron Brown, The Bahamas
  • Michel Brun, Haiti
  • Samantha Burke, Berryville, AR
  • Christina Burns, Memphis, TN
  • Aaron Capehart, Siloam Springs, AR
  • Andrea Carias, Honduras
  • Andrea Casco, Honduras
  • Meghan Cave, Clarksville, AR
  • Lidia Caz, Guatemala
  • Shaykera Charlton, The Bahamas
  • Haley Clark, Tulsa, OK
  • Daniel Cloud, Russellville, AR
  • Cristin Connor, Gunter, TX
  • Divina Cox, The Bahamas
  • Ashton Davis, Clarksville, AR
  • Makayla Davis, Springdale, AR
  • Kimberly Lacye Day, Oologah, OK
  • Juan De La Cruz, Mexico
  • Michelle Delgado, Costa Rica
  • Emily Dice, Brookshire, TX
  • Kelsey Dixson, Hector, AR
  • Max-Guerlee Eloge, Haiti
  • Diana Estrada, N. Little Rock, AR
  • Maria Fabian, Clarksville, AR
  • Rebecca Fabien, Haiti
  • Fardy Faustin, Haiti
  • Amber Ferguson, The Bahamas
  • William Forbes, Houston, TX
  • Tyler Gale, Russellville, AR
  • Edwin Gallegos, Mexico
  • Devis Garces, Panama
  • Daicza Garcia, Clarksville, AR
  • Sean Garcia, Fort Worth, TX
  • Jacquelyn Gearhart, Clarksville, AR
  • Lorna Georges, Haiti
  • Sheena Lesczynska Gervais, Haiti
  • Chania Gibson, The Bahamas
  • Sara Gonzales, Bryant, AR
  • Victoria Gonzalez, Clarksville, AR
  • Diamond Goodwyn, Gladewater, TX
  • Otoniel Gumbs, Panama
  • Riki Haase, Argyle, TX
  • Nicholas Hagerty, Atkins, AR
  • Bailey Hall, Grady, AR
  • Benjamin Hall, Fairbanks, AK
  • Victoria Haney, Russellville, AR
  • Falon Hanson, Fayetteville, AR
  • Karlee Hart, Eureka Springs, AR
  • Shantanna Heffley, Clarksville, AR
  • Zane Henderson, Piggott, AR
  • Grayson Hill, Springdale, AR
  • Nathan Hodge, Olive Branch, MS
  • Mark Holder, Arlington, TX
  • Aspen Jasna, Sallisaw, OK
  • Spence Jean, Haiti
  • Max Gardy Jean, Haiti
  • Megan Johnson, Oologah, OK
  • Annael Julien, Haiti
  • Jonathan Julmiste, Cape Coral, FL
  • Paula Jurado, Nicaragua
  • Koya Kimura, Japan
  • Adam King, Bartlett, TN
  • Aaliyah Knowles, The Bahamas
  • Chance Koy, Haltom City, TX
  • Chanelle Lasater, Clarksville, AR
  • Sierra Lasher, Olive Branch, MS
  • Kimika Lawson, Tampa, FL
  • Braxton Leding, Altus, AR
  • Geoshan Lee, Malaysia
  • McKenzie Lewis, Hermitage, AR
  • Sarah Lewis, Mulberry, AR
  • Nicole Lopez, Belize
  • Kaylanii Loudon, Greenbrier, AR
  • Ethan Lubera, Siloam Springs, AR
  • Andrea Macario, Guatemala
  • James Malin, Lexington, KY
  • Maria Marcia Mora, Nicaragua
  • Jonah Martinez, Fort Worth, TX
  • Brizeida Martinez, Clarksville, AR
  • Max Mathis, Cabot, AR
  • Isabella Matute, Honduras
  • Rebecca McCarron, Covington, LA
  • Whitney McCrary, Conway, AR
  • Nicholas McDaniel, Derby, IA
  • Derrick McKee, Hartman, AR
  • Ariel McKinney, Malaysia
  • Kade McMahon, Rockwall, TX
  • Gracie Millar, Larue, TX
  • Cheyanna Miller, West Plains, MO
  • Emily Miller, Gravette, AR
  • Maggie Miller, Pittsburg, KS
  • Fred Milord, Haiti
  • Teranne Morrison, The Bahamas
  • Malik Moss, Bahamas
  • Walker Murray, West Helena, AR
  • Dominique Musgrove, The Bahamas
  • Paige Myers, Harrison, AR
  • Kayla Newman, Clarksville, AR
  • Krystle Nicholson, Clarksville, AR
  • Nicholas Nonez, Haiti
  • Diana Ocampo, Paris, AR
  • Sarhitza Octavius, Haiti
  • Isabella Olarte, Miramar, FL
  • Olaide Olawoyin, The Bahamas
  • Daniel Olvera, Garland, TX
  • Rosa Ordonez, Honduras
  • Perla Osorio, Mexico
  • Hailey Ostrander, Clarksville, AR
  • Chloe Peacock, Weatherford, TX
  • Daniela Picado, Costa Rica
  • Shaq-uanya Pickstock, The Bahamas
  • Mitchella Pierre, Haiti
  • Marcelina Pop, Belize
  • Regan Puryear, Gravette, AR
  • La’Shadae-Anise Rahming, The Bahamas
  • Abigail Ramirez, Clarksville, AR
  • Daniela Ramos, Little Rock, AR
  • Hannah Randt, Lamar, AR
  • Amada Reeve, Arlington, TN
  • Jimmy Reinier, Sapulpa, OK
  • Darnel Renelique, Katy, TX
  • Chava Roberts, The Bahamas
  • Edwin Rodriguez, Pureto Rico
  • Richard Rodriguez, Nicaragua
  • Yeimy Rodriguez, Panama
  • Rebecca Rogers, Claremore, OK
  • Oscar Roldan, Mexico
  • Cassidy Rolle, The Bahamas
  • Aaron Rolle, The Bahamas
  • Clinton Rolle, The Bahamas
  • Yajaira Roman, Clarksville, AR
  • Anna Ryan, Woodville, MS
  • Brittney Sain, Lake City, AR
  • Alec Severe, Haiti
  • Jacob Sherrill, Katy, TX
  • Rebeca Silva, Rockwall, TX
  • Joshua Stephens, Springdale, AR
  • Delanei Stephens, Coal Hill, AR
  • Willow Stratton, Fayetteville, AR
  • Glory Sweet, Clarksville, AR
  • Amber Taylor, Tulsa, OK
  • Brady Taylor, Plano, TX
  • Gaetane Ternier, Miami, FL
  • Nelcica Therassens, Flushing, NY
  • Kengor Thermozier, Haiti
  • David Thomas, White Hall, AR
  • Bradley Thompson, Keota, OK
  • Manuel Torres, Pembroke Pines, FL
  • Brookley Trammell, Gentry, AR
  • Divine Umuhoza, Rwanda
  • Cassandra Valdez, Plano, TX
  • Logan Valestin, Bryant, AR
  • Mario Varela-Pecina, Lamar, AR
  • Vicente Vasquez, Panama
  • Tyler Vernon, Benton, AR
  • Jordan Vilma, The Bahamas
  • Holly Vire, Clarksville, AR
  • Patrick Walker, Clarksville, AR
  • Zackary Walker, Clarksville, AR
  • Cheryl Waller, Clarksville, AR
  • Vivien Wambugu, Tulsa, OK
  • Georgia Warren, Ireland
  • Miracle Warren, Van Buren, AR
  • Brandon Watkins, Brentwood, TN
  • Winston Wheeler, Combs, AR
  • Anicka Wilcox, Ola, AR
  • Brian Wilken, Claremore, OK
  • Emilie Williams, Keller, TX
  • Janae Williams, The Bahamas
  • Jasmin Williams, The Bahamas
  • Alexis Woodside, The Bahamas
  • Isaias Zapata, Panama
  • Casie Zapf, Cabot, AR

Jaime F. Encinas has joined the University of the Ozarks faculty as an instructor of marketing, beginning the Fall 2019 Semester.

Encinas has 40 years of business and industry experience as well as teaching experience at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS). He served as a visiting and adjunct instructor of marketing at UAFS from 2013-2017. He’s also been an independent consultant in marketing, sales and business development, primarily oriented to Latin American countries, since 2013.

“Joining the University of the Ozarks faculty is very exciting,” Encinas said. “Teaching has been in my blood for a long time, but my professional career in industry and traveling internationally extensively for years, including long-term foreign assignments, did not leave room for a teaching commitment. Now is the time, not only to enjoy teaching but to give back and share a rich and successful business experience with students.”

Encinas, who earned an MBA from the University of Detroit, served as an executive at Baldor Electric Company in Fort Smith from 2001-2013. As director of region marketing and sales for the motors and generators unit, Encinas was a member of Baldor’s key management team in areas such as international integration, sales and marketing, and channel management and leadership.

Encinas has lived and worked in five different countries in Latin America and has had numerous short-term international assignments in Europe and Asia.

He has also held marketing, sales and management positions with Mettler-Toldeo, Inc., in Ohio; Potters Industries in New Jersey; Roburn International in New Jersey; The Parker Pen Company in Wisconsin; Merck & Co., in New Jersey; and Chrysler Corporation in Michigan.

“My teaching goal is to lead students through a challenging, value-added experience, blending the best classroom theory with a wealth of real-life examples,” Encinas said. “I want to inspire their interests and reinforce opportunities to advance their knowledge, as well as to prepare them with the tools and skills for successful business careers.”

Encinas earned his bachelor’s degree in economic sciences from the Universidad of Chile and also has an engineering degree in business administration and a licensure in economics – business administration in addition to his MBA.

He and his wife, Elena, have three adult children, Raoul, Katerina and Alexandra, and three grandchildren, Silas (9), Elijah (7) and Nora (2). Encinas’ hobbies include drawing, primarily using India ink, and he is an avid soccer aficionado. He played soccer for decades and holds a National C Coaching License.

The impact that University of the Ozarks senior Shelby Carlton made on her students during her teaching internship at Lamar Elementary School this past year was quite obvious on her final day in the class.

Shelby Carlton

As Carlton was about to leave Beth Mayes’ second-grade classroom for the final time, she was quickly enveloped by a large number of children in a farewell group hug. It was a moving culmination of a rewarding and educational year-long internship for the elementary education major from Clarksville who graduate with honors in May.

While most teacher education programs require just one semester in the classroom for education majors, the Pat Walker Teacher Education program at Ozarks requires a full year, something that Carlton believes makes a big difference in preparing future teachers.

“Being in the classroom all year long has been so helpful to me,” Carlton said. “I was able to see how crazy a first day of school can be, but I also got the chance to really bond with and get to know my students and fellow teachers. When it came time for me to begin teaching full-time, my students were used to me and respected me, and that allowed them to be receptive and able to learn from me. I know that this is an opportunity that not many have, and I feel like I was able to learn so much more from a full year in the same classroom rather than having only one semester.”

Carlton said she first got interested in teaching when she was in high school and visited her mother, who was working at a local elementary school.

“As soon as I walked into the building, I fell in love,” she said. “I saw teachers who were passionate about teaching and I saw students who were genuinely excited to learn, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that.”

The teaching internship reaffirmed her decision to go into teaching.

“I remember sitting back one day and just watching my students read and work quietly. The classroom was peaceful, I had soft music playing, and I took a moment to soak in the learning environment that my cooperating teacher and I had created,” she said. “I realized in that moment that I genuinely love what I do, even all of the difficult parts. I love my students, I love seeing them grasp a concept, I love lesson planning, and I even love staying late to make sure everything ends up just right. I knew then that I am where I am supposed to be and I am doing what God has called me to do.”

Carlton said the biggest lesson she learned during her internship was the importance of patience.

“It took time for me to realize that every student is different and all of the students are not going to immediately understand everything that I teach them,” she said. “I learned how important it is to show patience and kindness to the students. It really helps them to learn when they know that you are on their side and are willing to help them.”

Carlton also said she learned that teaching is often a balancing act.

“I always joke that teachers have a million tabs open in their brains, and we can’t figure out which one is playing music,” she said. “Lesson planning, attending meetings, recording grades, actually teaching, assessing students, and working one-on-one with students are only a small part of the balance that I had to tackle. It was difficult, but I was able to find the balance. The most rewarding aspect was teaching full-time successfully and seeing my students learn from me. I was nervous about teaching everything, but before I knew it, I did it, and then it was over.”

Carlton credited her coordinating teacher, Mayes, on helping her throughout the internship.

“I cannot say enough about my Mrs. Mayes,” Carlton said. “I believe that we were placed together for a reason, and I truly have a lifelong friend in her and all of the other teachers that I met at Lamar Elementary. She answered my questions and was a true guide and light throughout the whole process. We worked so well together, and I wish that I could take her with me.”

Even before graduating from Ozarks, Carlton had secured a position as a fourth-grade teacher at Clarksville Elementary School, even though she did not feel good about her initial interview.

“My family is from Clarksville, so I really wanted this job,” Carlton said. “The day before my interview, my brother’s house burned to the ground. While everyone was safe, their possessions were not, and I spent the entire day helping to rescue what we could from the house. Going into the interview, I felt underprepared. I completed the interview with peace and confidence that was God-sent, and the next day I received a call that the position was mine if I wanted it. This happened in early March, so I have been extremely blessed and grateful to have had a position so early on. I am so excited to be teaching at my alma mater.”

Carlton praised the University’s education professors for helping prepare her for a career in the classroom.

“The education department here at Ozarks is amazing,” she said. “They have been more than willing to drop everything and answer my questions, and they make themselves available for guidance at any time. Ms. Pam Terry gave us real-life application skills and practice, Dr. Doris Metz ingrained the lesson and unit planning process in our minds, Dr. Allison Freed taught us how to manage our classrooms, Dr. Javier Taylor taught us how to teach in a way that allows students to understand deeply, and Dr.  Brett Stone was the support system behind it all. Although I sometimes complained about all of the work, it was so beneficial to me in the long run. I feel almost over-prepared for my first teaching job.”

Dody Pelts has been named as the new director of the Jones Learning Center at University of the Ozarks, effective July 1 Pelts has worked in the JLC for the past 18 years, including the last 12 as the center’s assistant director. She replaces Julia Frost, who announced her retirement in April after serving the past 25 years as the director. “I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to serve Ozarks and the JLC,” Pelts said. “By building upon her rich history and sturdy foundation crafted by many dedicated professionals who served before me, the JLC is well-prepared to launch into the future.” Pelts, who has also served as the JLC’s school psychology specialist, said that unemployment and underemployment for students with learning disabilities, specifically for those impacted by social skills challenges, will be an area of emphasis for the JLC staff. “Helping graduates gain skills beyond those of the classroom to obtain meaningful employment will be a focus of our efforts to support students as they seek to truly live life fully,” she said. Pelts worked as the school psychology specialist for the Dover Public Schools in Dover, Arkansas, before coming to Ozarks in 2001 as the school psychology specialist. She started teaching developmental classes in the JLC a few years later and was named assistant director in 2007. Pelts has presented at various state and national level learning disability association conferences and is a nationally certified school psychologist, a psychological examiner, and a certified school psychology specialist in Arkansas.  She is married to Jeremy and has two children: Macy, who will be a freshman at Ozarks in the fall, and Ike, a senior at Lamar High School. “I am delighted that Dody will be taking on the new role of director of the Jones Learning Center,” said University Provost Dr. Alyson Gill. “I know that the JLC will continue to grow under her leadership and she brings with her new ideas that I am excited to explore with the group. I look forward to working with her as we think about how best to use this incredible resource.” Frost has served as the director of the JLC since 1994. Her 30 years in the JLC included a stint as director of assessment from 1986-91. “It has been a joy to work with Dody as the JLC assistant director for the past 12 years and to watch her become a highly respected colleague not only in the JLC, but also campus wide,” Frost said. “I am confident in her leadership abilities as she builds on the JLC past successes and looks forward with a new vision for its future.” The Jones Learning Center is a comprehensive support program for students with documented learning disabilities, Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with average or above average intellectual abilities.  It was established at U of O in 1971 as one of the first of its kind in the country.