U of O Ranked 7th by U.S. News

U of O Ranked 7th by U.S. News

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.

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.

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.

Harvard or Yale? That was the win-win decision facing University of the Ozarks senior religion and philosophy major Emilie “Weave” Williams earlier this month on where to pursue a graduate degree after she was accepted into both of the prestigious Ivy league universities. The Keller, Texas, native who will graduate with Magna Cum Laude honors in May eventually chose Harvard, where she will enroll in the Master of Theological Studies program in the fall. Williams said she learned that she had been accepted to Yale’s Master of Arts in Religion program when she woke up one morning earlier this semester and checked her email. The Harvard acceptance email came a few days later in the middle of Dr. Bill Eakin’s Existentialism class. “I saw the email and I just kind of choked and lost my breath in the middle of the class,” Williams said. “Dr. Eakin stopped the lecture to ask what was going on and I just said, ‘Well, I just got into Harvard,’ and the entire class clapped for me. It was a really cool moment that I definitely wasn’t expecting to happen where or when it did.” Williams said she was just an average high school student and never dreamed of attending graduate school in the Ivy League until she was inspired by her professors at Ozarks, including Dr. Dave Daily professor of religion, and Dr. David Strain, professor of English and classics. “Everything changed for me when I came to Ozarks and found what I loved to study, and was surrounded by professors with top-tier respected degrees in their fields who loved what they did,” Williams said. “ Dr. Daily earned his master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School after graduating from a small private university similar to Ozarks, and Dr. Strain earned a Ph.D. from Harvard. As a freshman, getting one-on-one attention and advising from them was intimidating because I thought they were part of some elite club, but they believed in me.” One of the classes that inspired her to pursue religion and philosophy was Daily’s Approaches to the Study of Religion course. “That course transformed the way I think of religious studies and religion in general,” she said. “I’ve always been more interested in the function of religion in society than strict theology and hermeneutics, and I read things in that class that honestly made me question everything I thought I once knew in the best way. It gave me a newfound respect for the sciences and gave me a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s the reason I’m going on to study philosophy of religion, and I think it prepared me for so many other courses I went on to take throughout college.” Williams, who served as a coach for Interfaith Youth Core in 2018, began to seriously consider graduate school during junior year at Ozarks and remembers going to Daily for advice. “I went to Dr. Daily’s office with a list of potential graduate schools that were all academically mid-level, because I was certain those were the only schools that would even read over my application,” she said. “He read them over and, at the end of our meeting, said he wanted me to look at two more schools — Harvard and Yale. I laughed at him, but he said he was serious. He said that not only would they be a good fit for me, but that he legitimately thought I could get in. He was really the driving force for me to even think of looking to Ivy Leagues, and I’m so glad he did.” Williams then went about filling out the rigorous applications to both universities. “The application process itself was pretty standard, except there is no interview — you are assessed off your application alone,” she said. “The applications are much more mentally and emotionally draining than other graduate programs because most people go into ministry of some kind with the degrees they earn. These questions were very existential and required you to think critically about the world at large, your place in it, and why you believe you in that particular position are the right person to earn this degree to bring about change.” Once Williams learned that she had been accepted into the two highly competitive graduate programs, her reaction surprised herself. Weave at Harvard“I thought I would cry, but I didn’t. I think I had been anticipating that moment for so long that when it finally happened, it just wasn’t as dramatic as I thought it would be,” she said. “It was just like, ‘Cool, my hard work has paid off and I’m proud of myself.’ I was far from my family that lives in Texas, but they’ve just been telling all their co-workers how proud and excited they are for me, but they’ve been shockingly relaxed about it all. My friends, on the other hand, have been crazy excited. We had like three entire days of celebrations after everything was official. It’s been awesome to have so much support from my Ozarks community and to feel like I’ve made my professors and mentors here proud.” Williams, who was offered a full tuition scholarship from Yale and a 75 percent tuition scholarship from Harvard, said she decided on Harvard after taking her second visit to both universities in early April. “Both campuses had an admitted students’ day in early April so I booked a trip to go get a feel for the vibe of both places, now that the intimidation factor was gone,” she said. “I’m so glad I went back up. I met with several other prospective students who had also been admitted to both divinity schools and were weighing their options. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one going through that decision-making process, and that I wasn’t crazy for considering two schools that were incredibly different. Ultimately, with my interests in diversity and working with people of different racial and religious backgrounds was a higher priority, and Harvard happened to have that. Turning down a full scholarship to Yale was incredibly difficult, but I had to go with my gut.” Williams, whose career aspirations include attaining a Ph.D. and going into academia, said Ozarks has helped empower her to take on new challenges. “I’ve grown to trust myself and my capabilities,” she said. “When I arrived my freshman year, I was very insecure and would constantly compare myself to others. Now, I’ve become more competitive with myself and it has made a world of difference. Choosing a more ‘rare’ major with smaller class sizes pushed me to do this naturally. I loved what I was studying and wasn’t trying to impress anyone else. I was just simply doing the work for myself.” University of the Ozarks will present a concert by up-and-coming Arkansas country music musicians Heath Sanders and Mallory Everett on Saturday, April 13, on the campus mall. The concert, which will begin at 6 p.m. on the campus mall, is part of the inaugural Ozarks Fest, an event for current and prospective U of O students. The public is invited to attend the concert and there is no cost for admission. Sanders, who grew up in Marshall, Ark., and graduated from Ozark (Ark.) High School, is a former oilfield worker turned full-time musician whose popularity skyrocketed after a performance on The Bobby Bones Show in early 2018. Bones found a cover that Sanders put online of Chris Stapleton’s “Either Way,” and invited him to perform on his show. While on the show, Sanders sang his song, “Bloodline,” which quickly went viral and has been viewed more than 1.2 million times.  Since then, he has been selling out shows every weekend across the country. He’s opened up for Drake White and Cory Smith and has been invited to open for Bones’ own band, The Raging Idiots. In February he release a new single, “Down on the South.” Sanders is associated with L3 Entertainment, management home to Justin Moore, Tyler Rich, Leah Turner and Scott Stevens, and recently signed a publishing deal with Sony ATV. His music has been called authentic and country as they come, with a powerfully rich voice and a life story that needs to be told. Everett, who will open the concert with a 60-minute set, is a country music artist hailing from a rice farm in the Arkansas Delta.  She learned to sing whatever the tractor's radio would pick up and now she plays acoustic acts Mallory Everettthroughout the mid-south.  Her album "Arkansas" has sold in the thousands and her fan base continues to grow. Everett’s style has been described as “full of soul with a natural country twang that is sure to have you toe tapping.” Her second album is currently underway in Nashville and will be ready in 2019. There will be food vendors and food trucks available at the event for guests. Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. For the third consecutive year, University of the Ozarks has been ranked No. 3 in the Best Regional Colleges of the South category by U.S. News & World Report. In its 2019 edition of Best Colleges, which hit the newsstands this week, U.S. News listed U of O third among the list of more than 80 regional colleges in its 12-state South Region. The overall rankings examine such criteria as academic reputation, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. It is the 20th consecutive year that Ozarks has been ranked a “top tier” university by the publication. Ozarks has been ranked among the top 10 of schools in the South Region in each of the past eight years, including third in each of the past three years. “These rankings are yet another endorsement of the commitment that our faculty, staff, administrators and board of trustees have in fulfilling the mission of this University,” said U of O President Richard Dunsworth. “Our commitment to controlling costs and limiting student debt while also providing a high-quality and personalized educational experience is resonating with students and their families.”

Additional rankings

Ozarks, which posted a record enrollment of 872 students this semester, was also ranked No. 12 in the South in the “Best Value” category in the magazine’s annual late summer publication that analyzes institutions of higher education. The value rankings evaluate the cost of attending a college or university relative to the quality of the institution. In addition, U.S. News ranked Ozarks tied for first in the region in the category labeled “The Foreign Student Factor,” which looks at the percentage of undergraduate international students enrolled at universities. Both Ozarks and Webber International University in Florida reported 19 percent of its student population as international. “Our graduates will live and work in an ever increasingly diverse and multicultural world,” Dunsworth said. “We believe creating a multinational campus in the Natural State is not only a great extension of our mission, but it’s also preparing our students to be able to live and compete in a global economy.” 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. University of the Ozarks continues to be one of the fastest-growing universities in the region, shattering enrollment and admission records for the second consecutive year and topping 800 students for the first time in its history. A total of 872 students are enrolled at U of O for the Fall 2018 Semester, the most in the University’s 184-year history and a 15 percent increase over last year's previous record of 755 students. Enrollment at Ozarks has increased 49 percent since 2013, when 585 students were enrolled. The incoming class, which includes first-time freshmen and transfer students, is 323 — the largest incoming class in the University's 184-year history and a 38 percent increase over the incoming class of 2016. The university also reported a retention rate of 75 percent for last year's freshman class from fall 2017 to fall 2018, a 15 percent increase over the fall-to-fall retention rate from the previous year. “There is growing energy and excitement throughout the campus as we continue to reach notable milestones in this University’s long history,” said U of O President Richard Dunsworth. “The growth reflects the University’s positive image and reputation in higher education here in the River Valley and across the region, nation and world. With a record number of new students choosing Ozarks as well as a significant increase in retaining our current students, this success is reflective of the outstanding work of our dedicated faculty and staff.” This year’s student body is one of the most geographically diverse in the University’s history with182 international students from 25 countries, including the Bahamas, Belgium, Haiti, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Malaysia, Panama, Russia, Rwanda, South Korea, Spain and Zimbabwe. Ozarks also has students from 27 states and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. The University is also setting records for enrolling local students, with 169 students from the River Valley counties of Johnson, Pope, Conway, Franklin, Logan and Crawford. A total of 104 students hail from the University’s home county of Johnson, including 40 in the incoming class. Dunsworth said the University and its board of trustees have worked to hold, and in some cases decrease, the cost of attending Ozarks for students and their families over the past six years by eliminating fees, freezing tuition, increasing scholarship support and placing an emphasis on technology. “We remain committed to keeping an Ozarks’ education affordable and reducing the amount of debt our students incur and I think prospective students and their families see that,” Dunsworth said. “We’ve implemented a sound financial aid strategy that is in line with our mission of serving and preparing students from diverse backgrounds. When you combine that with increased academic opportunities, broader international partnerships and more innovative programs and curriculum, you have an educational experience that is truly top-notch.” Reggie Hill, vice president for marketing and enrollment, said the University closed admission in June for the second consecutive year. “We’re seeing more students applying early, completing applications and confirming their attendance at Ozarks well before the deadline,” Hill said. “This tremendous enrollment growth is a consequence of building strong relationships locally and abroad, strategic enrollment planning and a significant increase in retention. It’s a wonderful testament of the value of an Ozarks education as well as the campus-wide efforts we are putting into recruiting students who desire a high-quality, personalized education.” University of the Ozarks is expanding its new full-need tuition scholarship program for students from Johnson County to the neighboring counties of Logan, Franklin, Madison and Newton. Under the new program, which took effect this year for Johnson County students, the University covers the direct cost of tuition after all federal and state aid, including the U.S. Department of Education’s Direct Subsidized Loans, has been applied. The full-need tuition scholarship does not cover room and board or books. High school students from Logan, Franklin, Madison and Newton counties will be eligible for the full-need tuition scholarships starting in the 2019 Fall Semester. “This program has been so popular and successful that we’ve decided to expand it to several counties surrounding Johnson County,” said Reggie Hill, vice president for marketing and enrollment. “We are committed to making an Ozarks education both affordable and accessible to as many local students as possible and to help lower the debt that students are incurring.” Under the full-need tuition scholarship program, eligible students must be from the five designated Arkansas counties and have an expected family contribution (EFC) of $5,000 or less. The students must also be eligible for the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship and must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by Feb. 15. With a maximum federal Direct Subsidized Loan of $3,500 per year, the most an eligible Ozarks student would have in college loan debt for their tuition after four years would be $14,000. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, the average student loan debt of 2015 bachelor’s degree recipients was $30,100. Students must maintain a 2.7 grade point average and be enrolled in 15 credit hours per semester to retain the scholarship. Approximately 100 current students hail from Johnson County, including a new incoming class of 40 this semester, For more information about the full-need tuition scholarship, please contact the Office of Admission at 979-1227.

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Reggie Hill has been promoted to vice president for marketing and enrollment at University of the Ozarks, according to University President Richard Dunsworth. Hill, who has led Ozarks to record enrollment growth since joining the University in 2016, previously served as the assistant vice president for advancement and director of enrollment management. His promotion becomes effective on July 1. “Reggie has been a wonderful addition to the Ozarks team,” Dunsworth said. “Under his leadership in implementing key sections of the strategic plan adopted by the board of trustees nearly three years ago, the University has experienced unprecedented enrollment.  The growth was achieved by designing and executing a sound enrollment management strategy. I am excited and optimistic to see how Mr. Hill’s efforts continue to impact the students of University of the Ozarks.” In his new role, Hill will oversee admissions, financial aid, marketing and athletics. Under his leadership, Ozarks enrolled an all-time high 755 students during the 2017 Fall Semester, a 29 percent increase since 2013. Enrollment is expected to top 850 students this fall. “It’s been a pleasure to serve the University these past two years and I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue the success we’ve had,” said Hill. “I knew when I joined Ozarks that it had the potential to reach its enrollment targets. Thanks to the hard work of a lot of people throughout this campus, we have been able to reach what was a three-year milestone in 18 months. I want to continue to build relationships in admissions, implement strategic and measureable marketing techniques and enhance our athletic program to help Ozarks reach its full potential.” A native of St. Petersburg, Fla., Hill previously served as assistant vice president of enrollment at Saint Leo University in Florida. He earned both his undergraduate degree and an MBA from Saint Leo University. Hill started working in university admissions right out of college and quickly realized he had found his calling. “Higher education gave me the opportunity to rise out of my economically depressed community. It gave me the opportunity to define myself,” Hill said. “Therefore, it has been my mission to ensure that all students who desire to attend college have access and an opportunity to receive a college education.” He also served as director of undergraduate admissions at Saint Leo and as director of admissions and enrollment services at Florida Polytechnic University.