Rescue Dog Sets Career Course For Connor

Rescue Dog Sets Career Course For Connor

Thanks to a rescue dog named Pico, Cristin Connor had her career aspirations determined at a young age. Connor is a University of the Ozarks senior biology major from Gunter, Texas. She will graduate from Ozarks on May 18 with Magna Cum Laude honors and then pursue a degree in veterinary medicine at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in the fall. Connor said her interest in veterinary medicine started in her pre-teenage years when her family rescued Pico and brought him into the family. “He had been abused as a puppy and there were times he would snap for just a second before coming back to himself,” Connor said. “We could tell that he hadn’t meant to hurt anyone and that he was just scared. I knew that it wasn’t his fault and I wanted to help him, but being a child I didn’t know how. As a veterinarian, I may not always know how to help my patients but I plan to help as many as I can. I want to study animal psychology and behavior in the hope that maybe I can figure out what I could have done to help Pico and apply that knowledge to help other dogs like him.” That a young woman from a small north Texas town of 1,500 would end up studying veterinary medicine at the University of Edinburgh is quite remarkable. Edinburgh, founded in 1582, is the sixth oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's ancient universities. “The University of Edinburgh is the best possible place for me to end up,” she said. “I will have so many opportunities to travel through internships, which is something that I have always wanted to do. Also, the veterinary school is considered among the top six in the entire world, which is amazing. The Roslin Research Institute is a part of the school and has been home to really impressive projects. Finally, when I graduate I will have more practical experience than if I had chosen a stateside school and I will be able to practice in most of the world.” Connor said she began thinking of pursuing an advanced degree in a foreign country after taking part in an Ozarks study abroad trip to Italy and Spain with Walton Professor of Music Dr. Sharon Gorman and later taking part in an independent research project on armadillos in Cambridge, UK. “I had an amazing time going for fun with Dr. Gorman and my desire to travel became so much stronger,” Connor said. “I absolutely loved integrating myself into another culture, even if just for a few days. The biggest impact came from my trip to Cambridge for my research project. I was able to experience what it is like not only visiting somewhere amazing but working there as well. We would spend our mornings working on our project and our afternoons sightseeing. This trip is what really got me thinking that going to veterinary school abroad could be an amazing and attainable experience. In the end, I decided that going to Scotland would be the best thing for me to do in order to grow as a person, both intellectually and culturally.” Connor took it upon herself to gain practical experience while at Ozarks, working several days a week for a local veterinarian, Dr. Neal Jones at Clarksville Veterinary Clinic. “In the summer after my junior year, I was remaining in Clarksville to work on my research project and I wanted to use my spare time to get some experience in a clinical setting,” she said. “Dr. Jones was glad to help me and allowed me to begin shadowing him immediately. I learned so much from him during the summer and he even came to be one of my references for my vet school application. Dr. Jones continues to teach me every single day and has made me even more excited to begin learning to do all of the things that he does.” Connor was accepted into three of the four veterinary schools that she applied to, an accomplishment that she gives a couple of her professors credit for. “Dr. Frank Knight was a huge help during the application process because he helped me to figure out who to ask to be my references and even read over my resume to make sure that it looked all right,” Connor said. “He and Dr. Karen Frank both acted as references for my application and filled out the VMCAS evaluation for me. They have been amazing and I really appreciate everything that they have done for me.” Helping animals is the simple answer that Connor said drives her to pursue her career choice. “I plan to open my own animal hospital sometime down the road, but I hope that I get the opportunity to travel to underdeveloped countries for aid work as well,” she said. “There is so much good that a veterinarian can do for communities that do not usually have access to that kind of care. I also plan to continue working closely with animal shelters because I have a great appreciation for all of the time, emotion and hard work that shelter workers put into the animals in their care.” Whatever lies ahead for her, Connor is grateful for her Ozarks experience. “Ozarks has provided me with many opportunities to grow and experience new things,” she said. “While my classes have been informative and given me the basic knowledge that I will need moving forward, I believe that the biggest impact that Ozarks has had on me has been in the extracurricular realm. As a member of the soccer team and an orientation leader and peer mentor, I learned how to be a leader. I gained confidence in myself that has allowed me to excel. My study abroad experiences, along with the diverse campus community, has left me with a great appreciation and curiosity for that which is different from me.” “Moving forward from here, I plan to seek out more opportunities to experience different cultures and perspectives because I believe that is the only way that I can be the best me possible.” The University of the Ozarks' Nu Eta Chapter of Tri-Beta, the National Biological Honor Society, inducted nine full members and three associate members into its organization during a special ceremony held on April 23. Among the full member inductees were, Breanna Aguilar, Mason Badour, Marana Fulmer, Brittany Holt, Joelle Long, Crystal Oudomvilay, Chloe Peacock, Hannah Randt and Cassandra Valdez. Those earning associate membership were, Sara Ambrocio Paque, Gracie Millar and Geovanny Acosta Cascante. Several graduating Tri-Beta seniors were also recognized and presented with graduation cords. The seniors included, Nathan Hodge, Jada Mack, Shelby Morales, Grasyn Langley, Fernanda Hernandez Sanchez, Julio Molina Pineda, Cristin Connor, Hailey Brumley, Olivia Allard and Shayahan Bien-Aime. Beta Beta Beta was founded in 1922 as a society for students who are dedicated to improving the understanding and appreciation of biological study and extending boundaries of human knowledge through scientific research. To date, more than 550 chapters have been established throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. The Ozarks chapter of Tri-Beta, the Nu Eta chapter, was chartered in 2005, with 17 members. The faculty advisors for the Ozarks chapter are, Dr. Sean Coleman, professor of biology and dean of the division of Mathematics and Sciences, and Dr. Warren Sconiers, assistant professor of biology. Dr. Karen Phillips Fawley has been hired as an associate professor of biology at University of the Ozarks, beginning the Fall 2018 Semester. Fawley most recently served as a professor of biology at the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM), where she has worked since 2006. Prior to that, she taught at North Dakota State, where she earned her Ph.D. in botany. Fawley said there are numerous reasons she is excited about teaching at Ozarks. “The smaller student body, the academic reputation, the beautiful setting, and of course, it is close to family,” she said. Fawley said her main area of research is molecular taxonomy and species discovery of algae and vascular plants. She describes her teaching style as “very hands-on.” “I think that it is important to get to know the students so that you can understand what they need to learn and succeed,” she said. Fawley earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas in Austin and her master’s degree from Old Dominion University in Virginia. In 2016, she was named UAM Teacher of the Year by the Monticello Chamber of Commerce and also won the UAM Hornaday Outstanding Faculty Award.

Family Ties

Fawley is no stranger to Ozarks. Her late father, John Jackson “Jack” Phillips Jr., was a 1950 graduate of Ozarks and a long-time member of the University’s Board of Trustees. Fawley’s mother, Anna, still lives in Clarksville. “I think that Ozarks has always been a part of my life,” Fawley said. “My father’s college experience at Ozarks was very important to him.  I attended college reunions and gatherings with my parents when I was a child.  I took two courses at Ozarks the summer before I graduated from high school.  After my parents retired to Clarksville in 1994, I attended alumni gatherings and award banquets at Ozarks.” She is married to Dr. Marvin Fawley, who is also a botanist, and has three step-children, Regan, Ethan and Jessica. She listed among her hobbies, hiking, gardening, cooking and reading. Dr. Sean Coleman, professor of biology, has been appointed dean of the Division of Sciences and Mathematics at University of the Ozarks, effective June 1, 2018. Coleman replaces Stacy Key, associate professor of practice of mathematics, who has served as dean since 2012. “I am thrilled that Dr. Coleman has accepted the position of dean of the Division of Sciences and Mathematics,” said U of O Provost Dr. Alyson Gill. “As professor of biology, he has moved the University forward with innovative teaching and research throughout his tenure here. I know that the division will benefit from his leadership, dedication and vision.” Coleman, who has taught at Ozarks since 2000, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree from Luther College in Iowa. “The emphasis on teaching and the liberal arts is what attracted me to University of the Ozarks and allowed me to do what I am passionate about,” Coleman said. “I am delighted to have an opportunity to give back to Ozarks and to the Division of Sciences and Mathematics. I am excited about the opportunity to be the dean of a vibrant division with talented and hard-working faculty.” Coleman takes the leadership position during the University’s $55 million campaign, Climb Higher, that includes an emphasis on enhancing facilities and student opportunities within the division. “I look forward to working with faculty, staff and administration as the University designs and builds an addition onto and renovates the science building,” he said. “We are in the midst of a thrilling period of growth in our division, and it will be rewarding to help faculty maximize their teaching and professional development during this exciting time.”

Key returns to classroom

Key will return to full-time teaching at Ozarks. “While I have only had the pleasure of knowing and working with Mr. Key for two months, I have appreciated his leadership of the division, his willingness to help me as I walked through new territory when I came here, and his unfailing commitment to University of the Ozarks and love of this place,” Gill said. “At the same time, I am happy for all of our students who will be taking his classes as I hear that his classes are sought after and remembered. He is a rare talent.” A new hands-on science class at University of the Ozarks will have students hunting for undiscovered viruses to benefit the scientific community. The freshman-level, two-semester biology class is part of a national pedagogical program called SEA-Phages, which stands for Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science. The program is an initiative of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and U of O is just the second university in Arkansas to offer the program. The discovery-based research class will begin in fall 2018 and will be taught by Dr. Sean Coleman, professor of biology, and Dr. Warren Sconiers, assistant professor of biology. The class will be available to both incoming freshmen as well as sophomores. Over the course of the first semester, students will take soil samples to discover and isolate phages, which is short for bacteriophage, a virus that attacks bacteria. Each student selects a phage to be sequenced. Throughout the second semester, students will progress through a series of microbiology techniques and eventually to complex genome annotation and bioinformatic analyses. If they succeed in completely annotating the DNA, the students will be able to submit their work to an online database of known phages, allowing their discovery to be accessed and used by the scientific community.

What the Professors are saying...

“To be able to offer real scientific research on the freshman level is very exciting,” Coleman said. “The evidence suggests that students who are involved early in real scientific research and discovery tend to persist and do better and move on to graduate or professional schools. Plus, our students have an opportunity to discover a new phage or new strain and get their research presented and published. How great would that be?” Sconiers said the research skills and techniques that freshman-level students can learn in the new class can only benefit their academic progress. “Gaining those skills, knowledge and techniques as a freshman or sophomore will help them as they get into upper level classes or when they apply for summer internships or other opportunities,” Sconiers said. “I think it can also help us recruit top-quality science students who are excited about being able to do this type of research during their first semester in college.” Coleman said this type of program can have a positive impact for the entire sciences program at Ozarks. “Getting a cohort of students who are excited about that type of learning will rub off on their classmates and that can spark interest among other students who want to do more research with faculty members,” he said. Both professors said that bacteriophage research has significant real world implications in areas such as health care and agriculture. “There’s still a lot of unknowns out there in the field of bacterial viruses and we have an opportunity to do our small part in doing research and possibly finding the great new virus or strain that can make a positive impact,” Coleman said. U of O is one of 10 new universities that was recently accepted into the SEA-Phages program, following an extensive application process. There are approximately 140 colleges across the country taking part in the program, including Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. Coleman and Sconiers will attend two week-long training workshops to prepare them to lead the class. They are excited about the opportunities that the new program will provide budding scientists at U of O. “How cool would it be as a freshman to apply for an internship and say, ‘Here’s my publication,’ or ‘Yes, I discovered a new virus?’ “ Coleman said. “Even the best students don’t usually have the chance to take part in these types of projects until their senior year. Now, we can offer this experience to as many as 32 freshmen and sophomores each year. It’s another great opportunity for our students.” University of the Ozarks junior Julio Molina-Pineda’s interest in scientific research just got ratcheted up a notch. The biology and chemistry major from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, took home first place in oral presentation in biology at the 2017 Arkansas IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) conference, held Oct. 27-28 at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. The INBRE research conference is an annual highlight that brings together students, faculty, researchers, and guests from four-year colleges throughout Arkansas. Molina-Pineda’s presentation topic, “Antioxidant Carbon Nanoparticle Results in Novel Auditory Response in Mice,” was based on the research he did this past summer in a nine-week internship with Dr. Fred Pereira at the Baylor College of Medicine.  He was one of five students chosen to give an oral presentation at the INBRE conference out of more than 100 abstracts submitted. His presentation was given the top honor in biology by the judges. “It was the first time I’ve ever given a presentation at anything like that, so I was pretty nervous,” Molina-Pineda said. “One of my professors reminded me right before I went out there that nobody in the audience knew more about this topic than I did and that helped relax me. After I finished, I thought it had gone pretty well, but I was still shocked when they called my name for first place.” Molina-Pineda’s research with Dr. Pereira involved testing potential drugs for people with hearing disabilities. “We were specifically looking at hearing loss in people who have undergone chemotherapy,” he said. “It’s very exciting and fulfilling to know that you’re working on something that can positively impact hundreds or thousands of people. When I was able to share that information at a conference, it made me realize that I’m headed toward the perfect career for me.” Molina-Pineda was one of nine U of O students who were joined by three Ozarks professors at the conference. Senior Valeria Robleto won an honorable mention for her poster about the cloning and expression of human separase. Biology Professor Dr. Sean Coleman said students like Molina-Pineda gain invaluable experience by attending and participating at scientific conferences. “Doing research and then presenting research at a conference gives the students confidence that they are progressing towards becoming a professional and allows them to meet students who have similar goals and ambitions,” Coleman said. “It is enjoyable as a faculty member to see our students mature into accomplished young professionals.” Molina-Pineda said his interest in research has grown significantly during his time at Ozarks. “To be able to work with and be encouraged by our faculty here has definitely made me realize that I want to pursue a career in research,” he said. “I see more every day how research can help people, even though you may not realize it at the time because it’s not always sudden and immediate. I want to be a part of the scientific community that is helping to change the world for the better, a little at a time.” University of the Ozarks Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Warren Sconiers was just a child when he discovered he had a unique interest in nature's smallest creatures. "I have always been interested in ecology and entomology. As a child I would play with plants and insects out in the yard and I would even get distracted by bugs when playing sports," he said. "It wasn't until my undergrad when I took my first entomology class and met entomologists and ecologists that I knew I had found my life-long interest. I later found career opportunities in entomology and continued from there." Sconiers joined the Ozarks faculty in August after spending the last two years as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Entomology at North Carolina State University.  The native of California earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Irvine before completing his Ph.D. in entomology from Texas A&M in 2014.
"Dr.Dr. Warren Sconiers joined the Ozarks faculty in August as an assistant professor of biology.
Sconiers' specialty is studying how plants and insects interact and influence each other. He has conducted extensive research on such topics as, the effects of drought on trees, how plant communities recover after fire, invasive plant control, and predator-prey interactions. "I am more than excited about speaking with students about what entomology has to offer," he said. "There is so much you can do in this field, ranging from microbiology and controlling mosquitos so they can't bite people, to pest control working for the government, or even pharmaceutical companies." After earning his Ph.D. and working at large state universities, Sconiers is excited about teaching at a small, private liberal arts university. "A university like Ozarks definitely fits my teaching philosophy," he said. "I believe that students need to interact with each other and not just listen to the instructor. With the small classes, students spend more time in groups interacting and discussing material, and my classes are more engaging compared to standard lectures. Students feel open to asking questions any time in class and we tend to focus on students learning the material rather than how much we can cover. It is much more difficult to have this type of emphasis at larger institutions." Sharing his love of science and being a mentor to students is a passion for Sconiers. While at NCSU, he helped start an undergraduate organization called SEEDS (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability) that promoted student diversity in several of the sciences. "Exposure to a variety of sciences and related careers through hands-on activities is a great way to get students inspired in the sciences," Sconiers said. "Also, sharing stories of relatable individuals who are engaged in the sciences is crucial. This highlights the importance of diversity, by having different types of people engaged in the sciences not only provides more variety in thought, but also communicates that anyone can cultivate a passion for science, which is the absolute truth." He has already been impressed with the students he has interacted with at Ozarks. "Students here are very engaged and bright students," he said. "I have several students already who are interested in entomology, biology, conservation, and the careers these sciences have to offer. I am excited to meet more students and help them achieve their goals. Outside of work, Sconiers enjoys a variety of interests, including health and fitness, sports, martial arts and creative writing. Breanna Hiatt has taken full advantage of the liberal arts curriculum at University of the Ozarks to find her true calling. The senior from Russellville, Ark., entered college as a pre-medicine major and changed to education before deciding that her love of outdoors and nature would be a great fit for environmental studies. Now she is excited about seeing where a major in that discipline along with minors in biology and outdoor leadership will lead her. "As somebody who has tried a little bit of everything, I think it's really important that if you have something you think about pursuing, express that and take the steps to at least try it out," Hiatt said. "At Ozarks you're encouraged to explore a lot of different areas of study. That's how I discovered exactly where I was supposed to be."
"BreannaBreanna Hiatt, a senior from Russellville, Ark., has been active in the Ozarks Outdoors program since stepping on campus as a freshman.
An avid rock climber and outdoor enthusiasts, Hiatt has been involved with the Ozarks Outdoors program since stepping on campus. This past summer, the Ozarks Outdoors staff helped her secure an internship with Camp Crossed Arrows, a Girl Scout camp in Floral, Ark. It was there that she was able to combine her passion for the outdoors with her love for working with children. "I worked as the climbing and hiking specialist and it turned out to be the perfect blend of teaching and being outdoors with kids?two things I love," she said. "This was a new position so they essentially handed me this program and allowed me to build it from the bottom up." Hiatt enjoyed developing creative ideas to spark the children's interest in climbing and hiking. "I helped create a lot of the games that the kids played, including a safari scramble game where we would hide safari animals all over the climbing wall, and they would have to climb up and collect them," she said. "It was great because they had a really good time going up the wall, but they were always scared coming down. The game was a really good way to distract them and it also helped me develop some communication skills and leadership skills toward teaching younger children." Hiatt quickly learned that she had a knack for working with children. "Working at the camp got really emotional at times. They were such a small group of girls, which meant that we would become so attached to them," she said. "They're at that age when they're so impressionable, and we were able to get so personal and learn from each other. Some of the girls in the horse-riding program put on a rodeo on the last day and they were trying so hard to impress us. We actually had to put glasses on because we started crying. These girls were just so amazing. I've never seen 12-year-old girls doing the stuff that they did." Hiatt credits her advisor, Environmental Studies Professor Dr. Kim Van Scoy, for helping her grow and develop as a leader on campus. Hiatt serves as president of the University's Planet Club and also is a student representative on the Clarksville community's Spring Greening Festival. "In my time here at Ozarks, I've gone through a lot of ups and downs, but Dr. Van Scoy has always been there to talk to me," Hiatt said. "Academically, she's always been someone I could count, and she's helped so much in my work with the Planet Club. I've come to her with so many questions and she's the type who will never give me the answer. It's more about her guiding me to find the answer myself, which I really appreciate because it allows me to figure out solutions for myself." Hiatt has set some lofty goals for her senior year in regard to the Planet Club and Spring Greening Festival. "I want the Planet Club to make more of an impact on campus by improving the recycling program and making it something that people talk about," she said. "I'd also like to improve the gardening program and start a club specifically for the campus garden, making it something the entire campus can get excited about. I also have a lot of goals for the Spring Greening Celebration committee, and I hope to reach out to the Clarksville community to make it more of a collaborative and joint effort." Being a part of the Ozarks Outdoors program also been influential in Hiatt's development as a student and person. In November she will take part in the annual Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) conference. "Ozarks Outdoors has helped me tremendously in developing my skills, specifically with what I want to do with teaching," Hiatt said. "They've really nurtured my leadership goals, and they're even paying for me to get a certification that's really important for me. Even outside of the trips, they take me and other students out and help train us and teach us different skills, which isn't really something they're doing for their job, but more as a friend. I don't think I would've received opportunities and relationships like these if I had attended a different college." University of the Ozarks junior Amanda Paz spent her summer scaling the jungle canopies of a rain forest, scuba diving at one of the most ecological-rich reefs in the world and working with some of the most diverse animals on the planet. And, it was all done in the name of science. Paz, a chemistry and biology major from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, served a month-long research assistantship in Honduras for Operation Wallacea (Opwall), an organization that runs a series of biological and conservation management research programs in remote locations across the world.  The expeditions are designed with specific wildlife conservation aims in mind, from identifying areas needing protection to implementing and assessing conservation management programs. Working with scientists and other research assistants from around the world, Paz spent two weeks in the jungles of the Cusuco National Park and two weeks on the Honduran island of Utila. "It was an amazing month," said Paz. "I got to take part in some great experiences and meet some incredible scientists and research assistants who share the same passion for science that I do. It just made my love for science and for research that much greater." During her time in the Cusuco National Park, Paz took part in a jungle survival training course. "We left basecamp to go into the depths of the jungle for four days, to learn how to survive by cooking our own food, building our own fire, getting water and understanding how to handle the tropical rain forest terrain," she said. She also received lessons in neo-forest ecology. "We would have two-hour lectures along with practical experiences," Paz said. "For example, we would go to bed at 10 p.m. one night after a lecture on birds and how to identify bird calls. The next day, we would wake up at 3 a.m., hike to one of the trails and identify all the birds we could hear. Afterwards, we would have breakfast and a botanical lecture and at 10 a.m. we would go to one of the designated areas and measure diameters of trees, identify them and quantify them. Then we would have lunch and have a lecture on Herpetology and for the rest of the day we would help the 'Herp Team' spot, weigh, measure, and identify different reptiles and amphibians on the different trails." After being trained in the theory, practical application, and skills of neo-forest ecology, the research assistants were sent to various camps within the park where they assisted lead scientists in collecting specimens and data. "We were sent to Cantiles, the highest point in the entire park and the most difficult terrain," Paz said. "For a week we enjoyed sleeping in hammocks, showering in rivers, and sweating through different trails in a 'pick-your-adventure' experience. Personally, during my time at Cantiles and thanks to the preparation I received at U of O, I decided to venture with the Inverts Team, Habitat, the Herp Team and Small Mammals."
"AmandaJunior Amanda Paz had the opportunity to earn her PADI open water dive certification as part of her month-long research assistantship in Honduras with Operation Wallacea.
After the experience at Cusuco, Paz spent two weeks at Utila, where she became a PADI certified open water diver and took part in a reef ecology course in the waters of the Mesoamerican barrier reef system, the second-largest reef in the world. "The course consisted of a two-hour lecture, accompanied by a practical dive where we would apply what we learned at the lecture," Paz said. " For example, one day in the morning we would learn about the different types of algae at 7 a.m., and then at 10:30 we would go on a dive to identify them at the reefs. Then, at 1 p.m. we would have a lecture on types of coral, and at 3 p.m. we would have a dive where we would identify them.  As a diver, I experienced some of the most wonderful landscapes I have ever witnessed. I was able to learn all the different types of fish and identify them as they swam with me. I was able to swim with turtles, rays and barracudas." Paz said one memorable moment came during a dive outing when the boat's captain spotted some dolphins. "We chased them for about ten minutes, and when we found them, with none of our gear on except for the goggles, snorkels, and fins, we swam with wild dolphins in the middle of the ocean," she said. "We were in raging waves, strong winds, and nothing but the big blue sea, and the high-pitch dolphin calls filling our adventurous hearts. After having these wonderful creatures at arms-length and swimming with them for about half an hour, we returned with full hearts to the Utila Research Center. It was a remarkable experience." Paz had the opportunity to dive as far as 60-feet to the ocean floor, which, interestingly, was the exact height that she reached in the jungle treetops as part of her canopy access training at Cusuco. "The entire month was probably the best experience in my life as a young scientist in the field," Paz said. "Overall, the experience taught me not only about science and ecology, but it also helped me challenge myself physically by conquering the difficult jungle terrains, defeating my fear of heights by climbing trees in canopy training, and expanding my horizons by literally going above and beyond as a diver in Utila. I also got to interact and network with other scientists from around the world, which made it even more incredible."

Sparked by best job rankings and bright job growth projections, applications into dental schools are at an all-time high and competition for the few spots has never been tougher.

That's why University of the Ozarks senior Bristol Chilton remembers the exact time and day when he learned that he been accepted into his first choice---the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry.

"I received the phone call at 7:58 a.m. on December 1," said Chilton. "I was absolutely ecstatic; I could hardly speak. I am still in disbelief."

Chilton, a biology major from Midway, Ark., later learned he had also been accepted as an alternate at Oklahoma University School of Dentistry, one of the three dental schools he had applied for. It was an impressive acceptance rate for Chilton in one of the hottest professions around.

Dentistry was ranked the No. 1 job in the country by U.S. News & World Report in its 2015 rankings of the "100 Best Jobs."  In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 16 percent growth, or a need for 23,000 dentists, by the year 2022.

"Bristol

Senior Bristol Chilton has had the opportunity to experience the dentist profession firsthand by “shadowing” local dentists as part of his academic coursework at Ozarks.

According to the American Dental Education Association, there were 11,789 applications for just over 5,900 positions in the country's 65 dental schools in 2015.

Chilton credits his Ozarks education for helping him overcome those odds and taking that next step to fulfilling a childhood dream.

"Dentistry is a very competitive field to get into," he said. "With so many students competing for spots both here in the United States as well as internationally, it is more difficult than ever to get accepted into dental school. I think the education I've received at Ozarks is very telling. The knowledge that I have gained not only has given me confidence throughout the process, but it also gave the schools who interviewed me confidence in my cognitive abilities."

He first got interested in the profession as a 6-year-old during a much-dreaded visit to the dentist.

"I initially had negative experiences with dentists until my parents decided to switch clinics," Chilton said. "On my first visit, Dr. Nick Dollar joked with me about being a dentist, saying that I looked the part.  It turned out that I was actually fascinated with dental procedures and how integral oral health is to an individual's overall well-being. Coming into college, I had no doubt in my mind that dentistry was what I wanted to do."

In addition to his classes, Chilton's professional ambitions were fueled by "shadowing" dentists at the River Valley Primary Care Services branch in Ratcliff, Ark., and the Arkansas River Valley Dentistry in Clarksville.

"My shadowing experiences with Drs. (Edward) Vela and (J.R.) Cook reinforced my desire to be a dentist," he said. "Seeing positive patient-provider interactions and priceless reactions to treatments firsthand was both uplifting and fulfilling. My experiences at both clinics no doubt gave me added motivation to keep pursuing dentistry as a profession. My best piece of advice to those that wish to get accepted into dental school is to get a lot of shadowing experience. Shadowing is a great opportunity to learn about all the dental procedures that you would be performing as a general dentist, and you have the added benefit of being able to ask any questions that you might have about the profession. I feel that shadowing local dentists is what really solidified my decision to proceed down that career path."

Chilton said he received guidance and support from his professors as he went through the arduous task of taking the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and applying to dental schools.

"My advisors helped me immensely throughout the process, writing letters of recommendation for me as well as critiquing my personal statement and giving me invaluable interviewing experience."

Saying he was drawn to Ozarks because of its liberal arts emphasis, Chilton has taken full advantage of the diverse curriculum. He is on his way to earning minors in chemistry, psychology and history.

"While I am passionate about the biological sciences, my interests branch out much further," Chilton said. "University of the Ozarks nurtured my pursuit for knowledge and allowed me to gain extensive knowledge in chemistry, psychology, and history. I was introduced to each of these subjects early in my undergraduate career as I needed to complete general requirements for my major and I quickly developed interest in all three."

Chilton, who hopes to practice dentistry in rural Arkansas once he graduates from dental school, believes the Ozarks experience has benefitted him greatly as he prepares for professional school.

"I personally feel that the liberal arts education offered at Ozarks has made me a well-rounded and prepared student," he said. "The attention that the professors give to the students is something truly unique, and it's this quality that has allowed me to form professional relationships with my professors that I know will proceed beyond graduation. It is thanks to the comprehensive education that I've received at Ozarks that I can confidently say that I am prepared for dental school."