Alumni Board Adds Community Service Component

Alumni Board Adds Community Service Component

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something good has come out of those pesky parking tickets. Thanks to a new Food 4 Fines program, the University of the Ozarks’ Office of Public Safety on Friday donated a large barrel of canned goods to the Clarksville School District’s backpack program, which serves underprivileged families. The Food 4 Fines program was started earlier this semester and allows students, faculty and staff who receive parking tickets on campus to donate $10 worth of food to pay off their first parking ticket, which typically runs $50. “As you can imagine, this program has been quite popular,” said Larry Graham, director of public safety. “When people realize that they have the option of bringing in canned goods instead of paying a $50 fine, they’re usually pretty happy. Plus, they feel good about doing something that benefits the community and children.” University Chaplain Rev. Jeremy Wilhelmi and several students helped Graham box up the canned goods and deliver them to Pyron Elementary School, where they will be distributed through the school’s backpack program. Graham said the idea for the program came from U of O Wrestling Coach LeRoy Gardner, who had seen a similar program at another university. He said approximately 30 people have donated canned goods this semester in lieu of paying their parking fines. “We feel like the program has been a success and we plan to keep it going,” Graham said. “We feel like there are still deterrents to illegal parking, but that this program gives first offenders an option to turn something bad, like a parking ticket, into something positive, like helping people.” University officials said the Food 4 Fines program applies only to first-time offenders. The Arkansas Wildlife Federation (AWF) recognized University of the Ozarks for the conservation volunteerism of its faculty, staff and students during the organization’s 2018 Conservation Achievement Awards ceremony, held July 28 in White Hall, Ark. The AWF presented U of O representatives with a Special Conservation Award for the University’s almost decade-long assistance in the Bearcat Hollow Cooperative Habitat Project. The restoration project is a volunteer-based weekend gathering that helps preserve, restore and revitalize a section of the Ozarks National Forest to ensure ecosystem health for plant, wildlife and stream conditions. Those representing U of O at the awards ceremony were Dr. Kim Van Scoy, professor of environmental studies; Bendex Stevenson, assistant dean of students and director of student engagement; current student Erika Henderson and former student Hailie Tolich. University students, faculty and staff have been volunteering for the annual day of service — typically held in the fall — for the past nine years. The effort has been coordinated and organized by the Ozarks Outdoors organization in conjunction with the environmental studies program. “We’ve probably had 200 different students take part in the project over the last nine years,” said Stevenson, the former director of Ozarks Outdoors. “It’s been a great opportunity for our students to take part in experiential learning — taking what they’ve learning in the classroom about conservation and restoring natural habitats and getting a hands-on experience.” Ozarks is one of several universities in the state that take part in the project. Other organizations that are involved include, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Arkansas Forestry Commission and The Nature Conservancy. “This has also been a great networking opportunity for our students,” Stevenson said. “Many of the students who volunteer on this trip are environmental studies majors or other students who want a career in conservation, non-profits or the outdoors. This is a perfect opportunity for those students to start meeting the leaders and influencers in these organizations and agencies.” Also at the awards ceremony, U of O alumna Lauren Ray was recognized as the 2018 Conservation Educator of the Year for her “outstanding performance in conservation education.” A 2013 graduate of Ozarks, Ray is a park ranger for the Buffalo National Scenic River. Her creative and unique song parodies and videos has helped promote safety, conservation and the history of the Buffalo River and have received national recognition from such media outlets as OutsideOnline, and NowThis.

University of the Ozarks is helping to bring free books to preschool children in Johnson County.

The University is sponsoring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a program that provides preschool children a brand new, age-appropriate book per month from birth to the fifth birthday.

In addition to U of O sponsoring the Imagination Library's Johnson County program, the River Valley United Way is providing administrative support and generous donors in the local community are aiding with financial support.

"Providing children with quality books is a simple way to start them on the path to educational success," said U of O President Richard Dunsworth. "We hope this program will stimulate a life-long love for reading and give families additional opportunities to read together."

Once preschool children are registered in the program, they will start receiving free books in the mail. There are no income requirements and every child in the county under the age of 5 is eligible to register for the books.

The Dollywood Foundation is a 501c(3) non-profit foundation founded by Dolly Parton to support educational projects and improve the quality of life in Parton's native Sevier County, Tennessee. The mission of the foundation is to share the life and legacy of Parton as an inspiration for children to "Dream More...Learn More...Care More...and Be More."

The Imagination Library is a 60-volume home library for preschool children. It was created to stimulate children's imaginations and encourage reading within the family at an early age. A panel of child educators selects the books for the library each year, always beginning the series with a special copy of "The Little Engine That Could."

The experiences of thousands of families, as well as research in child development, affirm the benefits of early learning experiences for children. Research shows that activities such as reading regularly with children, beginning in infancy, can produce a significant growth in I.Q., which lasts a child's lifetime. Parents are the first and most important teachers their children will ever have. "I hope that every family in Johnson County will experience the joy and wonder of their children's imaginations as they learn about the world and it's many surprises," Parton said. "If we can help turn the dreams of a child into the promise of a bright future, then one of my biggest dreams will come true."

In December of 1999, Parton announced that she would extend the opportunity to communities to replicate The Imagination Library in their own area. While each community must financially support its own effort, the foundation provides technical assistance in setting up the program, assists with public relations and marketing materials, works with Parton on national/international promotional efforts, and convenes the growing network to inspire, share, and innovate. The foundation also manages the composition of the library and coordinates the ordering and mailing of the books to maximize cost effectiveness. Since the inception of the program, The Dollywood Foundation has mailed over 75 million books.

"By working with the Dollywood Foundation, we can implement this program in Johnson County for only $25 per child enrolled per year," said Dunsworth. "That's only $2.10 per month for the book and the mailing of the book directly to the child's home."

The program has also received support from the Clarksville Rotary Club, Mustard Seed and the Concerned Citizens of Johnson County organization.

Registration in Johnson County is currently underway for the program. If a child is registered by July 31, he or she will receive their first book in the mail in early September. Anyone interested in registering a child or in helping support the program is encouraged to contact the River Valley United Way
at 479-968-5089, or at P.O. Box 636, Russellville, AR 72811.


Preschoolers and their parents gathered in Robson Library for the announcement of the University's sponsorship of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library

University of the Ozarks Associate Professor of Physics Dr. Salomón Itzá has teamed with teachers from the Lamar (Ark.) School District to secure a space science grant that will benefit the school's first-graders.

Itzá and Lamar first-grade teachers Deanna Bates, Amy Hamlett and Brandy Freyaldenhoven received a NASA-Arkansas Space Grant Consortium (ASGC) grant to develop their project title, "A Journey through the Solar System." The Lamar first-graders will explore the stars, planets, sun and moon through hands-on manipulatives, posters, and books to gain a general knowledge of our galaxy. 


Dr. Salomón Itzá will work with teachers at Lamar on a project to teach first-graders about our solar system.

Itzá will assist the teachers with the use of telescopes and other astronomy equipment. The culmination of the project will be a stargazing night at the Lamar Elementary School, open to members of the community, on a night to be announced.

"I enjoy working with schools in our area and I felt like this might be a great opportunity for the school," Itzá said. "I met with three great teachers at Lamar Elementary School and asked if they would be willing to work on a grant. Without hesitation they got to work on it. We were very excited when we received news that the grant was approved."

Itzá also acknowledged Dr. Hudson, director of the Arkansas Space Grant, Ms. Schyler Cannatella, education and outreach coordinator, and the ASGC board, which is comprised of faculty members from colleges and universities in Arkansas.

The University of the Ozarks community is joining several local organizations to aid the victims of Sunday's tornadoes in central Arkansas.

The University's Student Life Office is spearheading the University's relief efforts, joining the City of Clarksville and Johnson County as well as the local Wal-Mart and The Journey Church.

Among the most immediate donations needed are toiletries such as shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine products, washcloths and other hygiene products. Organizers ask that the toiletries be dropped off in their original packaging. Bottled water is also needed.

Donations can be dropped off at the following locations:

  • University of the Ozarks campus: The Seay Student Center or the lobby of the Mabee Administration Building, 415 N. College Avenue
  • Wal-Mart of Clarksville, 1230 Market Street
  • The Johnson County Sheriff's Office, 301 Porter Industrial Road
  • The Journey Church, 625 S. Cline Road

For those who would like to aid the relief efforts with a monetary gift, you can do so by visiting the Red Cross website

The Johnson County Sheriff's Office recently donated $1,212 to the University of the Ozarks Women's (UOW) Christmas Angels project, which provides clothing and toys to needy children in Johnson County.


The donation came from money collected during the Johnson County Sheriff Office's annual Poker Run, held in June. Members of UOW who joined Sheriff Jimmy Dorney at the presentation include (seated, from left) Karla Wood, Heather Dickerson, Debbie Siebenmorgan, Karen Schulterman, Debbie Pieffer, (standing, from left) Connie Booty, Melody Johnson, Marian Askins, Vickie Alston, Wilma Harris, Dawn Dvoracek, Kimberly Maddox, Monica Frizzell, Ramona Cogan, and Carolyn Walker.

This is the 21st year UOW has sponsored the Christmas Angels project.

University of the Ozarks juniors Lakyn Robinson, an art education major from Oark, Ark., and Brittany Green, an art major from Malvern, Ark., recently served as judges for the annual NASA Space Destination Art Competition at Waldron Middle School in Waldron, Ark.

Robinson and Green were responsible for judging the poster presentation competition during the event, which featured presentations from students in grades 5 through 12.  U of O Associate Professor of Art Tammy Harrington also served as a judge.

As part of the presentations, Waldron's students were challenged to write an essay and create a piece of artwork about an important aeronautic/space person or event. By the end of the competition, Robinson, Green and Harrington had judged more than 80 entries from Waldron's young artists.


University of the Ozarks art students Lakyn Robinson (left) and Brittany Green look over entries in the NASA Space Destination Art Competition, held in Waldron, Ark., in late April. The two juniors served as judges in the annual competition.

In conjunction with the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, recent University of the Ozarks art graduates Rikki Runyan and Carlos Ramirez began painting murals on facades of downtown buildings as a way to beautify the downtown area and connect Ozarks with the Clarksville community.

Runyan, a McGehee, Ark., native who graduated on May 11 with a degree in art and English, is spear-heading the efforts to display a bit of Ozarks creativity in downtown Clarksville.

According to Runyan, the idea originated during one of the first meetings of the newly-formed Community Advisory Board, a group of Ozarks students working with Clarksville Chamber CEO Travis Stephens to find ways for Ozarks and Clarksville to become more integrated.

"At one of the first Community Advisory Board meetings, I suggested art students both from Ozarks and Clarksville High School paint murals along the concrete wall of the jogging trail where it intersects Main Street," Runyan said. "Unbeknownst to me, Travis was simultaneously putting together a committee to pursue decorating the downtown area with murals. I, along with several students from Ozarks' art department, was invited to help out in design."

Runyan and Ramirez, also a 2013 art major graduate, completed the first of the downtown murals on the storefront of the Fashion Boutique just recently. Runyan was pleased to see her ideas coming to life.

"It's been a wonderful experience observing this project evolve from scattered ideas shared around a conference table into an organized list of designs and the beginnings of murals," she said.

Runyan will remain in Clarksville this summer and plans to be involved with as many murals as possible.

"I hope to remain involved in the process of design and execution for my remaining time here in Clarksville. Though my life plans will most likely carry me away from Clarksville at some point, I have a deep sense of connection to this place," Runyan said. "I am grateful for everything that both the town and the university have done to shape my development as a person, and I hope to contribute to both Ozarks and Clarksville in any way I can."


Art students from University of the Ozarks are involved in a project to decorate many of the buildings in downtown Clarksville with murals.

On Friday, March 29, an Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Ark., releasing thousands of barrels of Canadian Wabasca heavy crude oil into neighboring areas. Almost two dozen homes were evacuated following the spill, but the wild residents of the area had little chance to escape.

Within hours, the first birds and animals caught in the spill were being brought to the HAWK Center north of London, to be cleaned of the sticky toxic substance.

Executive Director of the HAWK Center, Lynne Slater, is an adjunct instructor at Ozarks and has a close relationship with Ozarks' Planet Club. She sent out the call for volunteers and Lauren Ray, a senior environmental studies major from Siloam Springs, Ark, and Planet Club president, immediately began arranging a convoy to the center.

"As soon as we learned the HAWK Center needed volunteers, Heather Hall and I jumped on the opportunity to get a group of students together to go over and help," Ray explained.

The volunteers drove down on Monday afternoon, intending to help clean the oil from the animals.  However, their duties at the HAWK Center turned out to be different than they anticipated.

"We originally expected to be washing and working directly with the oiled birds," Ray said. "but we found out that new restrictions had been implemented Monday morning regarding who was allowed to handle oiled wildlife. Only HAZMAT-endorsed individuals were allowed to handle the birds, so our role when we got to HAWK Center was quite different than we had intended."

Even though they weren't directly handling the animals, Ray said the operational support they were able to provide helped those who were focus their efforts on the rescue. "We dropped off supplies and monetary donations gathered on campus, photographed and filmed Lynne and her crew as they cleaned the oiled birds, interviewed the workers and learned more about the oil spill and its impact on local wildlife. We passed along those updates to people on campus and in the community," she said.


U of O students (from left) Lauren Ray, Andrea Avalos, and Samantha Going were among the volunteers from Ozarks who assisted the HAWK Center with their efforts to rescue wildlife caught in the recent oil spill in Mayflower.

As an environmental studies major, Ray was particularly impacted by the scenes at the HAWK Center and moved by their dedication to helping each animal.

"Seeing these birds plastered in thick tar sands oil and also the effort that it takes to clean it off, made me realize how significant the impact of this oil spill is.  It is going to take a lot of time, money, and manpower to clean up Mayflower, to rehabilitate affected wildlife, and to get evacuated families back into their homes," Ray said.

Ray encouraged everyone to learn more about the work of the HAWK Center, and to consider making a donation in support of their work. She said Slater will be on campus during the university's upcoming Earth Week, giving presentations on Saturday, April 13, at the Spring Greening Festival and again on Tuesday, April 16, in Baldor Auditorium.

"We'd like to encourage anybody who attends these presentations to bring some sort of donation for the HAWK Center.  They do wonderful work, and as a non-profit organization, they rely completely on volunteers and donations," she explained.

According to Slater, Wildlife Response Services had officially taken over care of all of the oiled animals as of Tuesday. "All oiled wild animals from the Mayflower spill should NOW be reported to 1-800-876-9291," she posted on the center's facebook page.

For more photographs from the rescue efforts or to learn more about the HAWK Center, visit their facebook page,