Key returns to classroomKey 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.” With colorful macaws flying in formation overhead, the growls of howler monkeys echoing through the jungle and surrounded by walking palms — Tolkienesque trees that get its name from its tall, spiny root system that looks like multiple legs — Cherokee Gott found herself in disbelief as she stood in the rainforest of the Bolivian Amazon. “I kept thinking over and over, ‘I can’t believe I’m here right now,’” said Gott. “I’m from a small town in Oklahoma and I had never even been on a plane before, much less travelled outside of the United States. This was all so new and exciting to me.” Gott was one of 15 University of the Ozarks students and faculty members who took part in a 15-day study abroad trip to Bolivia and Peru in January. The trip was the capstone of a multidisciplinary Fall 2017 Semester class — Study Abroad: Bolivia and Peru — that examined the culture, language, history and agriculture of the region. The upper-level class was taught by Dr. William Clary, professor of Spanish, and Dr. Kim Van Scoy, professor of environmental studies and sustainable agriculture. The highlights of the trip were visits to the Madidi National Park in the Bolivian Amazon, the highlands of the Andes Mountains and the World Heritage site of Machu Picchu. Like Gott, a sophomore environmental studies major from Claremore, Okla., it was the first significant trip abroad for several of the students on the trip. “When the plane took off from Miami, that is when it really hit me that I was doing what I had always dreamed of doing since I was a kid; I was travelling the world,” Gott said. “The whole trip, from the time we landed in La Paz, Bolivia, to flying over the Andes Mountains, hiking in the Amazon and standing on top of one of the Seven Wonders of the World at Machu Picchu, was an amazing adventure. It was extremely difficult to convey my thoughts in my journal because I could not come up with the words to explain the uniqueness and beauty of the land, people and experiences.” Clary, who has organized and led numerous study abroad trips to Central and South America, said students learn on multiple levels during a trip like this. “Certainly exposure to societies and cultures with complex economic challenges gives them needed perspective on how most of the world lives,” Clary said. “Student growth also occurs as they begin to understand that traveling like this is feasible, that one can do these kinds of trips without the guiding hand of a travel agency. Finally, by experiencing Bolivian and Peruvian culture up close in different contexts, students acquire both knowledge and deeper understanding of intercultural differences and historical traditions outside the United States.” Van Scoy added that a trip abroad is the ideal “cure for racism and prejudice.” “I think the students who travel to Latin American countries learn first-hand how generous and gracious our neighbors to the south are,” Van Scoy said. “In Bolivia, we were shown tremendous generosity from the second poorest country in the hemisphere. Lessons like that stick with students.” Bordering Peru, Madidi National Park encompasses an area of 1.9 million hectares of South American rainforests, glaciers and Andean peaks. With more than 1,000 bird species, 12,000 plant species and 2,000 vertebrates, it is considered one of the most biodiverse spots on Earth. The Ozarks contingent spent four days and three nights staying at an indigenous eco camp deep in the Madidi rainforest—a six-hour boat ride from the nearest city. Local guides led the group on several educational treks through the jungle. “To experience life in the jungle and to see and learn about all of the different plants and animals was an experience I will never forget,” said Deborah Sebagisha, a sophomore chemistry major from Rwanda. “It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” One of the highlights of Madidi was an opportunity to visit a remote, off-the-grid indigenous village in the Amazon rainforest, the Quechua-Tacana community of San Jose de Uchupiamonas. The group toured the village and was invited to have lunch with a local family. “I learned that the happiest people in the world are the ones that seem to not have a lot. The perfect example of this would be the members of the indigenous village,” Gott said. “Our guides were amazing and they always seemed to be smiling and joyful. When we visited the village, the people were extremely friendly and welcoming.” Sebagisha agreed that the visit to San Jose was impactful. “The people of the village didn’t have a lot, but they wanted to share the little that they had,” she said. “I would describe them as a very humble and charitable community. I learned from that community about sharing and caring with no limits and discrimination.” A visit to the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu, high in the Andes Mountains, was another high point of the trip. “Machu Picchu has always been a place that I have wanted to visit since high school and never in a million years did I imagine that I would visit as a college student,” said Rebeca Silva, a junior Spanish major from Rockwall, Texas. “To learn about it in class and then to actually get to see it in person was amazing.” Silva said the entire trip “broadened my horizon on the way I view life and the world.” “Every place we traveled to changed me in a different way and opened my eyes,” Silva said. “From experiencing a different way of life and culture, I grew to be more appreciative of the things that I feel are taken for granted in America. Something as simple as a free public restroom, with toilet seats, is something that I now feel grateful to have. This trip was very much a humbling experience for me and I feel blessed with all the lessons, memories and experiences that I have taken and made from it.” The trip was not without its difficulties. Nauseating altitude sickness, painful insect bites, uncomfortable overnight bus trips, frustrating visa issues at the border and pesky 3 a.m. wakeup calls were a few of the minor inconveniences the group faced. There was even plane mechanical problems that delayed the return home two days. “This was a very challenging trip and the students were often outside of their comfort zone,” said Van Scoy. “The altitude was challenging and several were impacted. Through it all, they remained in good spirits and were enthusiastic about their opportunities. I don’t think there was a single person who participated on this trip that didn’t grow personally.” For Hailey Godfrey, a junior health science major from Salem, Ark., her first trip abroad was eye-opening. “This trip helped me realize all of the steps that are involved in traveling abroad,” she said. “It is not an easy process. The most important lesson I learned was to be patient. Not everything on an abroad trip is going to go perfect. We had a couple of hang ups, but it helped me understand how to be patient when things were not in our control. Even with the difficulties, it was an incredible experience.” Most of the students received assistance to pay for the trip through the King Endowment for International Study, a University fund established by the estate of Virginia L. King to help Ozarks students who want to study abroad. “To see first-hand how gracious people are and to experience the unique sights, sounds and smells of a foreign country is just incredible,” said Kole Smith, a senior biology major from Canehill, Ark. “This trip has given me the confidence and desire to travel abroad more and to see different parts of the world and I’m thankful that the King Endowment gave me this opportunity.” For Gott, her first trip abroad has motivated her to begin plans to spend a semester during her junior year studying abroad in Chile. “I knew I needed to experience travelling with a group first before I started thinking about going somewhere on my own,” Gott said. “Whoever says that travel is over-rated needs to open their minds and broaden their horizons. The world is so much bigger than the United States and it is definitely worth seeing. There is so much to learn about and so many amazing people and places to see. I cannot wait for my next adventure.” "For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again." Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay
Frances Adams just might be the poster child for University of the Ozarks' new emphasis on encouraging its students to travel abroad and experience new cultures. Adams, a senior English and environmental studies major from Plano, Texas, had a whirlwind summer to remember in 2016, visiting eight national parks in the U.S., serving an enriching summer internship in Ireland, soaking up the French culture in a brief sojourn in Paris and participating in an inspirational week-long leadership conference in Vietnam. "It was really an incredible and unforgettable summer," said Adams. "My mom was not too happy with me because I was a home a total of about a week all summer, but it was truly exhilarating to travel and experience so much in three months." Adams had done very little traveling in her life and had never been outside the U.S. before this past summer. All of that changed in the course of about 64 days this summer when she literally circled the globe. "I'm just in awe when I think back about eating the best breakfast burrito I've ever had and watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, surfing in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland, and biking through an ancient village in Vietnam and saying 'Xin chao' to the local children," Adams said. "It almost feels surreal at times, but I know this summer has changed me forever." Adams' summer began with a two-week tour of several of the nation's iconic landmarks as part of the National Parks class, taught by Dr. Jesse Weiss, associate professor of sociology and environmental studies, and Bendex Stevenson, director of Ozarks Outdoors. Then it was off to Ireland where she spent 10 weeks developing her outdoor and leadership skills through an internship with Donegal Adventure Center in Bundoran, Ireland. Located in the northern part of Ireland, Bundoran is a renowned surfing area that was listed by National Geographic in 2012 as one of the World's Top 20 Surf Towns. As part of the adventure center staff, Adams helped teach children and adults about surfing, rock climbing, cliff jumping, and team-building. "Donegal is full of green, rolling hills, and free dog friends to walk you to work," Adams said. "In the morning it is rainy, but the misty kind of rain that just barely gets you damp. By the afternoon, if the weather was feeling like it, the sun would come out and really show how beautiful Ireland is. I lived just down the road from the very chilly Atlantic Ocean and got the pleasure to learn how to surf and how to teach kids how to surf as well." Adams said the most valuable experience she had in Ireland was interacting with her co-workers, most of whom came from throughout Europe. "I mostly lived in a hostel with three Spaniards, one Latvian, and one feisty Scottish," Adams said. "It was an incredible experience. We became an immediate family and they will always hold a special place in my heart." Following her internship, Adams also had the opportunity to spend several days touring Paris with fellow Ozarks classmate and Parisian Marie Lebois. In early August, Adams joined a group of U of O students who attended the 7th annual University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Hanoi, Vietnam. The conference brought together more than 700 emerging world leaders from 69 countries for a leadership development training program. The program was designed for young persons who are committed to making the world a better place for the human race. "The conference in Vietnam both broke and inspired my heart simultaneously," Adams said. "Asia is like nothing I have ever experienced before in my life and made a lasting impression on me." Adams said her four primary "take-aways" from the Vietnam conference were, Noodles, Shandra Woworuntu, If not you then who, and motorbikes. "We got to help a local farmer in an ancient village in Vietnam and also listen to a variety of different speakers share there inspirational and sometimes heartbreaking stories of their humanitarian work," Adams said. "We heard a story about an infant named Noodles who had his eyes taken and sold. We also heard the story of Shandra Woworuntu, who found value after being sold as a sex slave, not once but twice. Those stories really impacted me. The inspirational motto, 'If not you then who,' kicks excuses aside and makes humanitarian affairs a tangible goal for all of us. And, the last thing was the sheer amount of motorbikes in Hanoi alone. It was terrifying." Adams said her summer experience was yet another chapter in what she describes as her "amazing growth," since enrolling at Ozarks. "For starters, Ozarks has broadened my mind in ways I could never have imagined," she said. "I have grown and matured so much in my time here. I have been encouraged by countless professors who I consider part of my family, much to my mom's amusement. Professors such as Dr. Brian Hardman, Dr. Bill Eakin, Dr. Sharon Gorman, and Dr. Kim Van Scoy have taught me so many lessons on every subject imaginable. But the one common theme is to look at life with new eyes."
Nena Evans spent her summer not only developing her outdoor and leadership skills, but also hanging ten at one of the best surfing spots in all of Europe. The senior environmental studies major from Bergman, Ark., spent 10 weeks during the summer of 2015 interning as a staff member at the Donegal Adventure Center in Bundoran, Ireland. Located in the northern part of Ireland, Bundoran is a renowned surfing area that was listed by National Geographic in 2012 as one of the World's Top 20 Surf Towns. In her position with Donegal Adventure Center, Evans assisted in leadership and recreational activities for clients ranging from 7-years-old to adults. The activities included high and low ropes courses, a rock wall, an adventure challenge course, body boarding and group team-building games. "There were times when I was in charge of large groups of children, so it definitely helped me develop my leadership and teaching skills," said Evans. "I learned a lot about working with children and walking that fine line between being an authority figure and also being a friend." One of the most fulfilling aspects of her work was watching the children gain confidence while at the adventure center. "It was great to work with children and to see them develop and see their confidence grow as they went through the courses," Evans said. "On the high ropes course, it was about 20 feet high and you had to reach out and grab a trapeze bar, which isn't an easy thing to do even for adults. We had one kid who couldn't do it the first couple of times but finally did it the third time and it was such a big accomplishment for him. It was quite satisfying to help children like that grow and do things they didn't think they could." Evans said her experience as a student worker with the University's Ozarks Outdoors program helped prepare her for the internship. "I was familiar with a lot of the activities, like rock climbing and belaying, and was comfortable around the equipment," Evans said. "That definitely made for a smoother transition." Evans learned about the internship opportunity from former Ozarks Outdoors Director Jamie Hedges and Provost Dr. Travis Feezell, who traveled to Ireland last year for an outdoors conference. She secured funding from the University's Academic Enrichment Fund to help pay for her expenses. "They helped arrange this opportunity and I'm so thankful to them and to the University," Evans said. "I never would have thought that coming from a small town like Bergman, Arkansas, I would have these types of experiences while in college."
Senior Nena Evans served a summer internship in Bundoran, Ireland, one of the top surfing areas in Europe.Despite the fact that the cool, damp Irish weather allowed her to wear shorts on only three days of her entire summer internship, Evans donned a wetsuit and braved the elements to hone her surfing skills. The nearby beach was about a 30-minute walk. "Having the opportunity to surf at one of the best surfing beaches in Europe was an extra bonus," Evans said. "I ended up surfing three to four times a week. I had only tried surfing one time before then, so I had a lot to learn, but I really enjoyed it. I actually got pretty good on the foam board." Evans' first trip to Europe culminated with a week-long visit to Italy before returning to the States. "The whole experience was an amazing learning and growing experience for me," Evans said. "Ireland has always been number one on my travel list and to get to spend the summer there and in Italy was an incredible blessing." Evans was named the state's 2014 Student Conservationist of the Year by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation for her efforts with conservation on the Ozarks campus. After graduation, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in sustainable agriculture. But first she wants to take a year off, perhaps working for an organization like the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). "I have a passion for sustainable agriculture and for promoting local foods and I want to travel and get some real-world experience working with organic farms in other parts of the country and world," Evans said. "I believe that type of experience will be beneficial when I start working on my master's degree." A group of students have turned a class project into an environmental-friendly policy change on campus. Five students in Dr. Kim Van Scoy's environmental science class last semester took on as a group project an effort to reduce the use of Styrofoam in the University's cafeteria. Because of their actions, the cafeteria is now using reusable eco-friendly to-go boxes called Eco-trays instead of Styrofoam boxes. The students who worked on the project were Wesley Needham, Skyla Tinkle, Devante Withers, Lynnette Clarke and 2015 graduate JoJo Compton. The group not only got an "A" on the project, they changed a long-standing policy of using Styrofoam to-go boxes in the cafeteria. There are numerous environmental health concerns associated with Styrofoam, including being non-biodegradable and containing human carcinogens.
U of O students (from left) Lynnette Clarke, Skyla Tinkle, Devante Withers and Wesley Needham were part of an environmental science class project that led to the University cafeteria changing from Styrofoam to-go boxes to Eco-trays."It started out as just another dreaded group project," said Tinkle, a sophomore biology major from North Little Rock. "However, the more research we put into the topic, the more our opinions of this particular environmental issue grew." Stephen Kerr, ARAMARK food services director, said the cafeteria was going through about 800 Styrofoam boxes a week last year. "I was excited when the students approached me about this idea because we want to be as eco-friendly as possible," Kerr said. "It was something that needed to be driven by the students and have as much student buy-in as possible, and this group of students took on that challenge." Withers, a business major from Little Rock, said he was surprised when he started doing the research on the effects of Styrofoam and the amount of the product the cafeteria was using. "It really was a wake-up call for me," Withers said. "We knew there had to be better alternatives than the current one." Clarke, who worked in the cafeteria last spring, was amazed how quickly the idea picked up steam last semester. "I knew from working in the cafeteria that Mr. Kerr was very pro-active in listening to students and in trying to be eco-friendly," said Clarke, an environmental studies major from Leander, Texas. "From the very beginning everyone seemed to be on board with the idea and the word got around pretty quickly. Even the president of the university had heard about it before too long." The new Eco-trays are reusable, break resistant, washable and can last up to four years. There were, however, a couple of potential roadblocks to making the change: Working out the logistics of using and washing the Eco-trays and the fact that students were going to have to pay a one-time deposit of $5 for the Eco-trays. The $5 is reimbursed to the students at the end of the academic year. "Mr. Kerr really helped us work out the logistics of students bringing the Eco-trays back to get them washed and getting a ticket," said Needham, a sophomore environmental studies and political science major from Earle, Ark. "We also did a survey and asked students if they minded paying $5 and almost everyone was OK with it. That was a little surprising to us, but I think it shows the commitment to sustainability on this campus." Tinkle said that sustainability and the environment should be important to everyone. "These topics should be every human's obligation to preserve the Earth on which we live and rely upon," she said. "The ecological footprint of the majority of people exceeds what the Earth can replenish in sufficient time as it is currently. Small and large steps such as the ones made to reduce Styrofoam waste help this global cause, and we must remain focused on respecting our home on Earth." Needham said the University's efforts in sustainability and the environment was a big reason he chose to attend Ozarks. "One of the big things I notice now is that when you walk by trash cans on campus they aren't overflowing with Styrofoam boxes," said Needham. "I'm proud that we were able to help make that change. It is very important to me that we be activists for sustainability which was one of many reasons I decided to attend University of the Ozarks. The passion our community has for the environment is great. The campus has water-bottle friendly water fountains and is continually looking to grow and improve consciously about the environment." The rest of the state of Arkansas is quickly learning what the Ozarks community has known for some time: Nena Evans is passionate about conservation and the environment.
Nena Evans, a junior environmental studies major, was recently named the 2014 Student Conservationist of the Year by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation.Evans, a junior environmental studies major from Bergman, Ark., was recently named the 2014 Student Conservationist of the Year by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation. Evans was presented the award during the organization's annual Conservation Achievement Awards Banquet, held Aug. 23, in Bryant, Ark. Also at the awards banquet, U of O international studies office manager Lynne Slater was named the 2014 Rex Hancock Wildlife Conservationist of the Year for her work with the HAWK Center in Russellville. Evans was nominated for the student award by alumna Lauren Ray, a 2013 graduate who won the same state-wide award from the AWF last summer. "Lauren told me in May that she was nominating me, but I really didn't think much about it," Evans said. "When I found out that I had won, I was very surprised and deeply honored. Here I was just completing my sophomore year and am competing against college students from throughout the state for the award. I didn't really think I had a chance, so when I heard I had won I was shocked. It was quite an honor and very humbling." In presenting the honor, the AWF said, "Despite just turning 20 and with only two years of college under her belt, Nena is an outstanding young woman with the virtues of a seasoned leader." The organization cited Evans' involvement with the University's Ozarks Outdoors program and as president The Planet Club, where last year she led volunteer efforts in habitat restoration, environmental clean-ups, tree planting, removing evasive species and promoting recycling and conservation awareness. "Soon after she arrived at University of the Ozarks as a freshman, people began to notice that Nena was a natural leader," the awards program stated. "She tirelessly steered The Planet Club toward achievement after achievement and event after event." Evans has a particular interest in sustainable agriculture, which led her to a six-week internship this summer at an organic farm in Vina, Calif., about 90 minutes north of Sacramento. The 15-acre farm, named Farmelot, grows organic produce ---mainly lettuce and tomatoes but also bell peppers, onions, kale, garlic and cucumbers --- to sell to local farmer's markets. "I've always had an interest in sustainability and in sustainable agriculture, so I went on-line and found an internship in that field," Evans said. "I realize that it's going to be up to our generation to figure out how we are going to feed a growing world population and within the context of all the climate changes that are happening. I think the key is locally produced, sustainable agriculture. My family always had a garden as I was growing up and we tried to be as organic as possible, but during my internship I learned a lot about organic gardens on a larger scale. I learned about crop rotation and the irrigation controversy in California. I learned that organic farming can be a lot of work, but that it's definitely worth it. You get better quality and you get better yield." Evans has stepped down as president of The Planet Club but she is not slowing down her efforts in conservation. As a program coordinator for Ozarks Outdoors, she has several major projects to focus on, including improving the University's nature preserve and helping create the college's first campus garden. "We've got a lot of good ideas for the nature preserve as well as the campus garden and I'm excited about being a part of that work," said Evans, who hopes to secure an environmental studies abroad internship next summer. "I don't see myself slowing down at all."