Rebecca McCarron just may be the ideal poster student for the University of the Ozarks’ LENS program.
The senior from Covington, La., is graduating on Saturday with Magna Cum Laude honors with a major in health science and minors in English and business administration. The unique combination of disciplines is a trademark of LENS, which stands for Learning Environment for New Synthesis. LENS was implemented at Ozarks in 2016 as a new academic model to provide students a more customized and diverse educational experience. It allows students to choose a major and two minors, all from different academic divisions.
McCarron, who plans to pursue a career in occupational therapy, said her particular areas of study fit perfectly within both her personal interests and career ambitions.
“I originally chose health science as a major and business administration as a minor in order to be an occupational therapist who could run her own practice,” McCarron said. “English came into the picture because literature is a hobby of mine. Over the course of my years here, I realized my major taught me the science, but my minors taught me how to communicate more effectively with others and to be able to analyze and assess situationally. I believe they fit together nicely because, like the LENS program was intended, I am able to pull knowledge and information from any of the areas to have different perspectives for any given situation. I think that will be beneficial in a career that is always evolving. I appreciate that in my LENS arsenal I am able access the scientific, the hard line of rationale and the creative.”
A member of the women’s soccer team for four years, McCarron earned all-conference honorable mention honors as a freshman before a string of knee injuries kept her off the field and in the training room for most of the next three seasons. That experience of rehabbing and recovering was the impetus for her career choice and is something she believes will make her a better occupational therapist.
“As I was going through my clinical experiences, I definitely found myself relating to patients that I observed, even more than I thought I would,” McCarron said. “I hope to have a career in the pediatric occupational therapy field, and I chose this path because I wanted to help individuals, especially the youth, find a independence within themselves that they may have thought wasn’t possible because of a disability or illness. Believing in yourself and working to achieve your goals is an amazing feat. I want to be able to help others accomplish those feats.”
McCarron said the injury experience also helped put things in proper perspective.
“I’ve just learned to appreciate every second of everything I get the opportunity to participate in,” she said. “I used to have a mindset that I ‘had’ to do this or that but now my mindset has changed to ‘I have the chance to’ or ‘I am able to.’ You never realize the things you take for granted until you lose the ability to do them all together. I also learned that you can still be a part of something without being the biggest contributor. I like to consider myself the glue to the team these past few years because I was able to bring everyone back together for one purpose and that was to be grateful for the opportunity to play collegiate soccer.”
Serving as a student ambassador and an Ozarks Experience mentor, McCarron was one of the University’s biggest cheerleaders and advocates, especially when it came to helping recruit prospective students and showing them around campus. She was reminded of that recently when a freshman, whom she escorted around campus on a tour as a prospective student, stopped her to talk.
“She remembered me giving her a tour last year and she came up to me and thanked me,” McCarron said. “She told me that she came to Ozarks because she fell in love with the stories that I had shared during the tour about the professors and all the experiences I had. She said she wanted to have experiences and stories like that too and then she told me that she had already had those experiences during her first semester. That’s what is great about Ozarks; the connections and memories you create here. And those connections and memories can begin immediately. It will be hard leaving behind the memories and people that I have grown to appreciate having around me because they represent what Ozarks is all about.”
McCarron said that when she walks across the stage on Saturday to receive her diploma, it will be the relationships she’s developed at Ozarks that she will be most thankful for.
“I will forever remember the relationships I have made here,” she said. “I am so thankful for the professors, coaches, teammates and friends that have pushed me to be better than I originally was. I will never be able to show how much appreciation I have towards all of them for helping me strive toward my goals.”
And, as if right on cue, the future occupational therapist provided another strong testament to the LENS program by quoting a symbolic line from the novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a book she had recently read in a class led by English Professor Dr. Amy Oatis.
“As I told Dr. Oatis, I intend to carry the fire into whatever comes next for me, and I am able to thank Ozarks for that,” McCarron said. “Ozarks will always have a place in my heart as home, and one day I hope to return the favor to the place that helped me start on the path towards achieving my goals.”West Virginia native Chris Skinner will join the University of the Ozarks faculty as an assistant professor of health science, beginning the Fall 2019 Semester. Skinner, who is expected to complete his Ph.D. in nutrition from West Virginia University (WVU) in May, is a native of Buckhannon, West Virginia. He earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from West Virginia Wesleyan College and a master’s degree in exercise physiology from WVU. He is wrapping up a doctorate in human nutrition from the WVU Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences. His Ph.D. work has focused on repurposing apple pomace, a waste byproduct from apple processing, as a novel aid for pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Skinner said he is passionate about teaching courses in the health sciences, involving students in the research process and helping students achieve their goals. “I completed my undergraduate education at a small liberal arts college focused on providing students with an excellent education through committed, enthusiastic and intelligent faculty,” he said. “This undergraduate experience instilled in me a deep interest in teaching as my professors strengthened my already existent life-long love of learning. I continued my education at a large research institution and there I gained crucial skills in scientific practices, practical education, laboratory methodology and mentorship approaches. “This combination of these experiences culminated in my teaching philosophy: To foster a comfortable learning environment by providing multiple teaching styles and learning methods, with a focus on completely understanding and applying material.” Skinner has obtained a graduate certificate in university teaching during his doctoral studies. He has also completed more than 200 hours of community service during the course of his doctoral studies, including with the WVU Arboretum, the Monongalia County Recycling Program and the Morgantown Marathon. Outside of work, Skinner said he enjoys all things outdoors, attending concerts, playing sports and music, and staying active. 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 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.” Despite the rigors of juggling academics and athletics, University of the Ozarks sophomore Sydney Key is always going to find time to lend a helping hand. The health science major and softball player from Lamar, Ark., recently returned from her third mission trip to Guatemala with the Journey Church in Clarksville. It has become an annual tradition for Key, who started going on mission trips to the country in 2015. “One thing that initially made me want to go was that when my mom was a kid, her family were missionaries down there,” Key said. “I quickly discovered that I just really enjoyed serving and helping others. I found that it made me feel great to get involved.” The mission trips that Key has taken part in have provided medical services, assisted in construction projects and given out food bags of rice, beans and corn. “We helped build a wall, with only hand tools, at an orphanage to help with getting everything ready for the new boys home they are trying to open,” Key said. “With the medical team, we went into communities and set up clinics so they could see doctors and get treated for illnesses. We would also make food bags and give to the people who need food in those areas.” Ozarks Softball Coach Roland Rodriguez had Key talk to his team when she returned from her latest mission trip. “I wanted our players to hear about her experience and for them to see the joy she gets out of helping others,” Rodriguez said. “Sydney is the type of person who sees the world with her eyes wide open, always looking for what she can do to help people. And, she doesn’t do it for the accolades or recognition. She genuinely enjoys it.” Key, who plans to pursue a career in athletic training, also serves as an orientation leader on campus, a role that fits her personality nicely. “I first got interested in Ozarks because of softball, but I quickly fell in love with the school and the faculty; It’s just feels like a big family that’s super welcoming to everyone,” Key said. “As an orientation leader, I get to welcome prospective students to campus and convey those same type of feelings I got when I first visited campus.” Having played softball since she was 4, Key said her coaches and professors help her juggle the many requirements of being a student-athlete. “I love being a part of a team where we all have the same drive to get better and help the program succeed,” Key said. “I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult to combine academics and athletics in college, but my professors work very well with athletes and are understanding if you need a little extra help with an assignment. They’re always going to help you if you need it.” Rodriguez calls Key the “model” student-athlete. “She’s so giving, caring and unselfish — ideal traits that you want in a young person,” he said. “Sydney is the type of person you’d want representing your softball team, your University and your community.” Though just a few weeks old, 2016 has already proven to be a banner year for University of the Ozarks senior Grady Finley toward his goal of becoming an athletic trainer. Since January, Finley has served a nine-day athletic training internship in Panama and has also learned he had been accepted into the master's degree program in athletic training at the University of Arkansas. The senior health science major from Sheridan, Ark., participated in the internship at the Cescal Sports Performance Foundation in Panama City, Panama, from Jan. 7-16. Cescal is a baseball training facility owned and managed by 1989 alumnus Tom Justice, a former baseball player at Ozarks.
When Jessica Milloway walks across the stage on May 16 to receive her diploma as part of the University of the Ozarks' Class of 2015, she will have some very proud family members in attendance.
Jessica Milloway will graduate with a major in health science and plans to pursue a graduate degree in occupational therapy.
The health science major from Knoxville, Ark., will be the first in her family to obtain a college degree, something that has her family members beaming with joy.
"I know I'm going to be proud and happy, but probably not near as proud and happy as my parents will be," said Milloway. "I know this is something they've wanted and worked toward for a long time, so it's an exciting time for all of us."
With a younger sister, Milloway also knows that being a first generation college graduate can be an influential accomplishment.
"I've talked to my sister about going to college and working hard in school in order to have that same opportunity," Milloway said. "I hope that she sees through me that it can be done."
Thanks to a strong work ethic and financial aid such as the University's Commitment to Excellence and Johnson County scholarships and the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship, Milloway will graduate with no college debt.
"I've had to work a lot of hours and juggle work with school," she said. "It definitely hasn't been easy, but it'll be so much worth it when I get that diploma. Having to work as much as I have, I definitely appreciate it more. I take a lot of pride in what I've been able to accomplish."
Despite working most of her way through school, Milloway will graduate with Magna Cum Laude honors.
"I've always been a pretty good student but I think Ozarks helped bring out that next level in me," she said. "I decided to come to a small school like Ozarks because of its strong academic reputation and I knew it would challenge me and prepare me. I believe it's definitely done that."
Milloway, who is engaged to Ozarks classmate Daniel Cook for a November wedding, plans to pursue a graduate degree in occupational therapy following graduation. She hopes one day to work with children, and is currently "shadowing" a pediatrics center in Russellville as part of her final semester course work.
"I've always enjoyed working with children, so it seemed like a natural fit for me," Milloway said. "I want to help children that might have injuries or developmental disabilities recover and improve their abilities. That would be a very rewarding career."
The University of the Ozarks' health science/physical education majors organization will present the first annual Healthy Ozarks Health Fair on campus on Tuesday, March 3.
The event, which is open to the entire campus community, will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Rogers Conference Center.
Several Johnson County health partners will be present as well representatives from the University of Arkansas for Medical Services (UAMS). Among the vendors who are expected to take part in the health fair include, Arkansas Children's Hospital, the Blue and You Foundation, Farm Bureau, Conway Regional Health Center, Johnson County Regional Medical Center, Johnson County Parks and Recreation, Little Angels Therapy, Massage SPA and the Lamar School Wellness Center.
There will be various health tests and diagnostic screenings available, as well wellness information from the participating vendors. Door prizes will also be awarded, beginning at 1 p.m.
According to the event's organizers, the goal of the health fair to raise awareness of the services available through area health agencies and to promote health and wellness among the campus community.
For more information, please call 479-979-1327.
Tuesday, February 3, started out like any typical mid-week day for Taylor Parker. But it quickly turned into one of the most memorable days of his life.
That was the day that the senior health science major from Hot Springs, Ark., received a highly anticipated email informing him that he had been accepted into the three-year physical therapy doctoral program at Regis University in Denver.
"It was my number one choice for PT schools, so to say I was excited would be a giant understatement," said Parker. "It was an awesome feeling because I was beginning to get stressed out since I hadn't heard from any of the schools I had applied to. Then to hear from my top choice was a tremendous relief. I've been smiling a lot ever since."
Parker is schedule to graduate in May along with his wife of five months, history major Jonna (Magee). He said the couple is looking forward to moving to Colorado.
Taylor Parker, a senior health science major from Hot Springs, Ark., recently found out via an email that he had been accepted into his top choice of graduate programs for physical therapy.
"We both enjoy the outdoors and we're really excited about Colorado," Parker said. "We're both life-long Arkansans, so it's going to be a wonderful adventure."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapy will be one of the fastest growing professional careers over the next decade. By 2022, the bureau projects physical therapist employment growth of 36 percent, with the field adding 73,500 more jobs.
Parker credited his health sciences professors at Ozarks --- Dr. Brett Stone, Dr. Pete LeRoy and Jeremy Provence --- for helping him get accepted into the highly competitive program at Regis.
"They helped me all along the way, from helping me select schools to apply to, to writing reference letters on my behalf, to giving me advice on what to expect in the interviews," Parker said. "I feel like my entire Ozarks education helped prepare me to get into graduate school."
One example of that was an Intro to Rhetoric class that Parker took at Ozarks.
"I only signed up for the class because I needed some hours and it was in a time slot I needed," Parker said. "But I learned so much in that class about how to present yourself and how people read you and see you. I took a lot of what I learned in that class with me to the interview at Regis and I felt like it really helped. My interview went extremely well and I think it was one of the things that helped me get selected."
As a three-year starting infielder for the Eagles' baseball program, Parker has successfully juggled athletics and academics at Ozarks.
"My time management skills have definitely improved," Parker said. "It hasn't been easy and I've had to work pretty hard to get through, but it's definitely worth it. I've had to make the most of every second of my free time and that's helped me become pretty disciplined. My coaches and professors have also been very understanding. They've been extremely helpful in allowing me to do both."
Parker said watching former teammate and 2012 graduate Chris Driedric succeed at the University of Central Arkansas' physical therapy graduate program served as an inspiration.
"I was a freshman when he was a senior here at Ozarks and to see how he handled his academics and how he took care of business made a strong impression on me," Parker said. "I've talked to him some about what to expect in graduate school and he's been very helpful. He said that it's definitely difficult, but that the academic foundation he received at Ozarks really helped him. It's great to hear that from somebody who came through Ozarks and is succeeding in graduate school."
Parker said a career in physical therapy became his goal after he spent time observing physical therapists as part of his academic curriculum at Ozarks.
"I really got to see what they do on an everyday basis and I fell in love with it," he said. "I liked the idea of helping people regain their mobility. It was very rewarding to see someone get back on their feet or be able to use their arm again, and to see the joy that they got from it. As an athlete, I've always been able to run and throw and I've taken that for granted. Working with people who can't do those things really opened my eyes. I felt it was something that I could do where I was helping people."