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Ozarks Team Places Second at State Mathematics Competition

Ozarks Team Places Second at State Mathematics Competition

The University of the Ozarks team of David Bondy, Juan Fernando de la Cruz, Nicolas Dunsworth and Richard Javier Rodriguez took home second place overall in the 2020 Arkansas Undergraduate Mathematics Competition, held Feb. 29 at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.

It is the second consecutive year that a team from Ozarks has finished in the top two in the state-wide competition. Rodriguez and de la Cruz were part of Ozarks’ first-place team in last year’s event, the first U of O team to ever finish first overall in the AUMC.

A total of 10 teams from five universities competed in this year’s event, with Henderson State taking first place.

Also competing for Ozarks were, Jonathan Duffel, Nadine Karabaranga, Dakota Frits, Brilliant Pasipanodya, Misael Perez-Medina and Carlos Leon Beauregard.

Students competed in teams of 2-4 with no calculators, computers, books or notes available to them on the three-hour, 10-question test that emphasized problem-solving skills. Teams received 10 points for every correct answer and partial credit for incomplete but significant work.

The final results of the competition were not tabulated and confirmed until more than two weeks after the competition. The students learned of the results last week, according to the U of O team’s sponsor, Dr. Matt Myers, professor of mathematics. “All of our students competed with character and integrity and we are proud of the way they represented Ozarks,” Myers said.

“All of our students demonstrate a true passion for mathematics and they enjoyed the opportunity to test their skills against other top students from throughout the state.”

The University of the Ozarks’ Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) team captured a total of 19 top-five finishes at the 57th annual PBL State Leadership Conference, held April 5-6 in Little Rock. PBL members from U of O tallied three first-place awards, seven second-place finishes, two third-place awards and seven other top-five honors during the annual state-wide event that draws PBL chapters from universities and colleges throughout the state. “These future business leaders represented University of the Ozarks well,” said Dr. Scott Sheinfeld, assistant professor of business administration and marketing and the PBL faculty advisor. “All these students worked hard applying their classroom knowledge to real-world scenarios. The proud legacy of our involvement in Phi Beta Lambda lives on in this team. Congratulations to all our competitors.” For Ozarks, the team of Jasmine Williams, Juan Cano and Nicole Lopez won first place in the category of Business Sustainability and the team of Carlos Orosco, Yessenia Alvarez and Laura Gochez won first in Human Resources Management. The U of O team of Rodrigo Roldan and Henry Marin took first place in Global Analysis and Decision Making. The Ozarks team of Ralph Jean-Pierre, Spence Jean Baptiste and Richard Rodriguez finished second in Economic Analysis and Decision Making and the team of Rosendo Garcia and Yeimy Rodriguez took second in Business Decision Making. The U of O team of Katerinn Chamale, Falon Hanson and Marin finished second in Strategic Analysis and Decision Making. The duo of Yailin Blackman and Melissa Brenes took second in Business Sustainability, while Ozarks got individual second-place finishes from Rowan Westheimer in Social Media Challenge, Fernando de la Cruz in Statistical Analysis and Shanice Guzman in Justice Administration, Ozarks’ third-place finishers were, Falon Hanson in Public Speaking and Isaias Ortiz in Microeconomics. Guillermo “Will” Hernandez and Tanner Young finished fourth in Emerging Business Issues and Julio Molina took fourth in Cyber Security Desktop Publishing. de la Cruz finished fifth in Programming Concepts, while other fifth-place finishers for Ozarks included, Orosco in Job Interview, Gochez in Marketing Concepts, Hernandez in Management Concepts and Jean-Pierre in Macroeconomics. Guzman, the U of O chapter president, said she was proud of how her team competed in the state competition. "I believe that there is no word such as quitting, but with perseverance, now that takes you further in life. That's exactly what U of O's PBL team portrayed over the weekend,” Guzman said. “Not only did our team bring home several top finishes in various categories, they also worked hard to prepare. I know that they will keep working hard to hone these skills and knowledge as they prepare for their future careers. I am definitely proud of them.” The University of the Ozarks team of Juan Fernando de la Cruz, Julio Molina-Pineda, Alec Mertin and Richard Javier Rodriguez beat out nine other collegiate teams from across the state to take first place in the 2019 Arkansas Undergraduate Mathematics Competition (AUMC), held Feb. 23 on the U of O campus. It is the first top-three finish in the annual state-wide math competition for an Ozarks team since 2008 and is believed to be the first time an Ozarks team has finished first overall at the AUMC. The Ozarks team took top honors with 75 points, six points ahead of second-place Hendrix College. Teams representing John Brown University, Henderson State University, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkansas Tech University and Harding University also competed in the event. Dr. Matt Myers, professor of mathematics, and Dr. Casey Orndorff, assistant professor of mathematics, sponsored the U of O team in the event. “We are very proud of what these students have accomplished,” Myers said. “All of these students demonstrate a true passion for mathematics. Not only do they excel in mastering the material in their courses, but they also stay current with mathematical advances occurring in various other disciplines and around the world. Their first-place standing in this competition is a result of their passion and diligence. These are young men of character and integrity, and we are proud to have them represent University of the Ozarks.” Students competed in teams of 2-4 with no calculators, computers, books or notes available to them on the three-hour, 10-question test that emphasized problem-solving skills. Teams received 10 points for every correct answer and partial credit for incomplete but significant work. The final results of the competition were not tabulated and confirmed until more than two weeks after the competition. The students learned of the first-place finish this week through an email from Myers. “We felt that we had done well and even joked around that we had won, but we didn’t know for sure,” said de la Cruz, a sophomore mathematics major from Frontera, Tabasco, Mexico. “When we got the email, we were all pretty excited.” The Ozarks team held one-hour practices 3-4 times a week for about a month leading up to the competition. “They have the previous tests on line and we would get together and just work on as many problems as we could get done in an hour,” said Mertin, a senior mathematics major from New Blaine, Arkansas. “I think all that practice really paid off. We knew we had a chance to do well based on how we were doing in practice. Plus, it was fun to just get together and work on math problems.” Molina-Pineda, a biology and chemistry major from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, said the four teammates, all from different countries, complemented each other nicely. “We all had different areas that we were strong in and it worked out very well,” Molina-Pineda said. “Richard is really good at geometry, Juan is strong in calculus and advanced calculus and Alec and I are good at crunching the numbers. If one or two of us didn’t know how to figure out the problem, the others would step up. Sometimes one of us would be able to solve half a problem and would get stuck and someone else would know how to finish it.” Mertin, de la Cruz and Rodriguez will all return next year and they said they’ve already discussed defending their title. “The three of us all competed last year and didn’t do so well, so the extra year of math classes definitely helped this time,” said Rodriguez, a sophomore business administration and political science major from Managua, Nicaragua. “With even another year of classes next year, we’re looking forward to competing again and seeing if we can repeat.” U of O had two teams compete in the competition. The U of O team of David Bondy and Paul Bien-Aime finished in ninth place. “Why be disabled when I can be me.” That’s the personal mantra of University of the Ozarks Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Casey Orndorff, who on Sunday completed the Little Rock Half Marathon in a time of 1:59:27. Orndorff, 28, believes he’s the first person with cerebral palsy to break the two-hour barrier in the 13.1-mile distance. “I don’t want my disability to define me, so accomplishing this goal is something I’m very proud of,” said Orndorff, who is in his second year of teaching at Ozarks. "I’ve always enjoyed running and I don’t want somebody to say I can’t run or that I can’t run competitively because I have cerebral palsy.” Orndorff ran a 2:13 in his only other half marathon attempt in 2018. This time, following a rigorous 10-month training program and with the assistance of one of his U of O colleagues, Ricky Perry, assistant professor of health science, he maintained a 9-minute pace on his way to breaking the mark. “Ricky paced me the entire way and encouraged and motivated me throughout the race,” Orndorff said. “The 11-mile mark was really a struggle for me and I was laboring, but Ricky kept me going. There’s no way I would have broken two hours without his help.” Orndorff overcame race temperatures in the 30s and steady sleet to break two hours. He said the final mile was one of the toughest and most challenging things he’s ever experienced. “My coordination was gone and I was literally at my limit,” he said. “I wanted that two-hour mark badly so I was determined to get there. I had my head down and I was just forcing my body to take one step at a time.” The previous fastest known half marathon time for a person with cerebral palsy was 2:03:49 by Justin Gallegos of Santa Clarita, Calif. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and body movement. There are varying degrees of cerebral palsy and it can affect individuals in different ways. According to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, one in three people affected by cerebral palsy are unable to walk. While Orndorff is able to walk and even run, his journey to completing a half marathon under two hours did not come easily. While running, the disorder affects Orndorff’s right side, which often leads to severe tightness and cramping in his right leg. He’s also prone to injuries to his left leg while over-compensating for his right leg. “It sometimes takes me a while to get loosened up and I have to really listen to my body,” he said. “I’m certainly susceptible to more injuries and that can make it difficult to maintain a regular training routine, but that’s when you just have to push through.” Orndorff ran cross country at West Virginia Tech, a small NAIA college. He joined the team as a walk-on and went on to earn a scholarship, serve as a team captain for four years and garner Capital One All-American Academic honors. After taking several years off from running while completing his advanced degrees at Louisiana Tech University, Orndorff decided to get back into running after moving to Clarksville in 2018. “I wanted to get in better shape, so I decided to start running again,” he said. “The first mile I ran after starting back took about 14 minutes, very slow. I knew then that I had a long way to go, but I was determined to keep running.” Ironically, one of the people who helped Orndorff get back into running was former U of O Cross Country Coach and Ozarks alumnus Jeremy Provence, who ended up winning the 2019 Little Rock Marathon. Provence is currently the head cross country at the University of North Alabama, “Jeremy helped me get back into running and a lot of friends and colleagues have supported me along the way,” Orndorff said. “I hope this will motivate other people to keep pushing beyond their limits because I uncertainly pushed well beyond mine.” The University of the Ozarks Division of Mathematics and Sciences will present educator and author Charles Griffith for a talk titled, “How to Eat off the Land,” on Wednesday, Nov. 14, as part of the department’s science seminar series. The presentation is scheduled for 4-5 p.m. in Rowntree Recital Hall in the Walton Fine Arts Center. The event is open to the public and there is no cost for admission. Griffith’s talk will provide information about wild edible plants which are all around us. “Foraging is the art and science of safely finding plants in one’s back yard, down the alley, a city park (with permission), at the farm, or even in the deep woods, creeks, lakes, swamps, meadows, forests and prairies,” Griffith said. “It’s much like the foraging done by Native Americans, and the settlers who came to America, and whose foraging was often a matter of life and death.” Griffith developed the master forager course over the past 10 years and has taught it several times throughout Arkansas. He has an extensive background in teaching in schools and colleges including the Ozark branch of Arkansas Tech University and Garden City Community College in Kansas, as well as at Yellowstone National Park, Arkansas 4-H Camps, the Huckabee Nature Center, and others. For more information on the presentation, please contact the Division of Mathematics and Sciences at 979-1361. University of the Ozarks senior Jelena Petrovic brought home a top-five finish in the regional Mathematics Association of America (MAA) Conference, held April 12-14 at Arkansas Tech University. Petrovic, a mathematics major from Croatia who plans to attend graduate school at the University of Denver, finished in the top five in the Integration Bee category in the annual event that brings together math students from Arkansas and Oklahoma. Integration Bee consists of individual students solving progressively more difficult integration problems. Each student is allowed to miss up to three problems, and are eliminated from competition after the third miss. Petrovic competed against 50 other students from across Oklahoma and Arkansas in the competition. Ozarks students also competed in a Math Jeopardy competition and both of the two-person teams from Ozarks finished in the top half of the 16-team competition. Along with Petrovic, the other Ozarks students who competed were, Maranda Watson, Alec Martin and Joel Guliuzo. “I was proud of how our math students competed at the MAA conference,” said Dr. Matt Myers, professor of mathematics. “Jelena finishing in the top five in the Integration Bee and our two teams both finishing with scores in the positive range in Math Jeopardy was a very good showing. Our students proved that they can succeed against math students from throughout the region.” 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.” Eric Ledieu just might be the poster student for STEM on the University of the Ozarks' campus. The junior who calls both Paris, France, and Scranton, Ark., home is a biology and chemistry major with minors in mathematics and computer science. For as long as he can remember, Ledieu has had a passion for STEM, a term that refers to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. "I remember having a subscription to a science magazine at age 6 or 7 and I would read it avidly every month," Ledieu said. "I've always liked learning new things and it just seemed to me that science and mathematics had a more practical application than other things. I saw it as tangible knowledge ? knowledge that would influence how I saw the natural world." Ledieu's interest in STEM has helped him secure a prestigious paid summer internship with the Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), which is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Held on the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, campus, Ledieu's 10-week research program is titled, "Miniature Biosensors and Bioassays." The project that combines chemistry and technology was one of Ledieu's top choices out of more than a dozen research options.
"EricJunior Eric Ledieu will take part in a 10-week research program called "Miniature Biosensors and Bioassays," on the campus of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, this summer.
"I was thrilled to get one of my first choices and work in a lab that involves bioanalytical chemistry," Ledieu said. "We're going to be testing materials to see if they are suitable for doing biological tests at a scale between a thousand and million times smaller by volume when compared to our current methods. It has a lot of real-world applications and that makes it very intriguing." Ledieu, who moved to Arkansas from France when he was 11, was one of only 16 college students state-wide accepted into the INBRE program. "My professors at Ozarks gave me some great recommendations and helped me through the process," Ledieu said. "It was definitely an honor to get selected because it was a very competitive program." Ledieu said he has benefited greatly from serving in a work-study position in the University's information technology services department. He works up to 14 hours a week helping maintain the campus computer network and troubleshoot IT issues. "I've definitely learned a lot more about how the backend of IT works," Ledieu said of his work-study position. "It's been a wonderful experience because I'm working in an area where I'm learning and growing. It's also helped me in areas such as critical thinking and especially with people skills. This job requires me to interact with people more and to be in a professional environment. That's been very beneficial." According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics report, employment in occupations related to STEM are projected to grow more than 17 percent by 2022. The report also stated that 93 out of 100 STEM occupations had wages above the national average. "I want to one day work in bioinformatics and use data and technology to do biological research," Ledieu said. "The education I'm receiving at Ozarks combined with this summer research project are helping me take another step toward reaching that goal. I feel like all my hard work I've put in over the years is paying off with this opportunity." University of the Ozarks student Samantha Hutto has found an illuminating harmony in the unlikely double majors of history and mathematics. The junior from Arlington, Texas, enrolled at Ozarks planning to major in mathematics, but it didn't take long for her to realize that she also had a passion for history. "I always liked history and after one class with [history professor] Dr. Steve Oatis I knew I had to get a double major," Hutto said. "I just became fascinated with how history shapes us and how it all ties together. When people hear that I'm a history and mathematics major, they think it's a pretty strange combination. "My mathematics friends can't believe I like to write papers and my history major friends can't believe I love to solve math problems. But for me, it just seems natural."
"SamanthaJunior Samantha Hutto recently won an outstanding presentation award at the Arkansas Regional Conference for the Phi Alpha Theta National Honor Society in History for her paper, "Mathematics in Enlightenment Thought."
Hutto recently won an outstanding presentation award at the Arkansas Regional Conference for the Phi Alpha Theta National Honor Society in History. Her conference paper, titled, "Mathematics in Enlightenment Thought," examined the flourishing of mathematics in the 17th and 18th centuries. "I believe the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that I use in mathematics allows me to have a different approach to understanding history and looking at historical concepts," Hutto said. "Solving mathematical problems is like a puzzle and it's a very structured discipline. History, in a lot of ways, is like piecing together a puzzle as well. But they are also very different and they push and challenge me to grow in different ways, and I like that as well." Hutto has already been thinking of ways to combined her love of the two disciplines in a career. "I would love to work in a museum or at a historical site or something that relates to the history of mathematics," she said. "That would be the dream job for me." Diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, Hutto has utilized the services of the university's Jones learning Center (JLC) to help her succeed in the classroom. She has made the academic honor roll in each of her first five semesters at Ozarks. "I've always loved learning, but because of the JLC I'm happier now than I've ever been," she said. "The JLC is a great support system and it has given me the structure and support I definitely needed. That support and assistance has freed me up to enjoy the process of learning more than I ever thought I could." Hutto said she has not only found the freedom to learn, but has also blossomed outside the classroom in ways she never thought possible. She serves as a mathematics tutor in the JLC and is a member of Phi Alpha Theta and the Presbyterian Campus Ministries. "Ozarks has helped me grow so much as a person," she said. "I've found myself engaged in so many new ideas and opportunities and open to more ways of thinking. Ozarks has really helped me think about who I am as a person and how I fit in the community and also in the world."

Zi-Jian Khor, a 2010 University of the Ozarks graduate, was recently hired as a statistician by Kelley Blue Book, the industry leader in vehicle valuation, based in Irvine, Cal.

Khor, originally from Malaysia, received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Ozarks before moving to California to earn a master's degree in statistics from the University of California-Irvine in 2013.

Shortly after completing his graduate studies, Khor was hired by Kelley Blue Book to work as a statistician in their predictive analytics group. Established in 1926, Kelley Blue Book is the nation's best-known used-car pricing guide. For almost 90 years dealers, finance institutions, insurance companies and consumers have used the Blue Book to help them establish used-car market values.

Khor is excited about the potential of growth in his new position.

"Kelley Blue Book is a pioneer in the field, and predictive analytics is the group that uses statistical methodology to forecast the price of vehicles," Khor explained. "I am still new to my job, so I'm assigned to deal with data cleaning now. In the near future, as my skills improve, I'll be expected to do predictive modeling to forecast the price of vehicles."

According to Khor, being a statistician has tested more than his knowledge of statistical methodology. He credits Ozarks for making sure he was prepared to take on new challenges in his position.

"My job requires SAS programming knowledge, data analysis, outstanding analytical skills, but also effective communication skills," Khor said. "Ozarks helped me to develop those skills and that has allowed me to communicate well and cooperate with other people effectively."

Khor's advice for current students is to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities.

"For me, success happens when preparation meets opportunity. Whenever you feel like you've missed an opportunity, that is when you should work harder and improve yourself more. When the next opportunity arises, you will be a perfect match for it," he said.


A mathematics degree from Ozarks has helped 2010 graduate Zi-Jian Khor secure a job as a statistician with the company Kelley Blue Book in California.