First Week 2019 to Welcome New Class

First Week 2019 to Welcome New Class

University of the Ozarks will welcome more than 300 new students to campus on Aug. 16 for the start of First Week 2019, the official kickoff for the 2019-20 academic year. Classes for the Fall 2019 Semester will begin on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

Total enrollment is expected to top 900 for the first time in the University’s 185-year history.

The incoming class of first-time students is expected to include approximately 275 freshmen and 40 transfer students.

First Week, which runs from Aug. 16-19, is an on-campus orientation program to help new students become acclimated to the University.

First Week begins on the morning of Aug. 16 with faculty, staff and upper-class students helping the new students move into the residence halls. The residence halls will open at 9 a.m. for the new students to move in.

First Week 2019 will include a mix of developmental, academic, social and engagement orientation opportunities.

One of the highlights of First Week is the Matriculation Ceremony, where the University officially welcomes the new class to campus. The Matriculation Ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m., Aug. 16, in Munger-Wilson Chapel.

Highlights of First Week:

Aug 16 — A welcoming program at 1 p.m.; a parents resource fair at 1:45 p.m.; Matriculation Ceremony at 3 p.m.; a President’s Welcome Picnic at 5 p.m.; Clarksville social at the Chamber of Commerce at 7 p.m.
Aug 17 — Introduction to First Week at 8 a.m.; Student Life at Ozarks presentation at 12:45 p.m.; Choose Your Own Adventure sessions at 7 p.m.
Aug 18 — Chapel service at 11 a.m.; Ozarks Block Party at 7 p.m.
Aug 19 — Transfer and international student orientation at 8 a.m.; Student Resource Fair at 10 a.m.; Opening Convocation for all students at 4 p.m.; Welcome Back Tailgate for all students at 5 p.m.; Madness on the Mall at 7 p.m.
Aug. 20 — Classes begin

Important dates for the Fall 2019 Semester:

Labor Day Holiday: Sept. 2
Homecoming: Oct. 17-20
Fall Break: Oct. 24-25
Thanksgiving Holiday: Nov. 27-29
Last Day of Classes: Dec. 4
Final Exams: Dec. 6-11
Fall Commencement: Dec. 14

University of the Ozarks alumna Taylor Plugge, who has served in the Office of Admission since 2013, will transition into the director of student engagement position in the Office of Student Affairs, effective July 1.

A 2013 graduate of Ozarks, Plugge has been the assistant director of admission since 2017. As director of student engagement, she will lead the areas of student activities, new student orientation programs and student organizations.

“I am excited to be joining student affairs and working with a talented group of colleagues to build a student engagement program that is dynamic and inclusive,” Plugge said. “My goal is to work with students, faculty and staff from across campus to create a vibrant student experience that contributes to student success, retention and to the University’s mission.”

Plugge replaces Bendex Stevenson, who was named director of campus recreation in May.

“Taylor is an outstanding addition to the student affairs team,” said Luke Morrill, dean of students. “She has spent her career at Ozarks directly impacting the undergraduate experience and developing meaningful connections with all the students she interacts with. As Taylor transitions into her new role, I have no doubt that she will bring the same student centered approach to developing a vibrant student engagement program.”

As part of the admission staff, Plugge played an integral role in helping the University set record enrollments in each of the past three years.

Plugge said one of her priorities in leading student engagement is to support the integration of the University’s growing international student population into the campus community.

“Ozarks has one of the most diverse small campuses in the region and that’s part of what makes this University special,” Plugge said. “Ozarks has a long history of embracing student diversity through values such as hospitality, justice and inclusion. I want to help continue that legacy through the student engagement office.”

A native of Hartman, Arkansas, Plugge graduated from Ozarks with cum laude honors while earning a degree in economics. As a student at Ozarks she worked in the University’s Advancement Office in a work-study capacity.

She and her fiancé, Aaron, have a 4-year-old daughter, Addison. Outside of work, Plugge enjoys hiking with her family, camping on the weekends, exploring the different state parks around Arkansas, and spending time on her family’s farm.

Local musician Ryan Harmon will highlight the second First Friday in downtown Clarksville, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 3. Presented by University of the Ozarks and the Clarksville-Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, First Friday is a community event held on the corner of Main Street and the Spadra Trail. It will feature live music, a variety of food trucks and vendors as well as lawn games. There is no charge for admission and the public is invited to attend and encouraged to bring lawn chairs. Harmon is a singer-songwriter from Lamar. With musical influences like Travis Tritt, Ray Charles and Bob Seger, and lyrical influences like Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson and Roger Miller, Harmon carries on the long tradition of "three chords and the truth." Combined with a commanding stage presence and fun, lively performances, he seeks to push the boundaries of what a solo acoustic act can be. Though commonly categorized as country music, Harmon's music more specifically fits Americana, a sub-genre of country. He describes Americana by saying, "You can put Hank Williams, Bob Seger, Ray Charles and Bill Monroe all in the same room, and it makes perfect sense." In 2017, Harmon released his self-titled, debut album. Taking all modern production standards and throwing them out the window, Harmon created a stripped-down, low-fi recording that allows the songs to stand on their own, good or bad. "I hear so much stuff where it seems like they put more focus on the production than the song. I love listening to old Hank Williams or Robert Johnson records where the word 'production' didn't even come into it. Press the 'record' button, and off you go! Get a performance of the song and that's it," Harmon said. From the rocking, early Johnny Cash influenced "Hold On Sally," to the powerful "Ride The Wind," and the emotional "Find Your Heart," Harmon's songwriting focuses on real life and real people. One of the album's more prominent songs, the humorous, yet true, anthemic country heartbreak "You Left, My Dog Died, and My Heart Did Too," was featured on an NPR Music playlist of dog-themed songs in January 2018. In 2019, Harmon is continuing that same style of writing, with new music coming soon. "It doesn't matter if it's a love song, a sad song, a funny song, etc. Life throws all of those different emotions at us. As long as people can relate to it and enjoy it, I feel like I've done my job." This will be the final First Friday of the spring semester. It will start again in September when the fall semester is underway. 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.

Dining Hall

Closes after lunch 3/15. Re-opens for dinner service 3/24.

Eagles Nest

Closes at 3 p.m. 3/15. Re-opens at 10 a.m. 3/25.

Campus Perks

Closes at 3 p.m. 3/15. Open 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. 3/18 – 3/22. Re-opens for normal hours 3/24.

Residence Halls

Open as normal 3/18 – 3/22.

Post Office

Open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 3/18 – 3/22.


Open 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 3/18 – 3/22.

Ozarks Shuttle

Open 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. 3/16 & 3/29.

Ozarks Outdoors

Open 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. 3/18 – 3/22.


Closed 3/18-3/22.

Clarksville Community Resources

Clarksville Aquatic Center open 5 a.m. – 10 p.m. U of O Planet Club Presents: Star Party – 10 – 10:30 p.m. March 20 ($6 admission fee) Water Coloring at the Chamber of Commerce – 6 - 8 p.m. March 21 (Free admission) City Metro Taxi 479-979-4142 Clarksville - Johnson County Chamber Events

University of the Ozarks’ MacLean Hall is currently undergoing a $10 million renovation, the most extensive refurbishment project in the building’s 92-year history.

Construction began in December on the stately “H” shaped, three-story student residence hall that was completed in 1927 and sits on the east side of College Avenue. The current project is expected to be completed in early August, in time for the start of the 2019-20 academic year.

The renovation will include a fire sprinkler system, new central heat and air systems, an elevator, and all new mechanical, electrical and plumbing components. The student housing capacity will increase from 170 to 220 and additional common areas and laundry facilities will be created.

Most of the work this semester is being performed on the lower level after approximately 40 students who resided there in the fall were accommodated in other campus housing. The remainder of the renovations will take place during the summer break.

MacLean Hall-Common Area“This is a full renovation of MacLean Hall,” said Jeff Scaccia, vice president for finance and administration. “Basically we’re taking all the deferred maintenance out of the building and putting in new systems and components that are more modern and energy efficient. And, in many ways we’re restoring the building to its historic look.”

One example of reverting to the original look will be at the front of the building. With the inclusion of the fire sprinkler system, the external staircases that were added in the early 2000s are no longer needed and will be taken down.

The addition of an elevator to the historic building, as well as an ADA entrance door on the east side, will make MacLean Hall much more accessible.

MacLean Hall BallroomThe renovation project will also include new bathrooms, LED lightning and furnishings throughout the building. The large second-floor ballroom will also be renovated and a gas fireplace added. A courtyard will be created in the back of the building and new landscaping will be incorporated.

MacLean Hall was constructed in 1926-27 at a cost of $150,000. It was named in honor of Marie MacLean of Atlantic City, N.J., who was inspired to donate $60,000 for the project after hearing then-Ozarks President Dr. Wiley Lin Hurie speak at her church. Much of the original design and construction was completed by Ozarks’ faculty and students.

MacLean has undergone major renovations in 1968, 1976, 1988 and the early 2000s.

The current project’s construction company is Nabholz Corp., and Credo Design Architects is the architectural firm.

Caitlin Huckfeldt has been named the new director of residential life at University of the Ozarks, effective immediately. Huckfeldt has served as the assistant director of residence life and student engagement at Ozarks since July. In her new duties, she will provide leadership and administrative direction to a comprehensive and vibrant student housing program, including the overall administration of a variety of University residential facilities. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to invest in our residential community at University of the Ozarks and excited to be a part of the continued development of our program and operations,’ Huckfeldt said. With an almost 50 percent growth in enrollment over the past five years, Luke Morrill, dean of students, said it was time for the University to have an administrator solely focused on residential life. “With the continued growth and development at the University, moving forward with an individual serving solely in the director of residential life leadership role is critical to the success of the student on-campus living experience,” Morrill said. “After conducting a national search, we identified Caitlin as the best person to lead us in that area. In her short time here she has had an incredible impact on the Office of Student Affairs. I am excited to work with her in this new role as she continues to provide visionary leadership and facilitate continued development to all aspects of residential living at University of the Ozarks.” Prior to arriving at Ozarks, Huckfeldt served as a graduate assistant in the Office of Dean of Students at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, where she also earned a master’s degree in leadership, student affairs in higher education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and Bible and theology at Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Huckfeldt also has experience as a social caseworker and as an academic advisor. Her husband, Austin, serves as a public safety officer at the University. University of the Ozarks has announced its academic honor lists for the 2018 Fall Semester. To be included on the President’s List, a student must carry at least 12 hours and maintain a 4.00 grade point average. To be included on the Dean’s List, a student must carry at least 12 hours and achieve between a 3.5 and 3.9 GPA. President’s List Ingrid Alonzo, Guatemala Alma Arredondo, Paris, AR Emily Autry, Hot Springs, AR Mason Badour, Richardson, TX Katherine Barnwell, Van Buren, AR Lamara Bazashvili, Russia David Beck, Conway, AR Caitlyn Bell, Hensley, AR Kerigan Bradshaw, Harrison, AR Petron Brown, Bahamas Shelby Carlton, Clarksville, AR Katherinn Chamale, Guatemala Meline Clerisier, Bahamas Maria Corea, Honduras Ashton Davis, Clarksville, AR Kelsey Dixson, Hector, AR Carly Dougan, Clarksville, AR Stacey Ettiene, Bahamas Monica Flores, Clarksville, AR Laura Gochez, El Salvador Ralph Sebastien Goldman, Matthews, NC Erika Henderson, Highland Village, TX Zane Henderson, Piggott, AR Mary Hoiland, Clarksville, AR Jacob Holland, Meadows Place, TX Elodie Jabouin, Haiti Carsyn Jones, Alma, AR Isaac Julio, Panama Cole Lankford, Knob Noster, MO Twanesha Lightbourn, Bahamas Megan Madden, Flower Mound, TX Jenna Mandel, Collinsville, OK Maria Marcia, Nicaragua Henry Marin, El Salvador Max Mathis, Cabot, AR Allyson Melton, North Little Rock, AR Alec Mertin, New Blaine, AR Fred Milord, Haiti Julio Molina, Tegucigalpa, Ana Ojeda, Honduras Rosa Ordonez, Mexico Brilliant Pasipanodya, Zimbabwe Stephanie Payton, Honduras AR Jeffrey Proctor, London, AR Janna Rhinehart, Danville, AR Jada Rhodes, Dickinson, TX Edwin Rodriguez, Mayaguez, PR Yeimy Rodriguez, Panama Candace Rogers, Batesville, AR Rebecca Rogers, Claremore, OK Ohany Roman, Nicaragua Thomas Ross, Rockwall, TX Brenda Sandoval, Guatemala Jacob Sawyer, Mena, AR Alec Severe, Haiti Sade Seymour, Bahamas Emma Sisson, Clarksville, AR Manuel Tambriz, Guatemala Cassandra Valdez, Plano, TX Jordan Vilma, Bahamas Holly Vire, Clarksville, AR Winston Wheeler, Combs, AR Cory Wilhelm, Ratcliff, AR Madeleine Windel, Ozone, AR Angela Wyatt,  Coal Hill, AR Bahar Yapal, Germany Isaias Zapata, Panama Dean’s List Christie Alexandre, Boynton Beach, FL Laura Allcon, Benbrook, TX Gustavo Almaraz, Clarksville, AR Katerin Alvarado, Honduras Gladis Alvarez, Guatemala Jill Armstrong, Fayetteville, AR Abby Asencio, Gentry, AR Spence Jean Baptiste, Haiti Vincent Barber, Clarksville, AR Skyler Barnes, Farmington, AR Paul Bien-Aime, Haiti Shayanah Bien-Aime, Orlando, FL Sarah Birchfield, Huntsville, AR Yailin Blackman, Panama David Bondy, Dallas, TX Donna Bouzi, Waltham, MA Connor Boyle, Oppelo, AR Zackary Brizendine, Roanoke, TX Lakota Brewer, Rudy, AR Hailey Bromley, Hensley, AR Kevvin Brown, Bahamas Whitney Brown, Maumelle, AR Neyssa Cadet, Roselle, NJ Ana Camargo, Panama Aaron Capehart, Siloam Springs, AR Andrea Carias, Honduras Andrea Casco, Honduras Angie Castro, El Salvador Meghan Cave, Clarksville, AR Lidia Caz, Guatemala Xin Yi Chen, Malaysia Gloria Cizungu, Congo Democratic Republic Haley Clark, Tulsa, OK Daniel Cloud, Russellville, AR Mason Clough, Arlington, TX James Coffey, Sevierville, TN Douglas Coggin, Bartlett, TN Joshua Collins, Pottsville, AR Cristin Connor, Gunter, TX Joel Coppernoll, Bryan TX Fabrice Cotin, Haiti Cristina Cuevas, Clarksville, AR Juan De La Cruz, Mexico Michelle Delgado, Costa Rica Lauren Dotson, Harrison, AR Chase Edwards, Chandler, AZ Max-Guerlee Eloge, Haiti Sebastien Emile, Brockton, MA Diana Estrada, N Little Rock, AR Maria Fabian, Clarksville, AR Sierra Fields, Mulberry, AR Gabriel Figueroa, Puerto Rico Ronald Flores, El Salvador Jackson Foster, Tulsa, OK Sofia Franco, Lamar, AR Makara Frazier, Camden, AR Tyler Gale, Russellville, AR Pedro Gallaga, Willis, TX Devis Garces, Panama Daicza Garcia, Clarksville, AR Janie Garcia, Clarksville, AR Sean Garcia, Fort Worth, TX Jacquelyn Gearhart, Clarksville, AR Chania Gibson, Bahamas Hailey Godfrey, Salem, AR Sara Gonzales, Bryant, AR Victoria Gonzalez, Clarksville, AR Shanice Guzman, Belize Bailey Hall, Grady, AR Haley Hanks, Carthage, TX Falon Hanson, Fayetteville, AR Logan Harderson, Oark, AR Michael Harris, Elkins, AR Karlee  Hart, Eureka Springs, AR Lily Harvey, Huntsville, AR Jordon Henley, Eureka Springs, AR Fernanda Hernandez, Mexico Nathan Hodge, Olive Branch, MS Alexis Holt, Sallisaw, OK Brittany Holt, Alvarado, TX Blake Hornsby, Flower Mound, TX Breanna Hudson, Clarksville, AR Aspen Jasna, Sallisaw, OK Megan Johnson, Oologah, OK Christian Johnston, Crossett, AR Annael Julien, Haiti Nadine Karabaranga, Kingsville, TX Brooklyn Keeling, Farmington, AR Koya Kimura, Japan Chanelle Lasater, Clarksville, AR Kimika Lawson, Tampa, FL Braxton Leding, Altus, AR Geoshan Lee, Malaysia Jerhett Lee, Lewisville, TX McKenzie Lewis, Hermitage, AR Sarah Lewis, Mulberry, AR Rocky Liveoak, Neosho, MO Nicole Lopez, Belize Alain Louissaint, Brooklyn, NY Ethan Lubera, Siloam Springs, AR James Malin, Lexington, KY Abigail Mansur, Little Rock, AR Isabella Matute, Honduras Daniel Martinez, Honduras Jonah Martinez, Fort Worth, TX Rebecca McCarron, Covington, LA Whitney McCrary, Conway, AR Nicholas McDaniel, Derby, IA Derrick McKee, Hartman, AR Ariel McKinney, Malaysia Kamryn McKinney, Alma, AR Kade McMahon, Rockwall, TX Pierre Lorfils Milord, Haiti Cheyanna Miller, West Plains, MO Emily Miller, Gravette, AR Gracie Millar, Larue, TX Jaeden Miller, Canton, TX Keyrstan-Danelle Miller, Elkins, AR Maggie Miller, Pittsburg, KS Rebekah Moore, Alma, AR Shelby Morales, England, AR Walker Murray, West Helena, AR Dominique Musgrove, Bahamas Paige Myers, Harrison, AR Kayla Newman, Clarksville, AR Nicholas Nonez, Haiti Hendrick Octavius, Haiti Sarhitza Octavius, Haiti Isabella Olarte, Miramar, FL Olaide Olawoyin, Bahamas Edith Olivas, Mexico Riley Oliver, Bowie, TX Daniel Olvera, Garland, TX Carlos Orozco, Nicaragua Perla Osorio, Mexico Taelor Parish, Alexander, AR Ralph Jean-Pierre, Orlando, FL Daniela Picado, Costa Rica Fernanda Pichardo, Nicaragua Marcelina Pop, Belize Regan Puryear, Gravette, AR La'Shadae-Anise Rahming, Bahamas Jehanne Rameau, Haiti April Ramirez, Lamar, AR Daniela Ramos, Little Rock, AR Hannah Randt, Lamar, AR Amada Reeve, Arlington, TN Maria Reyes, Destrehan, LA Bradley Rice, Fort Smith, AR Maria Rivas, El Salvador Joshua Robinson, Conway, AR Richard Rodriguez, Nicaragua Oscar Roldan, Mexico Vashti Rolle, Bahamas Jasmine Rosales, Berryville, AR Anna Ryan, Woodville, MS Sami Saati, Miami, FL Brittney Sain, Lake City, AR Fernanda Salinas, El Salvador Dan Salvant, Haiti Danitra Sargent, Bahamas Rhett Sells, Wagoner, OK Hannah Smith, Blue Eye, MO Renner Smith, Mabelvale, AR Dalton  Spurgeon, Greenwood, MO Delanei Stephens, Coal Hill, AR William Stewart, Siloam Springs, AR Austin Tautenhahn, Georgetown, TX Nelcica Therassens, Flushing,  NY Farahdjeen Thomas, Haiti Bradley Thompson, Keota, OK Catherine Thompson, Clarksville, AR Logan Valestin, Bryant, AR Jacobus Van, Longview, TX Melle Van, New Zealand Mario Varela-Pecina, Lamar, AR Sarah Vardal, Hot Springs, AR Vicente Vasquez, Panama Emilio Vega, Mckinney, TX Norlin Vicente, Guatemala Clayton Villines, Harrison, AR Lara Wadle, Grapevine, TX Zackary Walker, Clarksville, AR Georgia Warren, Ireland Hannah Warren, Lamar, AR Brandon Watkins, Brentwood, TN Hailey Weathers, Coal Hill, AR Catherine Wellborn, Metairie, LA Justice White, Bahamas Anicka Wilcox, Ola, AR Brian Wilken, Claremore, OK Austin Williams, Conway, MO Emilie Williams, Keller, TX Rhett Williamson, Green Forest, AR Casie Zapf, Cabot, AR Christopher Zapf, Friendswood, TX Lauren Zavala, Clarksville, AR

When University of the Ozarks senior Emily Autry gave the sermon at the University’s weekly Chapel service in December, she shared a message of endurance that’s been in the works for the past three and a half years.

The senior religion and political science major from Hot Springs, Ark., gave the sermon to the campus community on Dec. 4, the final Chapel service of the semester. Her message, titled “Joy and Perseverance,” focused on overcoming trials and hardships and how to embracer obstacles that might come your way.

For Autry, who will graduate in May, giving the sermon was one of the capstones to her college experience. It was also an opportunity to let her classmates and professors know how much she has grown as a person since walking on campus as a freshman in 2015.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to do a Chapel sermon,” she said. “I have been a regular attender of Chapel since my freshman year and I’ve seen amazing speakers come through. I’ve heard and loved so many of our chaplain’s sermons and I knew that I wanted the opportunity to share in the same place that all that had come before me had done as well. I saw it as a way that I could leave my mark on our University.”

Autry said numerous conversations with the University Chaplain, Rev. Jeremy Wilhelmi, over the last few years helped her in preparing the message.

“We’ve spent hours talking about different challenges or questions that I was having about my personal life and discussing the meaning of life,” she said. “This specific message came to me before Thanksgiving, but it was many years in the making. It was appropriate for the season, but also something that I needed to hear from God as well.”

The combination of religion and political science majors might seem strange to some people, but it was a natural match for Autry.

“When I toured Ozarks my senior year of high school, I met with [Religion Professor] Dr. Dave Daily and after our visit I was very excited to major in religion,” she said. “During the spring semester of my freshman year, I took my first political science class, American national government with Dr. Mark Scully, and I fell in love with his teaching style and the content. I found out that I loved them both, so I soon declared a double major.”

With a double major and so many career options, Autry said she’s not sure where her future career path might lead.

“After graduation, I am planning to find a job working for a church or non-profit for a year while I apply for seminary school,” she said. “I am honestly not sure what my dream job would be. I love preaching. I love leadership. I am very interested in community spiritual development and political engagement. I guess my dream job would be to continue my education for the rest of my life. I want to do a lot of things. I would love to be a professor one day to share everything that I’ve learned.”

Just months away from graduating, Autry said she’s thankful for the professors at Ozarks for pushing and challenging her.

“The most beneficial part of my Ozark education is the deep questions about calling and purpose that have come from my professors,” she said. “They have always challenged me to learn with intention to do good with the knowledge that I acquire. This has probably been one of the hardest things about my education so far, but I know it has made it so much more meaningful. We have the best professors in the world. No one can ever take away all that I have learned and gained from them. I cherish my education greatly.”

Autry’s Sermon:

Joy and Perseverance

James 1: 2-4: “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

If there is anything that I have learned in my time here at Ozarks from my beloved Political Science Professor, Dr. Stewart Dippel, it is this: “There is no finish line in our walk with Jesus.” And that’s the only credit I’m giving to the political science department for this sermon because obviously the religion department, aka Dr. Daily, prepared me for this day the most.

All jokes aside. The phrase, “There is no finish line in our walk with Jesus,” does speak a lot of truth to me especially when thinking about my time at Ozarks and this verse found in this letter written by James. Life will not be easy. Life will come with many struggles and hardships. This is normal. This is what it means to be alive. However, we have the ability to look at trials positively. They should be evidence of our perseverance of faith.

When asked to speak in Chapel, I knew that I wanted to talk about how my time at Ozarks has shaped my life over the past four years. Since I walked on this campus for the first time my senior year of high school until today, so much has taken place.

I have attended every Study Night Breakfast. I have run wild across campus in ugly sweaters in order to take pictures by the Christmas tree lights. I have endured too many Dr. Scully classes. I have been a part of the history-making cheer team. I have pulled multiple all-nighters. I have made some of the best friends in the whole world. I have participated in Interfaith work and spiritual life. I have written more pages than I ever thought possible.  I’ve encountered heartache and sadness. I have laughed until I have cried. And, I’ve grown more in self-confidence than I would have never expected. Ozarks has taught me how to learn. Ozarks has taught me how to love. Ozarks has taught me how to be my best self.

As senior year has come, so has my stress and anxiety about the future. In some ways I have almost shut down at the thought of leaving this beloved stage in my life. I have learned that all of the trials of college, all the all-nighters, arguments, disagreements, brutal cheer practices, difficult concepts and exhausting days, I can look back at and smile. I genuinely have pure joy thinking about how God has used me and molded me in the past four years.

I am stronger because of these trials. I am more confident in myself and who am because of these hard days. I am more prepared for the world because of the time I have given to learning and devoting myself to this place. These are pure joy moments. These times are what have given me endurance to continue this journey to graduation and to what life will bring me next. Ozarks has taught me most that there is no finish line in our personal growth, just like there is no finish line in our walk with Jesus. We must continue every day to learn and grow and find joy even in the midst of our trials.

When I think about what it really means to journey with Jesus continually, it’s hard not to think of times when I got distracted or walked off the path. It’s not just our good times that shape our understanding of being in a relationship with Jesus, but it’s the bad times too. It’s the times when we get mad at God for our suffering. Or when we are put in a tough situation. It’s the times of worry and guilt. It’s even the times when we fall flat on our face. When we think our mistakes are too big to be forgiven. These times make up our walk with Jesus too.

Think back on a time in your life when you were facing a trial. What did it feel like to have your faith tested? Often times we fall back into old bad habits. Or we distract ourselves and act like nothing is wrong. It’s much more difficult to stand firm in our faith during these times. But that’s what God asks us to do. We are called to lean on God even more during these hard time. It is when we push God away that we often struggle the most. Pure joy comes when we put all our trust and faith in God. The text is asking us to look at our trials and consider them pure joy. James says that “the testing of our faith produces endurance.” We literally can’t continue on our walk with Jesus without endurance when faced with hard times.

So what is endurance? The first definition of endurance is “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” The second definition, which is the one that I love, is “the capacity of something to last or withstand wear and tear.”

The evidence of our faith often comes with how we face our trials. This is where we can begin to talk about enduring with intention.  We want to be able to have faith that lasts or withstands wear and tear.

I read an article recently titled, “One Thing that Wholeheartedly Happy People Have in Common,” by David Baumrind. His marriage was failing and he found himself in a time of complete dissatisfaction with his himself and his life, wanted to re-evaluate what it meant to be happy. What Baumrind found is that “consistently practicing gratitude can actually rewire our brains to search for the positive first instead of the negative.” He goes on to explain that “When we begin to see the positive we are able to learn from our experiences, even the bad ones.”  I think Baumrind is right. Practicing gratitude is one way that we can endure trials well. It gives us the ability to withstand. It doesn’t make the problem go away. It doesn’t allow us to avoid the problem. Rather, gratitude can be the remedy we need that helps us endure the tests of life.

There’s a really great story that my mom tells about this idea. The story is titled, “Grateful for the Thorns,” and in the story a young woman named Sandra loses her pregnancy due to a minor automobile accident. As if that weren’t enough her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister called saying she could not make it to Thanksgiving that year. How could she even think of being thankful for anything this holiday season?

Sandra is in a flower shop looking for an arrangement for Thanksgiving. The clerk asks Sandra in conversation if she is looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?

Sandra responds with, “not exactly,” and goes on to explain that everything that could go wrong in the past few months has gone wrong. The clerk insists that she has the perfect arrangement for Sandra. The clerk suggests a customer’s favorite called the “Thanksgiving Special.” She brings out an arrangement of 12 thorny long-stemmed stems with no roses on them. Sandra was puzzled. The clerk goes on to explain that three years earlier she too felt like everything was going wrong. She had lost her husband, assumed complete responsibility for the flower shop and for the first time spent the holidays alone. The clerk said, “I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”

Sandra said, “what did you do?” and the clerk’s response was, “I learned to be thankful for thorns.” The clerk goes on to explain that it takes thorns to show the beauty of God’s comfort. It takes having our own thorns to begin to ask how we can comfort others during their thorns. Even Jesus wore thorns so that we might know His love. We can’t spend time resenting our thorns. Instead, we must embrace and be thankful for our thorns. Sandra resisted the thorny stemmed arrangement at first, but by the end of her time spent talking with the clerk she walked out of the store with 12 long-stemmed thorns. And attached to the arrangement was this prayer:

“My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorns! I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear. Teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.” — George Matheson

So be thankful for the trial. Be thankful for the ability to go through the struggle or circumstance in life that you have been given. I know some of my greatest struggles in the past four years have been due to being in college. But thank God I have the opportunity to go to college. Thank God I had the ability to be a college cheerleader. Thank God I have a bed to sleep in, even if it was with a roommate that got on my nerves. Saying thank you sounds so simple. But like Baumrind explains, it reminds us of the positive. It takes us out of the mindset of selfishness, pity, and sadness. It opens our eyes to the possibility of seeing the world differently. In the midst of this spiritual practice, I believe we begin to see God more fully. We mature in our faith. We begin to endure intentionally.

So if you’re having a hard time finding God in the midst of your trial, then what if you just start with saying thank you? This practice may begin to cultivate endurance with intention; Intention to live into the trial, to embrace the trial. And you might even decide to do something about the trial. That is endurance with intention.

God wants us to find joy. God wants us to act in faith and to face life with endurance. I truly believe that we will be joyful when we choose to live more deeply into our faith in Jesus. I believe we’re called to be thankful for our thorns and truly reflect on them with God. I believe this is what God wants from us all the days of our life.

So don’t wait until you’re a senior to learn these things. Don’t rush to the end. Don’t wake up halfway through your senior year and realize all the joy that’s been there all along, even in the trials. Stay planted firmly in the journey. Don’t give up. Actually engage in each opportunity that you have every day. This is where real life happens. Living a full life isn’t marked when your life is over. It’s not about checking off the boxes.

Be aware and fight for the maturing of your faith right now.

Stay engaged right now.

Find joy right now.

Be thankful for the thorns.

And, remember, there is no finish line, but there’s plenty of joy on the journey.


Lauren Dotson, a senior English major from Harrison, Ark., took home top honors in Season 13 of the University of the Ozarks' Project Poet competition. A total of 28 students entered the annual multi-week, fall semester competition that started in mid-September. In the following weeks, several poets went out of print until five remained, competing against each other in a lively finals episode on Oct. 26. Dotson won the top prize of $1,000 and the title of Poet Laureate of the Spadra Valley for 2018. Rebekah Moore, last year's co-champion, finished runner-up and took home the $500 second prize. Chava Roberts, Jarret Bain, and Marcelina Pop received $250, $150, and $100, respectively "Over the course of the season all Project Poet poets wrote thought-provoking poems about various subjects, poems infused with love and grief and grace," said Chris Carrier, adjunct English professor and coordinator of this year’s competition. "They made Ozarks a richer, more beautiful place." Project Poet began in 2006 as the brainchild of Ozarks’ Professor of English, Dr. David Strain, and his former colleague, Dr. Kendrick Prewitt. The competition challenges students to draw on their creative writing skills and their wit, and is open to students from any program on campus. Based on Bravo TV’s program "Project Runway," the poetry competition presents contestants with a new challenge each week. Contestants read their entries before the panel of three faculty/staff judges, and the audience, who acts as the fourth judge. When all votes are tallied, one contestant wins immunity for the next week’s challenge, while two or three others go “out of print.” The contestants who make it through to each successive round are given more difficult challenges as the competition progresses. Since 2006, more than 300 students have competed in Project Poet.