University of the Ozarks is extending Spring Break and cancelling all classes, effective immediately, for the next two weeks to best protect students and the broader community in response to risks associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Classes will resume on Monday, March 30, in an all-online method of delivery and continue online for the remainder of the semester, University President Richard Dunsworth announced on Friday.
The University will remain open and most student services, including housing, dining and academic support, will continue to be provided for students who choose to remain on campus. All campus events, including intercollegiate athletic competitions, concerts and theatre performances, have also been cancelled.
While there are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 on the U of O campus, the move to transition to an all-online format and cancel on-campus events allows the University to implement “social distancing” protocols that are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to minimize the spread of the virus.
“The last few days and weeks have been unlike anything any of us have ever seen,” Dunsworth said. “The fluidity of the situation and the pace at which the environment is changing is creating an ever-growing sense of angst and worry. However, this University has an incredible legacy of navigating through uncharted waters and difficult times and I am certain that our core Christian values, such as service, hospitality and justice, will help guide us through these trying times.”
Dunsworth said the University will spend next week preparing faculty and students for the transition from face-to-face teaching to virtual instruction.
“One of the greatest strengths of our University is the tight-knit and supportive community that we have all come to rely on,” he said. “While this situation presents many unique and serious challenges, we are confident that this collective spirit of collaboration and support will elevate us as we navigate the coming days and weeks.”
University of the Ozarks will welcome a record 40 businesses, organizations and graduate schools to campus on Thursday, Nov. 14, for the University’s annual Career Fair.
The Career Fair, which will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Rogers Conference Center, is an opportunity for University students to connect with local, state and international businesses and organizations as well as graduate and professional schools.
Ruth Walton, director of career services, said she estimates that more than 250 students will attend the event.
“I am excited that we reached our goal of 40 organizations and businesses to attend our annual Career Fair,” Walton said. “It is refreshing to experience so many companies understanding how important it is to have a presence at a university career fair. Not only is it a cost effective way to recruit; it is building and fostering a collaborative partnership. We are a small, yet, mighty school. As our University grows its enrollment, companies and graduate schools can depend on University of the Ozarks to provide them with top candidates for their programs.”
U of O students are encouraged to dress in interview attire and bring their resumes to the event.
The University of the Ozarks will present a pair of family-friendly events for the local community during the week of Halloween.
The music department will present the 19th annual All Hallows’ Eve Concert on Monday, Oct. 28, in Munger-Wilson Memorial Chapel. In addition, the Office of Student Affairs will sponsor a Trunk-or-Treat event from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31.
The concert begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Audience members are encouraged to come in costume.
The All Hallows’ Eve Concert is traditionally one of the University’s most popular musical events of the year and will feature music by the U of O music ensembles, under the leadership of choral director Dr. Jonathan Ledger, as well as by Walton Professor of Music and University organist Dr. Sharon Gorman. Bethany Walker will serve as collaborative pianist and Dr. David Strain, professor of English and classics, will be the event’s narrator.
Gorman will present organ music that will include the traditional Toccata in D minor of J. S. Bach, as well as selections from Harry Potter, Hocus Pocus, The Phantom of the Opera, Jurassic Park and other popular movies.
Presented by the University’s Eagle Productions and Residential Life, Trunk-or-Treat will be held in the parking lot of the Walton Fine Arts Center. Children are encouraged to dress in costume and candy will be handed out by U of O students and employees.
For more information on these events, please contact the Office of Public Relations at 979-1433.
Clarksville Mayor David Rieder and Johnson County Judge Herman Houston joined University President Richard Dunsworth and alumna Lisa Gruben-Inness in a proclamation signing event declaring October 14-20 as University of the Ozarks 2019 Homecoming Week throughout the city and county.
The proclamation signing took place on Oct. 14 in front of the Johnson County Courthouse and was part of a pep rally that included more than 100 students from the University. Following the pep rally, many of the students decorated downtown businesses with University signs and decals in a Paint the Town Purple event.
Houston is a 1973 graduate of U of O and Gruben-Inness is a 1993 graduate of the University.
Homecoming 2019 will include a variety of events and reunions. For a complete schedule, please visit www.ozarks.edu/homecoming.
By Jake Sawyer
Fourteen years ago, University of the Ozarks English Professor David Strain had an idea only a mad poetry scientist could cook up. Strain and his fellow English professors were looking for a way to boost submissions to the department’s annual Falstaff literary magazine when inspiration struck from an unlikely source: the reality TV show Project Runway. That epiphany would eventually become the annual Project Poet competition, which is currently enjoying its 14th season as a cornerstone of Ozarks campus life.
No one has seen the impact of Project Poet more than English Professor Brian Hardman, who served as the host for nine seasons of the event, more than any other host.
“I was interested from the start because of how unique the event was, and I loved the idea of giving students across campus a creative space to push themselves and to share their voices,” Hardman remembers.
Project Poet’s run at Ozarks has seen a number of transformations on campus and has changed itself along the way.
“The event has moved locations several times, which has allowed it to grow and evolve. The show is also more sophisticated in its use of atmosphere and production quality, and the talent has increased year after year,” Hardman says. “I hope it continues to grow and evolve, and I hope that it continues as a powerful venue for students to express their talents, voices, and experiences.”
Though the venue and atmosphere may have changed over the years, the competition itself is essentially the same. Each fall semester, one member of the English department sends out a poetry challenge to the campus community, and the students who enter must submit an original poem that meets the challenge, which may vary from a poetic self-portrait to a sonnet or haiku. There are five separate challenges over the five-week competition, and the poets must write a new poem for each challenge.
The poets themselves come to Project Poet from all walks of campus life and for all sorts of reasons. Some, such as Jarret Bain, a junior psychology major from Nassau, Bahamas, enter Project Poet as a way to get out of their comfort zone. “I didn’t expect to get very far, but whether or not I made it far, I was in it for the experience,” Bain explains.
For Bekah Moore, a senior biology major from Alma, AR, what was initially an extra credit opportunity quickly became a new passion. Though Moore’s high school had largely treated poetry as “a necessity that students and teachers alike were more than willing to cross off of their to-do list,” she was blown away by the inclusive artistic community she found at Ozarks through Project Poet. “The reverence this campus has for the arts, and its various forms, will always amaze me,” Moore says.
Both Bain and Moore placed among last year’s five finalists, and their diverse backgrounds and motivations are not unusual in the competition.
“Project Poet draws students from across campus and from all disciplines,” Hardman says. “It really says something that, as often as not, English majors aren't the ones who always win the crown of Poet Laureate of the Spadra Valley.”
Entering a poem for the challenge is only the beginning though. After writing their original poem, the poets must perform it before an audience of their peers and a panel of three faculty judges, all of whom vote for their favorite poems. For most contestants, this performance is the most stressful component of the competition. On the night of Project Poet, many of the poets arrive early to Munger-Wilson Chapel, pacing the flagstones of the chapel plaza or rehearsing their poem one last time. Then there is nothing to do but watch the trickle into the room until the host pulls a name from a faded tweed cap: “Next up, welcome to the mic”— and the applause roars.
The stress is real too. As the Project Poet motto goes, “In poetry, one day you’re a bestseller, and the next you’re out of print.” Each week’s challenge ratchets up the difficulty to a new level, and each week a few of the poets “go out of print.”
This season’s contestant pool has narrowed to the five poets who survived the semifinal round, or “Winter Formal,” which is arguably the most difficult round, as it requires the poets to compose in strict poet forms such as a sonnet or villanelle. The five who “stayed in print” qualified for the Project Poet Finale during Homecoming Weekend. There they will vie for the title of Poet Laureate of the Spadra Valley, as well as the $1,000 cash prize that comes with it.
Despite the high stakes involved, for most contestants Project Poet is as much about collaboration and personal expression with other poets as it is about competition.
“Every time I come into this project, it’s with the mindset that I am able to share parts of my unique human experience through a healthy platform that encourages creative thinking and honest expression. The fact that I get to participate for one week, or three, or five makes no difference,” Moore explains. “I consider myself extremely lucky to have stood beside such a unique and admirable set of poets.”
Bain seconds her opinion. “I’m honestly not a huge fan of competition,” he says, “but being able to go up against other talented poets has been an enlightening experience.”
For Bain, the moments before he steps to the mic are often ones of humility. “I usually think about how great everyone else is, and that if I lost then I deserved it because everyone else has worked hard to earn their spot.”
If the past years of Project Poet have proven nothing else, it is that no one can predict who will end up with the Poet Laureate crown, and if asked, the current poets will agree. One thing is certain though: they will be at the final round on October 19th, either to perform their own work or to support their friends. As Moore sums up, “One thing Project Poet never fails to do is surprise me. Participating or not, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
(Editor’s Note: The Project Poet Finale will take place in the Robson Library rotunda at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, during Homecoming Weekend and is open to all students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni. The five finalists are, Jarret Bain, Lily Marlow, Bekah Moore, Chava Roberts and Maddy Windel.)
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.