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F rum Focus The

March 2013

Campus garden Native plants spring to life in long-abandoned plot of land


Voice of public radio returns to classroom


Alum sources local produce for fresh flavor


River trail provides pleasent place to pedal


Savvy Students Choose UALR Benton Center Start your degree with core courses at the UALR Benton Center, a satellite center offering UALR classes in Saline County. The UALR Benton Center offers a 2-year Associate of Arts in General Studies degree and a Bachelor’s Degree in E-Commerce. Saline County students can stay close to home to earn their twoyear degree, and then move to the main campus in Little Rock. For your convenience, Computer labs are open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Choose the convenience of UALR Benton.


LIVE local 6

Campus garden

Members of the campus community transform vacant lot into UALR garden.


Guide to native plants

From Compass Plants to Wild Foxgloves, check out what’s populating the campus garden!

12 Michael Hibblen Arkansas-born broadcast journalist comes home to finish college and becomes voice of Little Rock public radio.


EAT local

Local farmers markets 14 Farmers markets in the Little Rock metropolitan area offer fresh meat, produce and other goods from nearby vendors.

Sodexo composting project 15 Sodexo and Laughing Stock Farm consider starting program to promote sustainable practices.


Le Pops 16 UALR alum kickstarts company, offers gourmet ice lollies.

PLAY local

20 The Joint

A young North Little Rock shop doubles as a nighttime gathering place for patrons of the arts.

24 Arkansas river trail Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines boasts the multicity system of recreational paths as tourist attraction and community asset. Cover photo: Devin Sorrows, a junior anthropology major, climbs a dilapidated structure in the campus garden to pull away loose materials. Photo by Chelsey McNeil


contents 3

F rum The

This is a Special Publication produced by The University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s student newspaper

Executive Editor Jennifer Ellis Adviser

Sonny Rhodes


Cameron Moix Sarah De Clerk Jacob Ellerbee

Designers Justin Rowland Ricky Harris

Business Manager Holden Raines

Advertising Manager Steven Wells

Staff Alexis Williams Chelsey McNeil Paige Mason Byron Buslig KenDrell Collins Ian Bennett LaShaune Rostagno



e love that more and more the UALR community strives to live sustainably. This year we witnessed a once untended plot of land become a campus garden with seedlings of an array of native plants beginning to sprout, heard talk of our campus food service provider considering participation in composting efforts and discovered UALR alumni who have chosen to develop business plans that include sustainable practices such as sourcing locally grown produce. There are so many things you can do to live a sustainable lifestyle, but just doing something is a good place to start. We hope our focus on live, eat, play local shows you what some of your neighbors are doing and perhaps sparks a proclivity for sustainability in you. We hoped that after our inaugural edition of The Forum Focus last year, bringing this special publication to you would be easier, and in some ways it was, but it certainly wasn’t without its trials. Many thanks to The Forum’s overworked and dedicated staff, Sonny Rhodes, The Forum’s adviser, Chuck Weringer, director of Printing Services and all the advertisers who made it possible. Keep up the good work and live local, Jennifer Ellis Executive Editor


A Special thanks to the many people on campus who have taken strides to bring the live local spirit to life. There are certainly projects we did not have the opportunity to focus on, but we appreciate your efforts.


History is fun! The Department of History offers: Phi Alpha Theta, an active national honor society. Annual scholarship opportunities. Opportunities to intern with local history museums.

Degree plans include: Bachelor of Arts in History Bachelor of Arts in History with Honors Bachelor of Arts in History/Secondary Education Minor in Geography Minor in Race and Ethnicity Masters Degree in Public History

Find us! At On Facebook under History at UALR On Twitter @History_at_UALR Contact: John A. Kirk Chair and Donaghey Professor of History History Deptartment University of Arkansas Little Rock 2801 S. University Ave. Little rock, AR 72204 Phone: 501.569.8392 | Fax: 501.569.3059 |



campus garden

provides opportunity for education and cooperation

By Sarah De Clerk


or the past year, volunteers have been transforming a vacant lot on the edge of campus into a resource the university can use – a garden. The garden is visibly in its early stages. The lot is dotted with piles of mulch, branches and bricks. A neat stack of logs sits curiously on one side. The project’s centerpiece, the native plant garden, is already well-established. Its beds are lined with brick and house rows of small plants, unassuming in the winter and marked with little, white signs. It smells like earth and the promise of what is to come. “It’s too early to look like much because it’s winter, but I think it will look really great soon,” said Krista Lewis, Ph.D. assistant anthropology professor and the

garden’s main faculty advisor. “It’s making slow progress, but they’ve laid a good foundation.” The project began in March 2012, when the sustainability committee offered a $1,500 grant to fund a campus garden. The Anthropology Club, partnering with the anthropology department, the Nonprofit Leadership Student Alliance and the Central Arkansas New Agrarian Society, accepted the opportunity. “We’re doing the hard part now,” said Autumn Erickson, 29, a junior anthropology major and student organizer for the garden. Volunteers are using the resources they acquired to lay the garden’s groundwork, she said. This includes designing the garden, constructing beds and laying down cardboard and mulch – organic weed control, she said.

The project’s first endeavor was the native plant garden, Erickson said. The garden features Arkansas plants that are low-maintenance and drought-resistant, she said. It includes some rare species, like tufted Barbara’s Button, as well as species that are anthropologically significant, like Rattlesnake Master, which was used to make textiles, she said. Volunteers have already planted over 70 native plants, most of which will take two years to mature, she said. The group is also constructing a Hugelkultur bed, she said. The bed starts with a base of rotting logs, which hold moisture. On top of the logs there will be layers of mulch and branches, and finally soil and plants. The bed will provide a reservoir of water for the vegetables that the group will plant there, she said.

Opposite page: Autumn Erickson, a junior anthropology major, and Professor Kate Terrell of Pulaski Tech and an adjunct professor of anthropology and gender studies at UALR, work to remove overgrown vegetation from the campus garden on Aug. 21, 2012. Above: Rachel Hoskins, a junior anthropology major, helps in the campus garden. Photos by Chelsey McNeil


The garden’s newest project is a rainwater catchment and irrigation system. The sustainability committee recently provided the garden with a $500 grant to fund the project. Since its inception, the project has drawn support from groups on and off campus, Erickson said. The alumni association donated the bricks and the facilities management donated a mulch pile the size of a van. The Golden Key Honor Society is sponsoring a volunteer day and for Earth Day, the biology department will plant a fig tree in the garden. In addition, the garden has partnered with World Services for the Blind. Volunteers with the garden have been helping out in the organization’s greenhouse, and in exchange they have provided the garden with seeds, soil and expertise. “It’s amazing how many random people have contributed,” said Holly Warg, 22, senior international studies major and eco-intern for the sustainability committee. “Before the garden, I never really hung out on campus,” said Warg. Erickson agreed that the garden provides a space where students can socialize while they work, without being pressured by faculty. But primarily, the garden will be a living laboratory. Many different programs can benefit from the garden. Erickson noted that biology, botany, physics and anthropology classes could

benefit, and added that she would like to the art department involved as well. “We really want different departments on campus to be engaged,” she said. Lewis said that she would be using the native plant garden in her experimental archeology class, to study how people native to the region used their botanical resources. Students can explore how these societies lived by making baskets and shoes out of plant fiber, or by studying medicinal and edible plants. “There are so many different educational opportunities on this lot,” Warg said. Students can also use the garden as a service learning or volunteer resource, or as an extracurricular, Erickson said. In addition, the garden will revitalize an underutilized space. The garden is located in a seemingly neglected area of campus. It can be found past Lot 12, behind some outdated and abandoned gas pumps, in a partially fenced lot. It is an area that could use some beautification. The group wants to have some sensory plants, like mint or roses, in mobile containers near the garden’s entrance, which would make the garden more visible and appealing. If the art department got involved, she said, they could have sculptures in the garden. They might also add some benches, where students could sit and enjoy the garden. The group may also plant some blackberries along the fence. The thorny bushes would add security as well

as produce. Although they have had minimal security risks so far, the lot is isolated from the campus and adjacent to a busy street, so they anticipate some security risks, Erickson said. The garden has plenty of room for development, and the garden team has plenty of ideas. The group would like to build a shed, to store their low-cost tools and equipment. They have also considered adding a compost system, she said. Other ideas include bat boxes, to discourage mosquitoes and other pests, and night-vision video cameras, which would capture the activities of nocturnal wildlife. “We have so many ideas and dreams,” Warg said. Erickson said she is concerned with making sure the garden carries on after her graduation. It would be a shame to lay the groundwork only for the project to be abandoned. To remedy this, she is considering having the university sign a contract to ensure the garden remains operational for at least five years. From her research on campus gardens at other universities, Warg found that student participation is vital to a garden’s success. “Really, what keeps it going is the students,” she said. “We’re very open to more participation,” Lewis said. “We welcome as many volunteers as possible, who can help in any capacity. You don’t have to be a gardening expert. Anyone can bring in anything they want.”

Above: Autumn Erickson, a junior anthropology major, and Holly Warg, a senior international studies major, lay mulch in the campus garden. Photo by Sarah De Clerk Opposite page: Vice President of the Anthropology Club Deanna Holdcraft, a senior anthropology major, cuts vines off of the fencing around the campus garden during one of the club’s garden work days on Aug. 21, 2012. Photo by Chelsey McNeil



A guide to the native plants populating the campus garden Compass Plant


(Silphium laciniatum)

(Silphium integrifolium)

The Compass Plant is so named because its leaves and yellow flowers have a north-south orientation, to protect the plant from the heat of the noon sun. This sunflower-like plant can grow up to 12 feet tall and blooms in late summer. Its large seeds attract birds and small mammals.

Rosinweed is a leafy plant that grows up to 6 feet tall. From July to September, it produces yellow flowers up to 3 inches across, which attract birds and butterflies. It is thought to have medicinal properties.

Firewheel or Indian Blanketflower (Gaillardia pulchella)

The Firewheel is so named for its vivid flowers that have a crimson center and bright yellow tips. According to legend, the flowers got their pattern from the burial shroud of a famous Native American blanket maker. This plant can be used to sooth skin irritation and gastroenteritis.

Yellow Blanketflower (Gaillardia aestivalis)

Ouachita Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii)

From May until October, the Yellow Blanketflower displays beautiful blooms with a large, spherical, maroon center ringed with sparse, yellow petals. These flowers attract butterflies.

The Ouachita Bluestar is so named for its light blue, star-shaped flowers, which bloom in April and May, attracting butterflies. The flowers grow in clumps atop 3-foot-tall stems. It is native to the Ouachita Mountains.

Tufted Barbara’s Button or Puffball (Marshallia caespitosa)

Tufted Barbara’s Button is only found in two sites in Arkansas, said Tom Frothingham, owner of New South Nursery. From May to June, the plant sprouts ball-like white flowers with dainty petals. The plant grows about a foot tall. The plant’s fragrance attracts pollinators.

Manyray Aster

(Symphyotrichum anomalum) The Manyray Aster is an Ozark plant that grows up to three feet tall. From late summer to fall, it displays flowers with violet petals radiating from a yellow center. These flowers attract butterflies.


Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya)

Nearly half of the Prairie Blazingstar’s height (up to 5 feet) is made up of purple flowers, which bloom from late summer into fall and winter. The flowers are cylindrical; their purple petals emerge from a rose-colored base. They attract bees and butterflies.

Rough Blazingstar (Liatris aspera)

The Rough Blazingstar grows up to 4 feet tall. In August and September, it displays its feathery, purple blooms, which attract hummingbirds.

Wild Foxglove

(Penstemon cobaea) Wild Foxglove produces distinctive pink or white flowers that are tubular and grow in clumps on a 1-to-2-foot stem. The flowers bloom in April and May and attract moths, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Sanguine Purple Coneflower (Echinacea sanguinea)


(Penstemon digitalis) Beardtongue has a 5-foot-tall stem with unevenly spaced flowers, which are white and tubular, with five blossoming lobes. These flowers attract hummingbirds and bumblebees.

Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

Like other coneflowers, the Yellow Coneflower is notable for the spiny, coneshaped center of its flowers, which have long, yellow petals. It blooms from May to September and can grow up to 5 feet tall. It attracts birds and butterflies.

Like other coneflowers, the Sanguine Purple Coneflower is topped with a spiny, cone-shaped center. Rattlesnake Master The cone is brownish-pink. From this grow long, thin, drooping (Eryngium yuccifolium) petals, which change color Along the 6-foot-tall stems of the from pink at the center to Rattlesnake Master grow groups white toward the tips. This plant attracts bees and other of pointy, white, spherical flowers. They are so named because pioneers pollinators. mistakenly thought the flowers were an antidote to rattlesnake bites. The plant Short-toothed Mountain Mint is thought to have been used by Native (Pycnanthemum muticum) Americans to construct sandals and rope, Erickson said. Native Americans Short-toothed Mountain Mint is an also used the dried flower heads as aromatic bush that provides nectar to all rattles. manner of pollinators. Circular clusters of light-blue flowers can be seen between the plant’s thick foliage. In nature, this plant Big Bluestem can be seen at the edges of woods. (Andropogon gerardii)

The Big Bluestem is a blue-green grass that can grow up to 8 feet tall. Cows love the taste of this plant. It is also an important nesting site and food source for a variety of song birds.

Elliot’s Indiangrass (Sorghastrum elliottii)

Because of the white hairs that grow on this amber plant, Elliot’s Indiangrass looks like it is silver and gold. Small, tufted flowers grow in clusters from this plant’s long, slender stem.


(Panicum virgatum) Switchgrass grows in 6-foot-tall clumps that persist into the winter. Over time, the grass turns from green to brown. It has loose, airy seed heads that droop from its stems. The grass provides food and shelter for birds and butterflies.

Rough Coneflower (Rudbeckia grandiflora)

The Rough Coneflower can grow up to 5 feet tall. From April until August, it boasts drooping, yellow flowers that attract honey bees and other pollinators.


Michael Hibblen

A reporter returns to roots, ties up loose ends and turns to teaching By Cameron Moix


n the southeastern corner of a modest Little Rock public radio station, he sits — adding a few details and cutting a few more — preparing for the just-afternoon broadcast. He started the day in a suit, which he is obligated to do while appearing on local Public Broadcasting Station’s Arkansas Week, an hour-long television broadcast in which he is a panelist discussing the prominent regional issues of the day — the big one today: Big River Steel. Michael Hibblen, a longtime broadcast journalist and Little Rock metro native, loathes wearing the tie above all. Hibblen, who returned from a 12-year Miami stint in 2009, spends the majority of his waking hours in that corner and others in KUAR public radio station just south of campus, where he has worked as news director for just over three years. While in Miami, and many places before the previously referenced stint, Hibblen functioned in a variety of capacities and for an array of reputable sources.

GROWING UP Born just west of the Mississippi River in the small southern town of Eudora, he moved with his family to North Little Rock, where Michael later graduated from high school in 1990. But even before his graduation, his career in the industry had begun to blossom. Starting in 1988 as a junior in high school, Hibblen got his first break — small as it was — as a disc jockey at AM radio stations in the Arkansas towns of Benton and England. But he remembers feeling the “magic” long before that, during a second-grade trip to a small Arkansas station. “That is where the infection began,” Hibblen said. “That was the nail in the coffin.” A few brief years later, after about two years at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, he caught his first big break at an Arkansas State Capitol event for thenpresidential aspirant Bill Clinton in 1991.


During the event, he bumped into an editor of C-SPAN’s radio division, who hired him for an internship in Washington, D.C., just two years later. “It was sort of the bug that bit me,” he said about his experience in Washington. “ I never really thought about leaving Arkansas until then. After that, my goal was to get to a bigger market.” Hibblen returned to Little Rock and enrolled at UALR in 1993, but the tick on his journalistic clock had already become that of a feverish war drum. That May, he was hired by local radio station KARN, just as the Whitewater Scandal was blowing up. “I never finished my degree the first time I was at UALR, and it was partly because I was skipping class to go cover stories,” he said. “My final semester here — and I think I pretty much failed everything — was when the Whitewater trials were going on with the Clintons’ old business partners. I just felt like I was learning so much more going out and covering stories.” So Hibblen left UALR to work full-time at KARN, but another door was beginning to creak open. Staying in touch with contacts, he soon found himself pitted between two competing radio stations in Miami, one of which won the war and hired him in 1997. During his time in Miami, Hibblen got married, divorced, hired, hired again, wrote stories for the legendary Miami Herald and worked as an anchor for their CBS-affiliated radio division, and lived the life of a Floridian. “That’s where you learn and that’s where you really have the excitement to be part of the big pack of reporters chasing the politician down the hallway and all of that.” But in 2009, creeping up on his forties and living in a strange, strange land, he decided that the prodigal son should return home; if for no one else, his parents. “I never intended to stay in Miami forever,” he said. “I wanted to get back to Arkansas. But being in news you can’t beat being in a market like that.” So he migrated westward, back to the land of his younger years, and was eagerly

hired by KUAR, UALR’s public radio station and NPR affiliate. Not long after returning, he began to move up the ranks and was offered the news director position. But there was one problem: he still hadn’t graduated from college. “Not having a degree never really stopped me,” he said. “It wasn’t really an issue not having a degree until I came back to Little Rock.” KUAR told him when he returned that if he wanted to work full time, he needed a degree, so he soon began to finish his bachelor degree in journalism. “It was contingent with my contract here that I would have to finish my degree in two years in order to work full time with the station,” he said. “So this is really the first time not having a degree for me has been an issue.”

COMING HOME Hibblen said that although the news director was the position he always sought after, he still misses chasing stories and being a part of the excitement. But rather than revert to those more thrilling years as a street reporter, Hibblen said that he has decided to take on the task of imparting his knowledge to a new generation of reporters — by teaching. “I would like that to be the next step in my career,” he said. “After 25 years now in radio, I think that teaching would be interesting. I’m at the point where I don’t see myself being a reporter forever. I love being news director, and it’s what I’ve wanted to do as long as I’ve been in radio, but I don’t see myself doing it until I’m 75.” Hibblen said that to accomplish his next goal of becoming a college journalism professor, he plans to work on his master’s and perhaps Ph.D. after he finishes his bachelor’s this semester. He said that his high school radio teacher, who instructed the students to create newscasts and operate equipment on a 5-watt radio station, taught him way more practical knowledge about the field than anyone else. So Hibblen, who has had quite the career, strives to be an

KUAR news director Michael Hibblen delivers an afternoon broadcast from the main studio of the Little Rock public radio station at UALR. After a 12-year radio career in Miami, Hibblen returned to his home state of Arkansas in 2009 to work toward a bachelor’s degree in journalism at UALR. Photo by Cameron Moix educator cut from the cloth of experience and field information, rather than the cold academics he claims to have a “beef” with. “That makes all the difference,” he said. “That is what, in the best-case scenario, I’d like to try to use my skills with is just sharing my real-world knowledge and using connections to, you know, share that with students.” “You have to be a self-starter to really make it in this business,” Hibblen said. In his spare time, which he said is rare these days, he likes to ride his bike, spend time with his daughter and go trainwatching. He also spends a lot of his free time in photographic endeavors — his minor, in fact, is photography. The logic behind Hibblen’s next planned career move is that he would finally have the chance to impart the many things he’s learned along the way: how to break into the business, cover stories on a variety of topics and media and, most of all, how to make a living doing what you love.

Since his radio debut in the late 1980s, Hibblen has covered some major news events in Arkansas, Washington and Miami. Beginning with the Whitewater trials of the early 1990s, he worked on and covered more political scandals, controversial executions, five presidential elections, gubernatorial snafus and much more. He has also interviewed literary legends of the Beat Generation, such as David Amram, Diane di Prima, Michael McClure and the late poet Allen Ginsberg.

LESSONS LEARNED “I’ve worked in radio my entire career, but I’ve worked in places that aren’t known for radio — like the Miami Herald or when I was at C-SPAN,” Hibblen said. “But the greatest thing to me about the Miami Herald was I enjoyed the radio aspect, you know, I’m proud of that but it was great when I was able to write for the paper too. I probably wrote three or four dozen stories, and I had at least once a 1A

story, and it was great to see my name on the front page of the Miami Herald.” Hibblen said that most of the stories he wrote for the Florida newspaper were focused on topics of interest to him — radio and trains, mostly. Hibblen said that for many of his vacations, he would take would take Amtrak trips around the South and Midwest, many of which he wrote about in Herald pieces. “So that’s a great thing about it, being able to sort of pursue your own interests and write about it.” “You have to be able to do everything now; and in 10 years, it’ll all probably be one thing. You’ll go out there, shoot a video, have to be part TV reporter, part newspaper reporter it’s all merging into the same thing, and you just have to be a journalist capable of adapting.” “The fact that you can do everything on an iPhone now is amazing to me,” Hibblen said. “People have to be able to do a bit of everything now; that’s a key thing I try to impart to journalism students.”


Farmers markets offer fresh local options Little Rock Farmers Market

Argenta Farmers Market

Hillcrest Farmers Market

The Little Rock Farmers Market is located in the heart of downtown at 400 Presidential Clinton Ave. in the River Market. The two outdoor pavilions provide a scenic view of the Arkansas River and Riverfront Park. Boasting fresh Arkansas crops, the Farmers Market also features homemade artwork and crafts for sale. The hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays from April through October. Visit to see a list of the market’s vendors and other river market services.

The Argenta Farmers Market has been providing locally grown produce, plants, poultry and meat since 2008. It is located in the Argenta Arts District of North Little Rock at the corner of Sixth and Main Street. The market opens for business in April and closes in September. Buyers can shop for goods on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon. For more information visit or the Argenta Farmers Market Facebook page.

The Hillcrest Farmers Market, is a community-service-based market of the Pulaski Heights Baptist Church, focused on promoting healthy living for Little Rock citizens. The market is located at 2200 Kavanagh Blvd. and is open Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon during the summer, but between October and April the hours are 8 a.m. to noon. The produce is normally displayed outside, but the market provides inside service based on weather conditions. To keep up with events hosted by the Hillcrest Farmers Market, visit


UALR Grads @ Work • Wright, Lindsey & Jennings • Aristotle • Nabholz Construction

Sodexo and nearby Laughing Stock Farm in Sheridan are currently considering starting a joint composting program to promote sustainability in the UALR community. Photo courtesy of

Sodexo, farm plant idea for composting project By LaShaune Rostagno


odexo is considering teaming up with Laughing Stock Farm to begin a composting project, contributing to a more sustainable community. Laughing Stock Farm is a certified organic farm owned by Josh and Ann Hardin. located in Sheridan. The Hardins reach out to the community to train and contribute to more sustainable practices. “We have met three times, spoke via the telephone, and email in the last six months in preparation,” Hardin said. He and Sodexo Marketing Coordinator Justin Roberson met to discuss the criteria of the quality of product for composting. The compost cannot contain any derivative of meat or cooked foods. After much discussion and training, they decided Sodexo would contribute used coffee grounds to the farm’s compost. “Compost if bought, costs about $9 a yard and I use about 300 yards a year. I like to make my own compost, but it costs me $20, $30, $40 a yard to make my own compost on the farm. I make two batches of composting a year. I have horses and goats as well my neighbors have animals too,” Hardin said. He collects manure all winter so that by the end of the season it becomes one big pile about 30 feet long, 6 feet wide and 5 feet high. “In the spring, excess grass and green vegetation is added and allow the pile to heat up,” Hardin said. The law requires the compost used must age for a whole year, and that the ingredients and temperature of the compost be documented. The USDA stipulates during the aging period the farmer turn the compost multiple times and its temperature maintain 160 degrees. With each turn of the pile of compost, the temperature of the compost decreases. “It is incredibly difficult process. This is why it is so important that the compost remain contaminant free,” Hardin said. “You cannot add anything new to the pile; otherwise the clock starts all over again, as far as how long you have to age it before you put it into the soil.” Hardin further explains that the microbial population is higher and fresher when he utilizes more of his own compost materials. The first contribution of coffee grounds has yet to occur; Hardin said he is ready to begin the project: “I am not a garbage man but I want to help with trash that is usable. I am very excited about helping out. I hope that this project pans out.” “We hope students see that Sodexo is actively taking steps towards supporting sustainability,” Roberson said.

• LM Windpower • KARK • Baptist Health • Entergy • American Chemistry • FIS • Molex • Stephens Inc. • Acxiom • UAMS • AT&T • KTHV • Jones Productions • Windstream • Clinton Presidential Library • eStem High School • Searcy Daily Citizen • BKD • Welspun • Arkansas Supreme Court • VCC • Lockheed-Martin • Ballet Arkansas • Caterpillar • Mangan Holcomb Partners • Delta Trust & Bank • Historic Arkansas Museum • St. Vincent Infirmary • Verizon • ESPN • Mitchell Williams • Little Rock School District • U.S. Marshals Museum • Arkansas Attorney General’s Office • HewlettPackard • U.S. Army • Arkansas Democrat-Gazette • Southwest Power Pool • Mosaic Templars Cultural Center • Raytheon • U.S. Bank • Walmart • The Communications Group • Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield • Frazier, Hudson & Cisne • Arkansas Governor’s Office • Arkansas History Commission • Central Arkansas Library System • William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace National Historic Site • KATV • BAE Systems • Heifer International • Arkansas Department of Information Systems • Arvest Bank • Pulaski County Special School District • Schueck Steel • Friday, Eldredge and Clark • Clinton School of Public Service • AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals • North Little Rock Police Department • Arkansas Children’s Hospital • Arkansas Business • Arvest Mortgage • North Little Rock School District • Arkansas Department of Human Services • MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History • Arkansas State Police • CLEAResult • TME • Central High School • Arkansas Department of Workforce Services • Williams and Anderson • Little Rock Central High National Historic Site • Arkansas Times • KLRT • Arkansas Historic Preservation Program • State of Arkansas • Mainstream Technologies • Old State House Museum

Make a difference in your future. Apply Now!

Ben Diggins Mechanical Engineer


Mason Hargett, a 2012 UALR grad with a BA in sociology, enjoys a blueberry and cardamom ice pop while graduate students Sarah Riva and Britany Simmons opt for Laurie Harrison’s cold weather specialty the hot pop. Le Pops, located in the River Market, provides hand-made ice pops year round. Photo by Jennifer Ellis

Alum chills out in the River Market with Le Pops Gourmet Ice Lollies By Ian Bennett


ho hasn’t enjoyed an ice lollipop or ice cream cone at one point or another? If you’ve ever visited River Market Hall in Little Rock, then you’ve probably seen Le Pops Ice Lollies. Started by Little Rock-native and UALR graduate Laurie Harrison in August 2011, Le Pops is a company dedicated to making natural, hand-crafted, gourmet ice lollies and supporting local farmers’ markets by using all natural ingredients whenever possible. “These are not grocery store pops,” Harrison said. “I use only fresh, natural, high-quality ingredients. No artificial colors, flavors or stabilizers.” Le Pops’ signs boast their ice lollies as “hand made in the natural state,” pridefully referring to Arkansas’ slogan


and mirroring the company’s mission statement. Harrison, whose bachelor’s and master’s degrees are in early childhood education, was inspired to start her business in 2010 while she and her family were on a Florida trip. “We visited a popsicle shop because our daughter loves popsicles,” she said. “I had an avocado pop. I love to cook.

My husband says I didn’t get through the pop before I proclaimed that I was going to start my own pop shop.” After her epiphany, Harrison spent the next 14 months working on recipes for flavors, for which family and friends were happy to be “taste-test volunteers.” After her recipes were perfected, Laurie was ready to offer her hand-made ice lollies at the market — The Little Rock

These are not grocery store pops. I use only fresh, natural, high-quality ingredients. No artificial colors, flavors or stabilizers.

— Laurie Harrison

Harrison pours vanilla cream, which she heats in the microwave and then pairs with a miniature pop for a flavorful stir-in. Photo by Jennifer Ellis


Above: Le Pops Gourmet Ice Lollies owner Laurie Harrison, shows off her chocolate, strawberry, avocado and lime flavored ice lollies. Harrison first tried an avocado pop while vacationing in Florida, which spurred her inspiration to start her own business. Right: Harrison catches up with Le Pops’ regulars Sarah Keith-Bolden and UALR William H. Bowen School of Law 2011 alumnae Amber Davis-Tanner. Photos by Jennifer Ellis

Farmers’ Market, that is, where most of the ingredients come from. Some of the ingredients used consist of fresh produce: cucumber, peppers, corn, and herbs such as cilantro, basil and mint. “I also use Diamond Bear Brewery’s root beer and coffee beans from RoZark Hills Coffee Roasterie in Rose Bud, Ark.,” she said. Le Pops offers about 40 flavors to the public, while other flavors are experimented with during the winter months. The most popular winter flavors are Salted Caramel, Pecan, Eggnog and Hot Pops. Laurie came up with the idea of Hot Pops to combat the decreased business ice lollie vendors faces in winter months. “You pick a pop [Salted Caramel, Raspberry Cream, Chocolate Marvel,


Mexican Chocolate, Chocolate Mint, or Pecan] and stir it into either homemade hot cocoa or hot vanilla cream to create a warm, delicious beverage.” While customers lean more toward traditional flavors and warm drinks during the winter, the options are seemingly endless year-round. Summer favorites are Salted Caramel, Strawberry, Watermelon, Root Beer Float, Pineapple Cilantro, Grapefruit Mint, Lemon Drop, Strawberry Mango, Chocolate Marvel, Chocolate Mint, and Cantaloupe. “Our more adventurous customers enjoy Cucumber Jalapeno, Mango Chili, Lemon Buttermilk, Raspberry Basil, Blueberry Cardamom, and Mexican Chocolate.” But the flavors are natural no matter

the season, as Harrison says it trumps the artificial, “which tastes fake and can leave you with an unpleasant aftertaste.” Le Pops is not just a locally-owned business: Harrison believes in buying locally too; something not always seen in today’s society, when it’s usually cheaper and more convenient to buy premade ingredients. “We strongly believe in buying locally and we strive to do so whenever possible,” she said. “Locally grown food tastes better, is more nutritious, and supports local farmers and our community. There is a greater diversity in what is grown or produced. We like to know where our produce and other products come from and we benefit from the

relationships we build in the process.” She also believes buying locally keeps money in the community, creates and sustains jobs, and conserves energy usage by reducing transportation. Although Le Pops can always be found at their home-base location in River Market Hall, the vendor can also be seen at state events. The company has served countless customers at Wildwood Park and during October festivities, such as HarvestFest, the Food Truck Festival and the World Cheese Dip Competition. But they’re not finished yet. Le Pops is working on finding two seasonal locations that will open from May through September, as well as expanding their wholesale business. The treat-maker’s wholesale accounts

include the Little Rock Athletic Club, the Little Rock Racquet Club, Hillcrest Artisan Meats, Boulevard Bread Co. in the Heights, Argenta Market, Pizza Cafe and All Aboard Restaurant. Le Pops can also be found online at the company’s website and Facebook page, where Harrison keeps up-to-date by personally communicating with customers. “We post our flavors, pictures of our customers, and promotions [on Facebook],” she said. “We also frequently post a trivia question with a free pop for the winner. That’s been lots of fun.” Even the entrepreneur herself said it’s hard not to continue taste-testing her product.

“It’s hard to choose. I like the ice pop flavors such as Strawberry Basil, Blackberry Lavender, and Avocado,” Harrison said. “My husband likes the chocolate flavors, Coffee & Cream, and Salted Caramel.” Laurie has also proposed running a promotion especially for UALR students: 50 cents off any pop with his or her student ID. “Our pops are exponentially better than any commercially produced pop,” Harrison said. “Even though they have sugar (except our Pure Sunshine), I would describe them as a healthy treat.” To find other locations offering Le Pops gourmet ice lollies, look at their flavors, or to learn about the company, visit



“The Main Thing” takes the stage at The Joint to perform “Last Night at Orabella’s.” The comedy troupe is comprised of The Joint’s owners, Steve and Vicki Farrell, and Little Rock-native Brett Ihler. The troupe performs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Photos by Jennifer Ellis

The Joint

offers fresh mix of comedy and coffee By Alexis Williams


eyond brewing delicious coffee, The Joint is a fresh, contemporary place for students to unwind and enjoy quality entertainment. Boasting a metropolitan cafe during the day, as well as cabaret comedy at night, beer on tap and a medley of musicians on stage, The Joint has blended together the perfect recipe for entertainment that appeals to all ages. The owners of The Joint, Steve and Vicki Farrell, who hail from Minnesota and St. Louis respectively, chose North Little Rock’s historic Argenta Arts District for several reasons. “We didn’t intend to come to Argenta when we came [to Arkansas]; we didn’t know where we’d be. But we had visited the area and looked at properties. The space was about the right size and the people we talked to were very friendly. It was just kind of an

accident, a happy accident,” Vicki Farrell said. “John Gaudin kind of spearheaded the revival of Argenta. His crew is a terrific bunch of people with a real vision to make this a true arts district. We got excited about it, so we started talking about the plan and the role we could play to make it happen,” Steve Farrell said. “The progress that this part of town has made in the past 10 years is incredible,” Vicki Farrell said. “Argenta was pretty rough. I lived in North Little Rock about eight years ago, and [this area] was dangerous,” Brett Ihler said. The actor completes the trio of performers known as “The Main Thing” and also performs alongside his wife in “The Joint Venture,” the cafe’s improvisation group. “Now they have all of the arts here. There’s still not a lot of foot traffic yet, but it gradually grows a little each week,” Vicki Farrell said.

“We hoped to drive out the coke whores and replace them with artists,” jested Steve Farrell. The Joint has seen much praise since it opened in June 2012. Friday night comedy acts are almost always packed to capacity. users gave the Joint 4.5/5 stars. Local beer connoisseur, “John the Beer Snob,” complimented them on their “great selection.” The 2,400-square foot business differentiates itself from any garden-variety sidewalk cafe by its two stages: the main one in a 100-seat cabaret theater, and the smaller one in the coffee shop. Also unique is its home-brewed coffee from a manual espresso machine, live music from both local and touring musicians, affordable food, fine wines and the smoothest tap beers available. “The chicken salad is the bomb,” added Steve Farrell. Though many middle-aged and older people frequent The Joint, younger crowds


are its target clientele. The coffee shop and bar presents many things that appeal to students. They are open from early morning to late at night, they offer free Wi-Fi and a quiet location to hang out or study, and their menu is very reasonably-priced. I bought 16 ounces of the most exquisite pumpkin spice latte for about $3. “We see a range of faces, from the Thursday headbangers to the wine-sippers and family. It’s a great clubhouse,” Steve Farrell said. Students can find entertainment at The Joint almost every night of the week. Tuesdays mean family-friendly “Jazz Jams” with no cover, and Wednesday nights welcome the comedy improvisation act known as “The Joint Venture.” Thursday nights are “Big Dam Beer Nights,” during which guests can enjoy live music and shave $1.25 off each 20-ounce beer. Friday and Saturday nights are reserved for “The Main Thing,” which starts at 8 p.m. By far The Joint’s most successful endeavor is “The Main Thing,” the two-man-and-onewoman comedy troupe comprised of Little Rock-native Ihler and the Farrells. They have performed a variety of shows on the Joint stage, a few of which were “Electile Dysfunction,” “A Fertle Family” and “The Last Night at Orabella’s.” “I think younger people like us more and get our humor better, but older people can afford us,” Steve Farrell said. Featuring almost weekly beer samplers

and packed Big Dam Beer nights, the Farrells are optimistic that the word about their venture is sure to spread. The Farrells identify themselves as “real espresso-lovers,” and with a vision to merge their two passions of comedy and coffee, they have introduced several signature coffees unique to the Joint, including the popular German Chocolate. They also brew honey lattes and peanut butter mochas. To maintain its urban edge and resident appeal, The Joint purchases several of its foodstuffs from local vendors. The chicken salads are from Bray Gourmet and the pastries are from Community Bakery; both restaurants are located in downtown Little Rock. The Joint purchases its custom-roasted coffee from Robert Huckleberry in Fox, Ark. In addition, this watering-hole serves Diamond Bear on tap. Diamond Bear Brewing Company, on Cross Street, has been brewing local beer since 2000. The Joint also nods a mindful head to sustainability with its biodegradable coffee cups, lids, and sleeves. Also, all used-up coffee grounds are donated to the local herb garden. The Joint is primarily family-operated. Sarah Farrell, daughter-in-law to owners Steve and Vicki Farrell, manages the café with her husband, Adam Farrell. “Adam and I were in coffee together [as Starbucks employees], and we love coffee, so what could be better? We have great music, great shows, great coffee and it is just a fun place to work,” she explained while preparing

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Vicki Farrell sits in front of the drum set. Although she was interested in tap dance, her husband needed a drummer, she said. Now, her characters are drummers. Photo by Jennifer Ellis

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Steve and Vicki Farrell along with Brett Ihler perform with “The Main Thing.” The Joint includes two theaters, as well as a restaurant lounge where coffee, beer and food are served. Photo by Jennifer Ellis my latte. The space now occupied by The Joint has undergone countless renovations. “When we came in, it was literally nothing from wall to wall,” Steve Farrell said. The first floor was empty space, the second floor was offices and the third floor was reserved for apartments. They have since converted the space to include a loft, theater, courtyard, kitchen, restaurant lounge, green room, costume closet and five bathrooms. Where do the Farrells hope to see The Joint

one day? “Well, we have the best coffee in the city,” Steve Farrell said with a smirk, “and we would like to be an event venue for special boutique events. Meaning, I would love to see a big-name artist in here [similar to Jack Johnson] recording a live album for maybe $80 a ticket. I think people would be willing to see a well-known artist, and they would be willing to pay what it would take to make it happen.” Several revered musicians have already

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graced The Joint’s stage, ranging from local act The Big Dam Horns to Seattle-native Fill the Silence. Jazz artist Rodney Block frequently plays, as well as the Funkanauts, Via Lotus and Trey Johnson. The Farrell couple offered advice for UALR students, especially aspiring entrepreneurs. “Always just take the next step,” Steve Farrell said. “Don’t try to narrow the focus, because maybe you’ll discover that your talents lead you elsewhere. I thought I wanted to be a rock musician. Once I got to college, I considered acting. Because I always just took the next step. I learned that I liked to write comedy, and I combined what I learned to create this [“The Main Thing” and other endeavors].” “Whatever you do, you do it well,” advised Vicki Farrell. “Maybe someone else will see something in you. I originally wanted to be a tap dancer. But he [Steve Farrell] needed me to play drums,” and that push for variety has allowed the Farrells to open up six theaters and create countless memorable characters. Oddly, all of her characters are proficient drummers. Though The Joint advertises primarily by word of mouth, readers can find information about the business in the Arkansas DemocratGazette and the Arkansas Times. The Joint is located at 301 Main St. in North Little Rock, down the street from City Hall. To make reservations, call 501-372-0205. Otherwise, call 501-372-0210 for the bar and cafe.



Arkansas River Trail Bicycle route becoming point of interest By Jacob Ellerbee


hether you are taking a leisurely ride or training for a cycling event, the Arkansas River Trail boasts some of the most scenic views of any biking trail in the United States. Where else can you see a beautiful city skyline, a submarine, a state-of-the-art baseball park, a mountain and a dog park, while on a stroll through one of central Arkansas’ premiere points of interest? In fact, former First Lady of the United States, Hillary Clinton, declared the Arkansas River Trail one of the finest in the country, by placing it on her Millennium Trails list. The trail has origins dating back to the early to mid-’90s, when the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock collaborated on what was known as the River Project in late 1994. The River Project involved building what is now Verizon Arena, expanding the Little Rock Convention Center, creating the River Rail system and constructing the River Trail. In Arkansas, the county judge serves as the chief executive officer of the county, deciding how county funds will be spent, approving grants and becoming involved in county projects and programs — including the intricate trail system. Initially elected in 1992, Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines led the movement and saw these projects come to fruition. “We began to talk about creating a place along the river, downtown, where people wanted to be — for entertainment, just being with people and being outside.” Villines worked on the promising project with North Little Rock’s thenMayor Patrick Hays. The two were trying to find the best place to connect the North Little Rock and Little Rock sides of the trail, and eventually determined the spot to join the two


with a bridge at the 7-mile marker. The loop is now about 15 miles, regardless of which side of the Arkansas River you choose to begin. Although the spot had been chosen to begin building the now-complete Big Dam and Two Rivers bridges, Villines said it took more than that to get the deal done. “The county took it on as a project, forming an agreement with the Corps of Engineers, who own the dam, and began to proceed,” Villines said. “It took eight years to answer all the whynots.” The Big Dam Bridge is 14 feet wide, more than 4,200 feet long, and was constructed with more than 24 million pounds of concrete and 3 million pounds of steel. The iconic metropolitan landmark was officially opened in 2006 and has been a great

success thus far, according to Villines. “Since April of last year to Dec. 17 of last year, there have been nearly 400,000 people on that bridge,” Villines said. “It’s been phenomenally successful.” A few noteworthy individuals have graced its path, including Ruth Lincoln, a 110-year-old woman who took a stroll across the bridge in September 2006. The Big Dam Bridge has even been the locale for a wedding, which Villines officiated. “It’s the only bridge of its kind,” Villines said. “Not only is it the longest pedestrian bicycle bridge, we believe, ever built, anywhere, it’s also the only bridge, we believe, that was built over a dam where the dam was not designed to have a bridge over it.” It took nearly $13 million to

Floyd G. “Buddy” Villines has been the County Judge for Pulaski County since 1992. Villines was instrumental in gathering support, funding and resources for The River Project. Photo by Jacob Ellerbee

People are out walking and riding their bikes. They are out in the open air and they’re enjoying it, they love it and I think that’s important to the future of this community.

— Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines


construct the bridge, funded largely in part, by $7.5 million from federal grants. The Little Rock Parks and Recreation encourages people from all walks to life to take advantage of the trail and experience the great outdoors. “Whether you are an athlete, need to lose weight, want to get outside or just want to walk your dog, the river trail is a place for all people,” according to the organization’s information about the River Trail. North Little Rock Parks and Recreation provides a helpful section on its rules and guidelines discussing use of the River Trail. One vital and heralded rule about the trail says “only non-motorized forms of transportation are allowed with the exception of motorized wheelchairs and emergency or maintenance vehicles.” The department also reminds visitors that Burns Park, which the River Trail runs through, is a former military training site. The organization reports that old munitions have been found and asks that passersby who see any leave them alone, vacate the area and call the police. In July 2011, the Two Rivers Park

bridge was completed and opened, touting colored LED lights, that illuminate the night sky. “It’s not the physical challenge that the Big Dam Bridge is, so you get a lot of people who will start out there,” Villines said of the nearly 1,300-foot pedestrian bridge. He added that the Two Rivers Bridge was funded via an 80-20 funding split: 80 percent of the $5.3 million it took to fund the project came from the Federal Highway Administration, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. “I’ve been down there mid-morning and on a nice day and there’ll be 10, 15 or 20 young mothers with babies in strollers ... you’ll see an adult with a child on a training-wheel bicycle,” Villines said. He said he was so inspired by this frequent scene that he commissioned a sculpture to be created. He predicts the sculpture, titled “Family,” will be erected early this summer. “I see a community as a mosaicevery piece is important, every person is important,” Villines said. “So many are hell-bent on asphalt and concrete and steel and glass.” Villines has been passionate about the project that

took more than a decade to complete. “People are out walking and riding their bikes. They are out in the open air and they’re enjoying it, they love it and I think that’s important to the future of this community.” Villines said is not done making additions to the River Trail, and that he is already planning projects for current and future Central Arkansans. Villines said he wants to expand the River Trail to reach more concentrations of people, including the nearly 13,000 students at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The project, which is already in progress, will connect the trail to Burns Park upon completion. “We’ve got the first phase done and we’ll do the second phase this coming year and that will take it to 19th Street,” Villines said. “We’re working with the city, UALR and the Wastewater [utility] to take the trail south of the fields out there at the athletic complex and going all the way to Burns Park.” “Our goal is eventually to get it connected all the way to the River Trail and, most or if not all of that, will have to be on streets, but at least have a street designed, striped in ways that will provide more safety,” Villines said.

It’s not the physical challenge that the Big Dam Bridge is, so you get a lot of people who will start out there. — Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines


Opposite page: The Two Rivers Bridge, which was completed in July of 2011, extends into Two Rivers Park. The bridge has LED lights affixed to the middle truss, which radiates beautiful colors that contrast against the night sky. This portion of the River Trail, located on the North Little Rock side, provides for a smooth and flat surface with a breathtaking view of the Little Rock city skyline and the Arkansas River. Motorized vehicle traffic is not permitted on the River Trail. Photos by Jacob Ellerbee


Diversity Programs brings cultural awareness and appreciation of the heritage of our diverse student population. All students interested in learning and cultivating the spirit of diversity and multiculturalism are welcome to participate. The Multicultural Mentoring Program assists first-time entering freshmen in acclimating to UALR while obtaining their educational goals. Celebrations include: • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Week • Black History Month • Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month • Hispanic Heritage Month • LGBT National Coming Out Day • Breast Cancer Awareness • International Celebration Week • Multicultural Academic Awards Celebration Stop by the Office of Campus Life in DSC 216 or contact Kara Brown, Diversity Programs Coordinator at 501.569.3308 Visit for more information. 28

The Forum Focus 2013  

The Forum Focus 2013

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