UAFS Belltower Fall 2023

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Bell Tower The


UAFS students graduate with a diploma and a resume, prepared for their next step

FALL 2023
The magazine of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

The Bell Tower



Go Baby Go

When electrical engineering technology students set about transforming kiddie cars for children with mobility challenges, joy ensues.


Off to Work

UAFS works to have students Ready Day One, that is, ready to step into careers the day after graduation. Here’s what that looks like.


The Deans’ Lists

Faculty and administrators know it takes more than exceptional classroom experiences to usher graduates from college to career. Deans, associate deans, and executive directors outline the steps they take to ensure UAFS students graduate prepared for the next step in life.

30 Road Trip

Students in the Miles Friedman Honors Program traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, where they learned to be critical consumers of historical tales.

SPEAKING OUT: Students in the Native American Student Association have hand prints on their faces to indicate the silent response to widespread missing and murdered indigenous women. The students joined with the Zonta Club of Fort Smith to hold a Red Sand Project event in the spring semester of 2023.


Volume 13, Number 1

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith


Terisa C. Riley, Ph.D.


Judi Hansen, Rachel Rodemann Putman, Ian Silvester


Johnathan Brewer, Jacob Howell, Elliot Nemeth ART DIRECTOR John Sizing,

The Bell Tower is published annually by the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, P.O. Box 3649, Fort Smith, AR 72913, for friends, faculty, and alumni of the university. Tel.: (877) 303-8237. Email:

Send address changes, requests to receive The Bell Tower, and requests to be removed from the mailing list to, or UAFS Alumni Association, P.O. Box 3649, Fort Smith, AR 72913.

LETTERS ARE WELCOME, but the publisher reserves the right to edit letters for length and content. Space constraints may prevent publication of all letters. Anonymous letters will not be published. Send letters to or The Bell Tower, P.O. Box 3649, Fort Smith, AR 72913.

Views and opinions in The Bell Tower do not necessarily reflect those of the magazine staff nor of the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. Contents © 2023 by the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.

FALL 2023 THE BELL TOWER 1 2 While I Have Your Attention 3 Why We Give On Campus 4 A straight line 4 Babb Center polishes 6 Sailing into the future 7 Anna Vincent, CAS 8 Shatoya Freeman, CBI 9 Hannah Cervantes, CHEHS Community 12 Film documents Belize trip 13 DoG: Good for your heart Big Picture 14 Little Lions CDC is developing the littlest lions Athletics 16 The return of Zane Gibson 17 Five up high 18 Legends of their sports 19 A match for (all) the ages 19 Lions to join MIAA in 2024 Alumni 32 Reaching space by studying Earth 34 Class Notes 35 Alumni legacy scholars 36 Matt Beyer’s advice: Work hard
24 12 10
UAFS seeks to empower the social mobility of students and fuel the economic growth of the River Valley through superior educational opportunities and solid community partnerships.

They Are Ready Day One

social mobility and fuel the economic development of the River Valley through superior, affordable education and strong community partnerships.

You’ll learn from our college deans what different disciplines are doing to ensure their graduates are Ready Day One.

For people who work at UAFS – faculty, staff, or administrators – there isn’t much that’s more satisfying than watching a student walk from the classroom onto the graduation stage and into their desired career or graduate study program, prepared and self-assured.

It’s why we are here.

That may seem self-evident, but it isn’t a foregone conclusion. Classroom study and preparation for licensure testing by themselves are not enough. To nurture graduates ready to step confidently into the next stage of their lives takes time, dedication, research, planning, and a whole lot of hard work.

It matters to our students, our region, and ourselves that UAFS graduates are Ready Day One, ready, that is, to move seamlessly into whatever comes next.

So we bring you this issue of The Bell Tower, full of stories about how we reach for that goal purposefully and about what it means to our students that we do.

You’ll learn about how the university developed a five-year strategic plan to empower students’

You’ll meet students and recent graduates who benefit from the “extras” that come with a UAFS education. Some had a chance to participate in professional conferences. Some did hands-on laboratory work of various kinds. For one student (who, we think, is destined to make her mark in the stars), faculty curated a sequence of courses that challenged and prepared her, and they created a research project to teach her about the earth and the solar system at once.

We know that as each year passes, graduates from our programs will bring a vital energy to the River Valley as they enter the workforce, buy homes, start families, and pay taxes. This is part of the way the university improves life for all. With each graduating class, economic development spreads out and brings more opportunities for more residents.

Personally, my favorite part of this issue is the number of graduates who told me they had jobs lined up before graduation. And I include the one who told me, “literally two days later.”

Dr. Judith Hansen Advancement Editor
Judith Hansen, Ph.D.
“To achieve this aspect of our mission, our university must not only be committed to offering our students exceptional educational opportunities that lead to those positive career outcomes but also to support those students on every step of their educational journey from the moment they walk onto our campus until they walk across our stage at graduation so they will be prepared to take full advantage of the career pathways now open to them.”
–Dr. Shadow Robinson, UAFS Provost, Chair of the Mission and Vision Committee


Sister Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, believed the spirit of giving is in all of us.

Mercy’s mission began with the “Walking Sisters,” who brought their care and compassion to the community. Mercy is proud to work with UAFS in many ways to give back to the community. As an alumni sponsor, we take part in events such as the annual Family Weekend, Symphony on the Green, and more. We serve others throughout the year, including various community health events and the United Way Day of Caring. Mercy provides each of its more than 45,000 co-workers eight hours of paid time off to participate in a volunteer opportunity. The collaboration between Mercy and the communities is at the heart of Mercy’s mission and reflects Catherine McAuley’s example of being a shining lamp for others by making and innovating products and services our customers value.Our focus is on delivering mutual benefit: Win-win outcomes that make life better for customers and employees alike.


To learn more about how your business can become involved in activities at UAFS, contact Christy Williams, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, at

“We should be shining lamps bringing light to all around us.”

ON CAMPUS History of Math Comes Alive in Timeline

What is 4 feet tall, 108 feet wide, and lives in the Math Science building?

Need more hints? Its creation took three senior mathematics majors, three math professors, an infusion of department funds, professional printing by Graphic Service in Fort Smith, and five full years of research and design.

Ahh. Now you have it. The Timeline of Mathematics spans the length of the eastmost hallway of the second floor of the Math Science building.

Dr. Jack Jackson, professor of Mathematics, envisioned the project. He enlisted the help of students Shaylie Sanders, who worked on it in spring 2018; Hunter Marquez de la Plata,

spring 2019; and while the challenges of the pandemic slowed the project in 2020-2021, Chyniqua Johnson joined the team to bring the project near comple-

The timeline is more than a compilation of mathematical developments from 800 BCE until 2022.

the timeline.

tion in spring of 2022.

Dr. Todd Timmons, professor emeritus and math historian, and Dr. Kayla Murray, a member of the UAFS class of 2009 and associate professor of Mathematics, lent their support throughout the project.

Under the linear graphic spanning the top of the design, there are images and brief biographies of significant mathematicians; notable dates for scientific, technological, and cultural innovations (including the 1928 foundation of Fort Smith Junior College) for context; and 117 featured articles including overviews of the centuries, recognition of award winners, and accounts of interesting mathematical stories.

Over 480 mathematicians from Thales through Archimedes, Katherine Johnson, and Steve Wolfram find places on

Babb Center Provides Polish

All math majors at UAFS work to complete senior projects and are expected to report on them at midterm and the end of the semester, Jackson said. In subsequent years, Sanders, Marquez de la Plata, and Johnson worked directly with Jackson on different sections of the timeline. In addition to presentations, Sanders, class of 2019, and Marquez de la Plata, class of 2020, spoke about the project at the Mathematics Association of America’s Oklahoma-Arkansas Section meeting.

Sanders did most of the work on the portion of the timeline covering recent developments in mathmatics. Marquez de la Plata worked on the section

Students can be brilliant in the classroom, in the laboratory, and at the computer or soldering iron, but if they can’t show prospective employers how that brilliance will count in the workplace, it may not be enough.

That’s where the Babb Center for Career Services comes in.

“I hope every student who works through our program can go into an interview feeling confident because of the practice and experience they’ve had here,” said Susan Krafft, Executive Director of the center. “They are doing great things, hard things in the classroom. We want them to be able to articulate those achievements and demonstrate how transferrable those skills are in the workplace.”

The Babb Center’s services are free to help students and alumni develop professional skills that will prepare them for their future careers. The center connects students with employers in varied ways to provide students with valuable experience in their fields, mentors who can guide them, and supporters who will be with them throughout their post-academic lives.

With career interest identification tools, resume workshops, interview training - often with real community hiring staff serving as mock interview-

HELPING HAND: Career Services staff, working with community partners, serves lunch to students on the Campus Green.
“When you do real math at a higher level, it’s just as much an art form as a painting or sculpture.” — Dr. Jack Jackson

describing events back to about 1100. Johnson, the final student to work on the project, concentrated on the earliest information.

Complementing the students’ work, Jackson and Timmons wrote the century overviews and many articles,

and Murray provided careful proofing to ensure all the information was accurate and current.

Much of the historic content was sourced from the MacTutor History of Mathematics website, augmented with research gleaned from a variety of aca-

ers - comprehensive and major-specific career fairs, and even a professional clothes closet, the center has everything a student might need to feel confident stepping into the hiring pool.

Krafft said the center offers about 30 unique workshops during the academic year, with many offered several times each semester. The Center also reviews over 800 resumes annually, helping students communicate the skills they gained at UAFS.

And for students who seek help in just a handful of areas, the services are offered with no commitment.


Each year cohorts of dedicated students pursue the valuable Certificate of Distinction in Student Professional Development. Local employers know the certificate means students have had impressive professional training and have demonstrated timeliness, responsibility, and a strong work ethic.

Certificate-seeking students must attend specific workshops (like resume building and interview skills) and attend employer events and networking sessions that help them build connections and conquer anxieties. The certificates are awarded at the silver or gold level.

Silver-level students must complete a slate of workshops and activi-

demic resources.

The different sections are not all drawn to the same scale of time, Jackson said, because events happen much more quickly in the modern era. He hopes demonstrating the vastness of the history alongside the visualization of how rapid

ties. In their senior years, they need to complete sessions on conducting a job search, practice interviews, and advanced resume writing.

developments are made in the 21st century, can teach students nuances that may be missed in the classroom.

“When we teach math, oftentimes we teach it in a finished, polished form,” Jackson said. “We usually don’t teach about the people who developed it over time or even when it was developed. Sometimes we lose track of the idea that all of mathematics was created by people.

“The timeline shows that math is a human endeavor, something real people worked on over time. It honors this fantastic group of diverse people from all genders, cultures, and locations from around the world who have brought us this wonderful gift of mathematics. They provided the ability to make technology happen, to live our modern lives. We hope the timeline will inspire the next generation.”

Students seeking gold-level distinction must complete the silver requirements and have an internship for academic credit or in their field of study. They must also complete two of the following options:

• Complete a faculty-approved research project.

• Complete a Maymester in an approved environment.

• Present or compete in an organizational regional, state, or national competition or symposium.

• Complete 15 hours in an approved campus organization leadership project.

• Complete 15 hours in an approved community service leadership activity.

• Complete the SSS/TRIO program or Honors Program.

Coming soon to Career Services: a revitalized internship program funded by a generous gift from Doug and Kathy Babb.
INTREPID STUDENTS: Alumni Shaylie Sanders and Hunter Marques de la Plata pose with Dr. Jack Jackson in front of the 108-foot-long Timeline of Mathematics. Inset: Chyniqua Johnson also worked on the project.

University Navigates with Strategic Plan

With a new chancellor at the helm and a centennial anniversary on the horizon, the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith set about defining its course for the next five years by creating a strategic plan.

Following more than 10 months of discussions with stakeholders – faculty, staff, students, alumni, industry partners, and community members – consensus emerged, and the 5-year plan, a mission statement, and a vision statement were formed.

The Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas approved the plan on May 25.

Through it, UAFS gives voice to its commitment to empowering its students’ social mobility and fueling the River Valley’s economic growth through excellent educational opportunities and solid

community partnerships.

Reflecting on the future impact of this strategic plan, UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley told the campus community, “This plan, and the implementation initiatives that will soon follow, will usher in an exciting new era at UAFS. We see this plan as the embodiment of our shared ambition to empower students, strengthen our community ties, uphold our culture of integrity, innovation, and inclusivity, and truly shift the boundaries of what’s possible in higher education.”

“To achieve this aspect of our mission, our university must not only be committed to offering our students exceptional educational opportunities that lead to those positive career outcomes but also to support those students on every step of their educational journey from

the moment they walk onto our campus until they walk across our stage at graduation so they will be prepared to take full advantage of the career pathways now open to them,” said Dr. Shadow Robinson, UAFS Provost.

“We have always known that this is who UAFS is on its best days. … (Now) we are boldly stating that this is who UAFS intends to be every day, for every student on our campus, and for every member of the community who calls the River Valley home,” Robinson said.

The development of the new strategic plan began in June 2022, when UAFS started to work with MGT Consulting, a global firm specializing in strategic planning. MGT thoroughly analyzed the university’s place in higher education and in national

and regional communities. It gathered and analyzed crucial institutional data and evaluated opportunities, challenges, and threats.

Throughout the partnership, MGT conducted focus groups, interviews, and surveys that led to the articulation of four pillars to support the strategic plan.

These pillars areStudent Access, Engagement, and Success, which aims to empower students to grow, lead, and succeed;Teaching and Learning, which aims to cultivate exceptional learning experiences and promote excellence within the UAFS community;Economic Development, Community Engagement, and Industry Partnerships,which aims todrive transformational regional change by forging strong and innovative partnerships in the River Valley and beyond; andInstitutional Sustainability and Resource Stewardship,which aims at securing the institution’s long-term stability through responsible practices and policies.

Through the strategic plan, the university commits to upholding its promises to students and to the community, demonstrating integrity, innovation, and value.

In the coming months, each UAFS department will develop detailed implementation plans to support the university’s values and goals. Following approval of these plans, department and divisional leaders will submit annual reports detailing their progress, all of which will be shared openly — advancing institutional transparency and accountability.

FIRST GEN: UAFS provides special support to students who are the first in their families to go to college.

Grad Preserves History at Home

“What are the odds?” Anna Vincent asked herself on the morning of March 1, 2023, her first day as the historical facility manager at the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center – her first day working to preserve her hometown slice of history.

The job is a dream come true for Vincent, a 2017 University of Arkansas – Fort Smith history graduate. Originally from Spiro, Vincent finds herself back home, just a mere 20 miles from the campus that ultimately led her to a place where history and culture are buried in time.

The Spiro Mounds date back more than 1,200 years and were once home to the Caddo Mississippian people. Today, all that remains are the mounds of earth that denote the location of dwellings and the once artifact-filled burial site.

According to Vincent, overseeing the history of those who were among the first settlers on the land “was just dumb luck.”

“I was visiting my mom in Fort Smith and lying on the couch one Sunday morning,” Vincent recalled. “I decided to check the Oklahoma jobs board, see what’s going on, and I just happened to see it, and I was like, ‘You got to be kidding me!’ and I applied to it.”

She credits studying history and minoring in anthropology at UAFS as what opened the door for the job she always wanted.

Through Vincent’s studies, she received a first-hand account of what it means to preserve history. Hired in 2015,

Vincent began working for the Arkansas Archaeological Survey (AAS) thanks to the help of Professor Tim Mulvihill of the AAS’s research station at UAFS.

“Most of my work was done in the lab on campus, cleaning and cataloging artifacts from various digs conducted through the Survey’s UAFS station. I also assisted with excavations the station was carrying out at the Wilhauf House (in Van Buren), where we uncovered a huge cellar and found various artifacts, including dominoes and a really cool 19th-century pharmacy bottle.

“To me, it’s the golden virtue of being a historian or anyone working in public history or historic preservation,” Vincent said. “You are responsible for making sure that a place is just as

accessible to future generations as it was to you so that they can appreciate it like you did.”

Through her work with the AAS, Mulvihill witnessed Vincent’s love for history grow. He said her experiences and coursework at UAFS have made Vincent “uniquely qualified for the job at Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center.”

Vincent manages a site that became part of the National Registry of Historic Places on Sept. 30, 1969, some 30 years after it was nearly wiped out.

Treasure hunters came through the area, running a track right through the middle of Brown Mountain and pillaging the Craig Mound – the site’s burial mound – finding one of the world’s largest collections of artifacts. With trade linked

from Mexico to the Great Lakes, the Caddo Mississippian people who called the mounds home left a history scattered around the globe.

Today, visitors can see replica artifacts and learn about the Caddo Mississippians. With Vincent in charge, lessons will be fueled by a love for her community and the history she grew up learning about in her backyard. Mulvihill reinforced this idea, stating that Vincent was a dedicated student who brings that same enthusiasm to the field.

“Even though you may not have known that this place existed, it did exist, and incredible things happened here,” she said. “Incredible things were found here, and more people should be aware of it.”

ANNA VINCENT: When she landed a job at the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, Vincent, seen here working on the Wilhauf House in Van Buren, was happy to be working in her field of study – and in her hometown.

When Class Is Half a World Away

As Shatoya Freeman’s day is just beginning, most of her professors are preparing for the second half of their day. It’s not due to an overnight schedule or a desire to sleep in. Instead, it’s due to being four time zones apart.

Shatoya is a University of Arkansas – Fort Smith student enrolled in the Adult Degree Completion Program (ADCP). Like most of her ADCP classmates, she commutes to class with the touch of a button and a series of clicking keystrokes.

Unlike most of her classmates, Shatoya is nearly 4,000 miles away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. She is an active member of the US Army

stationed in Hawaii, but her coursework began in the sands of the Middle East.

Deployed to Kuwait, Shatoya was hit with an educational epiphany. “I was going through the UAFS site and came across (the ADCP). So, I started looking into it and thought, “This is perfect for me!’”

She meets with her professors and classmates virtually through Zoom. In this virtual classroom, she caught the eye of her former professor, Dr. Kristin Tardif. Tardif quickly recognized the drive and discipline displayed by Shatoya when it came to her education.

“Shatoya is one of those that took very little effort to moti-

vate because she was just a selfmotivator,” Tardif explained. However, through conversations between the student and professor, it became clear to Tardif that Shatoya’s motivation came from life experience.

Shatoya, 32, is from Fort Smith and earned UAFS credit while attending Northside High School. She graduated in 2009, but as a single parent of an 18-month-old, education was no longer her top priority. She joined the Army to help support her young family and has since realized the benefit of furthering her education.

“In the military, I’m in human resources, a leadership position,” she said. Shatoya is working on completing her bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. She said, “This course will help strengthen me on not just the civilian side but the military portion as well.”

Yes, the program is designed to help her earn her bachelor’s degree, and it will pay dividends in her professional life, but what Shatoya loves most about the ADCP is the flexibility.

“The mission is always first when it comes

to active duty. It could feel like a normal day, and then something springs up on us,” she explained.

Shatoya said her professors fully understand the short notice nature of her job and the long periods when she cannot communicate with them due to being “on a plane for 21 hours coming back to the mainland.” Thankfully, she said, they have all worked with her and have “all been amazing.”

According to Tardif, the feeling is mutual. “If you really want to know the truth, I think she’s the poster child of the ADCP.” Shatoya’s connection to the military might not be unique for ADCP professors, but her dedication to learning, active participation, and attitude sets her apart.

Come the summer of 2024, every made-up assignment or test, every login, and the navigation of distance and time will all be worth it.

Shatoya’s goal will be accomplished with a call to the stage, a handshake, and the presentation of her bachelor’s degree –which she has no plans to miss.

“For my (graduation), I’m going to take leave,” Shatoya said with a laugh and a big smile. “I want my kids to know that in the future, if they ever have a little bump in the road, no matter how old they might feel like they’re getting, no matter how hard the world may be, education is something you can always fall back on. It’s never too late to do.”

SHATOYA FREEMAN: Being on duty didn’t mean an end for Shatoya’s goals of a college education; it made it all the more attractive.

Surgical Tech Grads Join Ranks

For most professionals, the chance to attend a conference comes after years of practice, but for Hannah Cervantes and other new graduates of the surgical technology program at the University of ArkansasFort Smith, it was a kick-start to a promising new career.

Here’s how Cervantes documented the start of her first professional meeting on Instagram: “Hello from Chicago! We are so excited to

be representing UAFS and Arkansas at the Association of Surgical Technology National Conference! Stay tuned for a look at the amazing weekend we are going to have!”

Cervantes traveled with three other May grads and the professors from the surgical technology program. This was the first time the profs took students. “We decided to put in the work to go with them to the conference,” Cervantes said. “We were in awe the whole time.”

Ashley Smith, Executive Director and senior instructor in the surgical technology program, said full-time faculty member Tammy Schaefer headed up the plan to take the new graduates to the conference. Smith supported the idea for several reasons.

“It gives (the grads) a chance to see all of the other surgical technologists (like them, new) who have the same questions, anxiety, excitement, and fulfillment of the career and network with them,” Smith said.

“Plus, being in that energy and learning environment

refreshes and encourages a renewed passion for the field and motivates newly graduated students to continue down the path of surgical technology using the utmost techniques, precision, and care that they had when starting the program.”

Cervantes echoed Smith.

“They brought in surgeons from across the country to show us different specialties. We saw new robotics, new techniques in plastic surgery, advancements that will be affecting us in our profession and might be coming to our state or that may be happening in other states we might transfer to.”

Smith said the program graduates about 14-16 students per academic year.

The program boasts a 100 percent job placement by graduation for interested students.

“I keep track of employment placement of graduates. … I send out employer surveys to see how my students are being accepted and performing as graduates,” she said. “We encourage students to start applying for positions in February, so by May, those who wanted a job as a surgical technologist will have one before they commence.”

Cervantes graduated knowing she had a job starting in June at Baptist Hospital.

She is already urging 2024 grads to make the effort to attend next year’s conference.

“We are members of this association; it’s open to us; we have to go next year.”

Student Views ON CAMPUS
HANNAH CERVANTES: Hard work and dedication took Cervantes and fellow grads to their first professional conference preparing for a successful career.


Go Baby Go – Students Learn the Value of Giving

Dr. Kiyun Han planned to combine “electrical and computer engineering with community engagement” to benefit children with limited mobility and teach his students a valuable lesson about living as citizens of the Earth.

When Han, associate professor and program lead in Electronics Technology and Electrical Engineering

Technology, applied for an $8,000 mini-grant, he proposed introducing UAFS students to Go Baby Go, a program developed at the University of Delaware about 15 years ago.

Students modified the rideon cars for young children so those unable to control their lower bodies would be able to propel themselves using a control on the steering wheel

instead of the pedals. During the 2022-2023 academic year, Han and his students handed over the keys of the souped-up cars to one child at the Gregory Kistler Center and two at the Bost Child Development Center.

Trish Baumgartner, director of the Children’s Services Program at Bost, said the benefit to the children is


“The opportunity for children with specific disabilities to have customized jeeps specific to their needs is monumental,” she said. “That gives the child the ability to be like any other child who would have a toy jeep.”

In his proposal, Han developed that idea.

“Research has shown that independent mobility positively impacts motor, cognitive, language, and socio-emotional development,” Han noted. Being pushed in a stroller or carried from place to place

SOUPED UP: Dr. Kiyun Han’s students delivered customized cars to three children with mobility challenges in the 20222023 academic year.

is no substitute.

“Children who achieve selfdirected mobility – whether on their own or using some kind of assistive device –can experience more social interactions, which will lead to better communication and social skills,” Han wrote.

The cars the students worked on have other modifications, too. Exposed plastic is wrapped in foam (think pool noodle) to protect the child drivers, some of whom may have involuntary upper body movements. At least one of the cars made in the last year has a five-point harness to help the child remain upright.

Baumgartner said one child is still learning to control the button. “However, the smile on her face when she is able to is priceless.”

The children who received the cars are not the only ones smiling.

When the customized cars were delivered to children at Bost, the smiles were universal: The children, their families, the center’s staff members, and the UAFS students were all joyful.

Learning that they could combine their professional skills with community service is vital to Han.

“It’s good for our students

to learn to modify the electric circuit on the car; it helps them understand what they learn in their classes. But this is good community service, too,” Han said.

The students know they will apply the skills they learned at college when they go to work, but this is something more.

“Through this project, they learn we can contribute to the community. Their skills can be used for community service or other obligations,” Han said. “It can give them good motivation. It can give them a reason to continue to study this field.”

HAPPY DAY: Dr. Kiyun Han and his students are happy to deliver the gift of independent mobility. JOHNATHAN BREWER

A Look Through the Lens

A senior biology major at UAFS, preparing to attend medical school, spent the first part of the summer honing his filmmaking skills and adding to his bird life list in Belize. It might seem a counter-intuitive use of time for the student who spent the rest of the summer studying for the MCAT and gaining “shadow hours” so he can apply to medical school.

But Ryan Jacobs, who expects to graduate in December, jumped at the chance to join biology professor Dr. Ragupathy Kannan on a trip to the Central American country in May. Ryan said he loves “many different aspects of both the natural sciences and medicine” and has prepared for graduate school in various disciplines, making this trip perfect for him.

Kannan takes students, and sometimes community members, to observe wildlife and learn about the environment most summers.

Kannan had a specific

goal this year: He wanted a documentary record of the trip.

“I’ve always wanted an educational and informative documentary that covers all aspects of the trip,” Kannan said. “It will be an invaluable educational tool for future students. Besides, making a documentary is a great experience for honors students.”

That’s where Ryan came in.

“As Myles Friedman Honors students, we are required to attend an international study program abroad in addition to our intensive studies to successfully graduate with honors,” Ryan explained, adding that he didn’t think he’d be able to complete that requirement because of financial concerns until this opportunity arose.

“When I heard Dr. Kannan was taking students to Belize, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to do everything I could to get in on this trip,” he said. “Although this trip would help me get the honors credit I need, I wanted to go because I had never been out of the country before, and to get to study wildlife in a foreign country with my peers sounded like the trip of a lifetime.”

Ryan explained the trip’s objectives.

“Our goal in Belize was to study the major plant and animal interactions … and to document the various flora and fauna species.”

His own goals were broader.

“I began working on the documentary because Dr. Kannan wanted someone

REFRESH: Susan Leslie, an Audubon naturalist, accompanied the UAFS group to Belize.

to make an educational documentary regarding what we learned, and I have experience in audio mixing, so I thought it would be a fun project for me to take on. Every day I took video of our morning walks and recorded candid moments in the field.

“When I got back home, I planned out what aspects of the trip I wanted in my video, wrote a script, and narrated over the videos I took. After a lot of editing and around six hours of work, my documentary was complete. I was really proud of it and enjoyed my time making it.”

Kannan said the experience,

in addition to sharpening Ryan’s digital editing skills, would help him to learn “to communicate science effectively to undergraduate students and the general public.”

Although Ryan was proud that the group documented more than 400 species and had more than 1,000 observations, not all activities had a direct pedagogic end.

“Even for how excited I was for the trip, every day exceeded my expectations,” Ryan said.

“We worked hard every day from 5 a.m. until dark, but we also had a ton of fun. To name a few exciting events, we canoed the Macal River through the dense forest ecosystem of Belize, visited the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich, snorkeled the Caye Caulker marine reserve, and experienced some of the culture by helping a local make homemade tortillas.”

“I think just the simplicity of life and appreciation of the wildlife in Belize is something I will carry with me throughout life,” Ryan said. “Words barely describe how grateful I am.”

It’s Good for Your Heart

The annual Day of Giving invites people to put their money where their hearts are by making dedicated gifts to studentfacing projects, and special accounts that make a UAFS education unique.

The 2023 Day of Giving was a success, raising $94,339, besting the goal of $78,000 by more than $16,000. Fundraising spanned 1,928 minutes in a shout-out to Fort Smith Junior College’s founding.

The 2024 Day of Giving is scheduled for April 25 and 26.

In 2023, 327 ambassadors promoted their projects. Donors made 1,207 gifts to 16 projects.

Jasmine Smith, Director of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving, said the Day of Giving is close to givers’ hearts.

“What people love is the chance to make a gift to a cause that is dear to their hearts. When alumni give, they often give to something that reminds them of their time on campus, something they benefitted from, or something they wish had existed. Other givers who know UAFS’s story are attracted to efforts that matter to them, be it sports, or scholarships, or classroom education,” Smith said.

Projects for the 2024 Day of Giving will be announced in January.

Individual Project Totals, 2023

Adult Education Completion Program: $1,750

Alumni Legacy Scholarship Endowment: $7,960

Applause: $2,345

Area of Greatest Need: $20,400

Athletics Weight Room: $10,532

Cub Camp: $3,290

Students Emergency Assistance Program: $2,712

General Scholarship Fund: $250

Golf: $18,855

IDEAL Women: $5,500

International Study Scholarship: $3,469

Library Textbook Share Program: $1,210

Little Lions Child Development Center: $3,615

Read This! Program: $2,925

UAFS Cheer: $5,250

Writing Center: $3,360


The new Little Lions Child Development Center on the UAFS campus will be a learning lab for UAFS students who work there, giving them practical experience under careful supervision. The center has rooms for babies, toddlers, and 3-year-olds. The center offers convenient, safe, reliable care for students, staff, and faculty who are also parents, and it will include collaborations among multiple programs in the College of Health, Education, and Human Sciences.


IRRESISTIBLE: Child Development teacher Zoie Lunsford plays with Hattie Smith and Tobin Cowan, who find brightly colored scarves irresistible.

ATHLETICS Character Counts for Coach Gibson

For the first time in 5 years, Zane Gibson returns to the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith to don the Lions’ blue and white. His return is a shift of just 18 inches but comes with the responsibility of being the UAFS men’s basketball head coach.

“When you slide down from the assistant coach chair to the head coach chair, it’s like going from here to Mars,” laughed Gibson. “You go from being a guy that can walk into the office and make suggestions to the guy that has to make all the decisions.”

Gibson is a college coach’s son who was a player and graduate assistant at Middle Tennessee State and an assistant coach at UAFS. He paid his coaching dues by wearing out dry-erase markers on the bench before getting a shot at the next level.

As head coach at Western New Mexico for three years, he quickly helped turn around the program. However, a familiar coaching vacancy was too hard to resist.

“I’m from Chattanooga,” said Gibson. “I couldn’t pass up being closer to home. And you know, having a lot of positive history here, knowing a lot of the people, and having a good feel for how the community works, I really wanted to take on this opportunity.”

Gibson was named the UAFS men’s basketball head coach on April 7, 2023. Now he plans to bring a winning culture back to

the Gayle Kaundart Arena at the Stubblefield Center.

“There’s nothing more special in college athletics than cutting down a net,” said Gibson. “I’ve been a part of a few special Lion’s teams in the past that were able to climb the ladder and do just that. We want to do that again.”

With returning players Payton Brown and Cameron Bush, Gibson looks to build off their experience and success in the Lone Star Conference to give fans something to look forward to. He also hit the recruiting trail hard over the summer, including summer camps at which Gibson hoped to plant the seed for players to choose UAFS.

However, he says it won’t just be talent that is evaluated and recruited.

“I don’t know exactly what the makeup of the team will be when it’s all said and done. What I do know is that there will be good people representing our program and hopefully good basketball players – and in that order. We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure we’re bringing in really good people to represent Arkansas, Fort Smith.”

Gibson believes character will have the greatest impact on campus, and he and his staff will work to instill in their players so that “they can teach the next wave of guys coming in.”

But it’s not just the culture Gibson brings to UAFS that sets the team and university apart.

“You don’t want to be at a place where being OK is acceptable,” stated Gibson. “You want to be at a place where you are absolutely chasing the ultimate prize, and I think you can do that here at UAFS. It’s been proven in the past, and I hope to prove it again.”

When November rolls around, as Gibson takes a seat in the head coach chair and his team of Lions take the court, each player will be playing to represent the community, and Gibson wants every fan to know, “We are going to go out there and outwork everybody.”

RUN TO THE ROAR: Follow the Lions on Social media: @UAFSLions and @UAFSSports WELCOME: Zane Gibson returns to UAFS, this time as coach.

High-Five Fridays

“It’s important for us always to be ambassadors of the game,” Gibson explained.

Starting at the beginning of April didn’t give Gibson much time to get settled before the semester’s end, but he hit the ground running when it came to community outreach.

Resuming the practice as soon as the fall semester began, Gibson and his pride of Lions formed a line in front of Fort Smith elementary school doors. They were not making assists on the court but dishing out smiles and high-fives every Friday morning.


made in the community, starting with its youngest members.

“This is their hometown,” Payton said. “Getting out in the community more and showing that we care and showing that we’re going to put in the work for everybody in this community – hopefully, more people will support us again.”

When Zane Gibson returned to the University of Arkansas –Fort Smith, he did so with a mis-

sion to reinvigorate the UAFS basketball program and the excitement in the community.

Leading the way, Gibson calls himself a “go-doer” and was eager to “go out there and extend my hand” for what was aptly named High-Five Fridays. Returning guard Payton Brown was part of those friendly Friday mornings and sees the mark his new coach and the team have

In sports, high-fives are an act of celebration, a physical “good job,” and a connection shared between two people for a single moment. You might not remember every high-five given or received in life, but the kids of the Fort Smith community are sure to remember their Friday morning high-fives whenever they see the UAFS Lions.

With school back in session, Gibson and his Lions will return to the community, serving smiles and handing out highfives for Fort Smith kids.

CAMPTOWN: Throughout the summer, UAFS men’s basketball head coach Zane Gibson continued the tradition of welcoming boys and girls to the UAFS Basketball Camp. This year, 380 kids participated in three- or fourday camps, receiving hands-on skills from Gibson, his staff, and current players. Gibson was pleased with the outcome and believes UAFS athletics are a way to connect with everyone. “We want to let them know that we are part of the community and not an outlier.”


Hall of Fame Inductees

Legends of the Games They Played

The UAFS Lions Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed by the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith Athletics Department. The Hall of Fame honors former student-athletes, coaches, and friends of the University athletic department. Following a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAFS Lions Hall of Fame was back this year with its Class of 2023, and it did not disappoint.


Women’s Basketball NJCAA National Championship Team

Head coach Louis Whorton taught the team to play an aggressive style of basketball that resulted in an undefeated 35-0 season capped off with a national championship in 1994-95. The championship game against Trinity Valley Community College, 82-75, was the only single-digit win all season long. Whorton was named NJCAA Coach of the Year for the success of the Westark College Women’s Basketball team.

Jane Sargent, UAFS Volleyball Head Coach

Sargent built the team from nothing in the spring of 1998 and has remained the team’s head coach for the past 25 seasons. She enters the UAFS Lions Hall of Fame with more than 700 career wins and is Arkansas’s winningest collegiate volleyball coach. The Lions have never had a losing season under Sargent.

John “Taz” Tongier, UAFS Baseball

Tongier came to the River Valley in 1996 and has been a fixture of UAFS Baseball practically ever since. He approached then-Westark Community College baseball head coach Bill Crowder, and the rest is etched in the history of his field maintenance and infield raking. With additional duties like scorekeeping, announcing, running the scoreboard, and driving the team bus, Tongier is a living Lion legend on the baseball diamond.

Seth Youngblood, UAFS Basketball

Youngblood was a crucial piece of the Heartland Conference Championship team and the other UAFS teams that earned trips to the NCAA Tournament. He finished his UAFS career with 1,912 points and remains the all-time leading scorer for the Lions. Youngblood’s point total and 339 made three-point shots are ranked second all-time in Heartland Conference history.

Stacey Jones, Forever Letterman

Topping the Lions Hall of Fame Class of 2023 with its highest distinction, the Athletics Department named Stacey A. Jones a UAFS Forever Letterman. Jones, who retired as the associate vice chancellor of Campus and Community Events after managing the UAFS Season of Entertainment, arrived at the Westark Junior College campus in 1969 and stayed for more than 50 years. In 2012, the Alumni Association recognized him with its highest honor, the Diligence to Victory Award, now the Distinguished Alumni Award. A decade later, he served on the Alumni Advisory Council. In his honor, the Season, which has brought Broadway shows and Broadway-caliber entertainers to Fort Smith, has been renamed The Stacey Jones Season of Entertainment. Sheila Jones, his wife of 46 years, accepted the Forever Letterman award in his name.

INDUCTEES (clockwise from upper left): The Westark Community College’s women’s basketball team of 1994-95; Seth Youngblood; Sheila Jones accepted the award, accompanied by AD Curtis Janz and Fort Smith Mayor George McGill, on behalf of her husband Stacey Jones; John ‘Taz’ Tonglier; and Jane Sargent.


Alumni Ready for More

Before the first game of the season, before the Blue-White scrimmage, there was the alumni game, when this year’s UAFS volleyball team took on opponents … who were playing volleyball before today’s students were, well, born.

To be sure, not every member of alumni squad was born before every member of today’s team, but 20-year-olds were born in 2003, and Audra Harper, ’05, played the first season The Stub was open, in 2002. But who’s counting?

This year, Jane Sargent, UAFS’s first and only volleyball coach, led today’s team to victory over Susannah Kelley’s alumni, but that wasn’t what stood out to Josh Simond, Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement.

“What I noticed was how good our alumni still were,” he said. “They could PLAY. But more than that it was so fun to see how they interacted with each other. Most of them acted like they hadn’t spent a day apart.”

The alumni players are ready to keep this tradition alive.

“Two of the players have approached me about expanding it to be a weekend next year so they could practice the day before,” Simond said.

Lions To Join Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association

The 2023-2024 sports seasons at UAFS will be the Lions last in the Lone Star Conference, which the university joined in 2019.

On June 26, UAFS accepted an invitation to join the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) beginning in the fall of 2024. The move makes UAFS the first full-time member in Arkansas – joining one of the nation’s oldest and most successful conferences in NCAA Division II athletics.

The MIAA is headquartered in Kansas

City, Missouri, and boasts a conference footprint in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and soon, Arkansas. The move will not only reduce the travel time for UAFS student-athletes, but it will foster new rivalries and give fans access to more games.

“An athletic conference should bring likeminded institutions in a geographical area to compete and allow their student-athletes to excel academically and develop life skills, and the MIAA does that for UAFS. The geographical footprint of the MIAA allows for our

student-athletes to participate academically and enhance their experience as collegiate student-athletes. Our fans can travel and support our teams on the road, just as we can welcome more fans from MIAA opponents,” UAFS Athletic Director Curtis Janz said.

The move could also increase UAFS exposure, thanks to broadcasts on the MIAA Network. Games and content are available live and on-demand and can be streamed on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku.


“UAFS helped me learn my gifts outside of my volleyball career. I learned how to write for different platforms, analyze different topics, and do extensive research on topics I’m passionate about. After completing practicum courses, UAFS prepared me for the ample number of papers I wrote in grad school. Dr. Nicki Stancil and Dr. Susan Simkowski were two great mentors.”

–Rachel Williams, ’20 Weekend Anchor 5News, Johnson

Off to Work

Grads Find Success in the Workplace

“My professors made sure to teach more than content. They ensured we felt prepared and confident in our abilities to complete the task. I walked into school and knew exactly what to do, thanks to the support, passion, and drive they poured into me. I was able to be myself!”
–Landon King, ’20, music teacher, Fort Smith Public Schools

“Between the incredible discussions with my professors in the English Department and the inclusive, supportive community, I learned to communicate confidently. Now I run content and creative strategy for an international brand and educate others on how to build their own brand story. UAFS helped me find my voice, and now I get to help others do the same.”

Stewart, ’17, Marketing Strategist, Harper Ellis, Fort Smith –Emmi Lovell, ’15, Veterinarian, Gully Park Veterinary Clinic, Fayetteville

“The people I met at UAFS significantly impacted my life: Every time I thought about giving up, I couldn’t let those people down because of the knowledge, skill, and friendship that was miraculously given to me. They taught me that the more trust and authenticity you put out in the world, the more support you receive.”

–Trae Norton, ’11, RMP Law, Johnson Aleyah Jones, Registered Nurse, Baptist Fort Smith

Academic Leaders Want Students to Be Ready Day One

The Deans’ Lists

To make good on their promise to spur the economic mobility of their students and the communities they serve, UAFS leaders know they need to give students an excellent education – but they want to give their students something more. They want to be sure their students graduate with both a diploma and a resume, and they point to the hands-on, individually developed coursework that makes UAFS students so uniquely Ready Day One. The personalized opportunities to get onthe-job experience vary from major to major and college to college, so we asked our deans to share their strategies for ensuring their graduates thrive in their careers.



The College of Business & Industry provides a myriad of opportunities to prepare students for careers in business, leadership, advanced manufacturing, and general technical fields. We offer credit-based apprenticeships and internships that allow students to apply the concepts learned in the classroom to similar job responsibilities they will find when accepting full-time employment. Select courses and student engagement experiences provide students with project-based learning chances. For example, students graduating with a certificate of proficiency in Community Leadership are required to take an immersive Community Leadership class. Under the direction of Dr. Kristin Tardif, the 2023 class examined issues facing the River Valley region, including food insecurity, cultural belonging, and needed park improvements. Teams networked with business and community leaders to uncover the background context of problems and collaborated to propose feasible and efficient solutions. They wrote full proposals for their solutions and made public final presentations at the UAFS Center for Economic Development,

at The Bakery District in downtown Fort Smith.

Communication is integrally tied to other facets of professional preparation in the college. Business students participate in business simulations and case studies as part of several core courses like the Strategic Management capstone course taught by Dr. LiLee Ng. In addition to making strategic decisions, students must communicate that they understand the “why” and “how” behind their choices and outcomes. This is critical preparation for their next steps as business managers, where their decisions may be to expand operations, launch new products, or perhaps even start new businesses.

A final example of professional preparation in the College of Business and Industry is its exemplary record of student-faculty research engagement. In spring 2023, Dr. Kiyun Han’s Electrical Engineering Technology Senior Design class comprised its own section at the UAFS Student Research Symposium with projects using innovative design and automation concepts in inventory control systems, irrigation devices, remote-activated pet doors, and beverage dispensing. This is just one example of the willingness and flexibility of CBI faculty to incorporate undergraduate students into research agendas and their class plans.

DR. DEAN CANTU: The degree programs offered in CHEHS … (give) our students an attempt to build on and apply the knowledge and skills they acquire in the classroom to their field and clinical experiences.
“Credit-based apprenticeships and internships … allow students to apply the concepts learned in the classroom to similar job responsibility.
— Dr. Latisha Settlage, Dean, CBI


Dr. Dean Cantù

The mission of the College of Health, Education, and Human Sciences (CHEHS) is to empower our students with the knowledge and experience necessary to care for the physical, mental, social, and educational needs of our communities. To this end, the degree programs offered in CHEHS have integrated into their respective curricula an approach that gives our students an opportunity to build on and apply the knowledge and skills they acquire in the classroom to their field and clinical experiences. This real-world practice occurs throughout the River Valley in hospitals, schools, clinics, and community agencies.

These field and clinical experiences are professional in design, promoting both higher-order and critical thinking skills, as aligned with the guidelines and standards established by the state and national accrediting agencies.

The academic rigor and hands-on learning experiences serve to provide our students with an opportunity to build the requisite knowledge and skills needed to be Ready Day One upon graduation and begin their professional careers as dental hygienists, EMTs, healthcare administrators, nurses, psychologists, radiographers, social workers, sonographers, surgical technologists, and teachers.

Diversity in Approaches Marks CHEHS

In the College of Health, Education, and Human Sciences, diverse programs adopt different strategies to gain the same end: Students who graduate ready for the next step, whether it is a new job or advanced study.

According to Angie Elmore, Executive Director of Imaging Services, students in the Radiography and Sonography programs follow sequential and logical curricula they can apply in a clinical setting. “The diverse clinical education settings provide students with a variety and volume of procedures needed … to enter the workforce on graduation.”

Dental Hygiene educators “maintain high expectations focused on current standards of care in the classroom and when treating patients in the clinic,” said Dr. Virginia Hardgraves, Executive Director of Dental Hygiene.

Julian, Associate Dean and Executive Director of Nursing.

The School of Education at UAFS works from the mission statement, “Every candidate Ready Day One so all learners achieve their greatest potential,” said Dr. April Evans, Interim Executive Director of Education. The mission informs curriculum and practical apprenticeships “to ensure that we are truly preparing our teacher candidates for the reality of the classroom from the very beginning of their careers.”


Dr. Paulette Meikle, Associate Dean

Our college is proud of the interdisciplinary teaching and learning opportunities that broaden students’ capacity to become well-rounded individuals and influential citizens. In CAS, intellectual curiosity, creativity, and informed openness are integrated into a student-centered focus on education, leadership, and engagement. Our students are immersed in rich content, ideas, inquiry, scientific discovery, and analyses. But we go much further by facilitating and cultivating professional standards and dispositions that employers value. We provide co-curricular platforms and infrastructure for students to develop independence, personal efficacy, and leadership skills to contribute to their families, workplaces, communities, and society.

Nursing faculty in the Carolyn McKelvey Moore School of Nursing bridge knowledge from the classroom to real-life clinical practice “by implementing supportive, innovative approaches to learning, enabling nursing students and new nursing graduates … to strengthen their professional identity (and) contribute to and succeed in a variety of patient care settings,” said Dr. Paula

“Our students are immersed in Psychology from their first course, in which they begin to learn about scientific writing and the various careers that make up the discipline,” said Dr. Nicha Otero, Interim Department Head in Psychology. The core curriculum challenges students to think critically and apply their knowledge by producing research and engaging in presentations, scientific writing, and internships.

Because students in the Surgical Technology program work with local hospitals and the Babb Center for Career Services, before they start working full-time, they already know their chains of command, policies and procedures, and critical people with information, said Ashley Smith, Executive Director of Surgical Technology.

No matter their background, we believe that each student has innate gifts and talents, and they are encouraged to find and be

stewards of them. Our faculty members mentor, motivate, and inspire excellence among students; thus, our students unearth their unique leadership propensities and resourcefulness in numerous registered student organizations and co-curricular activities. For example, if students are gifted in writing, they can sharpen their skills via our multilingual literary journals, Applause and Azahares. The American Democracy Project empowers students who want to improve the quality of life in their communities through government


and politics. No matter the student’s innate gift, there is a club for them, from the Biology Club and Chemistry Club to the Art and Design Club, numerous honors societies, and many other opportunities.

There is a professional engagement platform for everyone. These platforms not only nurture autonomy and the leader in our students but also sharpen their interpersonal skills and develop effective teamwork, self-awareness, empathy, relationship building, and confidence. Every year our faculty work with students to help them prepare research papers and posters for the UAFS Research Symposium. Some further develop their papers for presentations at various professional conferences. For example, 10 students presented their work this year at the 2023 Arkansas Academy of Science Conference. In the past year, Dr. Maurice Testa worked with students to publish a paper in Geoscience, the American Institute of Professional Geologists’ journal.

Internships allow students to apply their classroom knowledge in real-world settings as a precursor for future employment. Students worked in over 100 local agencies, firms, and non-governmental organizations. In our criminal justice program, students are placed with the Fort Smith and Van Buren police departments, other local, state, and federal correctional agencies, local and state court systems, independent attorneys, the juvenile justice system, corporate security, the Department of Human Services, and related social service agencies. Further afield, our faculty have developed and implemented several courses that exposed diverse students

LEARNING AND LEADING: A vibrant campus life helps students develop leadership, interpersonal, and teamwork skills. With more than 100 Registered Student Organizations and other clubs and associations, students who prioritize personal development can find other students who share their interests.

“Our professional development platforms help students hone their management skills, develop high emotional and cultural intelligence, complex problem-solving, and advocacy acuity. — Dr. Paulette Meikle, Associate Dean, CAS

to classroom instruction, field research, and community projects in Belize, Chile, Bulgaria, France, Britain, South Korea, Canada, Ireland, and Scotland, to name a few locations. Internationalizing the curriculum builds students’ cross-cultural competencies and global perspectives, and we do everything we can to facilitate such efforts.

Our professional development platforms help students hone their management skills, develop high emotional and cultural intelligence, complex problem-solving, and advocacy acuity. Our co-curricular

activities develop effective communicators and negotiators and cultivate partnerships with our alums, faculty, and employers. We are grateful to our alumni, local businesses and agencies, and friends of the College of Arts and Sciences who continue to embrace and support our RSOs as we challenge our students to achieve their highest potential, make good memories, and contemplate their positions, first as citizens and second as the next generation of leaders in the workforce.


A cross-(half-a-)country domestic Maymester trip took 40 members of the Myles Friedman Honors Program at UAFS to Charleston, South Carolina, on a journey that offered breathtaking scenery, wildlife, history, and a chance to use their analytical skills.

Road Trip

site, but also researching the untold parts

of each story.”

The trip featured visits along the way, including a stop at the Arkansas State Capitol, where they had a tour of the Senate chambers and the old Supreme Court room. Mat Pitsch, former state senator and representative, and former interim dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology at UAFS, spoke to the students about the importance of service in government.

Stops on the way home included the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, where the students observed a working farm near Cherokee, North Carolina, and Stoney River National Battlefield Park, where they learned about the Civil War battle that cemented the Emancipation Proclamation, Siler said.

But Charleston was the star of the show.

“We chose Charleston, South Carolina, because of the richness of its history, its many literary connections, and the contradictions we could find there. For example, Charleston is a Conde Nast best travel destination, and the city welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. Yet over 40 percent of all enslaved people in the Americas passed through Charleston,” Siler said.

“Our students were asked to not only visit but critically evaluate the sites we visited, applying critical thinking skills to question what parts of the stories in each site were told and what was omitted,” he said.

The group visited Fort Sumter, Boone Hall Plantation, and Old Charlestowne Landing, “learning the stories told in each

Charleston Maymester Provided History Lessons, Life Hacks, & Friendships

Isaac Scott, a sophomore studying for

the telling “so that an audience hears only

Isaac Scott, a sophomore studying for medical professions, said he was surprised to learn how history can be changed in the telling “so that an audience hears only what the teller wants you to hear.”

“The biggest takeaway (is learning that) when going on an educational trip, it is important to ask questions and do your own research because you may not hear the full story from your guides,” Isaac said.

when going on an educational trip, it is the full story from your guides,” Isaac said.

The next takeaway is a hard-learned life hack: “Always pack and prepare for rain.”

Junior psychology major Juliet

in Charleston, the chance to learn more

Junior psychology major Juliet Flanagan liked the whole experience: The stop at Fort Sumter, the ghost tour in Charleston, the chance to learn more about other students in the Honors Program.

“We were all on a bus together for hours on end and then shared hotel rooms with three other students … which doesn’t allow much space for alone time,” she said. It was a great time getting to know everyone and learning how to be with people in such close quarters.

The Myles Friedman Honors Program at UAFS fully funded the trip. Students were responsible only for their lunch and dinner.

Siler said 15 years of leading student travel study trips, domestic and abroad, has taught him there are always surprises. He has a plan, a backup plan, and a backup for the backup. But there are still surprises.

That trip to the Arkansas Capitol came about because an attraction Siler wanted the students to visit was closed. By chance, a former UAFS employee was working in the Capitol, saw the group’s name, and reached out.

“So we ended up with a wonderful tour and some great opportunities to talk about how our state government works with a former senator,” Siler said.

Science and Technology at UAFS, spoke Stops on the way home included the
BUS FRIENDS: Katie Cavaness, from left, Kameron Burns, Juliet Flanagan, and Shelby Zink took in the sights and learned about life during their Maymester trip.
TREE SPRITE: Kenzie Kilgore, opposite, poses inside a tree surrounded by Spanish moss.


Studying Earth to Get to Space

Do you ever listen to podcasts?

Did one ever change your life?

Many people, especially those with a long commute, would answer yes to the first, then no to the second. Sure, a podcast may help while away the time on a trip into town, but they aren’t expecting life-changing content.

But UAFS May graduate Cassaundra Huggins would answer with an excited yes and then an even more excited yes to those questions.

“I was listening to this podcast ’Ologies,’ and there was a planetary scientist who studied the moon and got to it through geosciences, and something just clicked,” she said about her epiphany.

Cassaundra always had a scientific inclination. After she graduated from Poteau High School in 2006, she got an associate of science degree in premed at Carl Albert State College. She planned to be an orthodontist, but a few rounds of professional observation convinced her that wasn’t her path.

Then, as Cassaundra puts it, life happened. She moved out of her parents’ house and went to work full-time. She decided to step away from school. She got married and had children.

“In 2012 or 2013, I did a semester of radiology,” she said. “But it finally dawned on me that the medical field is not for me. Instead, I worked at a bank for 5 years and worked at the local newspaper as a secretary, and I did some writing.”

Then came the podcast that

upended her life. She hadn’t realized that geoscience provided a path to planetary science.

“I told my husband I felt like I was wasting the potential I have.

there was one just down the road.

“UAFS was close enough that I didn’t have to uproot my family. My husband didn’t have to change jobs; my kids (11, 7, and 5 now)

had some scholarship help and was eligible for work-study.

Cassaundra had a two-year degree, and all her general education credits transferred. But because she wanted to do planetary geology, she had to take classes outside the general geoscience core.

“Geoscience, in general, is a multidisciplinary field. You need chemistry and mathematical equations. GIS (geographic information systems) is such a big industry now you need that too,” she said.

She conferred with Dr. Maurice Testa, assistant professor of Geoscience at UAFS.

“When Cassaundra first joined the geoscience program, I asked her what she wanted to do within geosciences,” Testa said. “She replied that she was always interested in planetary geology, but she did not know if that was something she could do, let alone do at UAFS. I told her we absolutely could, but planetary geology is probably the most difficult field in geosciences.”

Testa told Cassaundra she would have to go to graduate school, and to get there, she’d have to compete against the best students from elite universities.

“Cassaundra had no problem with the challenges, and from there we started planning out her schedule to include the advanced geoscience, math, physics, and chemistry courses she would need for the planetary field,” Testa said.

Hands-on Learning

I’m glad I had my family, but it felt like the right time to go back (to school).”

Cassaundra looked for geoscience programs and realized

could stay in school. And there was in-state tuition!”

As an eastern Oklahoma resident, Cassaundra was eligible for in-state tuition at UAFS. She also

The department started a new research project in planetary geoscience. Cassaundra and Ross Metcalf, another geoscience student, analyzed samples from Magnet Cove, Arkansas. Then the students compared the samples’ mineralogy and elemental makeup

PLANETARY GEOLOGY: When Cassaundra Huggins decided to study geoscience, she was happy to find a challenging program close to home.
“The geology teachers are very invested in (our) success. They … make sure that we are getting the undergraduate experiences … to make us viable candidates for graduate school or to go straight into industry.”

to areas on Mars to try to find a similar environment, Testa said.

“No matter how difficult the courses or research project became, Cassaundra stuck with it,” he said. “She deftly balanced increasingly difficult course loads and research work while continuing to be a mom of three young children.”

While acknowledging that she works hard, Cassaundra attributes some of her success to involved faculty members.

“The geology teachers are very invested in their students’ success,” she said. “They go out of their way to make sure that we are getting the undergraduate experiences we need to make us viable candidates for graduate school or to go straight into industry.”

She said that, in general, she has found faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences to be committed to their students. But she singled out professors in Geoscience who helped her develop her skills: Testa; Dr. David Mayo, associate professor of physical science; Dr. Archana Mishra, assistant professor of Physical Sciences; and Dr. Jim Belcher, department head and associate professor of Physical Sciences.

“They were always transparent about the difficulties I would face, but also let me know they were there for me. If there were any issues, they would help out.”

Recently, Cassaundra took their faith in her talent and translated it into a new game plan. She is a teaching assistant at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Her position as a TA includes a tuition scholarship and a stipend. She will study planetary volcanology, researching the volcanoes on Earth and other planetary bodies. When she has completed

her master’s degree, she plans to pursue a doctorate with the goal of being a research scientist at NASA.

New Horizons

Cassaundra said she and her family were eager to move from Stigler, Oklahoma, to the suburban campus of the University at Buffalo. They look forward to the opportunities that a bigger city can offer them.

“I haven’t done much traveling, and neither has my husband,” she said. “We’re pretty excited to experience different locations.”

In addition to finding caring faculty, scholarships, and workstudy opportunities, Cassaundra said she participated in other events that rounded out her undergraduate experience.

“I had a chance to teach some labs and join clubs. I attended professional conferences and did research.”

Cassaundra said that if she could talk to her younger self, she would reassure her, “It was all worth it.”

“I had a lot of fears going back to school, especially with children. I didn’t want to make a mistake that would jeopardize their future. But it’s been a very positive experience. It’s been tough, but I’ve pushed myself and done things that I didn’t know I was capable of. I’ve grown not only as a student but as an individual and as a mom.

“As worried as I was about (my children), I think it’s been a positive experience for them to see me working hard and achieving my goals. One of the reasons I wanted to go back to school was to show them that.”

Testa said stories like Cassaundra’s are made possible



Heather Deere, ’16, Chair-Elect; Ashley Hill, ’10, Secretary; Sarah May, ’17; John Sturrock, ’15; Jennifer Kelly, ’91, ’98, ’15, ’19; Jeremy Wann, ’ 09; Josh Funmaker, ’22; Shelli Henehan, ’86; Sam Winterberg, ’09; Maddie Gilliam Stojanovic ’18; Laura Schmutz Beltran, ’06; Lindsey Steiger, ’09; Logan Parks, ’19

by the student’s effort and by “the support and freedom we get from UAFS to explore student interests.”

Low student-faculty ratios mean students have more handson learning and more opportunity for imagination. This creates more motivated students who are actively involved with their major.

“Geoscience programs do not fit the norms of most departments because we are equally working in the field and in the classroom,” Testa said. “We are a diverse, research-heavy discipline, where Earth and other planets are our playground. This allows UAFS students to use their imagination and investigate problems for which answers cannot be found in the back of a textbook. I think Cassaundra has proven the sky is no longer the limit for UAFS students – we’ve moved on to other planets now.”

Class Notes

Please take a moment to tell your former classmates and us what’s been going on since you left UAFS, Westark, or Fort Smith Junior College. Tell us about your job, your family, your hobbies, your adventures, your plans, or whatever you want to share with other alumni.

Although we may not always be able to use photos, feel free to send them (highest resolution possible), and we will use them if

we can. Then make sure we have your full name, including your name when you were here if it is different, and the year you graduated or attended classes. Email your class note to alumni@uafs. edu, mail it to us at Alumni Office, UAFS, P.O. Box 3649, Fort Smith, AR 72913, or drop in to see us in the office at Grand Avenue and Waldron Road.


Greg Pair Sr., ’77, is retired in Fort Smith.


Anne Mourney, ’80, received two bachelor’s degrees at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, then obtained her law degree.


Rebekah Lowery, ’96, was inducted into the UAFS Athletics Hall of Fame along with her ’94’95 Westark National Champion basketball teammates.

Anna Engelbrecht, ’92, works at The New School in New York.


Angela Flake, ’09, an award-winning book author and motivational speaker, recently published her first children’s book.

Brandon Vick, MD, ’09, opened his own practice, VickMD, PLLC, in

News & Notes ALUMNI


Alumni Legacy Awards

Twenty students received financial aid through the Alumni Legacy Scholarship in the 2023-2024 academic year. This is the highest number of scholarships awarded in a year.

“At UAFS we always talk about being a Lion family, and nothing brings our family more pride than celebrating a new generation of Lions,” said Jasmine Smith, Director of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving. “We are proud to celebrate these Lion legacies starting their academic pursuits on the campus where their parents, grandparents, siblings, or spouses obtained their degrees.”

First-time entering students with an immediate family member who graduated from UAFS (or Westart College, Westark Community College, Westark Junior College, or Fort Smith Junior College) can apply for the scholarship of $1,000 per academic year. The Roarin’ on the River Low Country Shrimp Boil, held each year in June, is the largest fundraiser for the endowment fund.

Students receiving the scholarship this year and their majors are:

Hayden Walker, business administration.

Jordon Culbreath, business administration.

Kendall Maddox, associate in general studies.

Kinlee Myers, radiography.

Allie Clark, chemistry.

Landon Reed, biology.

Austin Sharum, engineering.

Eli Sharum, engineering.

Carter Weeden, electrical engineering.

Emma Smith, electrical engineering technology.

Adam Holt, chemistry.

Hannah Green, nursing, BSN.

Joanna Dubois, biology, teacher licensure.

Jillian Cochran, biology, teacher licensure.

Raquel Spencer, chemistry.

Taylor Horn, elementary education.

Nathan Gibson, engineering.

Noah Dieter, mechanical engineering.

Joshua Moore, music education.

Paige Henson, biology.

August 2022.

Shannon Morgan, ’02, earned a new certification: Project Management Professional (PMP) from Project Management Institute.

Lindsey Steiger-Muck, PMP, ’09, has been promoted to senior director for career services at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Mendy Reints, ’05, began working for the IRS in Fort Smith in June 2006.

Nancy Young, ’02, is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She won the Best Literature Review Kaleidoscope Poster Award at the Teacher Education Division conference in 2021, and she participated in the Council for Exceptional Legislative Summit to advocate for support for mental health in schools.

Aaron Geppelt, ’01, works at Aurora Flight Science in Utah.

Clorissa Prince, ’08, worked several management positions until she became a judicial education specialist in the Administrative Office of the Courts while pursuing a master’s degree in legal studies at Trinity Law School. She accepted an administrator role for the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Commission on Children, Youth, and Families in Maumelle.

Jeremy Wann, ’09, is an adjunct professor in the UAFS College of Business.


Ryan Green, ’18, is starting a new

position as Service Center Manager in Joplin, Missouri.

Lynette Thrower, ’19, presented an interactive art project at Arkansalsa in Springdale in late October.

Lisa Roam, ’13, welcomed Cooper Tomas Roam into the world on Aug. 17, 2022.

Bailee, ’19, and Micha Crenshaw welcomed their daughter Chandler Sage into the world on Aug. 18, 2022.

Tim Walthall, ’13, is a process engineer at Detex Corporation in New Braunfels, Texas.

Ashley, ’18, and Bert, ’15, Solis opened Young Nomad Children’s Boutique in Rogers.

Peyton Oldridge, ’19, accepted a proposal from Garrett Wilson, ’22

RC Sims, ’17, started a new position as Senior Financial Analyst at Mercy. He and Stephanie Long, ’19, got engaged in June.

Dusan Stojanovic, ’16, started a new position as the Associate Portfolio Manager at Cadence Bank.

Meagan Meyer, ’15, was accepted into the Master of Social Work program at Missouri State University. She began working as a graduate assistant in January 2023.

Zack, ’15, and Tiffany Gramlich, ’17, welcomed Bonnie Lynn Gramlich into the world on Dec. 23.

Kristen, ’18, and Remington Pate, ’18, welcomed their second son, Brody Dean Pate, on Jan. 16, 2023.


Brad Turner, ’17, accepted a new position as territory account manager at EqipmentShare.

Ntxuzone Yang, ’18, started a new position as a maintenance supervisor at ABB.

Payton Efurd, ’18, accepted a promotion to manager of benefit plans at ArcBest.

Chadd Sheffield, ’10, accepted a promotion to manager of solution development at ArcBest.

Katie Hug, ’14, accepted a promotion to senior enterprise project manager at ArcBest Technologies.

Ryan McMahan, ’11, started a new position as enterprise sales executive at J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.

Teddy Sexton, ’18, passed the CPA exam.

Jordan Hatwig, ’18, was promoted to project manager at ArcBest, where she has been employed since 2019.

Spencer Mears, ’16, started a new position as an associate financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services in Fort Smith.

Carl Husley, ’15, began a new job as marketing director at Crosslake Technologies in Chicago.

Maddie (Gilliam) Stojanovic, ’18, accepted a new position at ArcBest as a corporate social responsibility analyst in November.

Blake Hansen, ’14, was promoted to manager II for rail operations at JB Hunt last December.

Focus on the Future

Matt Beyer, a 2015 accounting graduate, has some advice for those following in his footsteps.

“Students should get involved around campus and take advantage of resources such as the Babb Center for Career Services.”

Beyer, a 2015 accounting graduate, also said working hard and securing an internship are the keys to getting a job right out of college. He began working right after graduation with the firm he’d served as an intern during his last semester.

“Securing an internship and working hard are key to landing a job after graduation,” he said. “UAFS faculty and staff have worked very hard to design and implement internship programs. I highly encourage all students to participate.”

Beyer became a member of the Arkansas Society of CPAs in April. He is a tax manager for Hubbs & Whitehead CPAs in Van Buren.

Beyer said his time at UAFS prepared him to succeed in many ways.

“Most notable would be the technical ability to succeed in a challenging industry such as public accounting and the soft skills to help excel at working with and leading others. The College of Business faculty and staff … always went above and beyond to teach accounting lessons and provide mentorship.”

In June, the Arkansas Society of CPAs highlighted Beyer in its newsletter.

He told ARCPA that he became a CPA because he enjoys working in the profession. He plans to pursue further education and licensing because he believes that path “will help me be a better version of myself in pursuit of helping others.”

He recommended focus and control for students pursuing a goal.

“Create realistic study goals that fit your schedule and pursue your vision of becoming a CPA through discipline and consistent hard work,” he said. “Focus on energy management as much as time management. Try not to spare any mental energy toward anything that does not support your goals. Never give up!”

Cambrie Gash, ’18, started a new position as an account executive with GDH Complete Workforce Solutions in their Northwest Arkansas office.

Josiah Cotner, ’12, accepted a new position as a senior accountant at Hubbs & Whitehead CPAs.

Evan Piche, ’11, began a new position as a senior corporate recruiter at Paycom last December.

Brittany Christian, ’14, started a new position as a stagehand at Ozark Productions Inc.

Minzhi Chen, ’15, recently graduated from the AICPA Leadership Academy.

Matthew Farrar, ’15, obtained the Coupa Sustainable Business

Spend Management from Coupa Software.

Sean Laney, ’18, started a new position in critical freight sales with MoLo Solutions.

Krystina Israel, ’12, started a new position as director of growth and operations at Valley Family Dental.

Bahna Walton, ’19, is an accountant with Tradition Management LLC in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Salinna Buyers, ’18, started a new position as senior technical recruiter for Planet Technology in Dallas.

Maria Vines, ’19, is now a clinical specialist at Abbot in Little Rock.

Haley Branum, ’17, was promoted

to marketing manager at Global Partners LP in Newton, Massachusetts.

Ricky Hernandez, ’15, was promoted to Vice President of Human Resources at Metova Inc.

Catherine, ’16, and Tyler Noetzol, ’17, welcomed their daughter Blakely Rose into the world.

Tamara Tateosian, ’12, earned her Institute of Management certification for Chamber Executives with graduation in August 2023 and Missouri Certified Economic Development certification, from which she tested out in June 2023.

Dylan Karber, ’15, and wife Elyse welcomed Grayson Richard Karber into the world on Dec. 3.


Calling All Cub Camp Alums

Memo to self: Make plans to attend Homecoming 2024. Plans are underway for next year’s homecoming, Feb. 12 to 17. In recognition of Cub Camp’s 20th anniversary, a special reunion for Cub Camp alumni will be Friday, Feb. 16. The Alumni Reunion and Award Brunch will be Feb. 17. Watch your email and follow UAFS Alumni on Facebook for more details, including the homecoming theme and student events.

Amanda Seidenzahl.

Quade Moore, ’16, and Rebekah Tanner, ’15, will wed on Oct. 21, 2023.

Holley Maness, ’19, became a doctor of pharmacy in June.

Jessica Day, ’10, marked her 13th year of teaching in August. She is married and has three children.

Cody Smith, ’12, is a sales manager at Crain Hyundai, in Fort Smith.

Ryan Downs, ’12, is a partner at Phelps LaClair PLC law firm in Mesa, Arizona.

Daniel Fudge, ’12, has been appointed to the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Foundation.

Katie (Brown) Burgess, ’17, is the coordinator of Instructional Design and Academic Support at Oklahoma State University.


Ariana Allard, EA, CPA, ’20, passed all four sections of the CPA exam.

Nicole Cagle, ’20, accepted a promotion at ArcBest to the position of manager compensation.

Joshua Scott, ’21, joined Butterball LLC as a management trainee.

Pike in northwest Arkansas.

Scott David, ’21, was promoted to customer service manager at ArcBest Technologies in January.

Oliver Perez, MBA, ’20, was promoted to senior transportation supervisor at Tyson Foods in January 2023.

Daisy Reyna-Roberts, ’21, got married in November of 2022.

Andrew and Brandi Lorenz, ’21, welcomed their second son on Jan. 19, 2023.

Jordan Davis, ’20, began the Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics at the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Susan Miller Webster, ’21, has welcomed her first greatgrandchild into the world and is a substitute teacher and bus aide for FSPS.

Kellie Lindsay, ’21, is one of seven people chosen nationwide by Gallup for their prestigious summer research program.

Bao Ha, ’22, was promoted to cash exceptions coordinator at ArcBest, where he started as a student worker in 2020.

Jennifer Broyles, ’16, welcomed Cameron Blake into the world in March 2022.

Meagan Bowling-Fudge, ’12, was appointed to the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas Board of Directors. She celebrated 9 years at

the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith. She has been appointed to the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Foundation Board of Directors.

Margaret Hominick, ’13, teaches in the WATC LPN program under the direction of Frankie Allred and

Guadalupe (Zepeda-Hernandez) Ayala, ’20, joined the Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney’s office as the victim witness coordinator in January 2023.

Shunta Childress, ’22, accepted a new position as a customer development specialist with Supply

Rachel Williams, ’20, was promoted to Weekend Evening Anchor at 5News in June 2023.

Juwann Davis, ’21, is a substitute teacher mainly in grades 6-12 in Fort Smith.

Lynna Luff, ’21, who had a baby in November 2022, is a laboratory technician in Fayetteville.

ALUMNI News and Notes 36 THE BELL TOWER FALL 2023
Haunted Hustle 5K ...................................... 9 a.m. • Saturday, Oct. 7 Pink Out Game vs ATU .6 p.m. • Tuesday, Oct. 10 Little Lions Meet Santa ........................... 9 a.m.-Noon • Saturday, Dec. 2 Homecoming Week Monday-Saturday, Feb. 12-17 Cub Camp Reunion .6-8 p.m. • Friday, Feb. 16 Alumni Reunion Brunch ..................... .10:30 a.m.-Noon • Saturday, Feb. 17 Day of Giving Thursday and Friday, April 25 & 26 Roarin’ on the River .................................. 6-9 p.m. • Thursday, June 15 Little Lions Big Splash .Thursday, July 11 Scan the QR code to visit us online @uafsalumni @uafsalumni
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