SAU Honors College

The SAU Honors College was founded in 2003 by Dr. David Rankin, president of SAU. Dr. Lynne Belcher served as founding director and recently retired from SAU. The Honors College seeks and admits qualified students who seek to pursue a serious academic program with equally gifted peers and committed teachers. Honors classes are small and provide academically enriching opportunities for students and the faculty who teach them. Currently, SAU enrolls nearly 170 honors students and graduates about 66% of admitees in four years or less. Anyone interested in applying to the Honors College or seeking further information should contact the director, Dr. Edward P. Kardas at epkardas@saumag.edu or at 870 904-8897.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Honors Grads Earn PhDs

 We received word recently that two graduates of the Honors College had earned PhD degrees. One was in Chemical Engineering (Corbitt, University of Arkansas) and the other was in Biology (Dhungana, University of Missouri).


Kiley Corbitt (right, and also an SAU Honors College grad) celebrates with her husband Dr. Joshua Corbitt.

Dr. Singha Dhungana and his wife celebrate his PhD in Biology.

The Honors College celebrates your accomplishments too. Congratulations. Of course you now know we will be asking to contribute once you get a job and become rich and famous :-)

Monday, May 2, 2022

Food Summit Report

Hunger Summit Summary Report

(by Dani Mesick & Michael Flowers)

Honors Arkansas and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance recently held an event in Little Rock: The College Hunger Summit. Here is a report by:

 SAU AmeriCorps+VISTA Fellows

      Student Panel: Defining the Problem

A panel of students from varying backgrounds discussed statistics on how hunger impacts college students. On this panel as well were several students who presented first person accounts of how hunger has impacted them.

-       When defining the problem, sometimes people forgot that homelessness contributes to the problem of food insecurity. Two students spoke on this topic, and how the family struggled a great deal to move up the ladder to where they could afford a home.

-       Food insecurity is prevalent among all campuses, and the panel brought up some statistics.

-       John Brown University, private college, 75% of students were food insecure.

-       Percentage of students surveyed across the state said that 15% of them were better off when they got to college, and 45% said they were worse off, food security wise, when they got to college.

-       They also brought up the notion that fully online students who may not live near the campus, would they be able to use the pantries across the state. This was not something any of the panelists, including most of the audience, had considered.

      Student Panel: Exploring Solutions

In response to the issues defined during the “Defining the Problem” segment, students who work with their college pantries sat on a panel to discuss how their food pantries are addressing hunger.

-       Greek Sculpture Building: Based on the homecoming theme, Greek organizations would build sculptures out of non-perishable food items. Judges would then choose the best sculpture, and all of the non-perishables would be doonated to their college’s food pantry.

-       Satellite Locations: Fayetteville explained how they have smaller pantries located around their campus in order to reach a wider audience.

-       Food Recovery System: Fayetteville has an organization who collects the excess food from their cafeterias and disperses the collected good around campus to those in need.

-       Food Bank Partnerships: Several of the food panties on the panel explained how a large portion of their inventory came from their local food banks.

-       Food Allergies Acknowledgement: Several of the food pantries explained how they intentionally acquired dietary specific inventory to ensure their pantry users had access to appropriate foods.

-       “Lockers”: A few of the food pantries have lockers or shelves that students had access to at all times. These locations allowed students to pick up orders outside of their pantry’s operating hours.

-       Operating Hours: Many pantries operated for the entirety of the week excluding weekends. There were some pantries that only opened one day per week. Some campuses like, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, are only open once a month.

-       Food Limits: Some of the bigger food pantries explained that they did not have food limits for each user. These pantries also received food bank inventory,

-       Online Orders: One pantry explained that they operated only through online orders. Students would place their orders online, and then students would come and pick up their orders at a later time.

-       Meal Swipes: Several pantries explained that they issue meal swipes to students. These swipes would allow these students to have access their cafeteria or other food providers on their campus.

-       Frozen Meals: Many pantries talked about their freezers. These freezers allowed these pantries to store and disperse frozen goods.

      Legislative Policy Panel

Present members of the Arkansas State Legislature included Senator Elliot, Senator Tucker, Representative Warren, Representative De Ann Vaught, and Representative Tippi McCullough

-       Senator Tucker talked about SNAP, and how they wanted to alleviate the asset limit so more people can be eligible to receive SNAP. Currently the limit is $2,250.

-       Representative Vaught talked about proposing legislation allowing cattle farmers to be able to donate meat to pantries, churches, and charities without going against the law. Currently there are two USDA agents in Arkansas, and they are tasked with going across the state to inspect meat. With the new legislation, it will make it easier to inspect the meat without lowering any health standards for the meat.

 

 


Sunday, April 24, 2022

Big Award Day at LPA

 The annual Liberal and Performing Arts College's award ceremony was held on 14 April 2022. Three students: Madelynne West (Theatre), Mackenzie Downs (Political Science), and Kel Vin Tee (Psychology) received awards from their respective departments. In addition, West was named the outstanding student in the College.

Madelynne West holding her awards
Madelynne will continue her studies soon at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. We wish her well!
 

 Mackenzie West holding her award along with her mom
Mackenzie will enroll this fall at the Texas A&M Law School in Ft. Worth. Way to go!
 
Kel Vin Tee (center) flanked by professors Ed Kardas and Deborah Wilson
Kel Vin will soon move to California to begin a position as a psychological counselor. Congrats!
 




Monday, April 11, 2022

Jonathan Mitchell Travels to SWPA

 


Jonathan Mitchell presenting his poster at SWPA and showing his Mulerider Pride!

The Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA) held its first in person meeting in two years in Baton Rouge recently. Among the attendees and presenters was honors student Jonathan Mitchell. His poster was titled:

Factors contributing to burn out in college students

That, obviously, is a timely topic given everyone's recent experiences with coping with Covid. Congratulations, Jonathan, for choosing that topic, researching it, and bringing it to SWPA.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Honors College Recognition Ceremony Speech

 Here is the text of the speech I will give to graduates and guests on April 3, 2022

Tracy Llanera recently described what we are living through as existential nihilism. By that she means that we have all be deprived of our former feelings of control and stability. The culprit of course, is Covid 19. This gathering is one of the “small treats” she says we are all seeking. In a larger sense, we are seeking a return to our old normality. But, I fear, it will be a new normality that will emerge.

Here is an example of the old normality. February 2020 found me sitting on the veranda of the El Presidente Hotel in Havana only a short distance from the Florida Straits. I was there with Dr. Jeffry Miller and honors student Chinedu Okeke. The three of us had just participated in an international conference and the next day we were to board a plane back to the USA. That participation was part of our longer effort of partnering with the University of Artemisa. You may have seen one of the fruits of that partnership here on our campus, the right-angle mural painted in between Nelson Hall and the Magale Theatre. At that point the three of us had heard of a mysterious viral infection in China, but like most of the rest of the world we were not prepared for how momentous and universal Covid 19 would become and how it would affect us all. All was normal. The SAU budget could pay for our trip. We traveled without masks or inoculations, and fully expected to return to our normal lives.

            There is no official starting date marking Covid’s arrival. It is not like December 7 or 9/11. We now know more about its arrival and spread and the destruction it has caused and continues to cause.

Back at SAU the news about Covid slowly drifted in. On March 12, 2020 I sent an e-mail to all my classes saying:

“I’m anticipating that SAU will move all classes to online instruction at some point soon.”

Very quickly I received an e-mail back from the provost telling me that:

Could you please inform your students that NO such decision has been made and the University will share updates directly to them, especially through our web site.

Soon after, SAU sent another message:

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Southern Arkansas University Magnolia campus has cancelled all face-to-face classes scheduled for the week of March 16-20 prior to spring break March 23-27. Please note that students currently enrolled in online courses will complete course work as required March 16-20.”

Wow! In two weeks-time faculty had to completely revise their teaching methods. You must understand that at that point I had never taught an online class.

Online education has been around for a while but today it is nearly universal and comes in many different flavors. In 1996 I was tasked, long before our graduating class was born, to develop SAU’s first online class: general psychology. This was when the Internet was still very young and SAU decided not to go forth at that time. Probably just as well. But, that experience taught much about writing web pages and I began to incorporate them into my classes as lecture notes.

Fast forward to March 2020. The question now was how could use my course web pages as a full-fledged online courses? I decided to beef up those lecture notes into an interactive online course. I, along with nearly every SAU faculty member, worked feverishly to have something ready for students at the end of our two-week hiatus.

            One advantage we all had was our Learning Management Systems (LMS). Doesn’t that title sound corporate? Our graduates may not realize that they have been using a Learning Management System in many of their courses. It’s called BlackBoard and is one of several LMS’s (there were more, but they were eaten up by bigger fish such a BlackBoard and Canvas). Well, I had never used BlackBoard and now I had to. I learned that it nicely handles many routine jobs such as keeping a gradebook and giving and grading tests. It also has some advanced bells and whistles that I have yet to explore fully. All of us were now entering a dark tunnel. Little did we know two years ago how long that tunnel would be.

            Now let me switch to a little psychology. The psychology of disaster, the psychology that requires us to face up to and adapt to unwanted horrible situations. Think of tornadoes and hurricanes. Think of war. Think of pandemics.

            In my history of psychology textbook I write about one such disaster, the war in the former country of Yugoslavia. It was a country that emerged after World War II, a country with many different ethnic groups and religions that had been held together by its stong leader Josip Broz Tito. He ruled Yugoslavia from 1953 to 1980. After he died, Yugoslavia slowly broke up into several other countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro. But, the breakup was accompanied by a hard war.

            The incident in that war that I describe in my text is the siege of Sarajevo that took place from 1992 to 1995. There, 500,000 residents were under siege from the mountains surrounding the city. During that period some 1200 persons (including 60 children) were killed or wounded by sniper fire. Soon, food, fuel, and water became scarce. As the siege wore on, people adapted. Children once again played in the streets, barriers to sniper fire were erected, and signs were posted warning of target locations used by snipers. I can imagine a wife calmly warning her husband to be careful to avoid being hit by a sniper as he went to fetch needed supplies for his family. Today, thankfully, Sarajevo has restored itself but bullet holes were intentionally left on many buildings as a reminder. Sarajevans erected a monument to that era along with the names of the children killed.

            We are not dodging sniper fire. In a way we’re dodging something worse an invisible virus. We are not living in the rubble of destroyed buildings caused by rockets and artillery shells like in Ukraine. Now look to today’s news. Nearly 10 million Ukrainians have become refugees. Many have seen their homes destroyed and many have been killed or injured. Notice our table decorations, SAU’s colors are the nearly same as those in Ukraine’s flag. Let me pause briefly for a moment of silence and hope for the end of hostilities there.

But, once again, human psychology plays a role. Ukrainian men and women have armed themselves to defend against Putin’s aggression. Many have volunteered to provide essential services and food. Yet, no one now knows how the Russian “special operation” will end or if it will ignite yet another world war. We sit and watch; we are appalled by the ruins we see on television; we are sad to see the pain, death, and destruction. Yet, as in Sarajevo, life goes on. People adapt.

We, too, are under attack and gradually we have learned to cope. Yes, we have lost many to the disease. We have had to don masks and limit our exposure to others by social distancing. We have had to cancel this very event for the last two years. We have witnessed an incredibly fast medical response to the virus as well. Vaccines have been designed and created much more quickly than in the past. Even this week we have seen the arrival of the fourth booster shot.

            Look around and notice that we are, once again, gathered as honors students, family, and friends. This gathering did not take place in 2020 or in 2021 because of Covid. Masking has come, gone, come again, and gone again. Social distances are getting nearer and nearer. Our species, it turns out, is highly adaptable. All of us in this room have adapted too but not to missiles, bombs, or bullets. No, we have adapted to a virus, Covid 2019, that airborne invisible thing that has killed and sickened millions around the world.

            Our adaptation has included many changes. We are only now beginning to feel more comfortable while in large groups. Look at all of the Plexiglas barriers we have erected. Look at the ubiquity of masking. Look at how we have had to alter our attendance at church and Sunday Schools. Psychology students learn the German word Zeitgeist. It’s a word that does not translate easily to English. One common translation is the tenor of the times. A better way might be to ask: What is it like to live in the United States in 2022? How has that changed since 2020 and the arrival of the virus. Let’s look at some words that help describe those changes:

Zoom. It used to mean to go fast. Now it describes a software app by which people can meet remotely. Most of us in this room have Zoomed and will likely continue to do so. I will zoom with Dr. Lanoue next Friday.

Take home tests. Before Covid that meant a test in a course that you could work on at home. Now it refers to the diagnostic test to detect whether you are harboring the virus. Julie and I became grandparents for the first time in December. Before we visit our grandson, John Edward, we each swab our nose and conduct at-home Covid tests.

New Normal. What is normal? That, perhaps, has been our biggest adaptation. Normal is hard to define but is easy to see when “normal” changes. Think of the elbow bump. The masks. The online classes. The quarantines. The old normal is gone. What will replace it. We’ll know that answer soon.

Travel. More than anything else, Covid has affected our ability to travel. Before 2020, honors students had traveled to Italy, France, Cuba, London, and Antarctica. Only now are travel opportunities once again available. Next week, for instance, an honors student will travel to Baton Rouge to present a research poster at the Southwestern Psychological Association’s first in person meeting in two years.

            So, what will the new normal look like? What changes will it bring? I’m sorry, I cannot give you those answers. We will all just have to live through them and find out for ourselves. That describes the new normal. In other words, we are nearer to the end of the tunnel, but we are still in it.

Before I wrap up, I need to thank a long list of people. First of all, let me thank you, the audience, for being here. Nobody succeeds without the support of others and family is the first prop. So, too, are friends. Let’s give them a hand thanking them for their many years of sacrifice and support.

Next, let me thank the decorating committee for doing such a nice job on short notice in making this room look so inviting. All of them are honors students and one of them is among the graduates. Let’s give them a round of applause.

The food served by ARAMARK was first rate, as usual. These tables and chairs did not magically move out of that closet over there and set themselves up. No, they were set up by the Reynolds Center staff. Let’s give them a round of applause too.

Working hard over the last two weeks were the Honors College staff. We have an assistant director, David Wingfield, who works behind the scenes at home now because of Covid. However, he demonstrates every day just how much can be accomplished remotely. The Honors College has an undergraduate and a graduate student assigned to it. Jonathan Parker is our undergraduate assistant. I have overwhelmed him with work and requests over the last two weeks and he just marches on getting each job done. Thank you, Jonathan. Our graduate assistant, Praveen Mudda, comes from Hyderabad, India. We met by Zoom, btw. It was 9 pm in Magnolia and 8:30 am in Hyderabad the next day when we first met. Now in Magnolia, he, too, has had to respond to my many requests and has done so quickly. So, this event would not be possible without these three. Let’s give them a hand too.

            There is yet another group I need to thank, our donors. My dear friend, the late Harold Fincher, co-founded the People’s Bank and was among the first of our donors. His legacy lives on as his bank continues to support us financially and in many other ways. Look at the names on your tables, they too give to us generously. Early in the academic careers of the graduates you see in front of you, I warned them that someday I’d ask them to contribute financially to the Honors College. All of them here have benefitted from donors who have endowed scholarships making it possible for them to attend SAU with little or minimal financial burden. Let’s thank our donors.

On your tables, you will see donation forms from the SAU Foundation. That foundation is the money arm of the SAU enterprise. They recently completed a capital campaign in which they raised nearly $29 million dollars from over 4,000 donors. Part of my job is to see that some of that money goes to the Honors College. So, please take that form home with you and think about sending us some money so that we can continue to provide honors education at SAU and continue to produce classes like the one sitting here today.

Lastly, I’d like our Honors College graduates to stand up together for one of the last times they will do so. They have lived through the old normal and the new normal. They have coped with and overcome all of the challenges to reach this point. They are the reason we are here tonight. As you know by now, our graduates are a special group of SAU students. Their average GPA exceeds 3.6. Five of them have earned all A’s. Four of them earned all A’s and one B. In an era in which the majority of students take six years to earn their degree, all of these students graduated in three or four years. Just so you will know, seven of them represent the college of Liberal and Performing Arts. Four of them earned degrees from the College of Business. Three of them earned degrees from the College of Education. The rest, ten of them, earned their degrees from the College of Science and Engineering. The SAU Honors College serves all four of the other Colleges. These graduates are among the best SAU can offer. Let’s give them our biggest round of applause!

Now that I am about to stop talking we can get to the fun part of today’s meeting. First will be the draping of the Honors College Medallions on the neck of each graduate.

 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Bucket List: Jonathan Mitchell

 

My bucket list has grown and developed over the years. As it stands, I would like to go on a medical mission trip at some point. It would be a great experience to go to an underprivileged country and witness what life is like for those people. Being able to help them would be very fulfilling. This would allow me to better understand people and their struggles. I would hope that after the trip, I would have more empathy for those around me. Also, I plan to go snowboarding in Switzerland. I began snowboarding at a young age and would love to experience the beauty of the Alps. Solo skydiving is another dream of mine. I’ve been skydiving with another person with me, but never alone. I used to be terrified of heights, but now I at ease no matter how high or close to a ledge I am. Jumping out of a plane alone would prove to myself that I can overcome any fear. Physically, I want to be in a condition that allows me to run a marathon. I enjoy running, but it is difficult to find time to run as long as I would like. Bora Bora is on top of my tropical destination list. It would be a great place to relax for a while.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Bucket List: Kel Vin Tee

 

Most of us have a list of things we want to achieve or accomplish in our lives before we die. We called it “Bucket List”. I did not really plan for my bucket list before. It is because I always live in the reality and I feel like planning bucket list is a kind of way to deceive yourself. Most of the things or goals in our bucket list are way too impossible to achieve. However, there are few goals that I am aiming to achieve right now before I die.

  The first goal in my bucket list is to become a unique person among the crowds. I like doing something different or extraordinary no matter where am I. It is because I dislike being called a “common” or “ordinary” person. One of the ways to accomplish this is always tell myself to look at different views or aspects of a problem, so that I can come up better solutions than the others to solve the problems.

  The second goal in my bucket list is to make a life impact of someone else life. It is because I like to stay positive at all time and I also hope everyone can be like me. Therefore, I always help people who are emotionally needed or depressed.

  The last goal in my bucket list is related to my first and second goals. I want to achieve MdPhD in Neuro-Psychology. It is because I like to help people especially they are needed in emotionally support. And, I also like to discover something new that can apply and help people in real lives.

  Lastly, I hope I can accomplish all of my goals in my bucket list before I die. So that my life and time will not be wasted on earth.