By Dr. Ben Sells

President, Ouachita Baptist Univeristy

Known and Valued: Preparation for a life of meaningful work  

By Dr. Ben Sells

President, Ouachita Baptist Univeristy

At Ouachita Baptist, we’re committed to preparing our students for lives of meaningful work. This is part of the Christ-centered mission that distinguishes Ouachita from public universities.  

It’s evidence of what makes Ouachita, Ouachita. 

Within our close-knit learning community, students are valued and known by faculty and staff who invest personally in their success. We’re committed to small class sizes and a low student-to-faculty ratio because we understand their practical benefits. They foster insightful discussions and more widespread participation in class, for instance, and are directly connected to higher graduation rates. 

Ouachita faculty who are experts in their respective fields are intentional in their approach to organizing opportunities for high-impact learning, research programs, field work, internships and networking for undergrads. 

Ouachita’s highly personalized approach to higher education results in student career outcomes rates that set us apart, too: We learned during the Spring 2023 semester that 99% of our 2022 graduates are employed or furthering their education, which exceeds the national average by 15%.  

As with all facts and statistics, these are important to us because each one represents an Ouachita student who has a story and a purpose – a student like Jillian Woodruff. 

Jillian is a senior business administration and management major from Hope, Arkansas, who entered the 23rd Annual Arkansas Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition in April along with several classmates from Ouachita’s Hickingbotham School of Business and Patterson School of Natural Sciences. 

The Governor’s Cup brings together college students from across the state who have come up with an original idea for a business and developed a plan to launch it. This year, students competed to win cash prizes from a pool of more than $110,000. 

Jillian placed first overall in the Governor’s Cup Winrock Automotive Small Business Division and won $10,000 with her business plan for “Waderbuddy,” a portable device she designed to help hunters of all ages remove their rubber waders quickly and safely. 

She also placed first and won $1,000 in the elevator pitch competition with a 90-second product pitch for Waderbuddy. 

Jillian was inspired to create Waderbuddy during her Business Plan Development class at Ouachita while reflecting on memories of duck hunting with her dad and their constant struggle trying to remove their waders. 

Jillian’s creative idea provided the seed for a successful business plan, but she worked very hard in order to see it come to fruition. She needed encouragement and, at times, help. She says that having Dr. Chris Brune as her advisor was a tremendous asset, especially when she was reconciling the financial details of her project. Dr. Brune is professor of finance and George Young Chair of Business at Ouachita. He worked with Jillian for both semesters as she was building and fine-tuning her business plan for Waderbuddy. 

Participating in a high-impact learning exercise like the Governor’s Cup and immersing herself in the business world as a student has given Jillian the skill and confidence she will need to continue working on Waderbuddy after graduation. She plans to fully launch her company in the spring. 

Jillian’s story is an example of the kind of transformational college experience a student can find at Ouachita where professors invest in their success, encourage their love of God and love of learning, and prepare them for a life of meaningful work. 

When our students embrace their God-given calling and go out into the world to begin building lives of meaningful work, watch for the impact they make in their neighborhoods, churches, workplaces and communities. 

It’s evidence of what makes Ouachita, Ouachita. 

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