By Dr. Ben Sells

President, Ouachita Baptist Univeristy

Ouachita: Influential in student’s faith journey

By Dr. Ben Sells

President, Ouachita Baptist Univeristy

Listen to what a 1999 Ouachita alumna named Lizann recently shared with me about a life-changing class – and notice the level of detail she recalls: 

My time as a student at Ouachita was very influential in my faith journey. I took Old Testament with Dr. Danny Hays, and it was in his class that the Bible came alive to me. I will never forget studying Abraham in-depth for three weeks. 

When we came to chapter 22 of Genesis and Dr. Hays camped out on the parallels between that story and Jesus, it was like a switch had been flipped. I had never realized how the Old Testament was always pointing toward Jesus until that day. 

I absolutely fell in love with the Word of God that semester, and 27 years later, I’m still not over it. It is a lifeline for me. I love that it is a standard of truth that never changes, so I can use it as a lens and filter for all situations that come in life.  

When I became president of Ouachita almost seven years ago and was new to Arkansas, I spent the first few months crisscrossing the state and region to meet alumni and listen to their Ouachita stories.  

In hundreds of conversations, there always came a point where they told me about a faculty or staff member, recalling their name, a specific situation and how that investment in their life changed them. Just like Lizann. 

Often, especially older alumni, both men and women, would pause to shed a tear as they remembered what happened in their life on this campus on a bluff overlooking the Ouachita River. One of the benefits from aging is perspective and appreciating what has stood the test of time.  

Just like Lizann in the 1990s, every student at Ouachita still takes two required classes in the Pruet School of Christian Studies: Survey of the Bible and Interpreting the Bible. For Christian students, we pray that it enlivens their faith. For other students, we pray they come to faith in Jesus Christ.  

Across the curriculum, for every academic major, we seek to integrate faith into a student’s academic journey to foster both a love of God and a love of learning on their way to becoming the person God intends.  

Arkansas Baptists’ annual, generous gift to Ouachita helps underwrite the current year’s investment in students – and it makes a big difference each year. But, as Lizann’s story illustrates, it can be life-changing, too – which is a “return on investment” that is eternal.  

Lizann’s story gets better. What happened at Ouachita was further nurtured for 22 years through her participation and service in Arkansas Baptist churches and as an educator at Shiloh Christian School. Then two years ago, she returned to Ouachita to work in the Office of the Registrar. One of her assignments is meeting with every student to do a “graduation check” so they can finish on time. She prays with each student, aspiring to do for them what was done for her: to not only help them along their academic path, but also to be influential in their faith journey. 

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