Ouachita maintains momentum across campus for 2021-2022 academic year

With one of the university’s largest freshman classes ever, new educational initiatives and a packed calendar of events, the 2021-22 school year is off to a great start at Ouachita Baptist University. Here’s a look at some of the exciting things that are happening as the fall semester begins. 

Dr. Jeremy Greer named Pruet School of Christian Studies dean 

Dr. Jeremy Greer is the new dean of Ouachita’s Pruet School of Christian Studies. Greer, a Ouachita graduate and second generation pastor, has long ties to the university and to Arkansas Baptists, as well as to higher education through teaching and administrative roles.  

Greer earned his bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Ouachita in 1998, followed by a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2002 and Ph.D. from B.H. Carroll Theological Institute in 2014. He has served in various teaching, committee and course development roles at Ouachita, B.H. Carroll and East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) since 2007 and has served in ministry roles at several churches in Arkansas and Texas. Greer most recently served at ETBU as associate professor of Christian ministry, director of ministry guidance and director of church relations. 

He was chosen to succeed Dr. Danny Hays as dean of the Pruet School following a national search that began in November 2020, after Hays announced his pending retirement. Greer’s tenure began in July. 

Ouachita’s Pruet School seeks to combine exceptional scholarship and effective teaching with a vital focus on preparing graduates for practical ministry. During its 22-year history as one of Ouachita’s academic schools, it has achieved significant growth, developed innovative programs and benefited from a major renovation and expansion of its academic facilities. The faculty excel as effective classroom teachers, passionate ministers and respected academicians. 

Tiger football legend Cliff Harris joins the Pro Football Hall of Fame 

Ouachita alum Cliff Harris has earned numerous honors during his football career. On Aug. 7, he added the sport’s top honor to his long list of accolades when he joined the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the Class of 2020 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. He was presented by longtime Cowboys teammate Charlie Waters. 

He was a two-time All-Conference selection and 1966 Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference champion at Ouachita, where his father, O.J. “Buddy” Harris, had played before him. After he graduated, the Dallas Cowboys invited him to training camp in 1970 and signed him to a free agent contract. At Dallas, Harris went on to become a two-time Super Bowl champion, six-time Pro Bowl selection, three-time First Team All-Pro honoree and member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. He’s one of only 13 players to ever play in five Super Bowls. Ouachita’s football stadium is named in his honor, as is an award presented to the top defensive player in the country representing small schools.  

“How does a kid from a small D2 school in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, make it to five Super Bowls and the Hall of Fame?” Harris said in his induction speech. “I may be the only one who knows how truly slim that chance was. But if I can make it, anyone can achieve their goals. The key is to never quit. Never give up. Keep trying, keep learning and keep growing.” 

He added, “One thing that has been vitally important to me has been my faith in God. I’ve had good fortune in my life, but God has always been in control.” 

New Master of Education degree emphasizes “teaching as a calling” 

Ouachita’s graduate and professional studies program will launch a Master of Education degree in curriculum and instruction in January 2022, with applications opening in September 2021. Designed to help teachers enhance skills and increase earning potential, the 12-month program prepares educators to become curriculum specialists and instructional coordinators. 

“In addition to designing effective curriculum for diverse students, we’ll look at current issues in culture, discuss how to approach them in the classroom and reflect on how faith guides our work as teachers,” said Dr. Gail Hughes, director of graduate studies in education. “We will use data to plan strategies that will close achievement gaps and determine the best technology tools to engage students.” 

The fully online program offers classes asynchronously so that students can complete course work on a schedule that best works for them. An optional weekly group session, available online or in person, allows them to engage more easily with the program director and connect with one another. Courses are offered without prerequisites, so students may enter the program at the beginning of any semester and work through the 10-course rotation without interruption. There are five entry points throughout each year. 

Monica Hardin, associate vice president for graduate and online education, expressed gratitude for Dr. Hughes and her vision for the program. Under Hughes’ leadership, Hardin said, “we will meet the needs of teachers who seek to view their calling through the lens of faith.” 

Ouachita honors  first 30  applied behavior analysis master’s graduates  

Ouachita’s first class of master’s degree recipients since the 1990s was honored during the inaugural Applied Behavior Analysis Hooding Ceremony on Aug. 7 at Walker Conference Center with Dr. Stan Poole, vice president for academic affairs, presiding. 

 Thirty graduates received the Master of Science degree in applied behavior analysis, which prepares them to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Exam and equips them to serve in fields that address specialties such as autism, developmental disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.   

The low-residency program, which is the first of its kind in Arkansas, was launched just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It combines online and in-person instruction and may be completed in just 15 months.  

Dr. Sheila Barnes, director and professor of applied behavior analysis, shared the symbolism of the traditional academic regalia before presenting the graduates with their hoods. Addressing the class, she said, “Your scholarly achievements were hard fought but will serve you well. You have earned Ouachita’s first graduate degree in applied behavior analysis, a credential that will enable you to make a difference in the lives of so many.” 

The second cohort of applied behavior analysis students is underway; applications open for the third cohort on September 1. 

Ouachita receives part of $6.1 million grant for virus research 

Ouachita is one of five partner institutions benefiting from a $6.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to fund the study of viruses and viral ecology.  

The grant will establish a lead Host-Virus Evolutionary Dynamics Institute (HVEDI) at the University of Arkansas (UA) with an HVEDI hub site at Ouachita. Dr. Nathan Reyna, associate professor of biology, serves as a co-principal investigator on the primary award and as the lead on the sub-award to Ouachita. Dr. Ruth Plymale, associate professor of biology and holder of the J.D. Patterson Chair of Biology at Ouachita, serves as campus lead investigator. 

Reyna and Plymale will work alongside principal investigator Dr. Ruben Michael Ceballos of the UA biological sciences department, as well as collaborators at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the University of Maine at Orono and La Universidad Interamericana in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. 

The team hopes to establish “rules of life” – biological laws or principles describing an organism’s characteristics or patterns of behavior – that apply to all viruses. Research will include characterizing virus-host interactions, integrating data that apply to organisms of all sizes and developing biosystems models that will allow for a better understanding of viruses: their ability to cause disease, how to render them harmless, how and why they’re likely to jump species, transmission rates and severity of pandemics, how virus activity impacts natural systems and more. 

During the next five years, the NSF grant will provide Ouachita with $500,000 to support the research of Reyna, Plymale and their students to examine bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, and how they interact with hosts. Research that Plymale has incorporated into her freshman-level bacteriophage lab played a key role in Ouachita being invited to join Ceballos and the other partner universities in applying for the NSF grant. 

Ouachita is in its 135th year as a Christ-centered learning community and has been consistently ranked the No. 2 “Regional College in the South” by U.S. News & World Report. In fall 2020, Ouachita recorded its highest enrollment in 25 years and has welcomed one of its largest incoming classes ever for fall 2021. Learn more about the university’s highly personal approach, reflected in a student/faculty ratio of 13:1, at www.obu.edu

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