By Dr. Ben Sells

President, Ouachita Baptist Univeristy

Ouachita pursues momentum with a mission

By Dr. Ben Sells

President, Ouachita Baptist Univeristy

Despite the daunting challenges our nation and world face, by God’s grace Ouachita Baptist University is experiencing momentum. 

In the past five years, our enrollment has increased 9% while enrollment in all colleges and universities in the state has decreased 12%. In Fall 2022, we welcomed the largest, most racially and ethnically diverse freshman class in Ouachita’s history—including 26 Arkansas Governor’s Distinguished Scholars—and announced our highest enrollment in five decades. Enrollment for Spring 2022 is our highest spring headcount in more than 25 years. 

We’re grateful that Ouachita’s highly-personalized approach to Christian higher education is attracting outstanding and committed students. 

Not only are students enrolling in record numbers, but we had a record graduation rate for May 2021. Ouachita’s four-year graduation rate is double that of many public universities – an indication that students are serious about their studies, enjoy their outside-the-classroom experiences and feel connected to and supported by faculty and staff. 

Our students can earn a degree in four years without spending extra time and expense for additional semesters, an advantage as they pursue graduate studies or full-time employment after graduation. 

Ouachita has launched undergraduate programs in nursing and criminal justice, and we’re studying adding an engineering major. We’ve initiated six new graduate programs, with more in development. We’re excited by the opportunities to extend Ouachita’s mission.  

We’re constantly improving our physical campus as well. A state-of-the-art Nursing Education Center opens this fall, as will a new apartment complex to house 144 students. Other renovation and construction projects small and large will improve the campus experience for students in the years to come.  

As I complete my sixth year as president, my efforts and prayers are focused on three outcomes for our students: that they’ll experience academic progress, personal development and spiritual growth – helping each become the person God intended. We won’t do it perfectly, and students have to be responsible too, but few universities are focused on all three.  

This month, students are helping me interview finalists to be Ouachita’s next vice president for academic affairs. When a candidate asked students to give a phrase describing Ouachita, their responses were very encouraging. They identified strengths such as “rigorous academics within a rich campus community” and a focus on “people, not numbers,” pointing out that Ouachita is a “caring community” where professors are intentional and available. Students also recognized Ouachita as a place of opportunity, specifically for leadership, hands-on experience, interdisciplinary study and mentorship with faculty. 

I hope that all of our students would agree with these descriptions.  

Ouachita seeks to provide the best educational environment in a Christ-centered learning community. We want it to be valuable and life-changing for students. And, for students and parents, we want to provide an exceptional financial value. We’re committed to student success and to providing the resources and personal attention our students need to achieve the goal of a college degree. Their success is our success. 

And it is in their lives, as they grow and serve God’s purposes in their generation, that Ouachita’s momentum and mission are truly realized. 

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