Lyon students walked in the footsteps of historical figures and literary legends on the Nichols Trip to England this May.
Led by Associate Professor of History Dr. Edward Tenace and Associate Professor of English Dr. Helen Robbins as part of the Nichols International Studies Program, the trip was a chance for history and literature students to experience the subjects they studied firsthand.
The group visited London and four rural towns: Swanage, Whitby, Haltwhistle, and Haworth.
The emphasis was on the landscape, Tenance said, and the group explored how each region’s geography influenced its culture and history. From Haltwhistle, for example, the students hiked to Hadrian’s Wall and toured the borderlands between England and Scotland, where families subsisted by making raids across the border and stealing each other’s cattle.
“You get a sense of the foreboding landscape there because all the farms look like they’re fortified,” he said. “They’re constructed that way to defend against people trying to come in and attack them.”
Robbins said the trip features a lot of hiking to immerse students in the English lifestyle and give them a better sense of the land.
“The English do a lot more walking than we do,” she said. “There are some places with beautiful scenery you can find if you make the trek.”
“When you walk these places, there’s this sense of identifying with the past that you wouldn’t get by just being on a tour bus,” Tenace said.
Nichole Cook, ‘19, said she was initially terrified of all the hiking the trip would entail.
“What we call ‘hiking,’ the English just call ‘walking,’ ”Cook said, laughing. “All the countryside is connected with public walking paths, and we went everywhere.”
“I was so excited by all the scenery and sites that I made myself do it,” she said. “I’m so glad I did. The coastal walks were awesome, and we were literally walking along cliffs all the time.”
As an English major, she said it was exciting to read a novel like Wuthering Heights and then visit the moors in Haworth that inspired Emily Brontë.
“Seeing Whitby was a highlight for me because it’s the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” Cook said. “I cried when we hiked it because it was so amazing to be there.”
“It lived up to its reputation,” said Tenace. “The area also has a lot of historical significance because the explorer Captain Cook was born and raised there and Whitby Abbey played a big role in converting Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.”
He said students came away from the trip with a better grasp of English culture and how different it is from region to region.
“We got into some interesting conversations in Haworth, which is very pro-Brexit,” Tenace said. “The political views are very different in each region, like if you were to travel to Oklahoma or California.”
One advantage for the students, he said, was that they had never been to a large metropolitan area like London before.
“Many of them got to experience public transit and flying for the first time,” Tenace said.
“They figured out the bus schedules in towns. They figured out the London Underground and how to get where they were supposed to be,” Robbins. “I was proud of them for adjusting so well to being in a crowded city.”
She said many students catch the “travel bug” after going on a Nichols trip.
“I know several students who went out of the country for the first time on a Nichols Trip,” she said, “and now they travel all the time. It has influenced their lives so much.”
“Coming back was so sad,” Cook said. “This was my first real time overseas. I’m going to save up so that I can travel again as soon as I can.”
A Lyon College senior is finding the links between altered neural connectivity and neurological disorders.
Luke Shackelford, ‘20, is spending his summer in the University of Chicago’s molecular genetics and cellular biology department, researching neural development and how the neuromuscular system forms.
To study this complex system, the research team is using Drosophila melanogaster, a type of common fruit fly, as its model organism. Shackelford said the project will collect data from a number of scientific approaches, among them fluorescent imagery and neuron cell cultures.
“Through using these techniques, we hope to reveal important aspects of how brain cells locate and connect with each other and with muscle cells,” he said.
With a deeper knowledge of neural connectivity mechanisms, Shackelford said the research team hopes to increase understanding of neurological disorders that result from altered neural connectivity, including autism spectrum disorders.
He first became interested in scientific research when he joined Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Alexander Beeser’s lab as a freshman at Lyon. Since then, Shackelford has worked in the labs of other Lyon professors and spent a summer studying brain cancer resistance at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) through the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE).
“It has been through those experiences and relationships that I was accepted into my current program at the University of Chicago,” Shackelford said. “My research professors, as well as the Lyon Career Center, were vital in helping me identify my research interests and prepare a successful application.”
He said the liberal arts education at Lyon taught him the importance of analyzing a problem critically, which is the very heart of scientific research.
“As a biology major with a psychology minor, I have taken a variety of classes which gave me a strong foundation to join a neuroscience lab,” Shackelford said.
“Whether it was something as simple as the structure of a neuron or as complex as the molecular mechanism that stimulates filopodia extension, my classes at Lyon have prepared me to approach a variety of neuroscience questions.”
Among the numerous benefits of research, he said building professional relationships is his favorite part.
“Working in a lab setting places you in a very close community,” Shackelford said, “where I have been able to connect with other undergraduates, Ph.D. candidates, and renowned professors.”
He said he has also formed lasting friendships with the other students in his program, discussing research proposals and exploring Chicago together.
“It is these many connections that I believe will have the most lasting impact when I leave,” Shackelford said.
“Having grown up in rural Arkansas, this was my first opportunity to live in a large city like Chicago. From my daily view of the skyline to mastering the subway, I have gained new experiences and perspectives that I will always carry with me.”
He said he can apply his research experiences at Lyon in two areas: academics and community.
For academics, he wants to apply the information he has gained when taking upper level classes and bring some of the techniques and skills into his research projects.
“I hope to give back to the Lyon community, which has given me so much,” Shackelford said, “by encouraging other students to pursue opportunities in their fields and making myself available to answer any questions or even proofread applications.”
Participating in research has given him a huge appreciation of the people who give their lives to science and unveiling the hidden mechanisms of the world.
“It has shown me how easy it can be to take for granted the information we have access to through a quick Google search,” Shackelford said, “when in reality it likely took someone’s dedication and hard work to provide us with the knowledge we have.”
“This experience has further confirmed my love for research and my desire to pursue research opportunities after I graduate from Lyon.”
Lai-Monté Hunter’s role in Lyon College Student Life is expanding to include safety and emergency management.
As of July 1, Campus Safety and the locksmith position report directly to Hunter, and he is also chairing the new Safety Committee. In recognition of the increased responsibilities, Dean of Students Dr. Patrick Mulick said the College has changed Hunter’s title to “Dean of Campus Life and Diversity.”
“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to strengthen Student Life overall,” Hunter said, “and to be able to support the mission and vision of the College through this role.”
“One of Lai-monte’s major strengths is looking at process--how things are working and how we could help them be more efficient,” Mulick said.
Student Life wanted to make the Campus Safety department and locksmith position as effective as possible, Mulick added.
“We have great people working in those areas,” Mulick said, “and we felt like Lai-Monte would be a great source of support, reference, and supervision.”
He said Hunter will also be a great resource for the new Safety Committee, which will supervise the enforcement and education of Lyon’s emergency management plans.
“[The Safety Committee] is something we have not had before,” Mulick said. “We’re ramping up our efforts to educate faculty, staff, and students about emergency response, and Lai-Monte will play a key role in those plans.”
Pictured above: Gretchen Hall (left) has mentored fellow Lyon alumna Debbie Onukwube.
Gretchen Hall, ‘01, learned lessons in the classroom and on the basketball court at Lyon College that she has used to give back to both her alma mater and community through the years.
“I’m a huge believer in what sports can teach you off the court as much as on the court,” Hall said. “You learn about work ethic, teamwork, and communication skills.”
She applied those lessons to her career with the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (LRCVB), becoming president and CEO in May 2011.
Hall said she credits Lyon for teaching her how to write better and be an effective communicator.
“No matter what field you go into that will benefit you,” Hall said. “I really learned how to articulate my thoughts at Lyon through all of my classes.”
She majored in business administration and economics, mentored by Associate Professor of Economics Dr. Mahbubul Kabir and former Professor of Accounting Dr. Alan McNamee.
“I always thought I was pretty good at math until I got to Accounting II,” Hall said, laughing. “It’s hard when you hit the peak of basketball season and travel a lot. I struggled a bit there, but [McNamee] was very good at helping me catch up.”
“I also dearly loved Dr. Mark Schram. He was a big supporter of our basketball team, so, even though I didn’t take very many of his biology classes, he was a consistent face. I felt like I had a special relationship with him.”
Hall has paid those experiences forward, mentoring local basketball players in Little Rock.
“My former high school coach convinced me to coach here,” she said. “She had a group of parochial kids that needed a coach, and she twisted my arm to do that.”
Lyon alumna Debbie Onukwube, ‘13, was on that team.
“Debbie was a raw talent and needed some direction,” Hall said. “Over time, she kind of became my child and would introduce me as ‘her second mom.’ She ended up earning a basketball scholarship at Lyon and kept the tradition going for our nontraditional family. That was a unique tie.”
Hall has also worked diligently to give back to the Little Rock community, including the $70 million renovation of the Robinson Center Performance Hall. She served on the team representing the City of Little Rock and the Little Rock Advertising & Promotion Commission, the owners of the facility.
The project took two and a half years to complete, and the performance hall reopened in November 2016. She said the facility is now bringing lots of additional events, activities, and people to Little Rock, which is creating a great economic boost for tourism.
Hall said the experience is one of the highlights of her career.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime project and became a labor of love,” she said, “even taking over my life for a while.”
“I had lots of personal and professional ties to that building. You naturally take ownership of a project like that and want to make sure it’s done right because it serves our community and benefits the local economy.”
Through her work with LRCVB, Hall became the first woman to solely receive the Downtown Little Rock Partnership’s Top of the Rock Award in 2017. She was recently named Tourism Person of the Year at the 2019 Henry Awards in February.
“That was awfully humbling because I know I was selected by my peers throughout the state to be honored,” Hall said. “That is one of the highest regards in our industry in this state.”
She said she is fortunate to have a career she loves.
“It’s important for everybody to find their niche and find something they truly enjoy doing,” Hall said. “I’ve truly been blessed to find a professional career that drives me every day.”
“We end up spending so much time at work, it makes it all the better when you enjoy what you do.”
Batesville Rotarians got a chance to look behind the tartan during a Lyon College Scottish Heritage Program presentation on Monday.
Director of Advancement Services and Research Kenton Adler delivered the talk to the Batesville Rotary Club, sharing details on Lyon College and its founding by Scottish Presbyterians.
Although he first worked as an instructional technologist and then later for the department of advancement, Adler said it was the Pipe Band that drew him to Lyon in 1998.
The Lyon College Pipe Band serves as an ambassador for both Lyon and Batesville, he said, spreading the school’s Scottish spirit wherever they travel. The band is comprised of Lyon students, faculty, and staff as well as volunteer musicians from Batesville.
The Pipe Band travels to competitions across the country and abroad and visits Presbyterian churches to perform “Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans” services. It offers scholarships to incoming students for both piping and drumming, and members are involved in teaching the Scottish arts to interested parties through the Outreach Program.
“We just held our piping summer school two weeks ago,” Adler said, “and a new thing we’re doing is teaching local kids to play pipes and drums. We’ve got about six of them right now who come every Thursday during the summer.”
“We’re really excited about that. It’s a lot of fun.”
The Scottish Heritage program began in 1980 when Dr. Ralph Graham established a Scottish athletics event known as “the Highland Games,” which blossomed over time into the Arkansas Scottish Festival and now draws people from across the U.S. and even around the globe.
According to Adler, the event draws as many as 10,000 to 11,000 visitors to Batesville, filling up hotels and generating revenue for local businesses.
“The festival is a big deal for us,” Adler said. “It allows us to bring people in who wouldn’t normally be here or who haven’t heard of Batesville before.”
As a result of Lyon’s commitment to cultivating its Scottish heritage, Adler said the Lyon College Pipe Band and the Arkansas Scottish Festival have great reputations.
Adler had previously served as the Pipe Major for the Ozark Highlanders and worked for the University of Arkansas.
“We kept coming to Batesville for the Arkansas Scottish Festival,” Adler said. “I fell in love with the place. I thought the town was beautiful. I loved the College, and the pipe band here was spectacular!”
He is now the longest serving piper in the history of Lyon’s Pipe Band. Director of the Scottish Heritage Program Jimmy Bell is the second longest serving piper.
“When people see Lyon College Pipers coming at competition they automatically deflate,” he said, “because Jimmy is such a high quality instructor and we have such high expectations for people who go out and represent the College and Batesville.”
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