Lyon College Professor Brian Hunt and four students attended a screenwriting workshop in Little Rock with award-winning director Jeff Nichols on November 12. Lyon is a sponsor of the Arkansas Cinema Association, which made the workshop possible. The students included Christen Johnson, Katie Cruse, Mae Dyer, and Miguel Hernandez who all had an interest in storytelling.
Nichols, a Little Rock native, is known for both writing and directing Shotgun Stories (2007), Mud (2012), Take Shelter (2011), for which he won the Cannes Critics Week Grand Prize, Loving (2016), and Midnight Special (2016). Loving garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for Ruth Negga, a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination for Joel Edgerton, and a Cannes Palme d’Or nomination for Nichols.
The students described Nichols as casual, calm, comforting, and down to earth. He divided his talk into four sections: the idea stage, the notecard stage, the cork board stage, and the writing stage, and he offered a realistic picture of the screenwriting business. Student Katie Cruse said, “He has a strong understanding of how to balance his creative endeavors with the reality of the business-world.”
While the students all agreed that Lyon College provides numerous professors with artistic insight, Nichols, as a successful practitioner, revealed the tools for getting things done. The key, he said, was to find a scene, a moment, an emotion that encapsulates the theme of the film. He always wants his audience to walk out of the theater with a specific feeling.
At the same time, he advised his audience, screenwriters must keep the script realistic: the storyline must make sense because people don’t care about what that emotion might be so much as they care about what the story is and whether the story keeps their interest.
Nichols also noted the necessity for a strong work ethic and a down-to-earth grasp of how to manage and accomplish something, step-by-step.
“I really hope that Lyon College will provide the opportunity to see Jeff Nichols’s future talks about directing and editing,” Cruse says. “He brought the audience’s dreamy aspirations down to earth, provided a realistic and step-by-step method of accomplishing such a large task, and expressed the necessity for a determined, hard-working, and resilient attitude throughout the whole process. These are skills and lessons necessary for everyone, not just filmmakers, to accomplish their goals.”
Lyon College senior math and chemistry major Morgan Webb has been selected as one of just ten students in the nation to present the work she did last summer at this spring’s American Chemical Society National Conference and Exposition in New Orleans. As part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, Webb worked with Dr. Gregory Tschumper in computational and theoretical chemistry at Ole Miss, simulating molecular interactions on a computer for much of the summer. Webb’s REU experience also resulted in her attending the Conference on Current Trends in Computational Chemistry in Jackson, MS with her research group where she presented on their summer research and received first place for undergraduate presentation.
“I was not interested in computational chemistry at all, initially, but I got an email from Dr. Tschumper, saying my background in math and physical chemistry would be a good fit for his lab,” Webb explained. “It wasn’t something I wanted to do, but it was something different, and that’s really what a big part of the REU experience is – trying new things and deciding what you want to do for graduate school or your career. I went in thinking I wouldn’t like working on a computer over the summer; I wouldn’t like being out of an actual lab, but I actually really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the logic and the thought process that has to go into doing computation chemistry and the real understanding of what you’re telling the computer to do.”
Her work related to the creation of electronic devices using organic materials instead of inorganic ones like metals. The computer simulations illustrated how different materials would interact with each other when combined, and Webb studied those results to analyze the materials’ potential for use in electronics. If successful, this work will produce exciting benefits for both cell phone users and the environment. Webb says, “Organic electronics are cheaper than inorganic electronics. They are more sustainable since the organic materials in question are more naturally abundant than inorganic ones.”
After accepting this award, she will give a fifteen-minute oral presentation, answer questions about her research, and share her REU experience at the Chemistry Students at the Nexus: REU Award Winners symposium on March 20, 2018. This task may seem daunting, and Webb admits that she’s nervous. Luckily, Webb had some practice presenting during the summer; the REU program required that she present her work to her professor, fellow undergraduate students, and graduate students twice for critique. She says, “the REU programs are really good for making you feel comfortable presenting in a scientific domain, teaching you to be confident in what you know and to be able to relate that.”
REU programs exist at schools across the nation where undergraduates can intern in chemistry, biology, physics, math, and other subjects. At the end of each session, each instructor can nominate two students that they think did exceptional work or had an exception presentation to present at the American Chemical Society National Conference in the spring. Webb says, “I’m kind of baffled that I was chosen because I’m not a good public speaker…so I’m honored.”
The award also reimburses Webb for travel, registration, and housing costs associated with the symposium. She will join other award winners at a reception after her presentation, allowing her to meet the other students and learn about their research, something she especially looks forward to.
Webb is grateful not just for the award but also for the opportunity to participate in the REU program. She says, “It’s given me direction. I’ve wanted to go to graduate school, but I didn’t know what I wanted to study. Now I can say that I want to study not only physical chemistry but likely theoretical or even computational chemistry in the future.”
On Thursday, November 30, Lyon College will host Dr. Jeremy Kuzmarov, a history professor at the University of Tulsa. A specialist in U.S. foreign policy and modern U.S. history, he will speak on current relations between the U.S. and Russia. His talk, "The Russians are Coming, Again," will be given at 8 p.m. in Nucor Auditorium in the Lyon Building.
Educated at McGill University in Montreal, Canada and Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, Kuzmarov was named a Top Young Historian by George Mason University in 2010 for his outstanding contributions to the discipline in his area of research.
He will speak on his concerns about persistent accusations of Russian aggression, lies, violations of international law, and cyberattacks on U.S. elections. Invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, threats toward smaller NATO members, and interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have been covered in all U.S. media, but Kuzmarov will present some little known U.S. actions that have alarmed the Russians and underlie some of their recent actions.
He seeks to build international understanding and says, “The Cold War was a global disaster for all involved; we should do everything in our power to avoid repeating that history today.”
Lyon College’s APPLE Project Upward Bound has been awarded a competitive discretionary grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help area high school students prepare for college entry and graduation. This award totals over $2 million earmarked for services to students who meet low-income and first-generation eligibility requirements.
The APPLE Project Upward Bound serves 87 students each year from Batesville, Southside, Midland, Mountain View, Cave City, Cedar Ridge, Newport, and Jackson County. Students can apply following completion of 8th grade, and once admitted they remain in the program until they finish high school.
APPLE UB students participate in both an academic year program and a residential summer program and receive services including college preparatory and college credit instruction; tutoring, mentoring, and individual advising; college/career planning, including college campus visits and admissions and financial aid support; assistance with fees for college application and entrance testing; economic and financial literacy instruction; and cultural, social, and recreational enrichment. Open communication with participants’ families increases their comfort level with the postsecondary environment. All services are provided free of charge to participants and their families.
With a focus on helping students with college readiness, APPLE UB also offers a special Bridge Scholarship that allows a few select students enjoy a fourth, or sometimes fifth, summer in the program after they graduate from high school. During the Bridge component, students take college credit courses paid for by the program while working in a campus work study position where they are exposed to careers requiring a postsecondary degree and are matched, as much as possible, in fields related to their career and educational interests.
Although some APPLE UB students enroll at Lyon College following high school graduation, many decide to pursue higher education at other institutions. Currently, APPLE UB alums can be found in both 2-year institutions and 4-year institutions, in public institutions as well as private institutions, and in Arkansas institutions as well as out-of-state institutions.
During the academic year and summer programs, APPLE UB employs 20-30 Lyon students to work with participants, providing an excellent opportunity for current Lyon students interested in pursuing a career working with adolescents and young adults. In addition, Lyon faculty and staff as well as area high school faculty provide hands-on instruction to students in core subject areas as well as special elective courses. APPLE UB also looks for individuals from the community to share information about their own college and career experiences with participants.
Lyon’s APPLE Project Upward Bound, part of the TRIO grant family, first received funding in 1967, making this the 50th year of college access programming that Lyon has provided to the local community. APPLE UB will celebrate this milestone anniversary later in the year and encourages anyone with ties to the program as a former participant or staff member to join in the celebration. Please contact Jeanette Youngblood at 870-307-7263 or firstname.lastname@example.org to share alumni information or to get more information about the program.
Photo: APPLE UB students build a tower of raw spaghetti noodles and marshmallows in order to practice their teamwork, leadership, and communication skills as part of the program’s mentoring activities.
Lyon College and the Melba Theatre will present the second film in the Tragic Scots Film Series on Tuesday, November 7 at 6:30 p.m. There will be no admission charge.
November’s film is Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), which received five nominations for Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards. It stars Vanessa Redgrave as Mary, Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I, Patrick McGoohan as the future James I, and Timothy Dalton as Lord Darnley and was directed by Charles Jarrott, who also directed Anne of the Thousand Days.
Dr. Mark Wallace will introduce the film, outlining its historical context and its characters’ importance to understanding Scottish history.
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