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Lyon students research poultry houses’ impact on local watersheds

Allison Mundy (left) and Olivia Echols are conducting field research on the water quality of the Eleven Point and Black River watersheds.


Two Lyon College students are working in both the laboratory and the field to research the impact of poultry houses on local watersheds this summer.

Seniors Allison Mundy and Olivia Echols are researching the water quality in the Eleven Point and Black River watersheds. Poultry houses cause phosphorus and nitrogen runoffs, which can create harmful algae blooms in the water. 

Mundy is working under Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Allyn Dodd, and Echols is splitting her time with Dodd and Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Maryline Jones.

They are studying the nutrients present in local streams to make sure they are at acceptable levels. If the streams are over-nutriated, then that is a sign that poultry house runoff is in the water.

“We’re also checking to see how much algae is growing in the streams,” Mundy said. “If there’s too much algae, the fish cannot survive because it depletes the oxygen in the water.”

She continued, “I’m checking the macroinvertebrates community. Basically, there are some bugs in the water that cannot live in pollution at all, so I check to see if any of those bugs are around and count them.”

Echols said she is studying the Ozark crawfish population to see how the pollution impacts the physiology of crawfish.

“We’re looking at how the nutrients have affected the osmoregulation of the crawfish,” Echols said. “Our main purpose right now is to try to sequence the genes involved in osmoregulation.”

Mundy said their work is part of Dodd’s research project in collaboration with Jones and Erik Pollock of the University of Arkansas, which was funded through a grant from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

“We are just gathering information to share with the USGS so they can publish the research on their website and get it to whoever needs it.”

She said the USGS is worried about this region of Arkansas because of the growing number of poultry houses in the area.

“They’re checking to make sure everything is okay,” Mundy said, “and that people are within their regulations.”

Mundy and other students previously presented some of their research at the 2020 Posters at the Capitol event in February.

“I have a few business cards from a few legislators in the area,” Mundy said. “They were asking if we could send them our results when we’re finished.”

She continued, “Our research has a direct impact on the policies people are making. It’s really cool to know that my science gets to be reviewed at that level.”

Echols and Mundy are excited to be working on their first undergraduate research project and to apply what they have learned in their biology courses in the field.

“I learned about crawfish in Bio 110,” Echols said, “so I’m getting to apply a bunch of dissection and anatomy of crawfish from that course.”

Mundy said she is using what she learned in her Biological Statistics course to run her own statistics on this project.

“It’s great to be able to learn a different side of biology,” Echols said. “I’ve worked with cells and things like that , but not necessarily with bugs and water chemistry.”

She concluded, “It’s nice to be able to see the background of the impact poultry houses can have on ecology.”

“I like this research because it’s beyond the textbook,” Mundy said. “You get to contextualize how science is done, and you get to know it a lot better than you would just reading from a book.”


at Monday, June 29, 2020

Stracener remembered for kindness, genuine connections with students

MaryAnn Stracener, a former Lyon College employee who worked in the admissions and financial aid office for 16 years, died on June 20. She was 75.

Stracener was born on Sept. 11, 1944, in Belen, N.M., to Jacobo and Maria Sallas Moya. In addition to working at Lyon, she worked for several years at the Citizens Bank in Batesville and was the former Recorder/Treasurer for the City of Pleasant Plains. She was a member of St. Albert’s Catholic Church in Heber Springs.

She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Norman Thomas Stracener; and a sister, Suzann Baca. She is survived by her daughter, Jacqueline Stracener, of Batesville; her granddaughter, Megan Bristov; several nieces and nephews and a host of other relatives and friends.

Alumni remember Stracener for her kind spirit and the genuine connections she made with students.

Heather (Ericson) Terrell, ’96, said Stracener was the reason she went to Lyon. Terrell had been planning on attending a larger state school but fell in love with Lyon after visiting the campus with a friend.

“My mom preferred that I go to the larger school but promised to look into Lyon,” she said. 

Terrell’s mother called the school, and Stracener picked up.

“My mom said, ‘Yes, this is Kay Ericson’ and, before she could say more, MaryAnn interrupted her with ‘Oh! You must be Heather’s mother!’”

Terrell continued, “My mom immediately changed her mind and fell in love with the idea that I could attend college and be more than just a number. She knew if someone knew who I was after just an application and a preview day that I would definitely be looked after once I was a student.”

Terrell said she will always be grateful for Stracener because Lyon College is one of the best things that has ever happened to her.

“MaryAnn Stracener was the best of the best, truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever known,” said Brad Austin, ’94. “Her welcoming presence in the Admission Office helped convince me, and surely many others, to come to Batesville.”

“MaryAnn was one of my favorite people ever,” said Amy Crouch Howard, ’99. “She gave the best hugs and had the biggest smile.” 

“She was always a joy to be around,” said Chris Treat, ’04, “and I will never forget how much she loved the students and faculty at Lyon.”

at Friday, June 26, 2020

Lyon art department helps Main Street blossom

Lyon alumna Victoria Hutcheson works on the Blossoming Main Street mural.


The Lyon College Art Program has completed a new mural in downtown Batesville.

The new mural, Blossoming Main Street, depicts an apple blossom on Main Street to represent the recent growth of Batesville’s beautiful downtown. The art department worked with Main Street Batesville and the Batesville Area Arts Council (BAAC) to finish the project.

The design was a collaboration between Professor of Art Dustyn Bork and Carly Dahl, BAAC director. Mandi Curtwright and Main Street Batesville applied for grant funding through the Arkansas Department of Heritage to complete the mural. Dahl and the BAAC provided logistical and operational support.

In addition to himself and his wife, Dahl, Bork said two current students, seniors Brianna Sanchez and Samantha Long, and an alumna, Victoria Hutcheson, helped him paint the new mural. 

Hutcheson was back in Batesville due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bork reached out to ask if she would like to help.

“It felt great to be back painting murals in Batesville again,” she said. “The murals class at Lyon and Batesville shaped me so much in my life and career.”

Hutcheson continued, “It was also wonderful to talk to some current students to see how they enjoy learning about the murals and being able to give them some advice on what it’s like after Lyon and doing murals of your own.”

Long, of Cave City, felt like part of the community while working on the mural.

“The process was actually kind of stressful. Once you start painting and see the finished project, though, it’s really rewarding.”

Sanchez, of Paragould, drove all the way to Batesville to help for a week.

“Working on this project, I learned that if you step out of your comfort zone, you will earn even more opportunities,” she said. “I have already been spoken to about two potential murals of my own in Corning, Ark.”

Bork said the goal with the Blossoming Main Street mural is to inspire.

“We want to encourage visitors to see their surroundings in a new light and to encourage more foot traffic to the beautiful area of downtown Batesville.”

In the art department’s experience, he said, large colorful compositions garner great attention and are perfect for community engagement. He said this type of mural has the potential to be quite visible and be shared through social media and photography.

“We selected the apple blossom as it is the state flower. We wanted a subject matter that had local recognition and significance.”

Bork loved providing students and alumni the opportunity to get involved and help shape the community.

“They are awesome in their skills, so I know I can count on them,” he said. “This mural was a very complex painting with 22 unique colors and complex design, the most advanced we have taken on.”

The alumni and students have executed a few murals before, so Bork knew they would step up to the challenge.

“Having Victoria working with the current students was also a great teaching opportunity. Since she has executed a couple of large scale commissioned murals on her own, she was able to give them real world pointers on how to get started in their art.”

Seeing the impact of the Coke mural, the solo murals completed by students and the new Blossoming Main Street mural has been a rewarding experience for Bork.

“I am very proud of the role that Lyon and my students have played in adding to the vibrancy of our community,” he said.

Bork continued, “The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. Murals are tangible and visible products of artists’ creativity and talents.” 

“All of the support from the community makes all the hard work so much more worth it,” Sanchez said. “I’m thankful to call Batesville my home away from home.”

“No matter where you’re from, art can be a really nice way to connect to your community,” said Long. 

Both seniors would love to be involved in more community art projects in the future.

“I think every town deserves some color,” Sanchez said.


at Thursday, June 25, 2020

Lyon’s Mortar Board chapter wins national honors

Lyon College’s chapter of Mortar Board received five national honors from the Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society.

The Order of the Tartan Chapter won the Gold Torch Award for the third straight year and three Project Excellence awards. Mortar Board advisor, Dr. Irosha Nawarathne, also received an Excellence in Advising award.

Madison Grant, ’20, the outgoing president of Mortar Board, said the Golden Torch Award is presented to chapters that go above and beyond. To be eligible, chapters must complete all their paperwork, have all of their membership dues paid, and perform service projects on campus.

“It was inspiring to see how the chapter came together when our whole year changed,” Grant said. 

“Our Mortar Board chapter has a history of high standards,” said Melanie Beehler, ’20, “so it felt good to continue that legacy amidst what was happening outside of campus.”

Lyon received Project Excellence awards for the LEAD Conference, the virtual Student Creative Arts and Research Forum (SCARF) and the new Humanities, Arts, Sciences and Technology (HATS) event. 

The LEAD Conference is held in the fall and teaches high schoolers how to be successful leaders. SCARF is held in the spring and gives Lyon students the chance to share the work they have pursued both in and outside of the classroom with their peers. HATS is a new companion event for SCARF that gives Lyon freshmen the chance to showcase the original research they have worked on during their first semester.

Nawarathne said SCARF was originally planned to be an in-person event, but Lyon students were dismissed from campus a week before it was scheduled to take place because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was really rough. We had worked so hard on SCARF, and we had it all ready to go. The students were upset, and I was upset.”

Fortunately, she said, Mortar Board and the SCARF committee worked with the Office of Strategic Marketing and Communication to hold the event virtually. The executive committee of Madison Grant, Kendra Kelley, Navy Griffin, Melanie Beehler, Daniel Armstrong, Sean O’Leary and Christen Johnson helped organize the virtual SCARF.

“We had an excellent executive committee this year,” Nawarathne said. “Everybody was well involved and ready to take on leadership roles.”

“It was heartbreaking that SCARF had to be cancelled in real-time because so many people put a lot of work into various aspects of the conference,” Grant said. “However, we did get to host it virtually, which gave the participants their chance to show off their hard work.”

Beehler and Grant said seeing Nawarathne recognized for Excellence in Advising by the national Mortar Board organization felt great.

“Dr. Irosha was a great help in moving SCARF to a virtual platform!” said Beehler. “She dedicates a lot of time to helping us with events and encouraging us to take the lead.” 

She continued, “In regards to Mortar Board, she is a perfect example of what an advisor ought to be.”

Grant submitted the nomination for Nawarathne and was “so honored to then see her receive the award.”

“We held a personal award ceremony virtually for her, and it was so difficult to surprise her.”

The executive committee organized a Zoom call with Nationals to present the award to Nawarathne, along with flowers and a framed photo of this year’s members.

“She always goes above and beyond to help us be the best chapter we can be,” Grant said. “She was beyond deserving of such an incredible award.”

Nawarathne felt “truly honored and humbled” to receive the award from the national organization.

“The opportunity to work with an exemplary group of students like Lyon’s Mortar Board members is a gift I value more than any special award,” she said.

Nawarathne concluded with some advice from her personal experience being a first-generation college student in Sri Lanka more than a decade and a half ago. As much as she was supported by her loved ones, she said there was enough negativity to discourage her from reaching her dreams.

“Don’t let society define who you are or decide what you should be,” Nawarathne said. “Embrace who you are and dream big!”

She encouraged students to not only live their dreams but to also help others achieve their dreams.

“Serve more, judge less! Be the difference!”

at Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Lyon alum named executive director of Black Outside

Angelica Holmes, ’15, is the new executive director of Black Outside, Inc.

BlackOutside.org says the nonprofit organization was founded with the mission of expanding outdoor “access, programming and relevancy to both Black and Brown communities across Texas.”

Holmes was already working with Black Outside as the director of the relaunched Camp Founder Girls, one of the first summer camps for Black girls founded in 1924. Alex Bailey, the founder and former executive director of Black Outside, recently started a new job, and the nonprofit was looking for someone to take over his role.

“I was one of the first people mentioned because I’m so familiar with the organization,” Holmes said. “I’ve always been on the board for Black Outside, and its mission has been close to my heart since the very beginning.”

She had to work through some “imposter syndrome” internally while preparing to take on the new leadership role.

“I’m an introvert, and I never imagined this would be my role. It’s been kind of crazy and still a lot to process.”

Holmes continued, “I’m so excited about it, though!”

She will continue serving as the director of Camp Founder Girls and working hand-in-hand with Bailey, but she will be taking the lead on programs now.

“Instead of spending all my time and attention on Camp Founders Girls stuff, I’ll be looking at the bigger picture of Black Outside’s mission.”

Holmes will help manage Black Outside’s other programs, such as the Brotherhood Summit and the Charles Roundtree Bloom Project.

The Brotherhood Summit, she said, is an annual outdoor retreat for Black male high school students. A collective of Black male teachers and mentors convene with students from across San Antonio, Texas, for mentorship, community-building and leadership development.

The Charles Roundtree Bloom Project aims to create a space of communal healing for youth impacted by incarceration and over-policing in their communities.

“It was started by my esteemed colleague Ki’Amber Thompson,” Holmes said. “Her cousin, Charles Roundtree, was 18 in 2018 when he was killed by the San Antonio Police Department.”

She continued, “[Ki’Amber] has a lot of experience dealing with over-policing in San Antonio. She wanted to give her family members and members of the community who had similar upbringings what she would have wanted when she was their age.”

Holmes said the Bloom Project facilitates healing-centered outdoor experiences and culturally relevant environmental education that helps young people “envision new possibilities for their lives, for their communities and for our world.”

She is also excited to continue working with Camp Founder Girls, which just finished its second year. The camp had to pivot to a hybrid model this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, hosting day camps with three small groups of 10 girls instead of the typical overnight model.

“With everything going on in the world, we recognized the importance of our girls having a chance to get together and convene, even if it was on a much smaller scale.”

The camp featured some “social distancing-friendly” day activities. Some were in person, and some were virtual, Holmes said.

“We just wanted to give them a little taste of camp and that sense of community.” 

She continued, “It’s been really hard trying to figure out how to be as safe as possible, but I think we did a good job of making sure we were overly cautious when it came to preventing transmission of the virus or any health issues.”

Holmes is looking forward to being more involved in all of Black Outside’s programming and seeing its mission expand. 

One lesson she has learned through Camp Founder Girls is the importance of giving the kids time to breathe.

“As a former teacher working with a lot of former teachers, we wanted to have every single minute planned,” she said, laughing. 

Holmes said giving kids time to discover and explore on their own is important.

“As we plan for the future, we have to give the kids some time to just be outside and be able to discover, walk around and inhale and exhale outside. It’s such a blessing. We’re finding ways to work that into the schedule.”

To donate to Black Outside and its programs, visit BlackOutside.org/donate. Donors can select which program they want to support or let their donation go to the area of most need.

at Tuesday, June 23, 2020