Alumnus Visits New Class He Made Possible

Arkansas Tech University alumnus Bob Dickson had a vision to help faculty at his alma mater create an innovative new course that would bring together students from a variety of majors across campus.

He wanted the course to allow students to work together on solving a problem while learning critical thinking and communication skills as well as the ability to work with others regardless of their background.

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, Dickson saw his vision play out before him in Dean Hall room 207.

That is the site each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon for Collaborative Solutions, a new class at ATU that was made possible by Dickson’s philanthropy and passion.

“I talked to some people at Tech about a class that would promote critical thinking,” said Dickson while leading a classroom discussion. “That is probably the most important issue to me. You’re either going to think for yourselves and make your own decisions, or you’re going to follow someone else. Without the skills to critically think about things and review options and opportunities that you have, you will be a follower all of your life. The other side of that is that’s alright. We need to follow each other, but by thinking critically about concepts you can make a better decision about which group you want to follow along with or which group you want to lead.”

A 1968 graduate of Arkansas Tech with a degree in mathematics, Dickson began his career in education. He left the principal’s position at Harrison High School to pursue an opportunity in private business with Mass Merchandisers, Inc.

Now retired, Dickson looks back on his education as the foundation for all that he has been able to achieve. The Collaborative Solutions course at ATU is his way of paying forward the style of learning that benefited him to the next generation.

“The best learning tool that I was ever exposed to was in the fourth grade,” said Dickson. “Have any of you ever heard of Weekly Reader? We had it probably the whole time I was in elementary school, but I remember it in the fourth grade because we talked about questions like the space shuttle program. It was defined and outlined, and it materialized almost exactly the way we talked about it in our classroom. How are we going to define death in the future? That was another issue in Weekly Reader.

“One of the biggies I remember was the 32-hour work week,” continued Dickson. “It was absolutely going to happen. It never materialized. When does life begin? That was another one of these issues, and I remember these because the teacher actually allowed us to discuss them, to argue and to fight…not literally, but figuratively speaking. I think we’re good at solving specific issues, and we have great difficulty when the issues become complex and personal. From my point of view and I think from the point of view of all the people involved with this class, we would like to see you feel free to openly discuss issues that are complex and difficult…to think deeply about them, and to be able to defend and communicate your point of view to others. Whether you realize it or not, it’s preparing you to walk out of college and out into a bigger world.”

Dickson emphasized to the class that diversity of thought is part of that bigger world.

“The day that you walk out of this college, you are going to be in the real world and you cannot even begin to believe the number of ideas that are out there,” said Dickson. “There are concepts that may be radically different from how you see the world. Being able to discuss issues and to work with other people, regardless of whether they are like you or different from you, is key. That’s where the name collaborative came from in the course name.”

Dr. Caroline Hackerott, assistant professor of emergency management, is teaching the initial offering of Collaborative Solutions. The topic for the semester, climate change, was selected through a focus group of ATU students who expressed an interest in the interdisciplinary class.

In order to ensure representation from a variety of academic disciplines, upper level students from every discipline across campus were encouraged to enroll in the course.

Another group of ATU students will enroll in the course and take on another issue during the spring 2018 semester.

“You have to be flexible and take advantage of the opportunities you get, whatever they are,” said Dickson. “All of you are capable of all kinds of things…things you don’t even understand yet. But you have to be willing to seize the moment, and it’s not always easy. There are prices you pay. What all of us are trying to do is find out about ourselves and answer questions about ourselves. That is a part of life. If you respond to the things that come in front of you, you’ll learn to think critically whether you want to or not.”

Learn more about Collaborative Solutions.

Career Fair Week at ATU Begins Tuesday

Arkansas Tech University students and alumni will have an opportunity to visit with potential employers during the spring 2017 Career Fair Week, which will be hosted by Norman Career Services beginning Tuesday, Feb. 21.

The week will start with an Educator’s Career Fair on Tuesday, Feb. 21. The fair will take place from 9 a.m.-noon in W.O. Young Building Ballroom. More than 70 exhibitors and 120 recruiters representing school districts and other education-related entities have registered to attend the fair.

A Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Career Fair is set for Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 1-4 p.m. in Young Ballroom. It has attracted more than 40 organizations and 80 recruiters offering opportunities for ATU graduates.

The third and final fair of the week will be an All Majors Career Fair on Thursday, Feb. 23, from 1-4 p.m. in Tucker Coliseum. More than 100 employers and graduate schools seeking candidates from all major fields of study will be in attendance. There will be more than 180 recruiters on hand for the All Majors Career Fair.

Those attending the career fairs will find opportunities for full-time employment, part-time employment and internships.

Students and alumni taking part in the fairs should wear business attire and have resumes to distribute to potential employers. Those who attend the fairs will be entered to win an iPad Mini. One will be given away as a door prize at each fair.

As part of the spring 2017 Career Fair Week, Norman Career Services will also be hosting nine on-campus interviews and four informational sessions to connect students with potential employers.

Learn more about the spring 2017 Career Fair Week.

Tech Love Story: A Real-Life Prince Charming

According to Shelby Byrns, “Love always finds you when you aren’t looking for it.”

She transferred to Arkansas Tech from out of state with one goal in mind: completing her degree so she could begin her teaching career. But Tyler Byrns had other plans. He was immediately smitten with Shelby and began charming her skeptical heart, which wasn’t looking for love.

It wasn’t any one thing that made Shelby fall in love with Tyler; it was many things. The way he surprised her with cake and flowers for her birthday, the way he persevered through any obstacles he encountered, the way he showed her what kind of man he was during their conversations while hiking on Mt. Nebo.

By the time Tyler proposed after six months together, Shelby knew that he would be a great life partner and father someday. She agreed with her whole heart. Years later, Tyler told her that he began saving for her engagement ring when he had only known her for two weeks.

Now married for almost three years, Shelby says “It has been a wonderful journey filled with love and friendship, and we owe it all to ATU.”

Tech Love Story: Chi Alpha, Fate and Roommates

When Laura Tidwell got a new roommate at the beginning of her junior year, she didn’t know the connection would lead to meeting her future husband.

Laura brought along her new roommate to a meeting of her campus ministry, Chi Alpha. There, her roommate found a boyfriend. When her roommate’s boyfriend visited the ladies at their residence hall room, he brought along his own roommate, Jason. Immediately, Laura liked him, but she didn’t think he was interested in her. Still, Jason continued to hang out, shoot pool, watch movies, and attend Bible studies as part of their foursome.

One night, ditched by their roommates, Jason walked Laura home from a Chi Alpha meeting. During their conversation, they finally admitted how much they liked each other and began dating soon after.

For their first date, they doubled with their roommates and drove around Russellville to look at Christmas lights. Because they were “broke college kids,” most of their dates were campus events, hiking at Mt. Nebo, and dinner in the cafeteria.

After Laura graduated and moved to Northwest Arkansas, she and Jason kept up a long-distance relationship until he graduated a year and a half later. After that, the two married.

Laura values the time she and Jason spent together during college, and says, “I found my forever love at Arkansas Tech.” They now live in Gravette where Laura works for Life Way Christian School and Jason works for Walmart Home office. They have an 8-year-old son, Jonas, and a labradoodle, Otis.

Each day throughout the week of Valentine’s Day, Arkansas Tech will share the story of one couple who found love at Arkansas Tech. Be sure to check back on to see a new story each day.

Tech Love Story: College (and Mom) Brought Them Back Together

As children, Hailey and Calvin Manion were next-door neighbors in Conway. They formed a friendship during backyard cookouts, swinging, and general neighborhood mischief. When Calvin’s family moved away, their families remained friends and kept in touch.

Years later, Hailey’s mom gave Calvin a job at a gym and began trying to convince her daughter to date him. Soon after, Calvin left his job and moved to Russellville to finish his agriculture degree. When Hailey moved to Russellville the next year to study agriculture as well, she had no idea her mom had invited Calvin to help her move her things into Nutt Hall.

Calvin took the request from Hailey’s mother to watch out for her daughter very seriously. The two became best friends by going to weekly lunches at Baz-Tech.

Because they were best friends, transitioning to dating was awkward. Their first date was dove hunting with friends followed by food at Taco Bell, which Hailey described as “less than romantic.” Calvin took Hailey to La Villa the next day and gave her a redo of their first date with just the two of them.

About Calvin, Hailey says, “Honestly, I knew he was the one when he helped me move my mini fridge up and down five flights of stairs in Nutt my freshman year.” The two were married last September and will always be grateful that Arkansas Tech brought them back together.

Each day throughout the week of Valentine’s Day, Arkansas Tech will share the story of one couple who found love at Arkansas Tech. Be sure to check back on to see a new story each day.