Initiatives Help COE Grads Gain Employment

The Arkansas Tech University College of Education is taking proactive steps to assist its students in finding employment after graduation.

Through the ATU College of Education Office of Licensure and Support Services, students have access to a Morpho fingerprint system that connects to the Arkansas State Police and meets one of the background check requirements for all prospective teachers. ATU was the first institution in the state to offer the service to teacher candidates.

“This allows students to obtain their fingerprints on campus without the need to travel to Little Rock or one of the educational service cooperatives,” said Dr. David Bell, professor of curriculum and instruction and director of the ATU College of Education Office of Licensure and Support Services. “Last spring, this service expanded to include alumni in need of fingerprinting to renew their teaching licenses. Recently, it has expanded again to assist any area teacher or administrator who needs this service. The area teachers have been very appreciative. This has allowed them to complete their fingerprinting without the need to take a half-day leave from school.”

Since the inception of the fingerprinting program in 2015, Arkansas Tech has provided the service to more than 1,200 students, alumni and teachers.

The ATU College of Education has also initiated a program called First Choice that seeks to create an open channel of communication regarding employment opportunities between school districts, ATU faculty and ATU students.

“Students completing their teaching internship have the option to sign a form that allows the ATU College of Education to share their contact information with schools,” said Bell. “This allows administrators in the public schools to contact ATU students directly, schedule interviews and offer contracts.”

First Choice also provides a mechanism for K-12 administrators to contact the ATU College of Education about specific vacancies. Faculty and staff at Arkansas Tech are able to respond with lists of eligible candidates and their contact information.

“The schools have been very receptive to this program, and it has allowed a number of our students to gain employment,” said Bell. “While most of the inquiries are from area schools, there are also requests from throughout the state and from as far away as Kotzebue, Alaska.”

Since the First Choice program began, the ATU College of Education has assisted 107 school districts with filling vacancies.

“Through the First Choice program, ATU’s College of Education has taken yet another leadership role in the state in providing a service to students and our public schools,” said Dr. Mary B. Gunter, dean of the ATU College of Education and Graduate College. “At a time when our public schools are challenged in finding teachers to fill vacant positions, ATU is working to assure that the availability of licensed teachers is known throughout the state and region.”

Visit www.atu.edu/education to learn more about the ATU College of Education.

Photographed: Arkansas Tech University health and physical education student Jakob Clark (right) receives assistance from Teresa Auprey, administrative assistant for the ATU College of Education Office of Educator Licensure and Support Services, in making his fingerprints as part of background check requirements for all teacher candidates.

ATU DPS to Assist with Holiday Safety Effort

State and local law enforcement agencies will work overtime during the holiday season to identify and arrest drunk drivers on Arkansas streets and highways.

The heightened enforcement campaign “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” begins on Wednesday, Dec. 13, and continues through New Year’s Day 2018.

“Drivers will notice increased enforcement patrols watching for anyone who is driving impaired,” said Col. Bill Bryant, director of the Arkansas State Police. “It is vital that we keep travelers safe, not just during the holidays, but every day. With an increase in traffic on the roads, and people attending holiday parties, we will likely see an uptick in drunk driving. We’ll be arresting anyone who breaks the law by driving impaired.”

Increased saturation patrols will be part of the initiative designed to keep Arkansas roadways safe. The intensified enforcement effort directed toward drunk drivers underscores the severity of the problem, both locally and across the nation.

Nationally during 2016, traffic crashes killed 37,461 people. Twenty-eight percent (10,497) died in impaired driving crashes where a driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the limit of .08.

Arkansas law enforcement agencies are teamed-up with police officers nationally to establish zero tolerance for drunk drivers and encourage all drivers to be safe and sober.

ATU Department of Public Safety would like to remind individuals to follow these tips:

  • If you plan on drinking, do not drive. Plan ahead and designate a sober driver before you get in the vehicle. Even one drink can impair your judgment and increase the risk of getting arrested for driving while intoxicated, or worse, risk injury or death to someone in a crash.
  • If you’re impaired, use a taxi, or call a sober friend or family member.
  • Promptly report drunk drivers to law enforcement.
  • Always wear your seat belt or use protective equipment while on a motorcycle. These items are your best defense against an impaired driver.

Learn more about Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

El Paso Master Plan Meeting December 18

Arkansas Tech University and the City of Russellville will host an open community forum concerning the master plan for the revitalization of North El Paso Avenue on Monday, Dec. 18.

The meeting, which will be open to the public, will begin at 6:45 p.m. in Russellville City Hall at 203 S. Commerce Ave. It will take place immediately following a regularly scheduled Russellville Planning Commission meeting.

The El Paso corridor and surrounding neighborhoods between Russellville Downtown and the ATU campus were identified as a special planning district within the Russellville Downtown Master Plan that was adopted by the Russellville City Council in 2013. The plan for North El Paso Avenue was approved by the Russellville Planning Commission in September 2017.

The El Paso Master Plan was developed by architecture firm Miller, Boskus and Lack of Fayetteville, urban planning and design firm Gateway Planning of Dallas, Texas, and experience design and development firm Velocity Group of Bentonville.

Roger Boskus of Miller, Boskus and Lack noted that city government has already delivered on important preliminary steps supporting the El Paso Master Plan, including reinvestment in public infrastructure along the corridor, future improvement commitments for Prairie Creek and other investments throughout the downtown district.

“The El Paso Master Plan serves as an extension of that commitment by focusing on integrating the needs of a growing university with the surrounding neighborhood and providing guidance for future development between the ATU campus and the downtown district,” said Boskus. “The plan’s core elements include setting parameters for ensuring predictable and intentional future growth; allowing a mix of intimate public spaces in the form of pocket green spaces, small plazas, trail systems and public art installations; and facilitating a compact building form that positively frames the surrounding existing neighborhoods and allows for a graceful transition into the vision over time. This plan guides future development, so existing structures and their uses will not be affected by the changes.”

Connecting the street grid within the district, enhancing safety for pedestrians through shorter average block lengths, placing utilities underground, creating more on-street parking and the continuation of sidewalk development are also included in the El Paso Master Plan.
In addition, the plan integrates ongoing efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Russellville to address storm water and flood management along Prairie Creek.

“Though not a silver bullet, zoning can also play a major role in catalyzing development and ensuring Russellville’s unique character is implemented between ATU and Russellville Downtown,” said Boskus. “The zoning recommendations within the plan correspond with the Russellville Downtown Master Plan recommendations that zoning must be updated and includes the creation of zoning districts focused on the development outcomes within the corridor and the neighborhoods surrounding El Paso.”

The North El Paso planning process began in late 2016 with stakeholder interviews and collaborative meetings with Main Street Russellville to ensure proper coordination with downtown business owners. Community ideas were shared through www.experienceelpaso.com and pop-up events gave planners and community members a vision of how the area could be developed.

Overall, the community outreach process collected more than 700 comments and reached more than 127,000 social media accounts.

Representatives from ATU, the City of Russellville, Miller, Boskus and Lack, Gateway Planning and Velocity Group will be available to answer questions during the Dec. 18 meeting.

Ernst to Present Nature Photos Dec. 14

Arkansas Tech University will host a presentation of nature photography during “An Evening with Tim Ernst” at Doc Bryan Student Services Center Lecture Hall on Thursday, Dec. 14.

The program will begin at 7 p.m. Admission will be free and open to the public. A book signing and reception with refreshments will follow the presentation.

Ernst will present a program entitled “Arkansas Beauty.” The event it sponsored by the Arkansas Tech Department of Parks, Recreation and Hospitality Administration, TAKAHIK and Monfee Medical Clinic.

Rotary Club Donates to ATU Because We Can

Representatives from Arkansas Tech University registered student organization Because We Can received a check for $549.35 from the Rotary Club of Russellville during a luncheon at Lake Point Conference Center on Thursday, Dec. 7.

The funds will help Because We Can offset the cost of collection materials such as aluminum pans that are used during the organization’s food recovery efforts at ATU’s Chambers Cafeteria.

Dr. Sean Huss, faculty co-advisor for Because We Can, reported to the Rotarians that the organization recovered approximately 13,000 pounds of food from the cafeteria and delivered it to local service organizations during the fall 2017 semester.

The funds were raised by the Rotary Club of Russellville during the “happy dollars” portion of its weekly meetings in the fourth quarter of 2017. Members are able to donate $1 (or more) to share good news with the club.

Participants in the check presentation were (photographed, from left): Roy Smith, president of the Rotary Club of Russellville; Sydney Stone of Clarksville, ATU student and Because We Can member; Angela Black, board member for the Because We Can Green and Gold Pantry; Moriah Theriault of Russellville, ATU student and Because We Can member; and Dr. Sean Huss, professor of sociology at ATU and Because We Can co-advisor.