Wildland Fire Academy Continues at ATU

More than 230 professionals representing organizations in the public and private sectors have spent the last two weeks participating in the 2017 Arkansas River Valley Wildland Fire Academy on the Arkansas Tech University campus in Russellville.

According to the academy web page, the mission of the Arkansas River Valley Wildland Fire Academy is to “provide professional wildland fire training that meets the National Wildfire Coordinating Group Standards.”

This spring marks the 20th consecutive year the event has taken place at Arkansas Tech. Instruction is provided by officials from state and federal agencies.

This year’s Arkansas River Valley Wildland Fire Academy includes representatives from the United States Forest Service, Arkansas Forestry Commission, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, Arkansas State Military Department, National Weather Service, Nature Conservancy and a variety of private contracting organizations and fire departments.

The program is operated under the auspices of the ATU Department of Parks, Recreation and Hospitality Administration.

Learn more about the Arkansas River Valley Wildland Fire Academy.

Students Invited to Appear in TV Commercial

Arkansas Tech University students who wish to appear as extras in a new television commercial promoting the institution are invited to report to Hindsman Tower at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31.

Students are asked to dress as they would for an average school day. Dinner will be provided as a thank you for participation.

Harris to Take Leadership of ATU Choirs

Christopher H. Harris has been selected to serve as the next director of choirs at Arkansas Tech University.

Harris will assume those responsibilities beginning with the 2017-18 academic year. He will succeed the retiring Gary E. Morris, who served as director of choirs at ATU from 2002-17.

A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Harris is a conductor and choral composer. He earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Texas Southern University and began his career teaching in Houston, Texas. His choirs received numerous sweepstakes awards in state competition and invitations to perform with the Bay Area Chorus and as a demonstration group at the Texas Choral Directors Association Convention.

While living in the Lone Star State, Harris founded the Houston Master Singers. He remains affiliated with that organization as its artistic director. He is a former assistant director for the Houston Ebony Opera Guild.

Harris went on to earn his Master of Music degree in choral conducting from Ithaca College (N.Y.). He will receive his Doctor of Philosophy degree in choral conducting and choral music education from Florida State University in August 2017.

A published composer, Harris won the eastern and national divisions of the 2013 National Association for Music Education composition competition and the grand prize in the 2016 Ithaca College choral composition competition. His music has been performed internationally by mixed, men’s and treble choirs of varied ages and abilities.

Harris has performed as guest soloist for concerts with the Texas Southern University Choir, the Houston Ebony Opera Guild, the Houston Symphony Chorus, the 2013 Oswego School District production of Gabriel Faure’s “Requiem,” the choirs from Florida State University and the Tallahassee Community Chorus.

Visit www.atu.edu/music to learn more about the ATU Department of Music.

Homes For Our Troops Chooses ATU Alumnus

Armed Forces Day 2017 carried extra meaning for Arkansas Tech University alumnus and retired U.S. Army Sergeant Christopher Tarte.

He spent the morning of Saturday, May 20, in the W.O. Young Building Ballroom at ATU, surrounded by family and friends as the non-profit organization Homes For Our Troops hosted a community kickoff celebrating the construction of a four-bedroom, mortgage-free, adapted home in Russellville for Tarte and his three children.

“I love the fact that (Homes For Our Troops) allowed me to ask my children what color they wanted to paint their rooms,” said Tarte. “My kids each have their own rooms. Yesterday I got to go to the site, and I hadn’t been there in a month or two. It’s one thing to look at the property and say ‘this is going to be cool.’ It’s a whole different ballgame to actually see them start on things. This is starting to become real to me now.”

Tarte worked in the ATU Bookstore and the ATU Museum during his time as an undergraduate student. He was also active in the Church of Christ Student Center before earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communication in 2006.

He went on to serve his country in Afghanistan as a combat engineer. On Oct. 29, 2011, Tarte’s vehicle hit an improvised explosive device. His injuries included leg fractures in more than 10 places, a pulmonary embolism, vertebrae fractures and traumatic brain injury. His right leg was amputated below the knee, leading to months of rehabilitation at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

By February 2015, a prosthetic and physical therapy had Tarte running again. Today, he plays sitting volleyball, reads, paints, plays guitar and spends time with his kids.

Additional speakers during the ceremony at the Young Ballroom included Amy Pennington, dean of students and interim vice president for student services at ATU; Dan Chmura, vice president of purchasing for HARDI; Anna Huff, co-owner of Budget Blinds; Wes Tarte, father of the honoree; Marshall Kennedy, a veteran from Farmington and past recipient of an adapted home from Homes For Our Troops; and Rep. Trevor Drown.

Drown, an ATU alumnus who serves in the Arkansas House of Representatives, shared first-hand knowledge of the sacrifices made by veterans.

“Chris, Marshall and I have something in common…a bond that most people will never even begin to understand,” said Drown. “We have all served in the most dangerous place on Earth, the Helmand Province (in Afghanistan). I can tell you, what these men have experienced and the sacrifice they have given, no one will ever understand unless they’ve been there. I feel honored to have served and fought on the same ground as these men.”

Homes For Our Troops has constructed 231 homes in 41 states for disabled U.S. armed services veterans.

Tom Landwermeyer, president of Homes For Our Troops, said the organization expects to complete an additional 30 customized homes designed to meet the needs of disabled veterans before the end of 2017. During the community kickoff at Young Ballroom, Landwermeyer described the organization’s work as a “moral obligation” to support U.S. veterans.

“I’m very thankful that y’all are here today,” said Tarte. “I’m very thankful for what Homes For Our Troops is doing. I’m very thankful for what Tech has provided for me up to this point. And I’m very thankful for the support that I have from all of you. Because of people like you, in the last year I’ve learned to ride a motorcycle. I’ve started to qualify for two paralympic teams. Because of the support that Homes For Our Troops has given and the ability to have a mortgage-free home, my kids are very excited that they’ll be able to get more toys with the money that I’m saving. Thank you to everybody for making a difference. Now, I get a chance to better show my kids that they can do whatever they want. They can be whatever they want, and they don’t have to worry about the limitations that other people put on them. For that, I just want to thank you all very much.”

ATU Music Fellowships, Scholarships Available

Students with a talent and passion for music have the opportunity to apply for funding for their Arkansas Tech University education through the ATU Department of Music and the ATU Foundation.

The Department of Music distributes over $700,000 in band and choir performance fellowships each year, and the ATU Foundation has more than a dozen privately-funded scholarships with over $100,000 currently available to students. Some funding still remains for eligible students for the fall 2017 semester.

“Foundation scholarships include opportunities for music students from freshman to seniors, majors and non-majors, with emphases in both instrumental and vocal music,” said Dr. Jeff Woods, dean of the ATU College of Arts and Humanities.

Students interested in music fellowships or scholarships may contact the ATU Department of Music at (479) 968-0368.