75 Years of Service: ATU-Ozark’s Hutain and Chrisman

Ron Hutain and Jody Chrisman Spring 2023
Ron Hutain (standing, left) and Jody Chrisman (standing, right) instruct Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus automation technology students.

One program. Two instructors. Seventy-five years of combined service. Some might call it a diamond jubilee.

Whatever it’s called, the service rendered by Ron Hutain and Jody Chrisman to the automation technology program at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus has contributed to changing the face of industry in the Arkansas River Valley and helped students prepare for continuously evolving workforce needs.

Hutain began his career at ATU-Ozark (then known as Arkansas Valley Vocational Technical School) in 1984. He was the first director for the automation technology program at ATU-Ozark and he is the last remaining instructor hired by Alvin F. Vest, namesake of the student union at ATU-Ozark Campus and the first director for Arkansas Valley Vocational Technical School when it opened in 1965.

“Teaching is always a challenge…never boring,” said Hutain, who left a successful consumer electronics small business to join the faculty 39 years ago. “I enjoy learning also and being at Arkansas Tech-Ozark gives me that opportunity. I enjoy seeing students succeed. I enjoy seeing the transformation students undergo from believing it is impossible to learn, to gaining the confidence necessary to complete a project.”

Chrisman began his teaching career in 1987 and has worked with Hutain in developing, implementing and evolving the ATU-Ozark automation technology program over the past 36 years.

“There have been many successful students,” said Chrisman. “I attribute their success strictly to their hard work. I was simply doing my job.”

The job performed by Chrisman and Hutain has provided a career pathway for ATU-Ozark automation technology alumni such as Dan Yandell, who graduated at the top of his class and went on to work as an electronics and network technician for Hiram Walker in Fort Smith before beginning his own business; and Jimmy Rofkahr, who began his career with Tyson Foods as a technician before later becoming a plant manager.

“Hutain’s and Chrisman’s legacy is one of generosity, patience and genuineness,” said Tim Drain, alumnus of the ATU-Ozark automation technology program and business development manager for Wave Rural Connect. “I am so grateful for my experience at Arkansas Tech-Ozark. The small campus atmosphere provided a comfortable and personal experience while still offering all of the benefits of a larger university. The faculty and staff were always supportive and available, and I felt like I was part of a community that really cared about my success. I was able to gain hands-on experience in my field of study, and the skills and knowledge I gained helped me to excel in my career. I would recommend the automation technology program to anyone looking for a quality education in a supportive environment.”

The ATU-Ozark automation technology program provides for a study of components, circuits, instruments and control techniques used with industrial automated systems. Students develop skill sets that enable the integration of electronics, mechanics, pneumatics, hydraulics and computer controls.

The focus of the study is in two main areas. The first is control techniques for industrial components, such as electric motors, variable-speed drives, programmable logic controllers, servomechanisms and sensors. The second is the computer system area of concentration that covers how to repair, upgrade or network a complete computer system.

Career opportunities for ATU-Ozark automation technology graduates include cellular telephone technology, networking, robotics, broadcasting, plant maintenance, nuclear and other energy fields, as well as the computer field and education.

“Technology is forever evolving,” said Hutain. “One of the biggest changes is from the use of individual electronic parts to replaceable components of a modular design. Another change I have observed in my teaching career is in the type of student enrolled. With the transition from a vocational school to a university, the students now have the opportunity for advanced degrees. Therefore, our program is attractive to a larger portion of the student population.”

Visit www.atu.edu/ozark/degrees/associates/automation-technology.php to learn more about the ATU-Ozark automation technology program.