Artists Share Stories Behind Exhibit at ATU

The four artists whose pieces are included in the traveling exhibit currently on display at Arkansas Tech University’s Norman Hall Art Gallery spoke about their work during a gallery talk hosted by the ATU Department of Art on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

The show is the Arkansas Women to Watch Series 2019 “Heavy Metal Exhibit Tour.” It was organized for travel by the Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (ACNMWA).

Michele Fox, Amanda Heinbockel, Robyn Horn and Holly Laws are the featured artists in the show. They were selected by ACNMWA guest curator Matthew Smith of the Arkansas Arts Center.

Fox indicated during the gallery talk that her pieces in the show are private works of art that have not previously been shared with the public. She explained that art is not something she wants to do. It is something she needs to do.

“It’s obsessive and compulsive,” said Fox. “It allows my mental health to be maintained in the face of all the stuff we deal with every day.”

She went on to tell those in attendance that serving as a medical doctor in oncology is her full-time job.

“Nothing is good at work,” said Fox.

Heinbockel’s vocation is teaching art at Little Rock Central High School. A graduate of Vanderbilt University with a degree in studio art, Heinbockel completed an artist residency at Elsewhere: A Living Museum in Greensboro, N.C., before joining the faculty at Little Rock Central.

She shared that her professional pursuits have influenced the nature of her art.

“When I started teaching, the idea of doing larger metal pieces was not quite as appealing because of the stress of the job,” said Heinbockel. “I started doing patterns similar to the one in this necklace in watercolor because the immediacy of that was really stress relieving.”

Horn holds a fine art degree from Hendrix College. She was the 2008 recipient of the Arkansas Living Treasure designation from the Arkansas Department of Heritage. Her pieces in the Heavy Metal show were created from found materials.

“Most of this work is pretty recent,” said Horn. “The idea is to make them look like they were something or they did something, but you can’t figure out exactly what it was or how it would work. Mostly, it’s just to get the viewer to look at the piece and contemplate for a while what it might be.”

Laws, associate professor of art at the University of Central Arkansas, holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Her background includes set dressing, custom fabrication and prop design for the Bread and Puppet Theater in New York City and several motion picture studios.

“A lot of people accuse my work of being really opaque,” said Laws, who integrated antique ironing boards into each of her pieces for the Heavy Metal exhibit. “They look at it and say that ‘it looks old, but I don’t understand what it means.’ I’m not trying to make works that people can’t figure out. I start from a very visceral level of understanding my own work, and I hope others will approach it in the same way.”

The Women to Watch exhibit program was developed by the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) to feature underrepresented and emerging women artists from the states and countries in which the museum has outreach committees. NMWA curators select the theme. Local arts professionals curate submissions to the national museum.

The ACNMWA exhibit will be available for viewing weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at 203 West Q Street in Russellville through March 8.

2019 Norman Gallery: Women to Watch Series | 2/20/19

ATU to Welcome TRIO Students Saturday

More than 380 high school and college students from around Arkansas have registered to participate in a statewide TRIO Day hosted by Arkansas Tech University in Russellville on Saturday, Feb. 23.

TRIO is an initiative enacted by the United States government in 1964 to overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education.

Programs under the TRIO umbrella include Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math and Science, Veterans Upward Bound, Student Support Services and Talent Search.

Students attending the TRIO Day at ATU will have an opportunity to interact with their peers from other schools and institutions. They will also have opportunities to learn about the educational options available at ATU.

Arkansas Tech hosts Student Support Services, Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math and Science and Veterans Upward Bound programs. They are administered under the auspices of the ATU Office of Academic Affairs.

Robotics State Championships Coming to ATU

Arkansas Tech University will host 120 teams representing grades 3-12 from every region of the Natural State during the 2019 VEX Robotics State Championships on March 7 and 9.

Competition will take place at John E. Tucker Coliseum, 1604 Coliseum Drive in Russellville. ATU STEM Education Collaborative is acting as host for the event.

The road to Russellville for the state championships began with 460 registered teams. Fifty regional tournaments are whittling the field down to the 120 teams that will vie for the state titles in VEX IQ and VEX VRC. A total of 23 teams will advance from the Arkansas championships to the 2019 VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville, Ky., in April.

Cities that will be represented in the state championships at Arkansas Tech will include Alexander, Bentonville, Bradford, Bryant, Camden, Centerton, Clarksville, Crossett, El Dorado, Fayetteville, Gravette, Harrison, Highland, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Lake Village, Little Rock, Lonoke, Magnolia, McGehee, Monticello, Nashville, Ola, Russellville, Sheridan, Sherwood, Springdale, Subiaco and Wynne. Additional cities may be added to this list as the final regional tournaments are completed.

For more information about the VEX Robotics State Championships at ATU, call (479) 880-4323 or send e-mail to

ATU, St. Mary’s Explore Benefits of DEUs

The Arkansas Tech University Department of Nursing and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Russellville have developed an innovative way to enhance students’ academic experience and patients’ care.

St. Mary’s has designated the medical surgical unit on its fourth floor as a dedicated education unit (DEU). As a result, hospital staff nurses have been trained on course objectives and expectations so they can serve as clinical teachers when interacting with student nurses.

Dr. Terri McKown, professor of nursing at ATU, began her study of the DEU model a decade ago when she was completing her doctorate. Now, through a partnership forged with Carole Gore, director of nursing at St. Mary’s, and Marrlene Vanderboom, St. Mary’s medical surgical unit director, Arkansas Tech and St. Mary’s are bringing the instructional style to the Natural State for the first time.

“Nursing programs are continually looking for methods to enhance student learning and clinical experiences, while health care organizations are seeking opportunities to retain experienced nurses,” said McKown. “The DEU teaching model has existed nearly 20 years and is currently utilized by other nursing programs in different states, but hasn’t been implemented in Arkansas to date.

“This program affects our whole community and people’s perceptions of our program, the hospital and the community,” continued McKown. “Students have told us they love real-time patient care and that the clinical teachers help them recall why we do things the way we do. The students have also provided positive feedback about the helpfulness of the clinical teachers, the benefits of the added presence of nursing faculty members and how patients become involved in learning and teaching.”

Each clinical teacher from the St. Mary’s nursing staff is paired with two ATU nursing students, and each nursing student in the program has two patients. The clinical teachers are granted a reduced patient load by St. Mary’s so they can provide training while maintaining high-quality care.

The following objectives are shared by ATU and St. Mary’s:

  • Utilize expert staff nurse experience(s) to increase nursing student knowledge
  • Improve satisfaction and retention of seasoned nurses
  • Recruitment of new nurses
  • Create an atmosphere of increased teamwork/collaboration with mutual respect and integrity
  • Patient-centeredness
  • Improve patient care involvement and satisfaction
  • Provide optimal outcomes through excellent patient care

McKown explained that another important aspect of the program is the fact that the ATU students have the same clinical trainer throughout the semester.

“This allows true partnership development in caring for the patient,” said McKown. “It creates trust in the student’s abilities and skills while fostering real time nursing.”

ATU and St. Mary’s launched a pilot DEU program in fall 2018. The program is continuing in spring 2019 with plans to expand into additional area hospitals by fall 2019.

Visit to learn more about the ATU Department of Nursing.

NCAA Honors ATU for Community Service

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) recognized Arkansas Tech University for the community service of its student-athletes during a basketball doubleheader at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Thursday, Feb. 14.

ATU is the 2018-19 NCAA Division II Team Works Helper Helper community service champion. Amy Skiles from the NCAA national office staff in Indianapolis, Ind., traveled to Russellville and presented ATU President Dr. Robin E. Bowen with a trophy symbolizing the victory.

ATU student-athletes completed 3,535 hours of community work during the three months of the competition. Twenty-three local non-profit organizations benefited from the service of Wonder Boys and Golden Suns during the fall 2018 semester.

Every student-athlete at ATU participated in the service, including more than 800 hours volunteering at local elementary schools, mentoring and reading to the students and creating food backpacks.

As a result, Arkansas Tech had the most volunteer service among the more than 300 members of NCAA Division II in the United States and Canada.

According to a news release from the NCAA, NCAA Team Works and Helper Helper launched the community service competition to recognize student-athletes who give back to their communities. NCAA Team Works coordinates community service efforts at NCAA championships, while Helper Helper is a volunteer management and tracking platform.

The competition, which ran from September through November 2018, was based on the number of service hours completed and the number of participating student-athletes.