to help

Just hoping things get better isn't enough. It takes caring about the safety, health and well-being of those around us, and a commitment to make things better even when times get tough.

We're determined to find ways to help support those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

School of Journalism to Run, a leading news source for daily COVID-19 data and trends in Arkansas, will transfer it’s daily management and operations to the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas.

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Determined Design:  Faculty Parner to Create Masks With Windows, Improving Communication

girls with masks on

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring, students, faculty and staff had to get creative and innovative to identify ways academic standards could be maintained.

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Nursing School Graduate Helps COVID Patients Communicate with Family at Washington Regional

Washington Regional Medical Center recently recognized alumna Mariel Royan as a “Health Care Hero” on social media.

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Pandemic Leads to Higher Depression, Anxiety and Fear, Studies Show

Research by U of A sociologists from early in COVID-19’s spread shows increased levels of suicidial thoughts and other psychological trauma.

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Researcher to Study Whether Sewage Can Help Track COVID-19

A civil engineering professor has been awarded federal funding to study whether wastewater can help track COVID-19 as it spreads through communities.

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Razorback Community Rallies to Help Students

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many unforeseen financial difficulties for University of Arkansas students, but the Razorback community has rallied to help.

Annika Pollard moved to Fayetteville in May 2019 with her husband, James, to begin law school at the U of A. James is also pursuing a master’s degree in teaching from John Brown University and started teaching in the public school system during the spring semester.

James and Annika Pollard

James and Annika Pollard

When COVID-19 began to take effect on the area, Annika and her husband were forced to move out of their rental property and incurred many expenses related to a move, including down payments, administrative fees and moving fees that were unanticipated.

“My husband is only on a six-month teaching contract, and we knew in advance he wouldn’t get paid through the summer, so we saved up all year to make sure we’d have enough money. But, due to the move, all of that ‘safety net’ was eaten up,” Pollard said.

The couple hit numerous dead ends in their quest for help, since James had not lost his job due to COVID-19. Annika took on three jobs of her own to make ends meet but then decided to apply for the Law School Emergency Fund on a whim.

“I was overwhelmed with gratitude when I saw that the fund granted more money than I originally asked for,” she said. “I am so incredibly grateful for the Law School Emergency Fund and for the stress that it diminished for both me and my husband. If not for this fund, I would have most likely had to drop out of my summer class to work more hours, and I needed that class for an internship opportunity in the fall. I cannot thank everyone enough. I’m very lucky to go to a law school that cares for its students so deeply.”

The emergency funding available to Annika and her peers in the School of Law was largely made possible thanks to a $25,000 grant from AccessLex, which jumpstarted the fund. AccessLex has established a nationwide $5 million law student emergency relief program and is helping law schools across the country.

At the U of A, the Law School Emergency Fund is one of five emergency funds being used by students during the COVID-19 pandemic, and several have provided support for students for years.

As of June 1, more than $85,000 had been raised for student emergency funding, thanks to donations from alumni, organizations, faculty, staff and friends. A total of 149 awards have been made to help counter the financial difficulties being faced by students like Annika.

Study Shows How COVID-19 Impacts College Students with Special Needs

Student working on homework.

Journalism professor finds college students with special needs face unique challenges in remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sudden transition from face-to-face learning to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has required a need to adjust and adapt quickly, which can be an even bigger challenge for students with special needs.

University of Arkansas Assistant Professor of Journalism, Kara Jolliff Gould, recently authored an article addressing this issue for Exceptional Parent (EP) Magazine. The article, "COVID-19 and College Students with Special Needs,” was part of a COVID-19-themed special issue published this May.

Laura James, director of the Center for Educational Access (CEA) at the University of Arkansas, is featured in the article. She identified some specific challenges college students with disabilities and their parents have been facing since the pandemic began in March.

While some students have thrived in an online environment due to reduced social anxiety, others have struggled to adapt to the new medium, particularly students who “need paper and pencil tests or assistive technologies to access testing materials.” In such cases, the CEA can be an ally in negotiating changes.

Still, other students may struggle with a less structured online environment, and many are saddened by the loss of independence that has come with returning home to quarantine.

Ultimately, Gould stresses the importance of communication during this period. Students need to feel invited to ask questions in whichever format they are most comfortable (whether it’s through a chat program, e-mail or texting), while faculty need to clearly communicate expectations, both orally and in writing, in as many places as possible.

Finally, parents can provide valuable insights from their own experiences of difficulties, such as the Great Recession, while also being sensitive to the stress students are facing. Many worked hard to achieve their independence, so while parents may be happy to have them back home, it can also signal a disappointing loss of autonomy.

Many students with disabilities have already experienced adversity to get where they are, and thus are uniquely suited to face new challenges.

Read the COVID-19 special issue of EP, including Gould’s article starting on page 44.

Researchers Develop Long-Lasting Disinfecting Spray for Surfaces

Researchers at the U of A and UAMS have developed a long-lasting spray that disinfects surfaces, making them less likely to transmit infectious diseases.

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Circle to Circle

Students in health-related majors answer the call to help Arkansans and the medical community during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry has always been an important initiative to the Women’s Giving Circle. The pantry received $8,250 from the circle for their Baskets of Hope program in 2013, a $25,000 grant in 2015 and $6,000 in 2016 for their Cooking for the Future program. So when the group found out about the challenges being faced by the pantry during the COVID-19 crisis, they decided to take action.

Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry staff with donations.

Food Circle Pantry Staff with donations from Tri Cycle Farms, photograph by Charity Jones.

The circle’s annual voting event is typically scheduled for the fall, but an emergency vote was sent out to the membership to determine if funding could be provided to the pantry sooner in this special circumstance.

“The Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry relies solely on donations to our account and donations of goods to operate at the capacity in which we have been so fortunate to operate these past nine years,” said Sage McCoy, food programs coordinator for the Center for Community Engagement. “The COVID-19 related campus closures and risks have caused us to cancel all of the large-scale campus food drives that we would have had in the spring semester to keep our shelves stocked.”

This spring, the pantry found itself spending about $1,200 per week stocking up on shelf stable goods from the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank and other local grocers. Through the end of April, they had spent nearly 10 times the amount they typically spend in a given year on purchasing additional supplies.

“Students moved out of residence halls, but Fayetteville is still full of undergraduate and graduate students who live here year-round,” McCoy said. “Additionally, several staff members found themselves financially challenged, so it’s important to us to fill that gap for those hard-working individuals.”

From April 13 through April 22, McCoy noted that more than 43 percent of the visitors to the pantry were visiting them for the first time.

Presented with these facts, voting members of the Women’s Giving Circle unanimously approved emergency funding to support the pantry. A $5,000 grant was issued, and the circle challenged its members to contribute individually to the pantry as well. These contributions raised another $7,770 for the pantry, and that amount was matched up to $5,000 by the Women’s Giving Circle, bringing their total support of the pantry to $17,770.

“The Women’s Giving Circle has a history of supporting projects and programs that address food insecurity,” said Caroline Rochelle, president of the circle. “Over the years, the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry has been incredible stewards of the grants they have received and have put the money to use to help those in need. These are fundamental priorities of the Women’s Giving Circle, so we were happy to be able to step in during this difficult time and support this program further.”

The Women’s Giving Circle was created by the founding members of the Women in Philanthropy Committee of the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century. Since 2003, the circle has awarded over $1.4 million in funding to faculty and staff members from various departments and academic units at the university. This year marks the 18th year of funding for the circle.

Student and Staff Medics Help Hospital Testing Centers

Students in health-related majors answer the call to help Arkansans and the medical community during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The drive-through testing bay at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The drive-through testing bay at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

When Gov. Asa Hutchinson called up National Guard medical units to help hospitals deal with an influx of people seeking treatment for COVID-19, staff and students from the University of Arkansas answered the call. 

Samples ready for testing.

Samples ready for testing.

Eric Pipkin, the manager of design services for the university, is a chief master sergeant with 27 years service in the Arkansas Army National Guard. He was called up as part of a medical unit to help the Arkansas Department of Health in Little Rock initially, but as the emergency rooms began to fill with people wanting to be tested for the coronavirus, the troops were reposted to help with screening at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. 

The work they do is literally on the front line of the epidemic, meeting people as they drive onto the hospital grounds, taking their temperatures and asking a series of questions to help determine whether they need to be tested. Do you have any immuno-deficiencies? How about symptoms like a headache or loss of taste? Have you been exposed to someone who does have COVID-19? 

A high temperature or exposure to an infected person are often automatic tests, but getting a sense of each person’s general wellness helps as well. 

“When we got there, we originally had three 2-man shifts,” Pipkin said. But as patient numbers increased, the National Guard asked for troops to volunteer, and they expanded their staffing by early April to four 4-man shifts, giving everyone a little more breathing room. 

Airman Ayana Thompson, a freshman at the university, stepped up. 

“I never anticipated anything like COVID-19,” she said about joining the Air National Guard. “When I was asked to volunteer, I said of course. I would do anything to help.” 

She said she had been debating what to major in during her first year at the university, but her experience working with fellow medics and the hospital doctors has her leaning strongly toward the public health major in the College of Education and Health Professions. 

Private Allen Smith, a biological sciences pre-med major and member of the Army branch of the Arkansas National Guard, takes a swab of a drive-through patient for testing at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Private Allen Smith, a biological sciences pre-med major and member of the Army branch of the Arkansas National Guard, takes a swab of a drive-through patient for testing at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The National Guard troops also have provided additional help to various communities whenever a bump in cases is noticed through mobile triage. A crew of four — a driver, nurse and two medics — packs a van with test gear and personal protection equipment and heads out to help, everywhere from Mountain Home to Dumas and from Texarkana to Marianna. 

Private Allen Smith, a freshman biology pre-med major from Pine Bluff, said they’ve been seeing 150 to 180 people a day although it slows down a bit on the weekends. 

When there’s a lull, he enjoys talking with the doctors and fellow National Guard medics on his shift. There’s someone new each day and getting to know them has been fulfilling. That same gregariousness leads him to enjoy meeting the patients coming to the hospital. 

“I personally enjoy interacting with the people, especially people who are a little worried about the covid thing,” he said. “Talking with them helps reduce that worry and lets them know that things are going to be OK.” 

Engineers Use 3D Printer to Produce Protective Masks for Rehab Clinic

Masks printed in engineering labs will protect clinicians and patients.

Components of 3D-printed mask.

Components of 3D-printed mask.

A design team led by engineering professors Raj Rao, Wenchao Zhou and Zhenghui Sha have used a 3D printer to produce and deliver 50 protective masks to be used by a Northwest Arkansas rehabilitation clinic.

Spine and Sports Rehabilitation provides physical therapy and rehabilitation services at several Northwest Arkansas clinical sites, including Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville and Northwest Medical Center in Springdale. Therapists working for the practice will benefit from protective masks made by 3D printers in laboratories operated by Zhou and Sha.

“We were looking for ways to acquire a mask that is safe to use, easy to disinfect and reusable,” said Dr. Joel Sebag, director of Spine and Sports Rehabilitation. “With the lack of supply for PPE, especially considering that we constantly see patients and with constant exposure to them, having this type of protection for my colleagues and patients is extremely important.”

Dr. Joel Sebag, director of Spine and Sports Rehabilitation, demonstrating the 3D-printed mask made by U of A engineering researchers.

Dr. Joel Sebag, director of Spine and Sports Rehabilitation, demonstrating the 3D-printed mask made by U of A engineering researchers.

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sebag realized his clinic did not have enough equipment to protect therapists and patients. He discussed the problem with Rao, who has spearheaded or contributed to several university projects aimed at providing protective equipment to hospitals and clinics in Arkansas.

“Upon hearing about the acute shortage of facemasks for Dr. Sebag’s staff and the fact that they work closely with patients in numerous nursing and rehab facilities, I felt it was important to help them out,” Rao said.

With 3D printers in Zhou and Sha’s laboratories, the team produced 50 inexpensive, reusable masks, and Rao has procured supplies to produce 100 more. The researchers were assisted by Lucas Marques, an electrical engineering undergraduate and partner at AMBOTS, an additive manufacturing company founded by Zhou, Marques and Austin Williams; Zachary Hyden, an AMBOTS employee; and Laxmi Poudel, a mechanical engineering doctoral student studying with Sha.

Rao said the team will increase capacity for producing more masks by using printers at the School of Art in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. 

Zhou has produced two short videos, one showing how the masks are made and another showing clinicians how to assemble the masks.

Sebag said the masks will be used by Spine and Sports Rehabilitation therapists serving Edgewood Health and Rehabilitation Center in Springdale, Rogers Health and Rehabilitation Center and the Springdale Senior Center, in addition to Washington Regional and Northwest Medical Center.

Rao is professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He is also the George M. and Boyce W. Billingsley Endowed Chair in Engineering. Zhou and Sha are assistant professors in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

U of A and Local Business Collaborate on Supply Drive for Nonprofits

A local boutique and the U of A Social Innovation Initiative are collecting hygiene products, cleaning supplies and paper goods for nonprofits.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many local nonprofits have requested hygiene items for their clients in need.

Melody Taylor of Beautiful Lives Boutique, a nonprofit women’s thrift store in Fayetteville, is hosting a supply drive to collect essential items for organizations that have seen increased need. Beautiful Lives’ profits and services support organizations that serve vulnerable women and children in the community and around the world.

Madison Sutton of the Social Innovation Initiative at the University of Arkansas will manage collection, inventory and re-distribution of the goods to community partners.

Donors will be able to drop off their donations at the Fayetteville location of Beautiful Lives Boutique in a container labeled for the supply drive.

Needed items include personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies and paper goods.

Instructor Produces Face Masks to Address PPE Shortage

An instructor in the School of Art has produced more than 100 face shields to address the shortage of PPE during the COVID-19 crisis.

Face Mask

Vincent Edwards, an instructor in the School of Art, has produced more than 100 face shields to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 crisis.

As manager of the 3D printing lab located in the Sculpture Building, he partnered with the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences to begin printing face shield masks to support healthcare workers in Arkansas. The design takes approximately 20 hours to print, and printers in the lab allow him to produce 12 face shield components every 24 hours. Edwards currently has another 50 masks in production, and he hopes to begin 3D printing respirator components soon.

Researchers Track Personal, Consumer Behaviors in the Time of Coronavirus

Mathematics researcher and business student are teaming up to study how the coronavirus has altered society’s behavior.

An undergraduate business student and mathematics faculty researcher are studying how the emergence of COVID-19 has altered individual behaviors in terms of hygiene, health-seeking and consumer behaviors.

Azat Sadyrov

Azat Sadyrov

Azat Sadyrov, an undergraduate Economics major and research assistant at the Sam M. Walton College of Business Behavioral Business Research Lab, and Samantha Robinson, teaching assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, are teaming up on the research project.

The two will track and evaluate differences in behavior due to regional locations and other demographics, while tracking real-time data from external sources regarding state-level case counts, hospitalizations, lockdown status and other factors.

Given the dynamic and evolving nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Sadyrov and Robinson will examine if this experience has a short or a long-term impact on behavior by repeating the survey later in the year. 

“The fight against the spread of the virus is not only intended to reduce the total number of cases, but also to slow down their rate of increase,” Sadyrov said. “Individual behavior is critical to controlling the spread of the virus. How much people listen to recommendations is just as important as actions by governments, if not more.”

The two hope to present their research at conferences next year and to submit a manuscript for publication.

Free Pre-Apprenticeship Programs in IT Fields Open to Qualified Arkansans

The U of A and multiple partners will provide free programs that prepare individuals for information technology apprenticeships or jobs.

Arkansans interested in starting a career in information technology can apply for free online pre-apprenticeship programs through a partnership between the University of Arkansas Professional and Workforce Development, Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District, the Arkansas Center for Data Science, and the Northwest Arkansas Council.

The online pre-apprenticeship programs will serve as a pathway for participants to expand their knowledge of technology and potentially move into full apprenticeship programs.

Pre-apprenticeship programs are designed to give individuals the skills and confidence they need to be successful in various jobs and industries,” said Tara Dryer, director of training, corporate development and academic outreach at U of A Professional and Workforce Development.

The apprenticeship programs, launched in fall 2019, provide participants the opportunity to expand their careers and knowledge in the technology sector through an “earn and learn” model that includes employer-provided, on-the-job training, classroom instruction and mentorship. Apprentices who complete the program receive a portable, nationally recognized credential. 

“This joint effort between state agencies, regional employers and education providers allows Northwest Arkansas employers to hire entry-level talent who can build a career while at the same time getting valuable training,” said Joe Rollins, workforce development director at the Northwest Arkansas Council. “Those who complete the program quickly become a strong asset to the Northwest Arkansas workforce and economy.”

More than 20 pre-apprenticeship course offerings include programs in web and software development, operating systems, networking and security. For a complete list, please visit All courses are available online, and participants often have the option to select from either a 6-week instructor-led course or a 3-month self-paced course.

The pre-apprentice program is open to Arkansas residents 18 years of age or older who hold a high school diploma or GED, are eligible to work in the United States, and registered with Selective Service, if applicable. Applicants must have a valid driver’s license or state-issued identification card, a Social Security card, and a Selective Service Registration Card, if applicable.

For information about how to apply, please visit the U of A training website or contact an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville or Rogers.

Upon successful completion of a pre-apprenticeship program, participants are encouraged to apply for a U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Program offered by the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences with curriculum provided by University of Arkansas Professional and Workforce Development.

Find out more about how the University of Arkansas is Determined to Help those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

U of A Libraries Documenting COVID-19 Experiences in State

Hands holding a journal

Arkansans and the university community are encouraged to add their stories and experiences to this collective documentary history.

The University of Arkansas Libraries’ Special Collections division and Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts seek to preserve the personal COVID-19 experiences of U of A students, faculty and staff. Stories can be submitted online.

“We tend to wait until long after events occur to collect oral histories and document our experiences,” said Virginia Siegel, folklorist. “But I think it’s important — more than ever — to start the documentation process now while we are still experiencing this fundamental shift in how we experience our daily lives.”

Arkansas residents who are not students, faculty or staff at the U of A are encouraged to connect with the Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts directly. The Documenting COVID-19 page provides tips, suggested questions and resources for recording oral histories. AFTA is working to record oral histories remotely with community members across the state. You also have the option to record and submit an oral history of your own making.

Suggestions for documenting your experience include:

  • A journal or blog of your thoughts and experiences
  • Taking photos and/or videos of life as you see it
  • Recording voice memos
  • Interviewing friends or family for an oral history
  • Saving social media posts
  • Collecting emails that Arkansas-based businesses or organizations send you about COVID-19 related closings or precautions

If you would like to conduct an oral history yourself, you can interview a friend or family member remotely, interview someone within your household, or conduct a self-oral history and record your own answers to oral history questions. If you are interviewing others, please practice all recommended guidelines for social distancing to keep yourself and those around you safe.

“This is a unique time in our collective history, and we feel it is important to document events and stories from our community,” said Amy Allen, university archivist.

Topics of interest for the project include but are not limited to stories about remote learning at the university, off-campus jobs (in retail, the service industry, grocery stores, etc.), the ways you are staying in touch with family and friends during this period of social distancing and self-quarantine, the challenges for international students or those with families abroad, experiences of faculty and staff working remotely, experiences of staff who remain on campus, and how this event is impacting you.

Submissions from U of A students, faculty and staff can be sent online via the library’s website.

Alumni and NWA Community Team Up to Produce Aerosol Boxes

Alumni, medical professionals and area businesses are collaborating to produce aerosol boxes for local hospitals and fire departments.

Aerosol boxes in production

Aerosol boxes in production

A group of University of Arkansas alumni have begun teaming up with medical professionals and area business people to help produce aerosol boxes for local first responders to the COVID-19 crisis.

Aerosol boxes can be used by medical personnel while intubating a patient to protect themselves from any particles that could be released from the patient's airway during the procedure.

Tyler Garman, president of The Roark Group, and an alumnus of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, donated materials, machine time and assembly labor to help create the boxes.

Dayton Castleman, director of visual thinking of Resource Design in Rogers, is managing and coordinating this project pro bono on behalf of his company.

“Roark put 100 percent skin in the game regarding production,” Castleman said. “Which was great, because having a central source for producing these boxes allowed for an increase in efficiency, consistency and project flow.”

Castleman was able to coordinate with his personal doctor, Dr. Joel Fankhauser, and Dr. Jason McKinney, an intensivist at Mercy Hospital, to assess medical equipment needs related to COVID-19. They determined that aerosol boxes were the most beneficial and able to be produced by designers like Castleman.  

Joel Gordon, making and tinkering manager of the Scott Family Amazeum in Bentonville, created the initial drawings and provided the first prototype to Mercy. Once approved, Castleman reached out to agencies that had the capacity to produce the boxes locally and The Roark Group was able to help.

“When Dayton reached out it was perfect timing at Roark,” Garman said. “We have an amazing and talented team of makers, and due to the economic slowdown, we have some capacity. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to put our team to work on a project that can hopefully help protect our frontline caregivers.”

With this partnership the group has been able to create 25 boxes for Mercy Hospital Northwest, 15 boxes for Arkansas Children’s Hospital Northwest and Little Rock, five for other hospitals that might need them and seven to the Rogers Fire Department that were modified to fit on their smaller stretchers to protect first responders.

Should demand for the boxes grow they are taking donations through Rogers Experimental House, which is the fiscal sponsor for the project.

If you have resources or want to help this project, please email

If you would like to follow the development of this project, you can do so here.

This project compliments the efforts of the aerosol box project led by U of A professor Morten Jensen and Dr. Drew Rodgers of Washington Regional Medical Center. Read more about that project here.

Unemployed or Dislocated Arkansans May Qualify for Free Training

Unemployed or dislocated Arkansans can apply for workforce training at no cost through a partnership between the University of Arkansas Professional and Workforce Development, the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District and the Northwest Arkansas Council.

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Future Women Business Leaders Reach Out During Quarantine

Future Women Business Leaders are writing letters to provide support to senior citizens and medical professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Quincee Scates, a sophomore at Walton College, holds up letters she has written.

Quincee Scates, a sophomore at Walton College, holds up letters she has written.

When COVID-19 ended their service project to collect feminine hygiene products for homeless shelters, sophomores Quincee Scates and Kaitlin Ketchey, both officers in Future Women Business Leaders at the University of Arkansas, quickly pivoted to an online project anyone could help with:  writing letters to provide support to shut-ins or medical professionals.

Walton College sophomore Kaitlin Ketchey writes a letter for the initiative.

Walton College sophomore Kaitlin Ketchey writes a letter for the initiative.

“We were both disappointed about the cancellation of our original event, so we decided on an alternative,” Scates said. “Writing letters can be done in quarantine and while social distancing. We know the health of senior citizens is a big focus right now and can’t imagine what they are experiencing being stuck in a little room all day.

“We wanted to bring a smile to their face during this confusing time.”

Scates, a marketing major with a business analytics minor, is the co-founder, vice president and treasurer for Future Women Business Leaders. Ketchey, also a marketing major with a business analytics minor, is the co-founder and president of the organization. Together they are promoting the letter-writing campaign and asking students, faculty and staff to participate.

Future Women Business Leaders is a registered student organization at the U of A and its faculty advisor is Molly Jensen, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Marketing at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

“Kaitlin and I are firm believers in having a positive impact and that little actions can go a long way,” Scates said. “You never know what someone is going through and the pandemic is added stress that nobody needs.”

“After watching the news and noticing that New York was one of the states hit the hardest, we gave members the option to write somewhere that wasn’t as close to home as well,” Scates said. “Doctors and nurses are risking their lives every day due to the lack of personal protective equipment, and we wanted to thank them for their dedication to helping others.”

Anyone is allowed to participate in the project. Ketchey and Scates said it is best to use the Walton College Marketing Department as the return address for safety reasons:

Department of Marketing #302
Sam M. Walton College of Business
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR, 72701

Mailing Addresses
Address letters to the following or send messages to a hospital or nursing home nearby.

NY Elmhurst Hospital
79-01 Broadway
Elmhurst, NY  11373

Arkansas State Veterans Home at Fayetteville
1179 N. College Ave.
Fayetteville, AR  72703

Katherine’s Place at Wedington
4405 W. Persimmon St.
Fayetteville, AR  72704

North Hills Life Care
27 E. Appleby Rd.
Fayetteville, AR 72703

About Future Women Business Leaders
Future Women Business Leaders caters specifically to business students. It connects student members with faculty and industry mentors to encourage success as a women business leader through guest speakers, mentors and panels. Membership is open to any student – male or female – enrolled in Walton College. The organization focuses on diversity and inclusion.

To join or to find additional information about the organization, visit Hog Sync, Instagram at @uarkfwbl or by emailing

Team Develops Easy-to-Produce Ventilators for COVID-19 Patients

U of A faculty have partnered with the medical community to develop an easy-to-produce ventilator to support COVID-19 patients.

Robert Saunders, assistant department head of electrical engineering and Raj Rao, department head of biomedical engineering, with the AR-Vent

Robert Saunders (L), assistant department head of electrical engineering and Raj Rao, department head of biomedical engineering, with the AR-Vent.

U of A faculty have partnered with the medical community to develop an easy-to-produce ventilator to support COVID-19 patients.

University of Arkansas faculty from across campus have partnered with the medical community to develop an easy-to-produce ventilator to support COVID-19 patients.

Faculty members from the College of Engineering, Eleanor Mann School of Nursing and Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design have been working alongside clinicians at Washington Regional Medical Center to develop a high-quality ventilator that can be manufactured quickly and cheaply.

The device developed at the U of A is known as the AR-Vent. Researchers designed the device with three goals in mind – to create a quality product that will perform the respiration function until the patient no longer needs assistance; to create a device that can be manufactured quickly, using readily-available components; and to produce the device affordably. 

AR-Vent automatically pumps existing Artificial Manual Breathing Unit bags, known as Ambu-bags, which are available in hospitals and used by emergency responders to manually squeeze and pump air into a patient’s lungs. The design focuses on a mechanical apparatus that can compress the bag to ventilate the patient. AR-Vent consists of simple electronic hardware, an easy-to-build mechanical fixture and an off-the-shelf automotive windshield wiper motor that powers the mechanical arm.

Once started, the first AR-Vent ventilators can be produced in large volumes within two weeks.

John English, dean of the College of Engineering, praised the group’s innovation.

“This project is about one simple thing – helping people,” he said. “I’m so proud to see this interdisciplinary group come together and leverage their individual expertise for the greater good during this extraordinary time.”

Team members include:

  • Boris Bogomilov, cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Washington Regional Medical Center
  • Angela Carpenter, fabrications lab manager in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
  • Hanna Jensen, clinical assistant professor of biomedical engineering and researcher in the Division of Acute Trauma at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
  • Morten Jensen, associate professor of biomedical engineering, Arkansas Research Alliance Scholar
  • Fang Luo, assistant professor of electrical engineering
  • Lucas Marques, electrical engineering researcher
  • Cara Osborne, assistant professor of nursing
  • Raj Rao, head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and George M. and Boyce W. Billingsley Endowed Chair in Engineering
  • Robert Saunders, associate department head of Electrical Engineering
  • Sam Stephens, biomedical engineering research engineer
  • Zach Williamson, mechanical engineering researcher
  • Wenchao Zhou, assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Mental Health Counseling Available During COVID-19 Crisis

The U of A is offering online mental health counseling during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Erin Durrah, a counselor education doctoral student, at a Career Development Center advising appointment prior to the health crisis.

Erin Durrah (right), a counselor education doctoral student, at a Career Development Center advising appointment prior to the health crisis.

The Counselor Education and Supervision Program at the University of Arkansas is offering online mental health counseling to help serve the community during the COVID-19 health crisis.

These online visits will be provided at no cost by master’s-level counseling students through July 31. The counseling sessions are open to everyone and are meant to provide support for minor or moderate anxiety and depression symptoms, along with general stress during this time. That could include financial, workplace or relationship issues and other concerns.

“We recognize that the process of navigating a pandemic can be stressful,” said Kristin Higgins, associate professor of counselor education in the College of Education and Health Professions. “Rapidly-changing circumstances, the disruption of familiar routines and the isolating effects of social distancing may contribute to a general feeling of uneasiness. Many in our community are currently experiencing increased feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness.”

Counseling students conducting the service have completed the majority of coursework required for graduation, have previous experience working with the public at their internship sites and are receiving supervision from licensed professionals and counseling program faculty.  

Higgins says the sessions will be conducted through a secure virtual platform and all confidentiality requirements will be observed.

“Whether you’re looking to learn some new coping strategies or just need a listening ear, we’re happy to help,” she said. “Whether you need a weekly check-in or just one session to express your feelings, we’re here. We may all be observing physical social distancing, but you don’t have to get through this alone.”

Email to set up a counseling appointment. Student counselors are not able to provide care to those experiencing severe emotional instability or suicidality.

CAPS at Pat Walker Health Center on campus also is providing tele-mental health services only in an effort to adopt social distancing precautions and avoid exposure to COVID-19. 

Learn about  available resources and service.

“Year of the Neighbor” Eases the Loneliness of Pandemic

Fostering connections with neighbors and wellness can counteract the loneliness and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Occupational Therapy professor Jeanne Eichler issued a challenge to radio station KUAF’s listening audience in early 2020: Make this the “Year of the Neighbor.”  

Eichler had been chatting with Kyle Kellams, news director at the station, about the nation’s loneliness epidemic and the negative health effects of being in isolation. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has given new meaning to isolation, the Year of the Neighbor concept is especially significant, she said.

Eichler hopes the movement will go viral. 

Since she started a Facebook group– and gave it a dedicated hashtag of #yearoftheneighbor2020 – it’s well on its way. Eichler and a large contingent of her Fayetteville neighborhood had already been actively pursuing the Year of the Neighbor theme since she’d introduced the concept in January. 

Students in the inaugural Occupational Therapy cohort, a joint program of the University of Arkansas and UAMS Northwest, are also helping grow the movement.

Occupational Therapy student Ashlyn Elliott delivering goody bags

Occupational Therapy student Ashlyn Elliott delivering goody bags.

All 27 students are participating in a variety of projects that foster connection and are within the CDC, World Health Organization and university guidelines, including virtual meeting and other innovations, Eichler said. It’s part of a class Eichler teaches called “Quest for Wellness.” Students are using the #yearoftheneighbor2020 hashtag as well as #UAUAMSOTD to highlight helpful deeds.

“We would love for others to take on the challenge, which fosters connections -- everything from efforts to figure out how to know our actual neighbors as well as awareness of the people in our local and wider communities,” Eichler said.

One of Eichler’s occupational therapy grad students, Haley Stewart, took her #yearoftheneighbor project to a park near her house. The park is closed, but the attached trail is still open. Stewart grabbed some sidewalk chalk and papered the path with inspirational quotes, interactive games and encouraging art work. 

“I also threw in some Arkansas pride, because it’s always good to call the Hogs,” she said in a video she made about the project. 

Stewart left buckets of chalk along the trail to encourage others to add their own uplifting messages or art. 

Occupational Therapy student Ashlyn Elliott filled goody bags that addressed various areas of wellness. The festive bags included items like 21-day guided meditations, cards to send to friends, granola bars, puzzles and to-do lists for jotting down healthy habits. She dropped the goody bags off on random doorsteps.

Eichler said there are many ways to participate in the #yearoftheneighbor2020 challenge. It might be as simple as calling, texting or stepping out on your front porch to chat with a neighbor across the way. It all counts when it comes from a place of care, she said.  

“We should think about people we can’t see, who might be alone during this time,” she said.  “Loneliness can impact health, and we can do our part by helping people stay healthy in creative ways as we physically distance ourselves. It’s important to reach out – especially at this time. Let’s see what we can do. And pass it on.” 

Eichler was recently interviewed by KUAF as a follow-up to the interview that started it all.

Alumnus Shifts Courier Business to Deliver to Community

Hunter driving Schlep van.

Alumnus Hunter Riley shifts his courier business to deliver Personal Protection Equipment and food to nonprofits serving those in need.

In 2013, a friend asked University of Arkansas alumnus Hunter Riley if he could use his transport truck to “schlep a credenza” in the Chicago area. Riley agreed, and the request sparked entrepreneurial inspiration.

His company, aptly dubbed “Schlep,” was born, and his team began providing services for events, furniture stores and boutiques with a fleet of sprinter vans.

The business serves a niche market and is typically used as a courier for bulk items, often with last mile delivery. They’ve also consistently made it a priority to help non-profits in their area, providing services at cost and filling the gaps in their regular deliveries.

“Service was instilled in me through my parents and the direct exposure to it through their example and their insistence on my involvement in volunteering from a young age,” Riley said. “Arriving on campus in Fayetteville expanded my exposure and gave me an opportunity to better understand servant leadership. I was able to solidify a desire to show up for others with a more targeted impact on the campus and community.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Schlep’s delivery business has been anything but typical. When the pandemic ramped up in Chicago, the business saw an immediate 25 percent decrease because of canceled events. Furniture deliveries declined next, after a shelter-in-place order was issued.

“We thought to ourselves, ‘How do we stay alive?’” Riley said. “We wanted to determine how we could still pay our employees and maintain some sense of normalcy.”

Inspiration struck again, this time thanks to the work Schlep had already done with area non-profits. The company’s fleet could be used to deliver critical supplies, such as medical necessities, food and even diapers to the facilities that needed them.

In the span of two weeks, Schlep went back to utilizing 70 to 80 percent of their fleet’s capacity. They’ve provided more than 100 pro bono deliveries over the last several weeks and continue to deliver PPE supplies and food on a daily basis.

“From a business standpoint, it’s a risk,” Riley said. “But we didn’t want to just sit on our hands. We want to be active. Supporting our community is the essence of our existence. It’s who we are to the core.”

The company doubled their sick pay for employees and began providing wellness checks to assess their physical health and mental well-being. And they partnered with organizations like the American Red Cross, Cradles to Crayons and Feed Chicago to begin deliveries free of charge.

“Regardless of the profit, it’s been very successful and can be celebrated by our team,” Riley said. “They can be proud and humbled by our work. It will also hopefully help us recruit team members and partners in the future, because this demonstrates our core values.”

Riley graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, where he majored in political science, economics and international relations and minored in Spanish. As a student, he was a member of the Honors College and the Associated Student Government and was a part of the initial committee to form the Volunteer Action Center on campus. He is a life member of the Arkansas Alumni Association.

Collaborators Produce Face Shields for Medical, Emergency Personnel

U of A staff, faculty and alumni are collaborating to 3D print face shields for medical and emergency personnel in Northwest Arkansas.

Prusa 3D printers and face shield frames

Prusa 3D printers and face shield frames

University of Arkansas staff in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design are 3D printing face shields as personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical and emergency personnel in Northwest Arkansas. They’re also collaborating with local design firms, manufacturing companies and alumni on this public health initiative.

How It Started

The 3D printers in the school’s Fabrication Labs whir with activity as usual for this time in the spring semester, but this year they’re not printing the work of design students preparing their studio project models for end-of-semester reviews.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – with remote instruction and a mostly empty campus — the Fay Jones School staff saw an opportunity to manufacture face shields to help protect healthcare workers against the spread of the coronavirus. The shields help minimize the spread of infection from one person to another by creating a barrier between infectious materials such as viral contaminants and a person’s skin, mouth, nose and eyes.

Angela Carpenter, Fabrication Labs manager, and digital fabrication specialist Randal Dickinson are using an open source design for 3D printed face shields from Prusa, a major manufacturer of 3D printers. The shield design allows for eyeglasses and a surgical mask or N95 particulate respirator mask to be worn underneath.

Each frame takes about four hours to complete, and more than 350 frames have been printed since the project began. Dickinson is able to operate seven printers during the day, six of which are located in Vol Walker Hall that he monitors by a web camera.

To 3D print the frames, the staff use PLA — polylactic acid — a plant-based polymer filament, made by Push Plastic in Springdale and purchased at a steep discount. To prepare the clear shield piece, they are using the school’s laser cutter to cut the hole patterns in PETG film so that it attaches to the frame. Dare Devil Display Works in Rogers donated the clear film needed to make more than 800 shields.

For their work, Carpenter said they have been in conversation with sculpture faculty in the School of Art and College of Engineering faculty, along with outside industries and design firms.

“I feel like this has allowed for some things to happen that we’ve wanted to happen, in terms of communicating and understanding who has what tools, and what their capabilities are,” said Carpenter, who’s also an architecture alumna of the Fay Jones School.

Dickinson said this project makes him feel like they can tangibly contribute something during this unusual time. And it’s been good to collaborate with others on campus and outside the school to help the community.

Collaborating for community

Carpenter and Dickinson have also begun working with Marlon Blackwell Architects in creating the face shields. The Fayetteville firm is led by Marlon Blackwell, Distinguished Professor and longtime architecture professor in the Fay Jones School. Will Burks, a senior associate at the firm and a Fay Jones School alumnus, said they had also started printing the Prusa design on the firm’s new 3D printer to help with the local need. After running low on filament and contacting the Fay Jones School for more, they discovered both teams were printing the same design.

An assembled face shield at Marlon Blackwell Architects

An assembled face shield at Marlon Blackwell Architects

The connection inspired more coordination. Employees at the Blackwell firm are assembling the face shields, then sanitizing and packaging them according to the client’s particular needs. In addition, Burks said, centralizing the supply chain by producing the same design will make it easier to replace any damaged or broken clear film pieces.

Through this collaboration so far, the Blackwell firm has delivered 25 face shields to Welcome Health and 50 to Central EMS in Fayetteville. It is preparing another 100 for the Fayetteville Fire Department, which will distribute those to city personnel that need them. In addition, Washington Regional Medical Center has ordered another 300 shields. The team’s plan is to 3D print up to 600 face shields in April.

Creating the face shields is a production challenge, rather than a design challenge, Burks said. With their architecture training, though, they have been able to use their sensibilities about materials and locate resources through unconventional sources.

“As architects, we very often have to think on our feet and think and react very quickly to interesting and new problems as they pop up. So, it seems only natural,” Burks said.

Modus Studio, another local design firm, has also joined the collaboration. Matt Poe is an associate architect and among several Fay Jones School alumni at the firm. He said that, though this is a different project than they are used to, they have approached it with the same purpose of providing for the health, safety and welfare of their community – just as they do when designing buildings where people work, live and play.

Carpenter said she’s been interested to see the national and global community become more open and connected during this pandemic.

“We can log on to a Facebook page and have a conversation instantly with someone around the world about what they’re doing. It definitely has been a new experience, and I think one that will stick,” she said. “Maybe even help us know how to do things quicker in the future. Don’t just sit around and wait, but start asking – just start talking to people.”

Researchers Customize ‘Aerosol Boxes’ for Washington Regional

Aresol Box

Devices protect clinicians during the critical procedure of intubating potential COVID-19 patients at Washington Regional Medical Center.

Aerosol boxes, as reported April 3 in the New England Journal of Medicine, have emerged organically as an innovative solution to protect clinicians from exposure during the critical procedure of intubating patients with COVID-19.

To address this problem locally, Morten Jensen, associate professor of biomedical engineering, has partnered with Dr. Drew Rodgers, cardiothoracic anesthesiologist at Washington Regional Medical Center, to produce transparent acrylic boxes that clinicians can place over a patient’s head and neck while intubating, which is the process of inserting a tube through a patient’s mouth and into the airway leading to the lungs. Intubation is done so a patient can be placed on a ventilator to assist with breathing.

Aersol Box IllustrationIn addition to an opening for the patient’s head, aerosol boxes have portals through which clinicians can extend their arms to work on the patient. The boxes provide an extra layer of protection in addition to personal protective equipment used during procedures such as mask ventilation and endotracheal intubation. Aerosol boxes can be quickly sterilized with bleach or alcohol after each use, so they can be reused.

The team expects to produce 25 boxes for Washington Regional and then looks toward working with other hospitals to address their needs for potential COVID-19 patients.

“This is a clear example of how the intersection of medicine and engineering can quickly come together and help us save lives,” Dr. Rodgers said.

Dr. Rodgers contacted Jensen because he knew members of the Cardiovascular Biomechanics Laboratory had extensive experience with making clear, acrylic boxes for holding fluids. After making small design improvements to fit requirements from Washington Regional, Jensen’s team partnered with the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. Dean Peter MacKeith provided access to machinery and materials that could significantly increase production. The first aerosol box was ready days after Jensen and Rodgers first discussed the concept and partnership.

“These boxes are not for sale anywhere, and we work with these materials and designs all the time,” Jensen said. “There’s an immediate need to protect staff during these critical, lifesaving procedures. We can make these right away, and they can put them to use immediately.”

The machining and manufacturing of the first aerosol boxes were performed by Angela Carpenter in the Fay Jones School and Sam Stephens in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

“This is a great example of what we can do for our community,” said Raj Rao, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Rao, Jensen, MacKeith and others are helping the university work on other critical COVID-19-related projects with hospitals in Arkansas.

Jensen is an Arkansas Research Alliance Scholar. Rao is the George M. and Boyce W. Billingsley Endowed Chair in Engineering.

Graduate-Professional Student Congress Awards 14 Research Grants

The Graduate-Professional Student Congress has reallocated grants to support graduate and doctoral researchers during the pandemic.

The Graduate-Professional Student Congress (GPSC) reallocated funds originally used to support graduate student travel to conferences to support graduate and doctoral student research during the pandemic.

All university events and university-sponsored travel were suspended in March as the Coronavirus pandemic grew, opening a window of opportunity for the organization’s Research Council to utilize travel grants in a different way.

Will Teague, GPSC Research Council co-chair, said the program attracted four dozen applicants across campus. In all, 14 graduate students were selected to receive grants of up to $1,500 to support their research. GPSC provided $14,000 for the grants, and the Office of Research and Innovation gave $3,000.

“The majority of these students are also ​working on their thesis or dissertation,” said Tiffany Marcantonio, GPSC Research Council co-chair and “We were extremely thrilled to be able to support so many students who are close to finishing their degrees.”

The nearly 50 applications were organized and distributed to GPSC Research Council's 12 members for a multistage review process using a rubric modeled after that of the National Institutes of Health.

“Our motivation was primarily based on the fact that the Graduate School and International Education and the Graduate-Professional Student Congress provide travel funding for students presenting at conferences,” said James “JD” DiLoreto-Hill, graduate congress president, “However, that funding is for the purpose of travel to present at a conference and that purpose alone. Graduate students are not only required to conduct research to complete their degrees, but conducting research to submit for publication is also a requirement for almost all of us.”

Recipients include:

  • Johnathan Blanchard, civil engineering
  • Max Carnes-Mason, biological sciences
  • Jianmin Chai, animal science
  • Joshua Corbitt, chemical engineering
  • Kaitlyn Fitzgerald, environmental dynamics
  • Airic Hughes, history
  • Callen Lichtenwalter, animal science
  • Seongkyun Lim, health, human performance and recreation
  • Huong Nguyen, world languages, literatures and cultures
  • Alexandria Peterson, environmental dynamics
  • Jesse Roberts, chemical engineering
  • Amir Shariffar, engineering
  • Timothy TJ Shoonover, rehabilitation, human resources and communication disorders
  • Malachi Willis, health, human performance and recreation

The awardees are already engaged in a variety of diverse research that includes: How urban renewal and highway building negatively impacted African American communities in Arkansas, how centuries old cultural myths in Vietnam have survived and shaped modern regional political and religious beliefs, how individuals that have suffered from a stroke might be better protected from brain damage and how a better understanding of sexual consent may inform educators, policy makers and therapists.

The Research Grant program was an idea initially proposed by members of the council in summer 2018 in partnership with the Office of Research and Innovation.

"Graduate and professional students at U of A are an integral part of our research enterprise,” said Daniel Sui, vice chancellor for research and innovation. “The Office of Research and Innovation is very pleased to offer this support to our graduate and professional students. The 14 proposals funded in this round reflect the breadth and depth of our graduate students’ creative work. I wish them all a successful conclusion of their projects.” 

Arkansas Spirit Squads Reach out to Razorback Fans

Spirit Squad

Arkansas Spirit Squads have sent more than 150 handwritten notes to Razorback fans unable to see others during the pandemic.

The Arkansas Spirit Squads have been lifting the spirits of Razorback fans in the Natural State and across the nation by writing notes to those who are unable to see others during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 20 volunteers from the cheerleading, pom squad and mascot teams have worked together to distribute over 150 handwritten notes in just a few weeks.

Spirit Squad“It has given our students the ability to make an impact in the community even while they are at home,” said University of Arkansas Director of Spirit Programs/Head Pom Squad Coach Brooke Bailey, who is coordinating the program’s efforts. “It brings a sense of joy to people that our students would not otherwise know.”

The thought of sending notes to fans occurred around the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, which could not be completed due to the virus. Bailey was on a phone call with former Director of Spirit Programs, Jean Nail, who suggested the idea to write notes to senior citizens in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The program quickly developed to include children’s hospitals and anyone that needed a little joy to their lives while practicing social distancing. Now Arkansas fans are able to sign up a loved one to receive a handwritten note in the mail.

“We have been able to send notes to Razorback fans from all over,” said Bailey. “There was a remarkable story of a 99-year-old that tested positive for COVID-19 but has beaten the virus.”

Like most across the nation, the student volunteers have been working from home, and continue to add on to the 150 notes already written.

Chemist Developing 3D Simulations of Coronavirus Spike Proteins

Side view of the SARS virus

Computational chemist Mahmoud Moradi will develop enhanced, 3D simulations of the molecular dynamics of coronavirus spike glycoproteins, which could aid researchers in the development of a vaccine.

Read the Full Story on Research Frontiers »

U of A Students and NWA Chinese Community Give Back During Crisis

Grad students and the NWA Chinese Association are in collaboration, sewing masks and donating PPE throughout the medical community.

 University of Arkansas Curriculum and Instruction PhD student Jingshu Chen always enjoyed sewing as a stress reliever, but when the COVID-19 crisis started ramping up in Arkansas, she wanted to put her ability to good use.

“I thought we’d better prepare for the worst,” she said.

Chen enlisted the help of fellow members of the Northwest Arkansas Chinese Association and taught them how to sew cloth masks based on a pattern she obtained from a friend in Boston. These women, along with volunteers from the Walson Chinese School and Grace Chinese Christian Church, have sewn hundreds of masks over the past two weeks.

The Face Mask Sewing Team is selling their creations for $20 each as a fundraiser. Donors pay $20 and can receive a mask or request that it go to a healthcare worker. The money goes back into the association’s COVID-19 Response Team fund to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for local hospitals.

Payment is accepted through the donation link at the NWA Chinese Association’s website

Xi Lan, a U of A master’s student in the College of Education and Health Professions, said other medical supplies are being donated also. The NWA Chinese Association has donated surgical masks, N95 respirators and medical gloves, much of which was collected door-to-door from local Chinese families. They received the life-saving equipment from relatives in China who wanted to help. The three local organizations also managed to purchase thousands of PPE from China out of their COVID-19 fund and donated it to health centers, police departments and small clinics.

Lan said she’s not a talented seamstress but is getting faster at making masks every day.

“This is hard for me,” Chen said. “but in a hard situation we have to do what we can to help the community.”

Alumnae Transition Business to Making Masks for Hospice and Homeless

An apparel company founded by U of A alumnae transitions to making masks for Washington Regional Hospice House and homeless shelters.

Olive Loom founders Lou Reed Sharp and Leah Garrett

Olive Loom founders Lou Reed Sharp and Leah Garrett

The coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses across the country to make wrenching choices: do they close their business and risk their economic livelihood or stay open and risk the health and safety of their employees and customers? 

The answer likely hinges on whether they provide an essential service to the community - or can pivot into doing that. Olive Loom, a local apparel craft company founded by two University of Arkansas alumnae, has made that pivot by focusing on the production of face masks, specifically for those in hospice care and the homeless.

Lou Reed Sharp, a retired nurse who graduated from the College of Education in 1976, and her daughter, Leah Garrett, who earned bachelor degrees in both 2003 and 2007, as well as a masters in 2010, started the company in 2011. Their hope was to provide jobs to women in rural communities who needed work, but were unable to travel due to being a caregiver, a stay at home mom or having limited mobility.

With the coronavirus outbreak, Olive Loom has enabled their employees to keep working from home while providing a community need. It has already donated 20 CDC-approved reusable masks to Washington Regional Hospice House and have earmarked one mask to be donated to a homeless shelter for every five they sell. The company also offers a feature that allows customers to donate a mask to someone who needs one.

By partnering with Personally Yours, Olive Loom now has 10 employees making masks, with the capacity to train and make more masks. As of March 31, the company has produced 549 masks.

“Our seamstresses had skills and enjoyed sewing,” Sharp said. “It was a way to keep them working or create secondary income - a way of giving back to the community. This gave them a way to buy their medicine, pay their utilities and meet other needs.

“We really want to keep the community safe and help where it’s needed.”

Hand-washing Essential for Take-out Food and Social Interaction

Washing hands and disinfecting surfaces are the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Kristen Gibson

U of A and Division of Agriculture associate professor Kristen Gibson
- photo by Fred Miller

Food safety regulations protect take-out and delivered food from COVID-19, but precautions remain important when interacting with food service personnel.

“There are specific requirements for sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces in the food preparation environment that would inactivate the virus,” said Kristen Gibson, who holds a joint appointment as associate professor of food safety and microbiology for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.

Food service workers are supposed to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with 10-15 seconds of vigorous scrubbing before and after performing specific job duties. Employees who are sick, especially with gastrointestinal symptoms, are not supposed to work for at least 48-72 hours.

“The key here is that the food is kept safe,” Gibson said.

Be Cautious

Precautions remain necessary when people meet people.

“People still have to interact with the delivery people or folks at the restaurant and COVID-19 can still be transmitted that way before people have symptoms or if they are asymptomatic,” she said.

The cleaning of surfaces is critical because they are a key point for transfer of the virus that causes COVID-19 from one person to another. Similar to other viruses, such as those that cause the flu, the novel coronavirus can be deposited on surfaces through aerosol droplets when someone sneezes or coughs. It can also be deposited if someone sneezes or coughs into their hand and then touches a surface.

Gibson said there’s a possibility that the virus can be transmitted through feces, but that possibility is not well understood. Some reports out of China and anecdotal evidence from people who have been confirmed positive for the virus suggests that perhaps 50 percent of cases present with some sort of gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhea or nausea, even in the absence of respiratory symptoms.

“However, the amount of virus expelled in the feces is reportedly quite low,” she said, “maybe 1,000 viral particles per milliliter versus millions that are excreted in respiratory secretions.”

In any case, once the virus is on a surface, susceptible persons may touch that surface and then touch their mouths or noses. If the virus can then enter the respiratory tract, a person may become infected.

A University of California, Los Angeles study published on March 20 suggested the COVID-19 virus survives on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on hard surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for two to three days.

Gibson thinks the apparent difference in the virus’ survival time on different surfaces may result from the sampling methods. To detect an infectious virus particle, she said, it first must be recovered from the suspect surface.

“Recovery of viruses from soft surfaces is inherently more difficult than from non-porous surfaces,” Gibson said, “so the difference in reported survival could be due to limitations in the methodology.”

Wash Your Hands

Washing hands is the easiest and most effective way to protect yourself from COVID-19, and it is effective because of the structure of the virus.

“This is an enveloped virus which means it has an outer lipid layer surrounding the protein capsid,” Gibson said. “Soap breaks down the lipid layer making the viruses more susceptible to inactivation.

“The act of physically rubbing hands will remove the virus as well. If you wash correctly, you should be able to remove hundreds to thousands of virus particles.”

Antibacterial agents alone are not helpful because they are specific to bacterial pathogens and not viruses.

When selecting hand sanitizers, people should look for those labeled “antimicrobial,” Gibson said. These will target more than just bacteria. These are not helpful against all viruses, but they are effective against respiratory viruses like the COVID-19 virus, and for the same reason that soap works.

Isopropyl alcohol breaks down the lipid layer that protects the virus, rendering it inactive. For that reason, alcohol-based hand sanitizers with more than 60 or 70 percent alcohol help protect against COVID-19.

Stay Vigilant

Gibson said people who are isolating themselves at home and observing social separation practices should remain vigilant about washing their hands, even though they are avoiding other people and public places.

“Many infectious diseases can be transmitted by poor hand hygiene so it is always good practice,” she said. “Additionally, why not make handwashing a habit and work toward true behavior change while isolated at home? This way when you do have to go out, it will be second nature.”

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch and Instagram at ArkAgResearch.

About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Health Coaches Help Patients Feel Connected During Pandemic

U of A students in the Health Coaches program serve at-risk patients and help them feel connected during the crisis.

University of Arkansas students in the Health Coaches program are serving at-risk medical patients in the Northwest Arkansas community during the COVID-19 pandemic by helping them feel connected during a time of uncertainty.

Lorenzo Petralia, Health Coaches Student

Lorenzo Petralia, Health Coaches Student

“In this time of social isolation and anxiety, our most vulnerable in the healthcare system are secluded, which puts them at greater risk and in need of basic necessities and medical support,” said Laura Gray, instructor in the Department of English in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and Health Coaches facilitator.

The Health Coaches program is a collaboration between the U of A and Washington Regional Medical Center. In its sixth year, Health Coaches is one of just a few programs like it in the country, as it combines humanities with clinical sciences to bring lessons from the classroom to life. It also gives undergraduate students the opportunity for hands-on health care work early in their careers.

“Though we have shifted from our regular weekly home check-ins and collaborative meetings to working remotely – such as video conferencing, phone calls and texting – the care for our patients continues. They know they’re not alone,” Gray said.

In addition to personal conversations to help combat loneliness, students are also helping patients with tasks like getting necessary medical supplies, answering COVID-19 safety questions and setting up tele-health appointments. Of course, they’re also continuing to help with the patients’ usual health goals and conditions, which can include complex socioeconomic issues.

Students in the program come from a variety of majors at the U of A, including public health, kinesiology, communication sciences and disorders, nursing, biology, and psychology, English, history and other areas of the humanities. Many are interested in future medical careers, which is why Hagstrom said it’s important for these undergraduate students to see how it works in the real world.

Aubree Knetter, Health Coaches Student

Aubree Knetter, Health Coaches Student

U of A senior Emily Bell, a public health major and student in the Health Coaches program, plans to apply for the Occupational Therapy program after graduation.

She said she misses the face-to-face interaction she enjoyed pre-pandemic.

“I certainly do miss meeting with nurses and doctors weekly to discuss our patients,” she said. “But patients and health coaches know we are trying to do everything we can to keep our patients healthy. We continue with weekly phone calls, weekly reports, and discussion boards to replace the activities we would be doing normally. It’s very patient-centered.”

Fran Hagstrom, an associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communications Disorders in the College of Education and Health Professions, serves as the coordinator of Health Coaches and facilitates along with Gray. She said one of the program’s goals is to keep senior citizens with chronic health conditions out of the hospital and in their homes, to improve their quality of life.  

“Our student health coaches are the conduit for this quality of life,” she said. “They ‘visit’ patients weekly, checking to see if they have any concerns about their health. They listen to their dilemmas, which can be as simple as not knowing how to use a smart phone, to wondering if their family will ever come to visit. And they both share dreams – those the elders have experienced – as well as those the students are following.”

Hagstrom said that connection is fundamental to the Health Coaches program. Over the three semesters they are in the program, students come to see the importance of communication, listening and identifying what really matters in a person’s life, beyond physical ailments.

“COVID-19 is a game changer for both our Health Coaches patients and our students,” Hagstrom said. “The need for interpersonal connection for both patients and our student coaches hasn’t changed. Now, more than ever, our elders need questions answered and reassurance. The weekly visits that are now over the phone or through text are not the same, but they are vital in helping our Health Coach patients continue eating, sleeping and pushing forward.”

Students in the program receive academic credit and pre-professional training, but Gray and Hagstrom said the true reward lies in the relationships they build with the team and their patients.

“The patients are missing seeing the student faces in person right now, but tell us that the calls and check-ins are so important,” Gray said. “And the students are able to see firsthand how issues like the coronavirus affect individual lives and how their support truly matters.”

Researchers Receive $185,000 NSF Grant to Study Impact of COVID-19 Fear

U of A sociology and criminology faculty received a Rapid Response Research grant to study the impact of society’s fear of COVID-19.

Communities around the world have experienced rapid economic and social upheaval because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. A team of researchers at the University of Arkansas are working to better understand how these changes and the underlying fear that is being produced are impacting society’s collective social and psychological well being.

Department of Sociology and Criminology professor Kevin M. Fitzpatrick, associate professor Casey Harris and assistant professor Grant Drawve were recently awarded a $185,000 Rapid Response Research grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a study titled, “The Diffusion of Fear and Coronavirus: Tracking Individual Response Across Time and Space.”

COVID fear by county chartThe study will examine how individuals’ perceived risk and expressions of fear – including extreme social distancing, panic purchasing and hoarding – are driven by demographic, physical and mental health, social connectivity, and media consumption characteristics.

The researchers will analyze how secondary data that measures community vulnerabilities, socioeconomic disadvantages, and geographic proximity to detected and disclosed coronavirus cases, might influence individual’s level of fear and their multi-level reactions.

“Many are fearful of the illness as well as how it is already impacting our economic and social systems,” Fitzpatrick said. “We will continue to experience significant disruptions in our daily lives as more cases are detected, which will compound the effects on our social and psychological wellbeing. This project analyzes fear generated by the COVID-19 pandemic as a function of a wide range of social and community characteristics.”

Fitzpatrick said the research team is already beginning to gather information from social media outlets like Twitter and search engines such as Google, along with Census Data, data from the Centers for Disease Control and other aggregate data sources.

The research team will pair this data along with its random, representative post-stratified, weighted sample survey of more than 10,000 people in the U.S. who were asked about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 15- to 20-minute self-administered online interview focuses on capturing participants’ subjective and objective experiences of fear, including their mental and physical health, media consumption habits and communication behaviors related to fear responses.

“Broadly, we hope this project advances knowledge regarding how individuals respond to crises, personally and collectively, which will benefit governmental leaders as well as citizens so they can better prepare and respond to future extreme events,” Fitzpatrick said.

The research will also help organizations, governments and policymakers better understand the personal, social and systemic ramifications of epidemiological disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This research team is doing phenomenal work that will help us better understand our society’s current responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, but even more importantly be used in the future to help better support our society in the face of such situations,” said Todd Shields dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Dan Sui, noted the importance of timely research funding like NSF’s RAPID mechanism that allows for real-time data collection and analysis. 

“Trying to understand the diffusion of fear and related mental and physical health behaviors across the United States amidst the crisis is indeed very timely,” Sui said. “It will broaden understanding how we respond to crises, both personally and collectively, and how we can prepare for future events as a society.”.

U of A Triple Major Determined to Help at Home Delivering Meals During Crisis

Madison Huckaby

A U of A sophomore triple major is delivering meals to senior citizens in her hometown of Shreveport while remote learning.

For the first half of her spring semester, U of A sophomore Madison Huckaby spent most mornings just like other college students - in a classroom, especially since she is triple majoring in International and Global Studies, French and History. When the university moved to remote learning due to the coronavirus, Huckaby knew she would have to find something to do in her hometown in Shreveport.

Madison Huckaby“I love being busy, so when I had to move back home this semester, I knew I needed to get involved in my community,” Huckaby said. “The COVID-19 outbreak has made community involvement more important than ever.”

Huckaby found her solution when she and her mother saw a Facebook post asking for more volunteer drivers for Meals on Wheels. “Community involvement has always been important, so we decided to help,” she said.

Huckaby had never been involved with delivering meals to senior citizens but knew the COVID-19 outbreak would make the service critical for many in her hometown. The daily deliveries are made in the morning – when Huckaby would normally be sitting in a classroom in Fayetteville.

“I started delivering for Meals on Wheels because of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Huckaby said. Not only does Meals on Wheels provide food to senior citizens, but it also acts as a daily “wellness check” since many of the recipients live alone. Especially now with the COVID outbreak, many of the recipients are afraid to get out of the house in fear of contracting the virus, so they are more reliant than ever on the daily delivery, Huckaby said.

“People are so thankful for their meals, and as someone who is young, healthy, and - thanks to online classes - has lots of free time, I feel it is my obligation to reach out and help those who may not have access to food without Meals on Wheels,” she said.

Huckaby also noted that Louisiana currently has the highest rate of spread of the virus in the world. She said she wanted to do everything she can to make sure those who are high-risk can stay at home.

Full Circle Campus Food Pantry Fills Need

The Full Circle Campus Food Pantry in Fayetteville continues to operate and serve hundreds of clients during the COVID-19 pandemic largely due to the dedication of Sage McCoy.

Sage McCoy

Sage McCoy shifts operations to keep service running with social distancing and increased demand during COVID-19 outbreak.

With the COVID-19 crisis continuing to have long-term effects on the Fayetteville community, the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry is continuing to serve, but needs help. With monetary donations, it can continue to serve clients during the pandemic.

Throughout March, as the coronavirus pandemic began causing major disruption in the United States, the Food Pantry served 1,388 clients, which was more than three times the number served in March 2019.

“When the University went to remote operation, having most people work from home on March 19, the Food Pantry began doing the Fast Bags only,” McCoy said. “From March 18-31, our team created and distributed 354 Fast Bags, with each bag serving two people in a household.”

One of the issues is the supply chain. Food banks are having a hard time keeping product to share with food pantries. Grocery stores are limiting the number of cans of vegetables, meat and other items, making it nearly impossible for food pantry staff to make needed purchases.

The month of April, which is normally a time when the food pantry would have major food drives to resupply its shelves, those drives are not happening due to the circumstances of the pandemic.

Some local restaurants and businesses have made donations, such as Hugo’s Restaurant, donating bread, as well as the Freight Farm on campus, donating lettuce. Some monetary donations have come in as well, but it is not enough. The pantry is in need of proteins such as peanut butter, canned meat and canned beans.

Monetary donations are preferred, and it is very easy to make an online monetary donation to the Food Pantry here.

“When we cannot use food drives to get products and the food banks are having difficulty with supplies, we have to shop and fill our shelves from things we buy, which are normal price,” McCoy said. “This is not sustainable in the long run as we are spending more from our account than goes into it. We would really appreciate any monetary donations people may be able to make during this difficult time.”

Physical donations can be accepted but are not encouraged at this time. Arrangements should be made ahead of time to drop those off. Please email Sage McCoy at or call McCoy at 575-4365.

The Full Circle Campus Food Pantry in Fayetteville continues to operate and serve hundreds of clients during the COVID-19 pandemic largely due to the dedication of Sage McCoy.

McCoy is the coordinator of Food Programs for the Center for Community Engagement, a department in the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Arkansas.

“As universities across the U.S. started to move classes online and move students off campus, the Full Circle team began to get anxious,” McCoy said. “My students’ first thoughts, before concern for themselves, were ‘what about our clients and how can we continue to serve?’”

The Food Pantry was able to remain flexible as the U of A campus moved to online classes, setting up a tent outside and having only student leaders in the space to fill the orders. Once the university moved to remote operations, they had to limit pantry operations.

“Full Circle Fast Bags were our answer to the question of how we could continue to serve our community without fully interacting with our community. We wanted to maintain and encourage social distancing but still serve those in need,” McCoy said. “We asked that clients take one bag for every two people in their household. These bags have a bit more than we would normally put in one order in hopes that folks do not need to make more than one trip to the pantry in a week, limiting social interactions and need for leaving the house.”

McCoy said the Food Pantry is doing the best it can as far as being stocked with inventory to help clients.

“The supply chain seems to be settling a bit after the initial general panic shopping, so we were able to make a food bank order on March 27 for some staples, but we are still low on peanut butter and canned meat,” McCoy said. “When this all first hit and courses moved online, Greek Life had to cancel their Greeks Give Back event, but many chapters had already gathered donations for us. We got about 1,900 items from them.”

Housing also encouraged students leaving campus for the semester to donate food from their residence hall rooms, which housing staff has delivered to the Food Pantry.

Moving forward, the Food Pantry is trying another new model by suspending online orders, delivery orders and walk-up orders.

“We are sticking with the Full Circle Fast Bags, but in order to manage our inventory, our accountability, our record-keeping and our time, we will be staffing and facilitating certain hours every week for folks to come pick up fast bags,” she said. “I think more new people are more willing to ask for assistance in the time of the pandemic, and we’re so glad to be able to be there for them, even in our limited capacity.”

McCoy is passionate about her work with students and helping people with food insecurity find their next meal, which is something she knows all about from first-hand experience.

“In grad school I had a graduate assistantship position in the Office of Student Activities with Associated Student Government and truly fell in love with advising students,” McCoy said. “Being a GA is rewarding, but I was struggling financially.”

McCoy said her supervisor at the time pointed her towards Claire Allison, assistant director of the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), who has special training in helping people apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits.

“She helped me navigate the application process and got me in touch with professionals at the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and I was able to receive benefits,” McCoy said. “Being on SNAP opened my eyes to how helpful the program could be but also how much of a pain it is to maintain receiving the benefits regardless of need.”

As she continued her work as a GA advising students in student government, the Food Pantry and working with food insecurity kept coming up.

“I volunteered during the Food Pantry remodel. I advocated for it and raised money for it during my time as a Hog Caller with the Annual Fund,” McCoy said. “I got to attend a training provided by the CCE to learn how to help others navigate the SNAP process, much like Claire did for me.”

Her love for the work of advising students and helping alleviate food insecurity issues turned out to be worthwhile for everyone.

“When I started my job search, and this position opened up, it seemed like the perfect fit,” McCoy said. “So here I am, advising 18 student leaders, navigating a pandemic while running a pantry and working remote when I can. And I work with a team of wonderful, caring humans who make working in this field even better.”

Claire Allison is one of those team members and said Sage totally committed to helping others.

“Sage has never wavered in her commitment to serving our students and helping them to serve our community. She has shown incredible compassion, innovation and dedication during this challenging time. She is an exemplary role model for our student leaders and an invaluable asset to our university community,” Allison said.

Angela Oxford, director of the Center for Community Engagement, is another of those team members.

“Sage continues to go above and beyond in her work as our Food Program Coordinator.  She has a passion for service and making sure people stay fed is at her core.  Sage has spent countless hours in the pantry filling bags with small teams of students all practicing social distancing to create “fast bags” for pick up.” Oxford said. “We always consider someone’s passion for service when we hire new team members and Sage embodies that spirit of service and heart of compassion.”

Jeannie Hulen, an associate dean at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and ceramics professor in the School of Art, is working with McCoy to expand the Food Pantry’s reach.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, Hulen has been running the Ceramics Studio Outpost for the Food Pantry, providing a second easy-access point on campus where people can pick up some of the pre-made “grab and go” Full Circle Fast Bags that contain food or household goods.

“Sage does so much for so many people and I have learned a lot from her in this short time of getting to work with her,” Hulen said. “She is the hero in this crisis, as are all who work in places that help people with the greatest needs.”

For the most up to date information on the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry, including operation hours and locations please visit or on Facebook

If you’d like to financially contribute to the Full Circle Food Pantry, you can go to the Full Circle Food Pantry giving page.

About the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry: The Food Pantry was established by the Volunteer Action Center in February 2011 as a student-run emergency food assistance program. The pantry serves clients with well balanced meals through non-perishables and fresh produce from the pantry garden.

The pantry is available to anyone with a U of A or UAMS ID: students, staff, and faculty, as well as temporary and hourly employees. Clients never need to show proof of need, just a U of A or UAMS ID.

Law Students Step Up to Help With pro bono Legal Services

U of A School of Law students are taking their public service virtual by providing pro bono legal services in the wake COVID-19.

As the coronavirus continues to affect Arkansans, law students at the University of Arkansas are volunteering to help address legal needs by partnering with the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas.

Top (l-r): Lexi Acello, Jaden Atkins, Tony Jones
Bottom (l-r): Michael Lester, Maisie Manuel, Samantha Warren

Students Lexi Acello and Jaden Atkins are working with the Center for Arkansas Legal Services to help the agency develop a strategy to assist with evictions and foreclosures resulting from the consequences of coronavirus.

“I decided that a global epidemic – and the corresponding rise in unemployment – only made this need more salient and volunteered to help,” Atkins said. “I was further inspired to help the Center for Arkansas Legal Services track eviction filings during COVID-19 because I fear for the lives and livelihoods of Arkansans.” 

“My strongest urge is always to help,” said Acello. “A few weeks ago, when things in the U.S. began to advance, I felt lost because I was unsure of how I could be useful to others right now. Engaging in pro bono work allows me to contribute to organizations and groups on the ground doing the work to keep people safe. I want to help them as much as I can. Things are messy and uncertain right now, but we're stronger together.”

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, six law students had planned to join Legal Aid of Arkansas for their annual “Spring Break on the Road to Justice” project. Legal Aid asked students to help remotely after this year’s trip was cancelled, and Atkins, along with fellow law students Maisie Manuel, Michael Lester, Samantha Warren and Tony Jones, answered the call.

“Doing pro bono work in the midst of this global pandemic gives me a feeling of agency,” Atkins said.  “I can’t control much during this crisis, but I can help in small ways with the response.”

Since 2011, law students supervised by Legal Aid attorneys have traveled the state to provide intensive services to low-income Arkansans in remote and underserved areas.

As of March 31, 2020, approximately 50 law students had performed more than 1,300 hours of pro bono service during the 2019-20 academic year. Doing the same work with social distancing and other recommendations has required some adjustments.

“Most times while doing pro bono you have some type of social interaction with either the client or supervising attorney,” said Jones. “Here, I never met the client nor knew their story, all the documents I needed were sent via email, and I drafted the required petitions and order and sent it back.”

Annie Smith, professor of law and the school’s Pro Bono and Community Engagement director, continues to identify ways for law students to assist with the substantial legal needs that will emerge in the wake of the crisis.

Service to the community is a core obligation of practicing attorneys, and the University of Arkansas School of Law seeks to instill this value in its students. Through the pro bono program, students have opportunities for service, and those who engage in substantial service are recognized academically.

"Serving others is a professional responsibility, as well as a tremendous honor," Smith said. "It can also be a helpful coping strategy during times of crisis. Now more than ever, I want students who are able to experience the satisfaction, learning and emotional benefits that can come from engaging in meaningful pro bono work and putting their legal education to good use."

Art MFA Student Shifts From Thesis Exhibition to COVID-19 Mask Making

Sewing machine

A School of Art MFA student whose thesis exhibition was postponed due to COVID-19 shifted to making masks for healthcare workers.

Shelby Fleming has spent most of the academic year focused on her thesis exhibition for her Master of Fine Arts degree scheduled for late spring. But with the events of the COVID-19 crisis,  Fleming’s priorities have shifted to a new normal.

Joining a group of more than 83 artists, Fleming is part of the COVID-19 Mask Maker Challenge hosted by Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum. Fleming has made 30 pocket filter masks that will be used by healthcare workers and plans to make more.

Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum partnered with professional healthcare workers to create the pattern ensuring the masks that are created will meet healthcare safety standards. The organization is providing fabric, instructions on how to make the masks and has drop off locations in Rogers and Springdale.

A graduate student in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, School of Art, Fleming’s Master of Fine Arts thesis exhibition, titled “Gut Feeling,” was set to open March 30. However, the transition to online classes and postponement of all on-campus events this semester due to the COVID-19 outbreak postponed her exhibition until summer 2020.

“It feels surreal,” Fleming said. “You do years’ worth of planning to put together an exhibition and you try to speculate what could go wrong and how you can resolve certain situations. Like many other artists in my position I never imagined my exhibition would be postponed due to a pandemic.”

In the midst of making masks, Fleming shared that she couldn’t help but see how the current situation coincides with her current body of work in an unexpected way. Her MFA thesis exhibition, “Gut Feeling,” is about the viewer’s experience with their body. The forms in space reference the body while the physical curates space of the gallery.

When the exhibition opens she hopes the audience will consider their own body in relation to what is being seen through scale, sculptural placement and sensory experience.

With the new development of social distancing being added to everyone’s lives she sees a new layer of context to the exhibition as everyone across the world is taking time to reflect on the string that connects us despite our differences and our bodies.

Levy Donates to Local Food Pantries

The cancellation of sporting events at the University of Arkansas left plenty of food intended for fans sitting in the pantries and freezers of Levy,  the university's concessionaire, but on Monday Levy made a generous food donation that will find its way to those in need in Northwest Arkansas. Levy and Razorback Athletics worked with the University of Arkansas in a coordinated effort to provide for others as part of the "Determined to Help" initiative. 

The food will be donated to at least four food banks:

  • Samaritan Community Center — serving thousands of free to-go meals every week in Rogers and Springdale.
  • Cup of Love in Eureka Springs — a small food pantry that offers free food, hygiene, jackets, blankets and more to those in need.
  • LifeSource — a food pantry in Fayetteville that hands out food bags.
  • Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry – serving those in need within the university community.

U of A Donates Medical and Testing Supplies to UAMS to Help COVID Response

Donation efforts spanned multiple colleges and schools to address a shortage of personal protective equipment needed by hospitals across the state.

The University of Arkansas answered the call when the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences ran low on personal protective equipment and other necessary supplies due to the COVID-19 outbreak,.

Colleges across campus donated items including hand sanitizer, gloves and masks to aid healthcare workers at the medical school’s hospitals as they serve an influx of patients, in addition to donating vials and items to assist with COVID-19 testing. Supplies were donated to both the UAMS location in Little Rock and the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus in Fayetteville.

Personal protective equipment is crucial in protecting healthcare workers and their patients from infection. The COVID-19 outbreak, which led to an increased demand for such equipment, has led to a worldwide shortage that puts healthcare workers at increased risk during the pandemic.

“I am inspired by our faculty and staff’s selflessness and willingness to help our community and state during this challenging time,” said Jim Coleman, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “As the land-grant university for Arkansas, we recognize the need to come together and leverage the university’s resources to help our state respond to this pandemic. We look forward to continuing to identify proactive ways we can help during this trying time.”

In the College of Engineering, lab equipment such as gloves and masks – normally used for the college’s research and teaching endeavors – found new purpose to help front-line medical workers.  

“During this time of crisis, it is important to channel all our resources to meet the immediate needs of the community,” said Raj Rao, head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “By helping a member of our community in need, each one of us in our own small way will make a difference.”

The College of Education and Health Professions also donated hundreds of gloves, masks and other materials from the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing.  

“I am proud the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing was in a position to help during this time of need,” said Tabatha Teal, simulation director in the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing. “Our clinical partners are on the front lines of this pandemic. Not only are these supplies much-needed, they could be life-saving for both our region’s patients and healthcare workers at UAMS.”

Testing materials such as vials and reagents are also desperately needed at UAMS to help fill the need for COVID-19 testing. In addition to donations of gloves and other medical supplies, the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and faculty in the Cell and Molecular Biology program gave a majority of the 12,000 test tubes donated on behalf of the university.

“The faculty were enthusiastically responsive to the request for supplies that were urgently needed,” said David McNabb, chair of the college’s Department of Biological Sciences. “Our faculty want to support our healthcare providers and give any assistance we can to facilitate testing and to protect the health of those working on the front lines to serve our community.”

“The call went out to the CEMB faculty, representing 120 faculty in 16 departments in four colleges, since many of those faculty routinely use the reagents and supplies that were limiting,” said Douglas Rhoads, director of the Cell and Molecular Biology program. “The CEMB faculty responded with donations to support the cause.”

As UAMS continues to fight the pandemic, they expressed gratitude for not only the supplies but also the research expertise lent by U of A faculty.

“Where do our educators and investigators find meaning and purpose during this time of fear, anxiety and crisis? I have at least one potential answer: they donate,” said Jennifer Hunt, chair of the Department of Pathology at UAMS. “Our UAMS and UA system investigators are digging deep to find things we need every single day, some of which would stop us in our tracks if we didn't have. And, our research community is also donating intellect, brain power, innovation, and ideas—even if we don't have time to think about them today.”

Find out more about how the University of Arkansas is Determined to Help those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital Platform to Help Students Form Teams for Senior Projects and Theses

Students and faculty in engineering, business and entrepreneurship can form interdisciplinary teams through a digital platform during the coronavirus pandemic.

A collaboration between students and faculty in engineering, business and entrepreneurship has given rise to a digital platform that allows students from all three areas to form interdisciplinary teams for senior projects, entrepreneurial ventures and honors theses.

These connections would typically be made at an in-person mixer on campus, but because in-person activities around the world have been curtailed in response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus, this platform will allow students to foster interdisciplinary connections safely from anywhere.

The College of Engineering, the Walton College of Business and the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation have partnered to host an online mixer aimed at connecting students from across disciplines as they approach their senior-year capstone projects and innovation-based honors theses.

Beginning April 2, students will be able to sign up on the platform, called CoFinder, to pitch their project idea to a network of other students from different areas, with the goal of forming a design project team. Those teams will engage in a year-long capstone or thesis project for the 2020-21 school year.

Robert Saunders, assistant department head of electrical engineering, is one of the organizers of the digital effort. He said senior projects are a critical part of a student’s academic journey, but forming an effective interdisciplinary team can pose a challenge.

“Many students dream of having a team to solve a problem, push an idea, product or service to realization during their senior year,” he said.” But, they don’t know how to get in touch with other students who have the business/practicum/social/technical knowledge to realize these dreams. Now, more than ever, it is important that we provide the means and atmosphere that allows our students to come together to achieve their goals and dream.”

The collaboration platform was developed by two students in the College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering - Canon Reeves, founder of More Technologies, and Kyle Sadler, student director of the University of Arkansas Startup Village.

Sarah Goforth, executive director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said the platform was an example of partners across the university collaborating to facilitate innovation on campus.

“Creating environments that make it easy for students to work together across disciplines – whether virtually or in person – is critical for their development and success as innovators and change agents,” she said. “This takes creativity and partnership in a university setting, and I’m grateful to be collaborating with the College of Engineering on this effort.”

The online portal will be open from April 2-30. It can be accessed here:

This collaboration project was made possible by a generous gift from Jeff and Kathy Sanders.

U of A and Northwest Arkansas Council to Support Small Businesses, Nonprofits

Mary Beth Brooks

The Small Business Emergency Assistance program will help local businesses and nonprofits impacted by the coronavirus by providing free services such as assisting with loan applications and financial reviews.

The University of Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center and the Northwest Arkansas Council are partnering on a Small Business Emergency Assistance program – an effort to support small businesses and nonprofits in the region impacted by the coronavirus.

“Given the current COVID-19 crisis and the consequential threat to the survival of many small businesses, this joint effort will provide a triage of services to help businesses and eligible nonprofits survive this crisis,” said Mary Beth Brooks, director of the U of A Small Business and Technology Development Center.

The Small Business Emergency Assistance program will provide services free-of-charge to assist organizations with access to U.S. Small Business Administration and other federal, state and local programs through:

  • Assistance with loan applications.
  • Financial reviews.
  • One-on-one counseling.
  • Market research.
  • Educational outreach.
  • Business planning.
  • Liaison to government agencies and lending institutions.

“Small businesses and nonprofits are the heartbeat of our community,” said Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council. “We need to ensure eligible organizations are aware of all the available state and federal resources and aid packages to help them weather this crisis.”

For more information or to participate in the program, organizations can email, call (479) 575-5148 or visit the program website.

The Northwest Arkansas Council, in coordination with the Northwest Arkansas Chambers of Commerce and other local entities, will assist with staffing, communication and outreach efforts, ensuring that the needs of local businesses are matched with the appropriate experts.

Services are available for free to Northwest Arkansas-based organizations. Some services are available to nonprofits that meet the SBA Office of Disaster Assistance funding requirements.

In order to maintain safe social distancing practices, services will be provided remotely via phone and video conferencing.

The Walton Family Foundation provided a grant to the Northwest Arkansas Council at the recommendation of Steuart Walton and Tom Walton to support the Small Business Emergency Assistance program.

Educational Resources Available for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers of Homebound K-12 Students

University of Arkansas teaching faculty have curated a list of educational resources to support parents, teachers and caregivers helping teach K-12 children at home due to COVID-19 school closures.

University of Arkansas teaching faculty have curated a list of educational resources to support parents, teachers and caregivers helping teach K-12 children at home due to COVID-19 school closures.

The list, from professors in the University of Arkansas’ College of Education and Health Professions, includes links to art lessons, playful learning activities and virtual experiences — everything from the full library of Schoolhouse Rock cartoons to virtual visits to faraway places.

Linda Eilers, a childhood education professor and director of the U of A’s Literacy Camp, is among faculty who contributed to the list. She’s been regularly emailing online resources to the parents of K-6 students who have attended literacy camp in the past.

“These activities are intended to provide opportunities to interact with children in ways that promote and extend literacy skills,” she said. “There is everything from doodling with a children’s book author, journaling, practicing listening and handwriting skills, to learning about the world through virtual tours.”

The resources list will be updated as unique content becomes available.

Arkansas Researchers Developing Prediction Models for Coronavirus

University of Arkansas data science professor Justin Zhan is collaborating with colleagues at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to help predict trends and changes as the coronavirus spreads.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Justin Zhan as an Arkansas Research Alliance scholar in fall 2019. From left, Gov. Hutchinson, U of A Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, Justin Zhan and Jerry Adams, president of the Arkansas Research Alliance.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Justin Zhan as an Arkansas Research Alliance scholar in fall 2019. From left, Gov. Hutchinson, U of A Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, Justin Zhan and Jerry Adams, president of the Arkansas Research Alliance.

Data science professor Justin Zhan is collaborating with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences professors David Ussery and Xuming Zhang to develop accurate predictions of genomic variation trends of coronavirus.

Their work will help public officials monitor the outbreak and adapt to changes. It could also provide valuable information for the design of vaccines.

“To control and prevent COVID-19, public officials need highly robust models for predicting how and where the virus will spread,” Zhan said. “This project will assist that effort and lead to better detection and prevention strategies. We think it could have colossal social and economic impacts.”

Justin ZhanZhan’s research focuses on big data, blockchain technologies, information assurance and biomedical informatics. For this project, he will use a novel, blockchain-based artificial intelligence system, which integrates information on the relationships of biological systems, to predict trends and changes as the coronavirus spreads. The system will be evaluated and tested through various coronavirus benchmark datasets.

Ussery and Zhang will provide expertise in the areas of bioinformatics, microbiology and immunology.

A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data generally represented as a Merkle tree. By design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of the data. It is "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. As the fundamental component and functional element of blockchains, Merkle trees allow for efficient and secure verification of large data structures and potentially boundless data sets.

With a large grant from the Army Research Office, Zhan is building a graphics processing unit at the U of A. The unit is a computer cluster for big data research and education.

Justin Zhan and David Ussery are Arkansas Research Alliance scholars.

Nursing Students and Faculty Answer Call, Join Local Hospitals in COVID Crisis

Since the first positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Northwest Arkansas, members of the U of A nursing community offered help.

Students and faculty in the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing at the University of Arkansas are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis in Northwest Arkansas, answering the call at local hospitals to help communities stay healthy and fight the pandemic.

Lindsey Sabatini

“Several of our faculty and students who already work in hospitals and clinics are helping to prepare for the anticipated increase in patients,” said Susan Patton, head of the school of nursing. “We removed students from clinical rotations as physical distancing was recommended. However, some healthcare facilities have employed our nursing students to answer phones and screen visitors, and some of our graduate students are completing clinical assignments as facilities allow.”

U of A Critical Care Instructor and Coordinator Lindsey Sabatini said several adjunct professors are working at COVID-19 screening clinics around Northwest Arkansas.

Sabatini, who is a nurse practitioner for a local medical doctor, is conducting tele-visits for the clinics. She said moving online is a new concept for most providers and patients, but she’s helping ease that process.

Sabatini is working at Washington Regional Medical Center’s expanded COVID-19 screening facility in the coming weeks as demand continues to grow. Nurses working at the center are screening patients through a call-in hotline and at the clinic.

Maisie BurnsNursing students are also assisting with coronavirus care. Maisie Burns, a nursing student scheduled to graduate in December 2020, has been working at the Washington Regional COVID-19 testing clinic. She also conducts employee and visitor screenings at the hospital’s entrances.

In the clinic, she’s doing clerical work in the lab – logging tests, packing test kits and labeling samples. At screening stations, protocol is to take the temperature of every person entering the hospital and ask them a few questions about their health.

“I haven't worked in a regular health care setting, let alone during a pandemic,” she said. “Everyone from the physicians to the techs have been welcoming and supportive, though.”

Burns said working in the COVID clinic provides her with purpose and direction.

“I knew sitting at home would be hard when all I wanted to do was be involved in helping,” she said. “I could get out of the house, help where I was able to, and learn something from this historic time in healthcare.”

Kathryn Stevens, a Doctor of Nursing Practice student at EMSON, is using her nursing skills as well, working in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. This week her shifts involved coordinating and leading nurses caring for high-risk patients.

Mike Vinson is another graduate student who’s helping during the crisis. Vinson is a full-time Doctor of Nursing Practice student with a focus in Family Practice, a part-time adjunct clinical instructor for the U of A, part-time operating room nurse for Mercy, and recently began helping Washington Regional with their screening process part-time.

Vinson is also screening patients, visitors, and staff who enter Washington Regional. Since Mercy has restricted elective surgeries, he’s been asked to help in the intensive care unit since he has experience in that setting.

“I couldn’t imagine not offering my services during a great time of need,” he said. “This pandemic has demonstrated to me how much we truly rely on others in this industry. I’ve seen how important it is for all of us to work as a team and collaborate to find innovative solutions to unique problems,” he said.

Support Students in Need Through Student Emergency Funding

Many University of Arkansas students are dealing with unprecedented disruptions outside of their control. We're encouraging donations to student emergency funds to help support students in financial distress.

The primary emergency fund, U of A Cares, assists U of A students with unexpected needs that arise from situations outside their control. Funding for these students is a high priority, so donations are being encouraged to help them during this uncertain time.

Gifts will have an immediate impact by helping students navigate financial difficulties related to:

  • Housing and food insecurity
  • Reduced hours/income for hourly jobs
  • Technology for remote learning
  • Medical care and prescriptions
  • Travel to return home
  • Other unforeseen expenses

There are also three other emergency funds designed to help specific subsets of the student population.

The Veterans Resource and Information Center Emergency Fund, which is open to University of Arkansas students who have served or are currently serving in the military, provides financial assistance for student veterans who are facing hardships. Emergency funds are mostly requested for rent and mortgage, utilities, medical bills, car insurance or repairs and supplies and books.

The Graduate School and International Education Student Emergency Funds, which include the Needy Family Graduate Student Emergency Fund and the International Education Catastrophic Fund, provide a stop-gap for students who are struggling with unforeseen emergencies.

To contribute to any of these funds,

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Free Online Training

U of A Professional and Workforce Development is pleased to offer 10 of our most popular training courses for no cost. Register by June 30, 2020. You will have 3 months from the time of registering to complete your class.