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Dr. Nichola Driver and Dr. Robert C. Richards, Jr. have been announced as assistant professors at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The official start date for both is July 1.
“Dr. Driver and Dr. Richards are great additions to the Clinton School,” Associate Dean Susan Hoffpauir said. “In addition to teaching, Dr. Driver served as the director of Nonprofit Leadership Studies at UA Little Rock. Dr. Richards has taught in the Department of Communication at Penn State University since 2015 and was the recipient of the Carroll C. Arnold Award for Scholarly Excellence. Additionally, both have an impressive number of publications for their early-stage careers – Dr. Driver in the areas of sociology and health and Dr. Richards in the areas of deliberation and communication.”
Most recently, Driver served as a visiting assistant professor at UA Little Rock in the School of Public Affairs where she led the Nonprofit Leadership Studies program. She oversaw service learning projects, internships, and taught courses in program evaluation, health policy, and nonprofit leadership and service.
She will teach Field Research Methods and Program Evaluation at the Clinton School of Public Service.
Her research areas include reproductive health disparities, health policy, and program evaluation and methods. She is currently working on projects related to attitudes toward teen pregnancy, both nationally and in Arkansas, breastfeeding rates among Hispanic immigrants, maternal mental health, and creating healthy communities in Mexico through participatory action.
Driver holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Texas and a master’s degree in public administration from UA Little Rock.
Richards was most recently a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the Penn State University Department of Communication Arts and Sciences. His research interests are democratic deliberation, participatory governance, and political and legal communication and information.
He will teach Communication Processes and Social (Ex)Change at the Clinton School of Public Service.
Richards has taught undergraduate courses in legal rhetoric, speech communication, and group communication. He conducts research as part of the Participedia Project – an international research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada – which studies how citizens participate in governance in many different countries, and the research team that studies the Citizens’ Initiative Review method of citizen deliberation.
He has co-authored articles in numerous academic journals, including “Making Policy Information Relevant to Citizens: A Model of Deliberative Mini-Publics, Applied to the Citizens’ Initiative Review” in Policy & Politics, and “Embracing Digital Democracy: A Call for Building an Online Civic Commons” with John Gastil in PS: Political Science & Politics.
He has presented papers at the annual conferences of the National Communication Association and the Law and Society Association.
Richards received his Ph.D. from Penn State in 2016 and his juris doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2006.
Clinton School assistant professor Dr. Ellen Fitzpatrick will be on unpaid leave from August 2018 to May 2019 while working as a scholar in residence with Merrimack College and Catholic Relief Services University.
Clinton School student Ravyn Towns (Memphis, Tenn.) is currently in Vancouver, British Columbia, for her International Public Service Project with Mothers Matter Centre, where she is collecting the stories of mothers detailing their experiences of familial and personal change they’ve experienced as a result of their participation in the program. She will systematize the findings from previous years and identify and publish findings on the emergent themes. Below is a reflection, written by Towns, of the first month of her IPSP.
This is the first time I’ve actually lived in a big city; Vancouver, British Columbia in Western Canada is now my home. There are certain adjustments that come with this lifestyle, and living abroad in general, including frequent use of public transportation even if you own a vehicle, staying focused and alert at all times, being resourceful, and constant prioritization.
My 4-10 minute drives to school, work, dinner, the gym, or church have been replaced with expensive commutes taking a taxi, riding the bus or SkyTrain, walking, and sometimes a combination of all four. Usually it takes 90 minutes or more to get to and from where I’m going. I enjoy walking; it helps me enjoy moments of solitude, I love the fresh air and eco-friendly environment (it’s so CLEAN here), and I’m exercising daily.
I work downtown near the Pacific Ocean so I’m able to enjoy good food, views, and vibes on a daily basis. Speaking of food, the summer climate is perfect for gardening. I frequent two of my supervisors’ homes and they both have thriving gardens in their backyards that I’ve had the pleasure of consuming for lunch and dinner. I feel so renewed and refreshed and with the hospitality remaining constant, I am living my very BEST life.
The population here is extremely diverse; I hear an array of languages and accents every minute of the day. In my office alone, I have been introduced to seven different cultures, British Columbia (the province) is huge, and their culture is more active and healthier. As much as I love the South, born and raised in Memphis, Tenn., our culture is more sedentary, slower paced, and we generally lean towards unhealthier eating options for various reasons. Although I don’t see myself turning my back on fried chicken, cornbread, or yams anytime soon, I am enjoying the abundance of organic and vegan options. A healthy lifestyle is legit the “norm” here.
Because I value education as a solid tool for communication and enjoy working with low-income populations and children, I decided to complete my International Public Service Project with the Mothers Matter Centre. This Vancouver-based nonprofit is a national consortium of organizations dedicated to serving socially isolated and low economic status mothers and their families using their proven mother-to-mother approach. The HIPPY program, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, remains the core of the center and it’s delivered to mothers and children in-home supporting parents as their child’s first and most important teachers.
As a multimedia journalist and communications consultant, I am journeying across Canada to more than 10 cities across five provinces interviewing HIPPY mothers and children collecting videography and photography to create their 20th anniversary celebration video that will be published in 2020. I am also working closely with the center’s communications department assisting with website development, social media, media relations, and publications. As an experienced journalist with a B.S. in Communication, I am thrilled to return to what I love MOST: collecting and analyzing qualitative data, connecting with diverse populations and experiencing different cultures, allowing others to share their stories, showcasing positive outcomes and sustainability, and being in the lab. What I loved most about news reporting was video production.
I traveled to Nanaimo, British Columbia this weekend to meet my first mom and child and my views from the seaplane there and the ferry back home were literally breathtaking. Along with the city’s beauty, what had me in awe the most was the amazing mother and daughter duo I had the pleasure of interviewing and their story of courage and determination. An immigrant from Central Asia’s Kazakhstan whose first language is Russian, Marina Filatova was able to find home with HIPPY in Canada. Now a married mother of 5, with Amina being child number 4, Filatova stated it wasn’t an easy settlement in the beginning but with the help of HIPPY, life started to improve in several ways.
What she enjoyed most about the program was learning with her daughter and the amount of quality time she was able to spend with Amina. “When you sit with your child and do different things and look at your child and see how happy she is, it brings you both so much joy,” said Filatova ecstatically. “Then, you see the output and how quickly she’s picking up things.”
Both Marina and Amina experienced an extreme impact from participating in the program. For Filatova, her circle of friends expanded and all of her friends are former HIPPY Moms. As her English strengthened her confidence grew and she was able to be a better leader for her children. She proudly shared that because of HIPPY she noticed that Amina was reading sooner than her classmates and writing well. Amina’s teacher noticed, too, and gifted her with a diary, which she uses on a regular basis. I was able to share moments with Amina as she wrote several entries showcasing her English and math skills. “Because of HIPPY, now I write a lot more,” said Amina with a smile.
With my project off to a phenomenal start, I am looking forward to more exploration and interviews; I truly enjoy hearing and sharing other’s stories. I will continue enjoying Canada and learning a thing or two for everyone I meet. No two days have been the same and that helps me to anticipate the next moment while appreciating the beauty in the unknown.
Until next time,
Clinton School student Christine McCall (Chicago, Ill.) is currently in Mwanza, Tanzania, for her International Public Service Project with Wesley College, where she will research best practices for servant leadership programs and develop a curriculum for Wesley’s Servant Leadership Center. Below is a reflection, written by McCall of her first two weeks. Follow her blog for written updates, photos, and videos from her time in Tanzania.
I am two weeks in and I still feel like I am living in a dream. I am amazed by Tanzania’s beauty and the overall hospitality. My first two weeks in Tanzania have been a whirlwind getting settled in; however, at the same time I feel like I have been here much longer than two weeks because the pace of life is much slower and simpler. Though I am experiencing a new continent, country, culture, and language, I feel a peacefulness here that I was not necessarily expecting. I am trying to figure out where that feeling is coming from and I cannot pinpoint that just yet. What I do know is that Wesley College is a special place. The teachers, faculty, and staff have been nothing short of welcoming and making me feel right at home from the very first day I arrived.
I am impressed with my host organization thus far and the way they have assisted in helping me get settled in these first two weeks. I arrived late on Saturday night, June 2 and Eric Soard and his wife Liz picked me up at the airport and invited me back to their house for a late dinner. The very next morning at 8 a.m., we were on our way to a church service at Wesley College. There is nothing like jumping right in. The service was primarily conducted in Swahili and some of it was translated for me. What struck me in this instance was that I did not really have to understand the language because I could feel what the words meant from the emotion in the room. I have never experienced anything like that before and it was a moment that I will remember for a long time.
Eric Soard is the Director of Wesley College and in the first few days we had an initial meeting to discuss whether his vision for the servant leadership training manual has changed since I agreed to the project. I was given an office to do my work and introduced to all the appropriate people at the school. Eric has additional plans to set me up with some community members for input about servant leadership. His vision for the servant leadership program is expansive and will be ongoing after this summer and adapted to fit the needs as time goes on and the college grows. Eric is very easy to talk to and open to ideas and discussion. I look forward to learning more about Wesley College, the students, teachers, staff, and Tanzania overall so that I am able to produce the best product possible for the students and future of the college.
One thing that I have been looking forward to every day is sitting in on and observing Mr. Baraka Kengwa’s Intensive English class. This class has anywhere from five to 10 students every day. Mr. Kengwa has welcomed me into his classroom and the students have been receptive to me and invited me to participate in some of their lessons. They have had some really great questions for me about America and my beliefs, some of which include: Are you a feminist and how do you define feminism? What do Americans know about the triangular slave trade? Do you believe in witchcraft? It is encouraging to see the students so enthusiastic, curious, and comfortable in asking these questions. There was one day Mr. Kengwa was absent and he asked me if I would mind visiting his class and just practicing English with his students. I was excited to step in and the students came up with discussion topics of what they want to be when they graduate from Wesley College and why they think more people in Tanzania should learn and speak English. We had a candid conversation and I can already tell that these students are motivated by the way they participate in class and by the questions they ask of the teacher.
I also recently sat in on Rev. Bonface Wanyama’s theology class. The topic of this class was the crusades and the students had some thought-provoking questions for the teacher. Among those questions was: What lessons can we learn from the crusades and apply in our lives today? Because my project is focused on developing a servant leadership training manual, I have found it necessary to observe the teachers and students in the classroom and how they interact. I am taking particular note of the teaching styles as well as the students that seem to be comfortable in leadership roles. I have really enjoyed sitting in on the classes because it is giving me a sense of where the students are at and where they want to go. Though I have not gotten too deep into my actual project yet, I believe that developing relationships and rapport with the students and teachers is of great importance and will only make the final deliverable that much stronger because they will be willing to help in the process.
As far as preparations go, I wish that I had known that the majority of people in Mwanza, Tanzania speak Swahili. Had I realized the extent to which Swahili is spoken in Mwanza, I would have made time to study Swahili in advance of arriving in country. I am grateful that the students and teachers I am working with at Wesley College are encouraging me to learn and speak Swahili and even taking time out of their schedules to help me with basic vocabulary. A number of the teachers and students have told me that I am a fast learner and are surprised by my ability to hear the word and then spell and speak it so easily. While they have been very complimentary, I suppose I am being hard on myself and do not necessarily feel that I am moving at a quick enough pace with language.
I was nervous walking to work by myself the first time, especially as it was only my third day in country and I did not know any Swahili. First things first is that I would like to report I did not get lost and remembered where to turn by landmarks I memorized the day before on my practice run with my host. One thing I noticed on that first walk by myself was that I was the only Caucasian person walking on the streets. Most of the locals went about their business, but there were some drivers that called out to give me a ride and then children that said “hello”. Because I am unfamiliar with the language, I did not know what to say to the drivers so I just smiled and politely shook my head that I did not need a ride. With the children I smiled, waved, and said hello back. In the days after that first walk, I have learned some greetings so I can now respond to those who speak to me on the streets.
I am looking forward to starting my interviews with the students and teachers as well as disseminating the student and teacher questionnaires in the next two weeks. I cannot believe that I am already into my third week. I know that as I get more comfortable here, the time is going to go by more quickly. I have been doing a lot of activities with Eric and his family in the first two weeks and I am looking forward to exploring Mwanza with some of the students and teachers in the coming weeks. I am doing my best to simply enjoy the moment and learn something from every interaction – whether that be with a student, teacher, local, at a restaurant, or walking to school in the mornings.
Saturday, June 23 is United Nations Public Service Day. Highlighted by the United Nations Public Service Awards, the day celebrates the value and virtue of public service to the community; highlights the contribution of public service in the development process; recognizes the work of public servants; and encourages young people to pursue careers in the public sector.
Since opening its doors in 2004, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service has strived to make every day Public Service Day. The Clinton School’s mission is to educate and prepare professionals in public service who understand, engage, and transform complex social, cultural, economic, and political systems to ensure equity, challenge oppression, and effect positive social change.
The school’s dedication to public service has yielded 867 service projects, totaling more than 315,000 hours, equaling more than 36 years of direct field service work.
In Arkansas alone, Clinton School students have completed 329 field service projects.
The various team-based Practicum projects take student teams into Arkansas communities to foster community development and social change in areas such as economic development, environmental awareness, public education, youth leadership development, and health improvement. This field service project fosters teamwork and direct application of classroom skills.
This year, Clinton School students completed 11 field service projects in Arkansas, working in partnership with public agencies, community initiatives, academic ventures, and nonprofit organizations across the state. The 2017-18 Practicum projects’ work included creating economic opportunities in southeast Arkansas, assisting Arkansas museums with a historic decision on their institutional mission, and enhancing adult literacy programs in several Arkansas counties.
This summer, 44 students who recently completed their first year at the school begin work on International Public Service Projects (IPSP). The students are traveling to 28 different countries on six continents.
The Clinton School has now placed students in 89 countries since 2006 – 46 percent of the State Department’s 195 recognized independent states. This includes Namibia, France, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, three countries that are new IPSP host locations in 2018.
The Clinton School is working with 22 new partner organizations this summer, including The Asia Foundation, American Bar Association, and Women Political Leaders Global Forum. There will be 12 returning partners, including Winrock International, Vital Voices, MassChallenge Israel, and Landesa.
Since the school’s inception, students have completed 384 international projects totaling more than 117,000 service hours.
Learn more about this summer’s IPSPs through Connor Flocks and Dylan Edgell, two students traveling to Israel and Peru, respectively. Marquisa Wince is working with Probation and Aftercare Services in Kenya, a government department under the Ministry of Interior and Coordination.
Executive Master of Public Service student Angela Danovi, who serves as Arkansas Regional Products Manager for Ozarks Water Watch, has been announced as the Outstanding Environmental Educator of the Year (Non-Formal Education) by the Arkansas Environmental Education Association (AEEA).
AEEA is a networking, information-based organization that works with educators, students, businesses, government, and concerned citizens to increase awareness and knowledge about the environment. AEEA’s mission is to promote environmental education and the work of environmental educators.
Danovi’s position as Arkansas Regional Products Manager for Ozarks Water Watch allows her to create and implement programs related to water education, water quality monitoring, and source water protection.
She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in plant and soil science with a concentration in environmental science and natural resources. She earned her master’s degree in geography with a focus in physical geography and water quality, also from UT.
The Clinton School launched its EMPS degree program in March. The first-of-its-kind program is entirely online, offering mid-career professionals a practical skillset and knowledge base to enhance their opportunities for leadership in public service without leaving their current jobs and disrupting their lives.
University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service graduate Megan Kurten collaborated with members of the DecARcerate Coalition on a research project focusing on inequities in Arkansas’ criminal justice system, particularly focusing on racial disparities in offender populations.
The study found that Arkansas incarceration rate is 53 percent higher than the national level, and the rate of incarceration for African-American offenders is an additional 16 percent higher than national averages. Further, offenders of color are consistently given longer sentences and serve a larger portion of that sentence in prison. Using research, this project mapped out Arkansas’ current criminal justice demographics in juvenile justice, sentencing trends, supervisory practices of parole and probation, and recidivism to develop practical solutions for equitable criminal justice reform.
Kurten assessed models from other states’ successful sentencing reforms, recidivism prevention programs, and modifications to parole and probation practices. The project balanced Arkansas’ need for reform, legislative priorities, and fiscal practicality when developing recommendations for future reform work.
The final report included the following recommendations: (1) codify racial impact legislation, (2) decrease mandatory minimum sentences required by sentencing guidelines, (3) increase use of probation for non-serious offenses instead of prison time, and (4) decrease re-incarceration for technical parole or probation violations.
About the DecARcerate Coalition
The DecARcerate Coalition is a group of agencies whose mission is to confront issues of mass incarceration in Arkansas, which necessarily considers those disproportionate effects on people of color. The Coalition is comprised of the following core agencies: Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Good Grid, Compassion Works for All, Judicial Equality for Mental Illness, Progressive Democrats in Action of Northeast Arkansas, the Inmate Justice Project, and the Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System Research Project. These groups work throughout Arkansas with local communities to raise awareness of issues with mass incarceration, advocate for criminal justice reform, and lobby for legislative action. For more information, visit decarceratear.org.
University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service graduate Amie Alexander worked in collaboration with the Association of Arkansas Counties to study the needs of Arkansas Counties interested in implementing County Youth Councils as part of her final Capstone project. The project, titled, “County Youth Councils for Tomorrow’s Leaders,” was presented in April at Sturgis Hall.
Using information gathered from the perspectives of these county officials and stakeholders, Alexander developed a toolkit of resources for these county officials. In creating this toolkit, Alexander hopes that creating a youth council will be more accessible and manageable, leading to successful County Youth Councils which foster civic education, deepen the discussion of local policy issues, and develop leadership and public service values in future community leaders.
“The Association of Arkansas Counties is attuned to the increasing disconnect between the students in our state and county government. To have a student the caliber of Amie Alexander approach this issue with a fresh vision and new ideas has resulted in a fantastic and pragmatic way to combat this problem,” said Chris Villines, Executive Director of the Association of Arkansas Counties. “We believe we can utilize her findings and recommendations to bridge this gap.”
“It has been rewarding as I watch her attention to detail and grasp of the problem,” Villines continued. “As a result of her work, she has crafted a sustainable solution that gives us a chance to educate Arkansas’ students on the societal interaction that plays out between county government and society. I look forward to the implementation of her ideas as we work to improve civic education in this state, and I applaud Amie as well as the Clinton School of Public Service for the opportunity this provides the counties of Arkansas.”
Alexander’s first-year experience at the Clinton School involved working with the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation to interview cooperative members about the changes in their families, homes, and communities when they received electricity. From these interviews, Alexander and her teammates constructed a case study and a series of videos on the social and economic impact of rural electrification in Arkansas.
Last summer, Alexander traveled to Tokyo, Japan for her International Public Service Project with the Foreign Agricultural Service, which links U.S. agriculture to the world to enhance agricultural export opportunities and global food security.
Alexander, who grew up in Waldron, Ark., earned her bachelor’s degree in agriculture, food, and life sciences at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She is currently pursuing a concurrent juris doctor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. She has worked on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review, where she has written on the compelling need for broadband deployment in rural Arkansas and its similarities with the struggle for rural electrification. Upon graduation, she intends to work in agricultural law, trade, and rural development policy.
She is the recipient of the 2017-18 recipient of the B.A. Rudolph Scholarship. This scholarship is annually awarded by the B.A. Rudolph Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based charitable nonprofit whose mission is to advance and benefit young women interested in public service through educational, financial, and professional support.
A funeral service will be held Tuesday, June 19 at her parents’ farm in Maragua, Kenya. More information on the service can be found here.
A member of the school’s second class and a 2008 graduate, Ngugi was working with Fursa-Opportunity, a community-based organization committed to supporting youth-led and youth-based projects and initiatives in Kenya.
Ngugi entered the Clinton School in 2007 as a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga. She completed field service projects with the Boys and Girls Club of Phillips County, Break the Chains in Baltimore, Md., and Century Close in Nairobi, Kenya.
Her classmates have been in contact with one another and are coordinating efforts to support Ngugi’s family.
Rina Meutia and Julie Gehrki are collecting money to help the family with funeral costs. Meutia is collecting the funds through her Venmo account. For more information, contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are a few words and memories of Ngugi from her Clinton School classmates.
“When I headed to Rwanda for my IPSP, I had an overnight layover in Kenya. Wambui arranged for her family to pick me up at the airport and host me overnight. I was so grateful for her hospitality and am thinking of her family in this time.” – Elizabeth Brill
“Wambui and I are BFF. We studied, cooked, danced, braided each other’s hair and laughed together. I was once very sick when I was at the Clinton School – had to stay on bed for a month. Everyone sent me flowers and food, etc. But Wambui … she was something else. She came to my dorm every single day to check whether I ate properly. She cleaned up my apartment, washed the dishes, and prepared food for me. She also brought home all school notes I missed. I once asked her, ‘Sister, I can be contagious, aren’t you afraid coming to see me every day?’ Her answer I will never forget: ‘Sister, what are you talking about? I am from Africa, I got it all, nothing scares me.’ Your soul is with God now, my dear sister, but your life will be with me forever. You taught me so much about life in your short life. How I wish we could grow old together. I will forever miss you. Your sister, Rina.” – Rina Meutia
“Many happy memories of conversation, laughter, and language lessons with Wambui and our other teammate, Rina, driving back and forth between Little Rock and Helena-West Helena. Whenever I arrived at Wambui’s dorm, she was always quick to fix me a cup of Wambui-style tea with plenty milk and sugar. Her unbridled honesty and commitment to improving her spot in the world wherever that was at the time will be missed.” – Christin Harper
“Wambui’s spirit deeply impacted the lives of everyone who knew her. It didn’t matter if you just met her for the first time or were a close classmate, Wambui had a way of making everyone feel like her best friend. From UACS classmates to their families, from volunteers to guest speakers, Wambui made a lasting impact on everyone! To me, she was the true embodiment of service to others and the world. A sincere desire to serve, a feisty and effective way of questioning problems that needed answers, a deep yearning for justice for all people, and a joy that flowed out of her when helping others. She made a huge impact on the world during her years on earth, and her spirit of love and service will live on forever in me and everyone who knew her!!!” – Mollie Merry Campbell
“I still remember my first phone conversation with Wambui during which she was on the back of a pickup truck in the middle of a political campaign in rural Kenya. Seriously dedicated to public service.” – Bob Torvestad, former Director of International Programs
“Visiting Wambui and her family in Nairobi, I saw the roots of her character. I also saw her influence at home from writing the new Kenyan constitution to building programs for young women to going door to door to promote reform candidates to tending the family farm. She was a volcano of public service.“ – Gary Wheeler
Richardson conducted a needs assessment for the DREAM Project, a Dominican nonprofit, in summer 2017 in order to fulfill the Clinton School’s International Public Service Project (IPSP) curriculum requirement. The needs assessment was utilized to develop a supportive curriculum for students on scholarship at three local universities.
Through the development of the curriculum, a common theme emerged from both students and professors. Both groups of participants were identifying barriers to success and on-time graduation. Some of the findings can be linked back to personal, and governmental barriers.
Personally, students struggled with transportation and finances, articulating, “I have to choose between eating or going to class.”
According to professors, students have limited access to the internet and were not able to access the information necessary to be a successful student due to underfunded libraries.
Furthermore, there are macro-level statistics for all universities, but there is limited knowledge when it comes to student needs and barriers in developing countries. This gap widens when one looks at rural universities across the globe. The global rhetoric for higher education argues that students need to be global citizens upon graduating, and the rhetoric is pushing institutions to produce more research at the undergraduate level. Therefore, analyzing the data collected with a broader lens not only responds to a direct need at the local level, but to the larger higher educational rhetoric.