Report: Women Veterans More Likely to Pursue Higher Education

By Andrea Johnson

The Razorback Reporter

Thirty-four percent of military-affiliated students last year at the UofA were women. Even though men make up the majority of that population, a national report shows that women veterans are more likely than men to pursue and complete a college education.

A 2015 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs report showed that 44.3 percent of women veterans enrolled in college compared to 36.5 percent of men. Women also had a higher graduation rate with a bachelor’s (20.7 percent) or advanced degree (13.8 percent). Among men veterans, 15.9 percent earned bachelor’s degrees and 10.7 percent earned advanced degrees.

Women represented about 9.4 percent of veterans in 2015, according to the most recent Women’s Veteran Report.

The higher percent of women veterans enrolling could be attributed to the their being younger than the male veteran population, according to the report. More women veterans fell within the youngest age group of ages 17-24 than men. The median age of female veterans in 2015 was 50 while for men it was 65.

Carrie Mize, a junior at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, served in the Army for four years before settling in Fort Smith in 2008. She worked at a day care center and as a stay-at-home mom until she decided to use her veterans benefits to pursue a college degree in early childhood education, she said.

At age 31, she decided to enroll at UAFS in 2015. Because she did not finish high school, she feared failure at the college level, she said. But her ability to cover all college expenses using her Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and the state-sponsored Academic Challenge Scholarship for non-traditional students motivated her to try.

“It would be silly not to use (benefits),” Mize said. “I had to build up the courage to go back, but I did have the money.”

Finding balance between being a mom of three children, a wife and a college student became her greatest challenge, she said. After a couple semesters and late-night study sessions, she thinks she has figured it out. Her husband commutes to work in Fayetteville, and she credits him for helping her succeed.

The same determination that kept her going in the Army helps her persevere toward graduation, Mize said.

“I’m an overachiever and I’m scared of failure,” she said. “I wasn’t going to fail. I was going to push through it and make it to the end.”

Jovanna Lopez, a freshman at Northwest Arkansas Community College, served four and a half years in the Army before beginning her college education this fall.

As a senior in high school, she did not feel prepared to pursue higher education, she said. She enlisted in November 2011, graduated from Rogers Heritage High School in May 2012 and left for training the following August.

“I was kind of the one who wasn’t expected to do it, so it was kind of fun to do something that wasn’t expected of me,” Lopez said.

On the NWACC campus, Lopez finds it difficult to determine who affiliates with the military, she said.

Clues such as a military patch or American flag on a cap, bag or tattoo helps identify affiliated people, but she does not see many women “going out of their way to do something with the military or show that they were in the military,” Lopez said.

This semester, 409 military-affiliated students enrolled at NWACC – 80 are female – said Dianna Portillo, director of Veteran Resources at NWACC.

Lopez also receives benefits through a Post 9/11 GI Bill that covers her education costs. She tried earning course credit through online classes but decided the classroom environment fit her learning style better, she said.

Katie Rose Martin, a second-year student at the UA School of Law, served in the Army, 2009-2014, while completing her bachelor’s degree through the online American Military University. She completed eight-week courses without breaks and finished a four-year degree program in two years, she said.

While serving in the Army, her undergraduate education costs were covered. As a law student, her costs are covered through Vocational Rehabilitation benefits, she said.

Martin joined the military for education and health benefits and to gain structure in her life, she said. Before she joined, she made poor decisions and lacked direction in life, but her military experiences helped her mature.

Earning her bachelor’s degree while serving in the Army proved to Martin that she could accomplish more than others might expect of her, she said.

“I know from the military that if I focus and have a goal and just keep that in mind – whatever that goal is – I can accomplish it while at the same knowing that I do have limitations,” Martin said.

The UA student population might comprise more military-affiliated female students than reported, but enrolling UA students are not required to designate military affiliation, just as students may choose whether to identify their race or ethnicity, said Erika Gamboa, director of the UA Veterans Resource and Information Center. At the UofA, 1,382 students self-identified as a military-affiliated student last year.

The 2016 UA female student population is 52 percent of the average total population of 26,154, according to enrollment reports. The preliminary enrollment report for fall 2017 showed continued majority-female enrollment at 52 percent.

By 2043, women are projected to make up 16.3 percent of all living Veterans – a projected 2.4 million, according to a VA report. Last year, the population of women Veterans reached 2.05 million, with 21,361 1iving in Arkansas.

New Blockchain Technology on appears on UA campus

By Hermon Negash

The Razorback Reporter

The Walton College of Business has scheduled what organizers call a Blockchain Hackathon, Oct. 27-28 in downtown Fayetteville.

Students of all technical experience levels will work together to solve various problems that will be provided by sponsoring companies such as Walmart, J.B. Hunt Transport Inc., ArcBest and Tyson Foods. IBM also will sponsor the event and its cloud platform will be utilized.

“Teams will work together to develop a functional blockchain business network utilizing the Hyperledger architecture running on the world-class IBM cloud platform,” said Zach Steelman, assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems at Walton College.

The sponsors will challenge participants to work on real-world problems given by companies and solve them using blockchain technologies, according to the website.

Blockchains are a fairly new form of technology that creates an online record of transactions that anyone can view and alter but does not belong to one single person.

“Blockchain technology offers a secure and verifiable way to maintain an encrypted accounting ledger of transactions,” said Paul Cronan, an Information Systems professor at Walton College.

The distribution of the transactions creates redundancy and a system of accountability, Cronan said. Information cannot go from one place to another without being verified. This allows for blockchains to be extremely secure, contrary to the competition name, Blockchain Hackathon. Blockchains can drastically change how businesses interact with partners and customers by creating a trust in the system, Steelman said.

Some say that blockchains could be so substantial that it could compare to the introduction of the internet, Cronan said, although he said he thought it was too early to make a statement of that magnitude. He also said the technology is very promising.

The competition is scheduled to take place at the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, 123 W. Mountain St., Fayetteville.

Arkansas Scientists to Gather for Health Research Retreat

By Erin McGuinness

The Razorback Reporter

Experts in nutrition and health will meet for the first Arkansas Nutrition, Obesity and Health Research Retreat, Oct. 25-27, at the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences.

Jamie Baum, assistant professor of nutrition in the Department of Food Science, teamed with Sean Adams, the director of the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, and Rudy Nayga,  UA distinguished professor and Tyson Chair in Food Policy Economics, to organize the event.

Partners from the Fayetteville and Little Rock campuses, including the Center for Human Nutrition, UA System Division of Agriculture Research and Extension, UofA at Fayetteville, UofA for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center and Arkansas Children’s Research Institute will attend.

The organizers invited 22 scientists who have had successful research programs in the area of nutrition, obesity, health and exercise and have established collaborations with other researchers in the state, Baum said.

This is the first time that researchers from Fayetteville and Little Rock will gather for this retreat, she said.

“To get institutions like that together under one roof to support a common theme like this is kind of unusual, and it’s a really great thing for the state of Arkansas,” Adams said.

The gathering is intended to create collaborative research within the state on issues ranging from obesity to exercise and food insecurity, or a lack of access to nutrition.

Last year 34.7 percent of adults in Arkansas were overweight and 35.9 percent were obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We realized we need to bring people together to help start solving this problem and sharing our research to create more outcomes that would help Arkansans,” Baum said.  

Scientists and participants will meet Wednesday and get an overview. The Thursday program is open to faculty and administrators from the campuses, food industry employees and government officials who are interested in the topics. Researchers will present studies that they have conducted in the state.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, UA sociology professor and director of the Community and Family Institute, is presenting his research, called Assessing Food Insecurity, Weight Status and Health Among Northwest Arkansas Youth.

Food insecurity is related to nutrition and obesity because it describes a lack of access to nutritious food, Fitzpatrick said. His research focuses on food insecurity for children in northwest Arkansas, including Fayetteville and Springdale.

Fitzpatrick’s research on homelessness, as showcased in Community and Family Institute Reports, also will be included in brief, he said.

Fitzpatrick conducted a food insecurity survey in Springdale High and Owl Creek School in Fayetteville, the responses of students are incorporated into his presentation.

 “I’m really feeling like (our presentation) is really the only one that’s going to be focused on food insecurity and why that is important when we talk about nutrition and health,” he said. “If we don’t have access to food, that’s a problem, and if we don’t have access to good food, that’s another level to the problem.”

On Friday scientists will have a chance to develop ideas for federal grant funding. The research projects in need of grants also will be presented. There are three sources of grants, including the UofA, UA System Division of Agriculture Research & Extension and UAMS, though the amounts have not been decided yet. Experts in these fields from around the country have agreed to review and choose up to four winners, Baum said.

The six partners will award grants to establish collaborative research projects on nutrition, obesity and health in the state of Arkansas.

“The most powerful effect and impact of the research is really going to come from when all of these disciplines are melded into teams that can address quite complicated probes, such as obesity, diet quality and exercise,” Adams said.

Next year, the organizers hope to have a second retreat where people who received grants at the retreat can present their findings and research, Baum said.

If the retreat is successful, Baum hopes to turn this into an annual event – possibly a regional conference where Arkansas researchers can build connections with scientists in other states, she said.

“I really have a feeling that this trickle down from this conference within the state is going to be very positive,” she said.

Liquor, drug-related police reports take a dive

By Chase Reavis
The Razorback Reporter

Reports of liquor- and drug-related arrests and violations decreased at the UofA between 2015 and 2016, according to the 2016 Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Report.
Law mandates that all universities and colleges that participate in federal financial aid programs release the Clery Report annually, which gathers statistics of crime, institutional policies, crime prevention, and sexual assault among other things, according to the UAPD website.
Most of the crimes reported in the Clery Report show that the UofA’s reported crime has remained consistent over the years, Capt. Gary Crain said. The three exceptions to that are liquor law arrests, burglary and motor vehicle theft.
Liquor law arrests increased significantly in the past few years, Crain said. This is because of the change in Arkansas law that allowed police to arrest anyone under 21 years old with alcohol in their body.
In 2012, police made 31 liquor law arrests. On average, the number of liquor law arrests climbed 76.4 percent per year since then, but then the numbers took a dip between 2015 and 2016 by 25.3 percent, from 154 to 115 arrests.
“Before the change, a person underage who was contacted by police was not arrested if there was no container on their person,” Crain said. “After the change, the aroma of an alcoholic beverage on the breath was enough to make the arrest.”
Liquor law violations referred to school officials for disciplinary action decreased by nearly 45 percent from 693 in 2015 to 384 in 2016 despite no known change in policy, Crain said.
Burglary reports dropped by about 18 percent from 2015 to 2016, dropping from 17 to 14 reports. In 2014, UAPD received 29 reports of burglary.
Crain said he owes this decrease to heightened security in residence halls, students becoming proactive in locking their doors and video surveillance installed throughout the university.
“Burglary was most often a crime of opportunity,” Crain said. “Doors were left unlocked and sometimes people took advantage. That does not happen as often anymore, and when it does, there is a good chance video surveillance leads to a suspect.”
Motor vehicle theft has trended upward over the past year, Crain said, but in 2016, there was an 18 percent decrease from 2015, dropping from 44 reports to 36.
An increase in motor scooters on campus explains that trend, Crain said.
There was a nearly 18 percent decrease in sex crimes reported to UAPD, dropping from nine to seven reports between 2015 and 2016, according to the report. In 2014, UAPD received five sex crime reports, showing an average increase over the three years of nearly 29 percent.
Rape is an underreported crime, Crain said in an email.
“Whether or not crimes occurred on campus and went unreported I cannot say for sure,” Crain said. “In the past, we have received reports of rape a year or longer after the crime occurred, so that’s an indicator that it could be underreported on campus as well.”
Reports of domestic violence to UAPD increased by 25 percent between 2015 and 2016, from 12 to 15 reports. In 2014, UAPD received seven reports of domestic violence, showing a trend of about 48 percent growth per year.

UA Bridges the Gap with Veterans

By Veronica Torres
The Razorback Reporter

The more than 1,300 students who have a military affiliation are working with UA officials to ease their college transition through outreach and assistance.
Erika Gamboa, director of the Veterans Resource and Information Center relates service members’ introduction to university life to that of students without military affiliation.
Many students without military affiliation seek help from counselors in high school and some learned through university tours and through their own experience.
Most students affiliated with the military, however, come from active duty, Gamboa said.
Senior James LaRocco came to the university after serving in the Army.
All students experience similar application hurdles, regardless of their military status; figuring out how to pay for school and enrolling in classes, for example.
There are generally two types of military affiliates, active duty and reserve.
Active duty refers to someone who is in the military 24/7 with a normal contract of four years, but some retire, Gamboa said.
LaRocco served on active duty for nine years and was deployed three times.
Students communicate with faculty so as to stay on track with school to not get behind, Gamboa said.
Sometimes professors have good communication sometimes they have not so good communication, Larocco said.
LaRocco is a physical education teacher intern and his professor has been helpful an open line of communication, he said.
In regard to paying for school, the university uses two GI Bills to help students, and the UofA is a yellow ribbon school.
“The Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program (Yellow Ribbon Program) is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that allows veterans to attend private schools and graduate programs costing more than the state tuition cap,” according to the New GI Bill website. “Under the program, participating colleges and universities must offer a veterans-only scholarship which the VA will then match up to the full cost of tuition and fees.”
Students also are eligible for financial aid from the university. Applicable students are given $1,000 from the university and the VA matches that to lower tuition cost by $2,000, Gamboa said.
The Veterans Resource and Information Center has multiple partnerships across campus and Fayetteville to help students in other ways.
The center works with Counseling and Psychology Services, the Center for Education Access and Veterans Affairs and mental health counselors outside of the university.
They have created different groups since the beginning in 2009, but have a student veterans’ Registered Student Organizations on campus. The RSO has a small turnout but is hoping to grow. The RSO has approximately 150 members with five active members, said senior Derrick Calhoun II, president of the group and a Marine veteran.
“We do have the support, not just from us but from different departments and different students, wanting to help students,” Gamboa said.