by Gabby Davis, Staff Writer
September 2, 2020
Smiling eyes peer over an assortment of colored masks. Hand sanitizer stations abound, bolted to walls on every corner. From desks spaced six feet apart to new seating arrangements in the cafeteria, it’s an understatement to say that Ouachita looks a bit different this semester.
Along with these changes, a coalition of students led by Ouachita President Dr. Ben Sells has set out to keep everyone on campus this fall.
“It is 100 days from the first day of class to the Tuesday of Thanksgiving,” Sells said, “and it is my hope to be on campus that whole time so that each student can achieve their own goals.”
In preparation for the semester, faculty and staff spent months coming up with ways to give students a safe and enjoyable on-campus experience. During that time, Sells conceived the President’s Leadership Circle: a band of student leaders unlike that of any other school.
“So much of what works well at Ouachita works because of student leadership,” Sells said. “As a result, to increase the odds of being on campus the whole semester, I knew it would take the effort of every student, but that it might also take some additional effort by a student leadership group.”
The President’s Leadership Circle includes about 170 sophomores, juniors and seniors who are dedicated to helping their fellow Tigers follow COVID guidelines and stay on campus. They do not serve as a regulatory body, however. Instead, they do three tasks: lead by example, encourage other students and advise faculty and staff on best practices.
“When it came to advice, I knew we were doing so many new things this semester, and we put so much effort into planning, that some things would work well, some things wouldn’t work as well, and then things would come up,” Sells said. “And we needed kind of a rapid way for students to tell us, ‘this is working’ or ‘this isn’t working.’ And so, rather than trying to do an ongoing survey of all 1,500 students, this group of about 170 students is giving me and others advice.”
For students in the President’s Leadership Circle, service and safety take top priority. They want to encourage the other students around them during these uncertain times.
“I wanted to be part of the people that get to make a difference and just make our campus safer and allow us to be on campus,” sophomore nursing major Reyna Cabrera said.
For Cabrera and others like her, “making a difference” simply means following mask wearing, hand washing and physical distancing protocols. However, in a place as connected as Ouachita, those small actions mean so much more.
“I hope that we just help the semester run smoothly and that we can be good examples to everyone because I know that not everyone has a positive attitude about everything going on right now,” junior physics and math major Alyssa Price said.
Each day, Sells sends members of the Circle an update and some words of encouragement. He wants to both bolster their leadership efforts and assist them in their personal development.
“I’m hoping that students on the President’s Leadership Circle further develop their own leadership as a result of being involved,” Sells said.
While the President’s Leadership Circle is limited to upperclassmen, it is not exclusive, and Sells encourages any students who wish to be involved to contact him.