Spirit of SouthArk: Busi­ness in­struc­tor in­spires stu­dents through PBL

Hen­dricks: ‘I want to make a dif­fer­ence’

El Dorado News-Times - - Living - By Brit­tany Wil­liams Staff Writer

Donna Hen­dricks’ decades­long ded­i­ca­tion to teach­ing stu­dents busi­ness savvy and com­puter skills is why South Arkansas Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s chap­ter of Phi Beta Lambda brings home state and national awards.

Her jour­ney to­ward awards and ac­claim, how­ever, wasn’t an easy one. The in­struc­tor dropped out of school in the 10th grade to be­come a stay-at-home wife and mother. Af­ter later tak­ing the GED test, she de­cided to take classes at South­ern Arkansas Uni­ver­sity-El Do­rado Branch, a pre­de­ces­sor to SouthArk.

She started with just two classes, English Com­po­si­tion I and In­tro­duc­tion to Psy­chol­ogy, be­fore tak­ing a year-long break. Once her chil­dren were schoolaged, Har­vey Post of­fered her a job as a sec­re­tary in 1979 and she took classes dur­ing her lunch break, Hen­dricks said.

The stu­dent was asked to take on the job full time in Jan­uary 1980, and earned an as­so­ciate’s of ap­plied science de­gree from SAU-El Do­rado in 1986, and con­tin­ued to work as a sec­re­tary be­fore mov­ing up to a pub­lic­ity and stu­dent re­cruit­ment spe­cial­ist po­si­tion two years later.

“I vis­ited the schools and I loved the stu­dents,” she said. “The thing I like here is that you can make a dif­fer­ence in so many peo­ple’s lives be­cause I came to school not know­ing a lot of things about col­lege. I could re­ally re­late, es­pe­cially to our non­tra­di­tional stu­dents so when they came into the of­fice I could see my­self do­ing that. I prob­a­bly gave them more in­for­ma­tion than they had come in there for.”

She said Ben Whit­field, who was the school’s pres­i­dent at the time, a “very eth­i­cal man,” en­cour­aged her to fur­ther her ed­u­ca­tion at South­ern Arkansas Uni­ver­sity in 1989.

“He’d tell me, ‘It’s time to get se­ri­ous about your ed­u­ca­tion … We’re go­ing to send you to school to get a de­gree in in­for­ma­tion man­age­ment.’ So I went to school in Mag­no­lia and any time I wasn’t in class up there, I was here work­ing,” she said.

At SAU, she be­gan her in­volve­ment in Phi Beta Lambda (PBL), she said. PBL, which boasts of be­ing “the largest col­le­giate busi­ness stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion in the world,” is an off­shoot of Fu­ture Busi­ness Lead­ers of Amer­ica that grooms stu­dents through de­vel­op­ment train­ing, work­shops and com­pe­ti­tions test­ing their busi­ness, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ca­reer readi­ness skills.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing two years later, she fin­ished her ten­ure as a re­cruit­ment spe­cial­ist and started teach­ing at SouthArk in 1992. A year later, she started her grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion at Louisiana Tech Uni­ver­sity, where she earned a mas­ter’s in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion de­gree in quan­ti­ta­tive anal­y­sis in 1996, ac­cord­ing to her LinkedIn ac­count.

Hen­dricks has taught at SouthArk since the in­sti­tu­tion’s in­cep­tion and into her 25th year, she said that she loves teach­ing al­most as much as ad­vis­ing. The in­struc­tor re­ceived the 2017 Spirit of SouthArk award dur­ing spring com­mence­ment for her in­volve­ment with the col­lege.

“The school has been very good to me and my chil­dren. My chil­dren both grew here and grad­u­ated from here be­fore they trans­ferred … I love my job. I want to make a dif­fer­ence,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of great stu­dents here. So­nia Barker in­tro­duced me to her fam­ily the other night and she said, ‘Oh, mother. I want you to meet Mrs. Hen­dricks. She’s the one that told me I had to ap­ply for that schol­ar­ship when­ever I was get­ting ready to trans­fer. Her mother said, ‘So­nia may have not ap­pre­ci­ated that back then, but her dad and I re­ally did'.”

The PBL chap­ter’s suc­cess is ev­i­dent in the col­lege’s Com­puter Tech­nol­ogy Build­ing where a plethora of awards sit in glass cases and the in­struc­tor’s quaint sec­ond-floor of­fice. Hen­dricks has been awarded a PBL Out­stand­ing In­struc­tor award three times, she said.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion gives stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to travel to state com­pe­ti­tions in Lit­tle Rock and national com­pe­ti­tions in cities like At­lanta, Dal­las and re­cently, Ana­heim, Cal­i­for­nia. She said she’s prob­a­bly had the most pos­i­tive im­pact on stu­dents as a PBL ad­viser than in any other role.

“If you can ever get them to com­pete the first time, they’re hooked. On the way home from na­tion­als, they’re al­ways talk­ing about ‘OK, this is what I want to com­pete in next year. I want to do this, this and this,” she said. One young man, two of the teach­ers said, ‘He’s a foot taller now. He al­ways kind of slumped over in class and he never made eye con­tact. Now he’s stand­ing up, hold­ing his head up and an­swer­ing ques­tions in class.’ It’s be­cause he placed in the top five at state and thinks ‘Wow. I can do this.'”

Hen­dricks said that she works to im­ple­ment com­mu­nity ser­vice in the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Sev­eral years ago, PBL pur­chased and helped in­stall play­ground equip­ment and book­shelves at Turn­ing Point, a shel­ter for vic­tims of domestic abuse. Last year’s com­mu­nity ser­vice project was the col­lege’s ca­reer closet, a place sta­tioned in Edie’s Vil­lage where stu­dents can re­ceive free busi­ness at­tire for ca­reer fairs and job in­ter­views, she said.

“Two of the stu­dents made a pre­sen­ta­tion at state and then at na­tion­als on the ca­reer closet (about) how we did it, how we mar­keted it and how we worked with the com­mu­nity pro­fes­sional PBL mem­bers and the school it­self and pro­vided busi­ness at­tire. They won first place in the national and we’re com­pet­ing with uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges all over the United States and Puerto Rico. A lot of four-year schools were in that com­pe­ti­tion,” Hen­dricks said.

PBL’s up­com­ing project is a lec­ture se­ries in Oc­to­ber to spread aware­ness dur­ing Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Month. Arkansas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Les­lie Rut­ledge has been tapped for a lunchtime speech and the or­ga­ni­za­tion plans to have a panel dis­cus­sion for high school stu­dents that de­tails jobs in cy­ber se­cu­rity as well as the im­pact so­cial me­dia has on em­ploy­ment.

Con­trib­uted photo

Award: Busi­ness/Com­puter In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems in­struc­tor Donna Hen­dricks, right, ac­cepts the 2017 Spirit of SouthArk Award from South Arkansas Com­mu­nity Col­lege pres­i­dent Bar­bara Jones dur­ing Spring Com­mence­ment cer­e­monies in May.

Con­trib­uted photo

Lec­ture: Donna Hen­dricks speaks at a gath­er­ing of the South Arkansas Ad­min­is­tra­tive Pro­fes­sion­als.

Con­trib­uted photo

Learn­ing: Donna Hen­dricks, left, as­sists a stu­dent in class in 2009.

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