If you don’t have a plan right now – that’s OK. If you don’t have a job right now – that’s OK. These are some of the words of encouragement I would have liked to hear at my graduation. What I would tell myself about life after graduation is that the path you intend to take may not be the path you find yourself on. And that is OK.

When graduation came, I celebrated the completion of school forever, and I eagerly looked toward my future career. Interestingly enough, I ended up in graduate school for a year. During that time, I became a babysitter and a barista but not exactly the professional woman I imagined myself to be at 22.

Many of my friends found themselves on equally unexpected paths. Whether it was a nine-month job search, an awful first job experience, or a job just to pay the bills, we found that the road from college to career is sometimes a bumpy one, and it looks a little different for all of us. I think that is a good thing because those experiences are good for growth.

I feel like advice to embrace the unknown can be tough to swallow as a graduate, so I’ll avoid saying that. But I think it is important to note that you can’t list out the future experiences that will change your life. The unexpected path on which you find yourself could likely lead to those experiences. So maybe try to steer into the skid a little rather than panicking when things don’t go how you are expecting them to go.

Shelby Dias, director of news services


When I graduated high school, I saw my life mapped out in milestones, the life events that would mark my growth and that plotted my path to adulthood. Life was a lot of “when I finally do this, then I will be an adult.” In many ways “adult” was code for “having it all together.”

When I graduate college, then I will be an adult, I thought. Even though I had gotten married in college, another one of those things I thought would magically make me an adult, I really felt that the biggest marker of adulthood was a diploma. As I stood in line waiting to go into the Ganus Athletic Center, I didn’t feel like an adult, though. I didn’t feel like I had it all together. I didn’t have a job lined up, I wasn’t moving to a new city, and I didn’t know where I was headed. But even with a job, I still felt like I wasn’t quite there yet.

I keep moving through the milestones — house, car, one kid, two kids, turning 30 — and still sit here feeling very unadult, very much like I don’t have it all together. And that is what I would tell post-grad Jennifer: “Having it all together” is a myth. Being an adult isn’t a ruler made up of milestones you measure yourself by and then, one day, you reach the adult line.

Seniors Rachel Brackins and Zach Hailey of The Bison newspaper staff recently posed this same question to the class of 2016: Do you feel like an adult? University professors, deans and even the president spoke about the millennial generation and gave their views on this graduating class.

Associate Professor of Education Steve Warren says in the video that “failure is most certainly a requisite to anything of value.” It is not success that defines you but the trying that defines and matures you. I’m not trying to have it all now but instead trying to give it my all. And that has made quite a difference.

Jennifer Hannigan, copy editor/writer


The spring 2016 Harding magazine is coming to a mailbox near you in just a few short weeks. The “Your Words” section features our readers’ answers to the question “What is the one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself about life after graduation?” Spring commencement is coming up this Saturday, and Harding magazine staff will be sharing responses to that question throughout the week.

The last chapel of the spring 2015-16 school year was Friday, April 29. A tradition for the last chapel of the school year, graduating seniors came up to the front of the auditorium as fellow students sang “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” This is always a moving moment for me to witness, but that wasn’t what I will take away from this year’s chapel.

If I could go back and tell myself one thing about life after graduation, I would say, “Hannah, no matter what you think and how you feel, you’re ready to go.” When I was a senior in my last semester, I worried that I hadn’t been paying enough attention in classes to succeed in my career. I dreaded doing life without my dearest friends nearby. I wondered if I had worked enough, studied enough and learned enough to be ready.

So much of post-grad life is unknown. Where will you live? What will you do? Who will you do it with? And the big question in my mind was, “Am I ready?” The answer is yes! Harding gave me teachers, friends, and unforgettable experiences that contributed to the person I am today. I didn’t doubt Harding — I doubted myself. Chancellor Emeritus Clifton Ganus provided students with words of confidence and assurance in Friday’s chapel.

“You have been able to sit at the feet of great teachers who love God and who love you, and that’s the best kind of teacher you can get,” Ganus said. “You’ve been blessed by a multitude of students and friends. You’ve had a good education. You’ve been strengthened and stretched. You’ve had experiences that have helped you grow and develop. You’re ready to go, and we’re ready for you to go because you accomplished that for which you came.”

Hannah Owens, director of digital media

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Editor-in-Chief Maeghen Carter dedicates the 2015-16 Petit Jean to Dr. Allen Henderson.

Editor-in-Chief Maeghen Carter dedicates the 2015-16 Petit Jean to Dr. Allen Henderson.

“Few would say we are the same as we were the day we walked on campus,” Petit Jean Editor-in-Chief Maeghen Carter said as she began her introductory speech for this year’s yearbook. “Through the years, yes, we change, but even in our day-to-day lives and roles, we change.”

Carter explained that despite the different hats we wear and roles we fill, we are ourselves at the core. Seeking to utilize this idea in the 2015-16 yearbook, Carter selected the theme “Multitudes” from an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.”

“Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

I am large, I contain multitudes.”

From the array of experiences that make up Harding, a person may choose one or several paths. There are many facets to an individual, and this year’s Petit Jean aims to capture as many as possible by showcasing students in various categories such as social clubs, organizations, academics, athletics, people, international, leadership and campus life.

If you have the chance to pick up the book, I highly suggest you do. Inside you will find stories detailing Harding University in Latin America’s Amazon expedition, the first social club merger in University history, a student serving as a volunteer firefighter, a profile of the Charles White Dining Hall head chef, and so much more.

In chapel today, Dr. McLarty described the Petit Jean as crucial to our university history. It captures our year and our thinking today and preserves it for the future. In the light of this year’s theme, this idea really hits home. Fifty years from now we will not be the same as we are today, but the Petit Jean will be there to remind us — to remind us of who we are and who we were and of the multitudes within ourselves.

Shelby Dias, director of news services


12-10-2015-8452-500x634It’s dead week. If you’re a freshman, you might be coming to the realization that your first year of college is about to end and trying to spend all the time you can with your friends in between studying before summer starts.

If you’re a sophomore, you might be counting the giant tasks that stand in your way of a school-free summer.

If you’re a junior, you’re probably wondering where the time went now that you have only one year left to do everything you need to do to graduate.

And if you’re a senior, you might be counting down the days until you’re no longer a student and you finally enter the world as a young professional. Oh, and now you have to figure out what to do and where to go with your life.

Needless to say, this time of the semester brings on a lot of stress for the campus community, and a few areas of campus are catering to the need for stress relief. This week, the Campus Activities Board is hosting their fourth annual anti-stress fest in the Student Center pit from 9-10:30 p.m., which includes prizes, free coffee, snacks and karaoke for students.

“I wanted to provide a time of relief from studying and the stress that accompanies the end of the year,” Director of Campus Life Logan Light said. “I wanted it to be a time to recharge and gear up for more studying.”

The Brackett Library is also hosting their second stress reduction week. The library has set up areas for students to work on puzzles and color, and students can interact with therapy dogs today and Thursday. A 30-minute campus walk will be held on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. to encourage students to get up and exercise while enjoying the beautiful spring campus.

The library’s first stress reduction week was last semester before finals week, and the event was created to give students an outlet to relax in the most stressful time of the semester.

“We hope that providing some small breaks from the usual routine of classes and studying will allow the students to focus and find new energy at the end of the semester,” student success librarian Lisa Fuller said. “Students, faculty and staff who have participated have voiced their appreciation over all of the activities. We hope these small activities help them deal with the stress of dead week and finals.”

Hannah Owens, director of digital media

Savannah Rackley presents her senior speech on Friday, April 15.

Savannah Rackley presents her senior speech on Friday, April 15.

Because graduation is growing steadily nearer, 22 days if you were wondering, we heard senior speeches in chapel all week. I love senior speeches. Each one is different, but they each speak to a shared experience at the University we love.

Mostly the speaker will reminisce, thank various faculty members who acted as mentor or friend, or leave a call to action for underclassmen. These are usually gentle reminders to seize the day. Stay up late talking with suitemates. Get up early on a snow day to enjoy before it melts. Hike Pinnacle or visit the Zonkey. Say yes to opportunities like social clubs or international programs. Say yes to building relationships.

If I were giving a senior speech, I think I would also include a call to action for my fellow graduates. I would encourage them to take a minute in the rush to May 7 and embrace some of the everyday things about Harding that you don’t know you will miss. Have a big group dinner with all your friends. Go to a home devotional. Spend sunny days on the front lawn. Sing in chapel. The last few weeks can be busy and stressful, but take a minute to savor the college days that you won’t have again.

Shelby Dias, director of news services

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IMG_1270In 2006, I had the privilege of being on the first Bisons for Christ planning committee. Admittedly, the first thing about the invitation to join that piqued my interest was the line that read, “Lunch will be provided,” but as each weekly meeting came around, I become more invested in what we were working to accomplish through this day of service. The committee, made up of students, faculty and staff, was organized by Vice President for Parent and Alumni Relations Liz Howell and College Church of Christ’s college and outreach minister Todd Gentry in an effort to revitalize an already existing day of service.

One thing that I feel the University does so well is providing areas for students to have their voices heard, and I saw that firsthand in this committee. Liz and Todd wanted to hear from us about service projects we were excited about and how to get our peers excited, too. They helped us execute our big ideas and supported us in whatever ways we needed.

Now in its 10th year, I’m proud to see that Bisons for Christ continues to be one of the biggest single days of service, aiding the Searcy community in a number of ways.

Yesterday, the Mitchell Center launched a mobile app for community service, and according to the numbers shown, there were more than 70 events with nearly 260 volunteers logging a total of 418 hours of service. And that was just what was recorded in the app! Those volunteers showed Christ’s love through pulling weeds and delivering boxed lunches and hosting sports camps. Their hands were dirty, but their hearts were full, and those whom they served got to see for themselves how Harding lives out its community of mission.

I’m so proud to see how Bisons for Christ has grown!

Jennifer Hannigan, copy editor/writer

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Bessie Mae and Joe PryorShe was the epitome of grace, style, warmth and hospitality.

She also was one of the sweetest and kindest Christian ladies I have ever had the privilege of knowing. You could see Christ’s presence permeating her life.

She was Bessie Mae Ledbetter Pryor, whose funeral is today. She was 92.

Her late husband, Dr. Joe Pryor, was the longtime academic dean and yearbook adviser at Harding, and I was one of the yearbook kids who was invited into the Pryor home each fall for a delicious meal to kick off the year. My senior year I edited the Petit Jean, and the Pryor’s youngest daughter, Susan, was editing the Academy section, which was still included in the college book then. We soon became good friends and share laughs over that year to this day.

One Friday afternoon near deadline time, staffers were bemoaning our normal cafeteria fare for the evening meal. Our groans did not fall on deaf ears as Susan quickly made a call home, and we were soon the Pryor’s guests eating one of those delicious home-cooked meals Bessie Mae was known for in the Pryor’s home located next to the Student Center. We were made to feel like welcome guests, rather than a group of kids who had basically invited ourselves over for dinner!

It is just one example of the many ways Bessie Mae served us and so many other students. A 40-year sponsor of Regina social club, many girls felt her loving care in their lives as did the boys of TNT social club, which Dr. Joe sponsored.

She and Dr. Joe were the couple I most admired as a student. Those of us who experienced it will never forget their love and dedication to the students of Harding.

Our hearts go out to her daughters, Beverly Jo and Susan, and her granddaughter, current Harding student Audrey Hodges. Heaven is definitely a little nicer now.

Tom Buterbaugh, editor/designer


I really love taking photos of the campus as it blooms out in the spring. Several years ago we started using the hashtag #springatharding so we could see all the beautiful photos that people take of the campus. I hope you enjoy these photos that I took last week.04-01-2016-9106 03-28-2016-7257 03-28-2016-7357 03-28-2016-7392 03-28-2016-7411 03-28-2016-7521 04-01-2016-903904-01-2016-9052

Jeff Montgomery/photographer


ShelbyDiasAs my mother will attest, I have always been a planner. Whether it be small scale to-do lists or elaborate musings of my future life, I have been working toward an evolving set of defined goals as long as I can remember. Of course, for someone as practical and type A as this, the unknown and unplanned are things to be avoided as much as possible.

Over the years I’ve encountered many verses painting God as the ultimate planner and offering a reminder that I am not as in control as I like to think. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). Although ideas such as these have been present in my mind for many years, it was only in the last 10 months, in a particular season of jilted plans and personal unknowns, that I was truly able to take the lesson to heart.

Originally from Ashville, Ohio, I found Harding through some alumni at my church and submitted my application immediately after my first visit for Spring Sing. I landed in the department of communication and graduated in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in public relations.

Approaching graduation, I was growing increasingly uneasy about my future. I had been fruitlessly job hunting for several weeks. The opportunity to pursue my MBA presented itself, and I was at first reluctant to take it because I had determined that a full-time job was the only appropriate step for me post degree. I had sometime previously decided that further education was not necessary or desirable to me. However, after encouragement from my parents and some faculty, I reconsidered and began master’s courses full time immediately after graduating. A couple months went by, and I took a couple part-time jobs. I felt I was biding my time until my next graduation when I could then pursue plans of a new city and a grown-up job.

By December 2015, I was looking toward the spring and seeking jobs out of state. The moment I found myself thinking long term, I was brought back to reality. For reasons we hadn’t expected, my husband discovered he wouldn’t be able to complete his degree in his original timeline. I was devastated. Nothing was panning out the way I had intended.

Looking back now, it is a little more obvious to me that God was at work and that his timing is infinitely better than mine. After almost a year of curveballs and uncertainty, I find myself about to finish my master’s degree and working a job that I had previously considered as an opportunity that was too good to be true. It’s not the way I planned it. It’s so much better.

Shelby Dias, director of news services



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