Articles by Shelby Dias

Name: Shelby Dias
Role at Harding: Director of News Services
Hometown: Ashville, Ohio
At Harding since: August 2011 (as student)
Family: Husband, Thomas
First job: Cashier and server at an ice cream shop
Hobbies: Reading, writing and yoga
Favorite Bible character: Esther
Contact her at:

PokestopThere are a surprising number of people wandering the campus in July. Is it because of Honors Symposium? Maybe summer session? Or is it Pokémon Go? My experience suggests the latter as an explanation for the increased foot traffic on campus these last few days.

I’ve been hooked since downloading Pokémon Go on Thursday, and campus has turned out to be one of the best places to play for a few reasons.

From dorms and academic buildings to Uncle Bud and the McInteer Fountain, there are Poké Stops everywhere. When playing on campus, you won’t have to miss catching a Snorlax by the Student Center clock because you ran out of Poké balls. When you get tired of trekking all over campus, set a lure at the Poké Stop right next to your dorm and reap the rewards without leaving your room.

With five Pokémon gyms on campus, there are plenty of places Abrato stake a claim for your team. Over the past few days, I’ve seen all of them shift to blue, red, yellow and back again. Now that it’s a Pokémon gym, people may finally know where to find the Lee Building!

My favorite part of Pokémon on campus is the sort of community that it has formed. Wherever you are playing Pokémon Go, you have likely experienced this same sort of kinsmanship with other trainers. There’s some kind of affirmation when you all show up at the same hot spot (between Cone Hall and Harbin Hall), when you draw a crowd of 50 to a cluster of lures by the Lily Pond, or when you wander past a stranger and he knows exactly what you’re looking for — “Eevee is just around that corner.”

There are plenty of other Searcy locations for Pokémon trainers like the courthouse square or Berryhill Park, but none are quite as vast as Harding’s campus. Some are saying that the novelty of the game will have worn off by the time students arrive for the fall semester, but I disagree. Truly, playing on campus is a sort of novelty in itself. And as for the dedicated trainers, it may be well into the school year before we catch them all.

Shelby Dias, director of news services

BobBarnettWhen dealing with wild animals or strays in Searcy, you can call animal control. But when those animals wander onto Harding’s campus, we call physical resources – specifically Bob Barnett.

In his time at the University, Barnett has encountered a variety of animals. He has trapped and released cats, opossums, foxes, skunks and many, many raccoons.

“I get all the weirdo stuff,” Barnett said. “I began dealing with raccoons a few years ago. As civilization has expanded, we’ve driven raccoons out of the woods and into the cities where they make an easy living eating garbage. They are bad to get in your house, and they are bad to get into places where they aren’t supposed to be because they can do tremendous damage.”

Barnett has caught 48 raccoons to date. Many find food and shelter by the trash compactor near the physical resources yard where all campus garbage is taken. At one point in time, Barnett said he would trap one to two a week at that location.

According to Barnett, it was only a matter of time before raccoons found their way into some old campus buildings. Repairs were made to a hole in the outside wall of the American Studies Building’s machine room but not before Barnett trapped two adult raccoons inside. Barnett knows that “a pair means a family,” and he was later called back to trap three more in the building’s ceiling.

“I caught one in there recently that was the scariest critter that I had to deal with,” Barnett said. “I had to pick the trap up, turn it up on its end to lower it down through the ceiling grid. I had to get it out with him snarling and growling and snatching at me through the trap. They make a fearsome noise when they’re angry and you’re in their face.”

Barnett said the trap angered the raccoon so much that the animal clawed two holes in the tiles and tore away a 3-foot section of insulation from a water pipe before being removed from the ceiling.

But no matter how feisty they behave in the trap, Barnett says he releases all the captured animals at a location off campus.

“I just don’t have the heart to kill any of them,” Barnett said.

Shelby Dias, director of news services

Name: Carlie Tacker
Classification: Junior
Major: Graphic Design
Hometown: Searcy, AR
Studying at: Art and Design International — Italy, Spain, France, and England

HU: What is your current location?
CT: London, England

HU: What has been the most interesting thing that has happened on your journey so far?
CT: I saw a bullfight in Madrid.

HU: How many pictures do you think you’ve taken as of now?
CT: I’ve filled two memory cards & took up most of the storage on my phone.

HU: What is your favorite photo you’ve taken so far?carlietacker1

CT: It’s from my phone because I haven’t uploaded or edited any off of my camera… It is looking into the courtyard of the Lourve in Paris right before sunset. I love the sun flare. The lighting makes it look almost magical.

HU: What is the most delicious thing you’ve eaten so far?
CT: I love tiramisu!

HU: What has this experience studying abroad taught you?
CT: I’ve learned to go with the flow. That’s been a little hard for me because I like to be in control. In a different country, it’s difficult. I find myself not knowing what’s happening or what’s coming next, but I’ve ended up having the most fun when I’m willing to just sit back and let things happen.

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Mother's Day 2016Do you have any hobbies? “Well, I have a 13-year-old.”

While interviewing Lora Fleener, manager of student support and communication, for the upcoming issue of Harding magazine, I discovered several things for which she is passionate. After talking about her teenage daughter, I found one of those passions is for adoption.

“I love to talk about it,” Fleener said. “I love to talk about adoption because I feel like it’s an important thing. This is something dear to my heart.”

Fleener grew up with two adopted siblings in a home often filled with foster children. She always assumed she would one day get married, have kids and adopt. Time went on. As she remained single, she doubted whether she would be able to adopt until accompanying a friend adopting two daughters from Vietnam.

first look“When I saw them there, I thought to myself ‘I have got to do that,’” Fleener said. “I really think that the Lord put that on my heart. When we got back, I prayed about it for almost a year. I asked my family if I was crazy for doing it. But a year later I applied, and they were very supportive.”

The adoption took more than two years.

“International adoption is not for the wimpy,” Fleener said. “It takes a lot of paperwork and gut-wrenching decisions. During the process, Vietnam was closing its doors to adoption. I wasn’t sure that I would get a baby even though I had been waiting for two years. Then I found out about Lydia the day before Thanksgiving.”

On Jan. 22, 2003, Fleener’s adoption of 3-month-old Lydia was official. Like many others, Fleener spoke about how being a parent has shaped her life.

“I firmly believe that God put her with me specifically,” Fleener said. “You do a lot of praying when you have a teenager, when you have a child, and when you’re a single parent. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it’s so much harder than I expected it to be. She makes me a better person because I want to be a better person for her, to give her an example, and to encourage her to be a woman of God.”

Look for more about Fleener and her role at the University in the fall issue of Harding magazine.


Shelby Dias, director of news services


Jody VenkatesanThis week the University hosted nearly 200 high school delegates at the 60th annual National Leadership Forum. The event featured several lectures regarding topics such as leadership, attitude, economy, and issues related to environment and agriculture.

Among the speakers was Jody Venkatesan, a 1996 Harding alumnus. Venkatesan, owner of a professional consulting firm, spoke to students about the American economy and its opportunities for entrepreneurship.

“You don’t find a sense of entrepreneurship like you do in Silicon Valley anywhere else,” Venkatesan said in his presentation Tuesday morning.

Venkatesan spoke about how his early career experiences in internal and external auditing provided him with knowledge to develop his own company. He shared concrete steps to take when starting a business, such as incorporating and obtaining a tax ID. For many students, this was the first time someone had detailed how to go about being an entrepreneur.

“We ought to be teaching young people to become entrepreneurs, not telling them that they can’t,” Venkatesan said in his presentation. “You learn by going out and doing things, not by doing nothing.”

Venkatesan delved into several economic topics during his presentation, touching on national debt, national budget deficit, free market and the global economy. The basic overview aimed to inform students of where their ideas might fit in the broader picture of the nation’s economy.

In closing, Venkatesan shared student ideas for products, services or businesses. He said there is value in ideas, especially ones that improve upon existing processes. He encouraged them not to undersell themselves and to pursue their ideas.

“Economic growth is constantly being driven by innovation, research and development,” Venkatesan said. “It will continue to be driven by this generation of innovators.”

Shelby Dias, director of news services



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

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


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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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