Overcoming Her Doubts

Tasha Heard As Tasha Heard faced her first 20-page research paper at UAFS, she had doubts about her ability to do it.


“I thought it was going to be terrible,” said the sophomore from Harrison, Ark. “I hadn’t written over eight or 10 pages. I didn’t have the confidence that I could do it.”


She does now.


For that paper in her speech communications class, she turned to a topic that had interested her since the fifth grade and had become her major: dental hygiene. She researched, interviewed other students and wrote a paper titled “Fear of Going to the Dentist and the Effect of Music on Those Fears,” which considers how concentrating on sounds other than dental equipment would decrease a patient’s anxiety.


“It is scary,” Heard said about how some people feel about going to the dentist. “You’re giving up control. You have to trust who’s working on you.”


After she turned in the paper, Susan Simkowski, assistant professor of media communication, encouraged Heard to submit it to the Southern States Communication Association’s 24th annual Theodore Clevenger Jr. Undergraduate Honors Conference, where it was accepted. Heard presented her paper in New Orleans in early April thanks to help from the UAFS Foundation’s Gordon Kelley Language Study Endowment, which paid for the trip.


Simkowski described Heard as an ideal student who strives for perfection in all of her work.


“She takes my instruction and builds on it,” she said. “As a professor, Tasha is a dream student.”


The experience of presenting her paper at a national conference bolstered Heard’s self-assurance.


“I had confidence in myself in science and math classes, but I didn’t in English and writing,” Heard said about the experience. “Knowing I can do this, actually write something that people like and respect, is really just honoring. I see myself in a new light; I know I can write.”


That’s just one door that Heard has had open for her since enrolling at UAFS. This fall she’ll step through another as part of the first dental hygiene class working toward a bachelor’s degree at the university. That would be the final step of a journey that began as an elementary student going to the dentist for teeth cleanings and checkups. Heard found her passion as she watched her dental hygienist work.


“She got to talk to people all day and it involved science,” Heard said. “All of the equipment she used was pretty cool.”


Her search for a dental hygiene program led her to UAFS, which she visited four times to be sure of her choice before enrolling.


“What sold me on the school were the grounds; it’s so pretty,” she said. “I liked the atmosphere. It was refreshing from other colleges. People were really friendly.”


The Honors International Studies Program Scholarship sealed her decision to enroll at UAFS. That scholarship, which pays about $33,000 during a four year span, along with other smaller scholarships have covered tuition, fees and housing.


“I wouldn’t be able to go to UAFS without the scholarships,” she said. “I’d be in Harrison going to a community college.”


And she doesn’t think she would be working toward becoming a dental hygienist, and for that she is thankful to the university and scholarship donors.


“Without them, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have the confidence in myself. I wouldn’t have the future.”