About

Arkansas Covid is managed by The University of Arkansas School of Journalism and Strategic Media. What began as a personal project for Misty Oprin, a journalist, small business owner, and mother of two, grew to a website and interactive Twitter page. As interest grew for daily updates, Misty partnered with Dr. Rob Wells, assistant professor in the journalism department. A growing workload led to a shift of management for the site. The School of Journalism and Strategic Media now allows students to gain experience reporting real-time data and news through the site. The school devotes a mix of graduate and undergraduate students to daily management of Arkansas Covid and Misty continues to provide analysis as needed.

The core goals for Arkansas Covid are:

  • Provide reliable, county-level Covid-19 data to help Arkansans make informed decisions for themselves and their families
  • Fact-check data being presented by state and other sources to ensure accuracy
  • Respond to reader questions seeking data-related information
  • Make information easy to access and easy to digest through clear visualizations
  • Uphold editorial standards of The Associated Press

Summer 2021 Team

Robert Stewart

Robert Stewart is a sophomore in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas. He is the sports editor of The Arkansas Traveler, where he previously covered soccer, baseball and club hockey as a reporter. He hopes to one day cover a professional baseball beat for a major newspaper. Outside of sports and journalism, he enjoys playing music with other people and watching Coen Brothers films.

Rachell Sanchez-Smith

Rachell Sanchez-Smith is sophomore undergraduate student at the University of Arkansas and serves as a reporter and translator for Arkansascovid.com. She is pursuing a double major in journalism and political science with a minor in legal studies. She served as an editor of the Mountie Spectrum for Rogers High School for nearly three years and worked to advance efforts of political involvement at her school. She is currently working with Facing South, a nonprofit online magazine, to report over working conditions for poultry workers in Northwest Arkansas. Following her 2024 graduation, Sanchez-Smith plans to attend law school and continue reporting when possible. When she is not studying or working, you can find her visiting with family and friends, going to coffee shops, or practicing foreign languages.

Caroline Sellers

Caroline Sellers is a senior at the University of Arkansas majoring in journalism with a concentration in news/editorial and minoring in African American studies. She plans to graduate in December of 2021.  

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Katie Beth Nichols

Katie Beth Nichols is a recent graduate from the University of Arkansas School of Journalism and Strategic Media and a summer reporter for ArkansasCovid.com. She received a degree in Journalism with dual emphases in News/Editorial and Advertising/Public Relations. During her time as an undergraduate, she participated in an investigative data journalism project examining student loan debt in Arkansas, served as a digital communications intern for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C. and spoke on a panel about student loan reporting at the 2019 Investigative Reporters and Editors CAR conference. She is attending law school at Saint Louis University in the fall and plans to use her combined legal knowledge and passion for journalism to advocate for the rights of journalists and news organizations.

Rob Wells

Rob Wells, Ph.D., is editor of Arkansascovid.com and Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas, where he teaches data journalism and is the school’s Graduate Coordinator. Wells has been teaching at the UofA since 2016 and taught at the University of Maryland and the University of South Carolina. He is the author of The Enforcers: How Little-Known Trade Reporters Exposed the Keating Five and Advanced Business Journalism (University of Illinois Press, 2019) and is working on a new book about the history of the Kiplinger Washington Letter and its pathbreaking coverage in the New Deal. Wells is married to Deborah C. St. Coeur and they like to ride around town on a tandem bicycle, play music, enjoy their jazz and blues records and spoil their dog, Timber.

Spring 2021 Data Journalism Team

Katy Seiter

Katy Seiter was Assistant Editor for Arkansascovid.com until June 2021. She is a graduate assistant in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas, pursing a MA in journalism. Seiter has done considerable coding on the Arkansascovid.com site. While pursuing her undergraduate degree in advertising and public relations, Seiter held several intern positions with various nonprofits. During the spring of 2020, she worked on a nationwide homeless project led by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, where she developed a passion for data and investigative journalism. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, listening to music and spending time with family and friends.

Mary Hennigan

Mary Hennigan was Assistant Editor for Arkansascovid.com until May 2021. She is an incoming graduate student at the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas. Originally from Wisconsin and then Missouri, Hennigan has found a love for all things adventure and journalism. During the summer of 2020, she worked on a nationwide evictions project with the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism where she covered Milwaukee’s evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hennigan plans to attend graduate school at the University of Arkansas following her May 2021 graduation. When she’s not reading numbers or reporting all day, she is probably climbing a mountain, listening to music or swimming at the base of a waterfall.   

Abby Zimmardi

Abby Zimmardi is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Arkansas pursuing a degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology. After being a news reporter for the Arkansas Traveler since 2018, Zimmardi is serving as the multimedia editor for the 2020-2021 school yearDuring the summer of 2020, she worked with the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism on a nationwide project where she covered evictions in Milwaukee during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following her May 2021 graduationZimmardi plans to earn a master’s degree in journalism through the University of Arkansas Graduate School. When she is not reporting, you can find Zimmardi at the nearest coffee shop, doing karaoke or hammocking by Old Main. 

Rachell Sanchez-Smith

Rachell Sanchez-Smith is freshman undergraduate student at the University of Arkansas and a translator for Arkansascovid.com. She is pursuing a double major in journalism and political science with a minor in legal studies. She served as an editor of the Mountie Spectrum for Rogers High School for nearly three years and worked to advance efforts of political involvement at her school. She is currently working with Facing South, a nonprofit online magazine, to report over working conditions for poultry workers in Northwest Arkansas. Following her 2024 graduation, Sanchez-Smith plans to attend law school and continue reporting when possible. When she is not studying or working, you can find her visiting with family and friends, going to coffee shops, or practicing foreign languages.

Grayson Green

My name is Grayson Green and I am a graduate student at The University of Arkansas studying journalism. My bachelor’s degree was in advertising and public relations and my master’s degree will be in strategic advertising and public relations. I currently work as a graduate assistant for The University of Arkansas working with the Media Law and Media and Society undergraduate courses. During my undergraduate career, I volunteered for the Lemke Journalism Project, was a student ambassador for the Center of Ethics in Journalism, and was a team leader for the Event Promotion and Execution course.  

Haley Hale

Haley Hale is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Arkansas pursuing degrees in political science and journalism (news/editorial sequence) with a minor in marketing. Haley produces the weekly video wrap-ups on Arkansascovid.com trends. She served as an intern for Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., in 2018. She plans to graduate in May 2021.   

Caroline Sellers

Caroline Sellers is a senior at the University of Arkansas majoring in journalism with a concentration in news/editorial and minoring in African American studies. She plans to graduate in December of 2021.  

Graham Smithson

Graham Smithson is a senior undergraduate student from Little Rock, Arkansas. He will graduate this May with a degree in agricultural communications and agricultural leadership. 

Ravi Brock

Ravi Brock is a sophomore in high school that is taking the Arkansascovid class concurrently with high school classes. He is interested in math, data, literature, and languages. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, riding his bike, and watching TV (current favorite shows are Peaky Blinders, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Sherlock).

Emma Dannenfelser

Emma Dannenfelser is a sophomore journalism student from Houston, Texas.  Emma plans on graduating from the University of Arkansas in May 2023.   

Robert Stewart

Robert Stewart is a sophomore in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas. He is the sports editor of The Arkansas Traveler, where he previously covered soccer, baseball and club hockey as a reporter. He hopes to one day cover a professional baseball beat for a major newspaper. Outside of sports and journalism, he enjoys playing music with other people and watching Coen Brothers films.

Contributors

Shane White

Shane White is a graduate student at the University of Arkansas pursuing his master’s degree in journalism with a concentration in documentary filmmaking. An award-winning director and cinematographer, Shane recently won a College Student Emmy Award for his 2019 documentary Homeless in Boomtown. Shane is the Video Production Graduate Assistant for UA Productions at the University of Arkansas and also serves as Director of Photography for the University’s Agriculture Department’s Experimental Learning Lab. Shane is currently in production on his thesis documentary film, which deals with changing concepts of body image within the fashion industry.

Gerald Jordan

Gerald Jordan, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, edits stories for Arkansascovid.com.

Jordan is a veteran journalist and educator who has been teaching at the U of A since 1995. He is a former Washington correspondent for the The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he also served as assigning editor. He has also worked for The Kansas City Star, and The Boston Globe. Among his other assignments have been features and sports, editorial writing and TV and radio critic. Jordan holds a B.A. in journalism, University of Arkansas, 1970; MSJ, Northwestern University, 1971. Nieman Fellow, Harvard, 1982.

Austin Wilkins

Austin Wilkins is a Data Services Specialist at the Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas. Wilkins holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science and is pursuing an M.A. in Statistics/Analytics with a focus on quantitative methods in social data analysis. He provides early programming support scale up Arkansascovid.com. He is currently working with the University of Arkansas Libraries to develop modern data services, assist researchers in text data mining, and perform internal collection analysis. Wells and Wilkins have collaborated on data analysis projects, including a major machine-driven analysis of news coverage of Chinese companies investing in the U.S. Wilkins is the bassist with the jazz-soul group Honey Collective and has performed widely throughout the South and Midwest.

Biomedical Engineering Students

Zharia Harris

Zharia Harris is a sophomore at the University of Arkansas majoring in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. Her interest in engineering began after providing care for ill family members and attending eStem High School, a charter school focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Working as an intern at the Administrative Offices of the Courts of Arkansas and the Central Arkansas Library System, she learned about the inequalities of minority communities in the medical field and data intuition. In the future, she plans to work as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and an advocate for improved medical care for minority communities. 

Gerson Fajardo

Gerson Fajardo is a sophomore pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering with a pre-medical focus. He plans to graduate in 2023 and pursue a career in medicine. In his free time, he enjoys volunteering, traveling, and learning about world languages and cultures.   

Abigail Rose

Abigail Rose is a senior at the University of Arkansas majoring in Biomedical Engineering and minoring in math. She grew up moving around the country as a military kid until she was sixteen. Experiencing the military healthcare system gave her a desire to eventually work with veterans after attending medical school. She is currently analyzing Arkansas nursing home data for ArkansasCovidWhen not studying, she enjoys reading and spending time with family and friends. 

Alex Han

Alexander Han is a sophomore at the University of Arkansas majoring in Biology with a minor in History. His shadowing at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary and at CARTI gave him the motivation needed to pursue a healthcare related career. He has also volunteered in the emergency room at the Veteran’s Health Care System of the Ozarks right in Fayetteville. Alexander hopes to graduate and work as oncologist or a physician’s assistant. While not searching for COVID data you can find him building Lego sets, playing video games with friends, and creating community servers on Discord. 

Fall 2020 Class

Obed Lamy

Obed Lamy is a Fulbright Scholar and a graduate journalism student at the University of Arkansas. With nearly five years of experience in journalism, his work has been published in different news outlets in my home country, Haiti, as well as international media in Canada and the United States. He also co-founded a multimedia platform named Enfo Sitwayen dedicated to civic education and practical information on the public process. As a first-time filmmaker, he created a short documentary, A Promising Voice, which was selected into three film festivals.

Kendal Heavner

Kendal Heavner is a University of Arkansas graduate student studying journalism. While pursuing her undergraduate degree in advertising and public relations, she worked as intern with 7hills Homeless Center to increase volunteer outreach and training. She also served as a board member for the University of Arkansas Volunteer Action Center where she managed a budget of $22,000 as well as coordinated monthly sessions for students and 32 nonprofits in the area. Here, she received the Presidential Service Award for the 2019-2020 school year. She currently works as a graduate assistant for the advertising and public relations department of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media. Kendal enjoys listening to podcasts, biking, and reading.  

Alexus Underwood

Alexus Underwood is a senior journalism student at the University of Arkansas, she is studying for a news/editorial focused degree.

Supporters

This group is a chapter of the national journalism organization that promotes the free flow of information to citizens. The Northwest Arkansas chapter provides ongoing professional training for journalists, legal advocacy related to the 1st Amendment and financial support for students pursuing journalism education in the region.

Established in 1987, The Walton Family Foundation works to improve K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans, and investing in the communities of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. By focusing on environmental and educational issues, the Walton Family Foundation creates long-term solutions to benefit future generations.

The Arkansas Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization that offers tools to help Arkansans protect, grow, and direct charitable dollars while learning about community needs. By working locally with a network of 29 affiliate offices, the Arkansas Community Foundation helps to fund development, community leadership, and service within the counties they serve.

Founded in 2019 in conjunction with the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas, Arkansas Soul provides high school and college students with real-world media experience. By generating content for diverse audiences, students gain experience in podcasting, opinion, and editorial story writing.

The University of Arkansas School of Journalism and Strategic Media (SJSM) ranks among the top fully accredited journalism schools in the country. With nearly 700 enrolled students, SJSM provides students opportunities to study broadcast and multimedia journalism as well as advertising and public relations. The school is host of Arkansascovid.com.

The Arkansas Nonprofit News Network works as an independent, nonpartisan news effort. Dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans, ANNN stories appear in publications across Arkansas and seek to fill the gap of sustained reporting on complicated issues in our state.

La Prensa Libre works as a news publisher in Northwest Arkansas. Publishing stories in both Spanish and English, the newspaper reaches an important group within our state. La Prensa Libre focuses both on Hispanic culture as well as local news and events.

DONATE TO ARKANSAS COVID

Donations will be used to offset travel expenses, hosting costs, and supplement intern stipend.