Meet Our Faculty
passionate scholars and change-makers
ATU’s emergency management and homeland security professors will exceed your highest expectations. Our diverse, respected, and accomplished faculty are outstanding educators and engage in research and scholarly work. As the cornerstone to your learning experience, our faculty excel at integrating real-life lessons and experience into teaching and academic leadership. The faculty stay well-informed through research and scholarship that advance their field and enhance the value of your ATU education.
Sandy Smith, RN; PhD
Sandy Maxwell Smith grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, the second of four daughters. She moved to Pansy, Arkansas following graduation from Duke University and her marriage to Roy. Living in rural Arkansas was a stark cultural shift for her.
Sandy graduated with a BS in Nursing from Duke University and worked in a small rural hospital before becoming a school nurse at Jenkins Memorial Center in Pine Bluff, AR. Although she had desired to pursue graduate education sooner, local options for doing so were not possible in the various small towns she lived in Arkansas. However, the chance opportunity to adjunct teach community health nursing in 1995 led Sandy to commute over 70 miles each way to UCA so that she could pursue a MSN. Her clinical specialization was community health; which she has found to be invaluable in her role as Professor of Emergency Management.
After 2 years full-time teaching nursing, Sandy began her pursuit of a PhD degree because she had discovered her niche as an instructor and wanted to hone her teaching skills by studying the art and science of nursing. Sandy earned her PhD in Nursing from Loyola University Chicago. Her dissertation, The Lived Experience of Doing the Right Thing: A Parse Method Study, was guided by the nurse theorist Dr. Rosemarie Rizzo Parse.
Sandy was a nursing instructor for ten years prior to joining Arkansas Tech University. Additionally, she was an Assistant Academic Coordinator at the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Sandy was tasked with the responsibility to design and vet all general education courses for the Arkansas Course Transfer System (ACTS). After ACTS launched in December 2006, Sandy was ready to return to the classroom as an instructor.
Prior to becoming the Department Head of Emergency Management in 2012, Sandy taught at ATU in the departments of nursing and emergency management as a visiting professor. She has been invigorated by teaching in this young discipline and finds joy in encouraging students and faculty. Her teaching specialties remain ethics, public health, and research.
Sandy has contributed to the field of emergency management by co-authoring the Next Generation Core Competencies for Emergency Management Professionals: Handbook of Behavioral Anchors and Key Actions for Measurements, leading the Ethics SIG, and serving as the Assessor Manager for the Council for the Accreditation of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Education. She volunteers extensively, notably as the Chair of the Quality Committee and member of the Board of Methodist-LeBonheur Healthcare System.
Sandy relaxes by baking (and is known for her holiday chocolate chip-pecan pies), watching basketball (particularly Duke University’s men’s and women’s teams), and reading books on ethical leadership.
Beth Gray, MBA JD
Beth Gray was born in Joplin, MO in St. John’s Regional Medical Center, which unfortunately became known as the hospital destroyed by the 2011 Joplin tornado. She grew up in Little Rock, AR then lived in Nashville, TN, several cities in CA, and Washington DC.
Beth has been involved in law and politics her entire life. She is now the resident “recovering attorney” in the Department of Emergency Management at ATU. She still loves law and politics, but now enjoys passing the torch to students to carry into the field as emergency management and homeland security professionals.
Before joining the ATU faculty, she was a Legislative Assistant in DC staffing her boss on the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. She was a law clerk for capital cases and worked as corporate in-house counsel.
She began her professional path in the private sector in California. Still years away from entering the field and discipline of EM, she nevertheless gained disaster experience while living in CA during both the 1989 Loma Prieta and 1994 Northridge earthquakes.
Beth earned her BA in Economics with an emphasis in Accounting at Hendrix College in AR and her MBA and JD concurrently at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
When challenged to create a mission statement in five words or less, without hesitating, Beth said, “We empower world-changers.” She believes her most meaningful contributions are teaching, mentoring, and empowering students, and bridging theory and practice. Every time one of her students achieves a major academic or professional goal, she is reminded of what matters most.
Since EM is team-oriented, Beth focuses her teaching and most of her scholarship on Team- Based Learning pedagogy. She has co-authored an article in a scholarly journal; contributed to a published EM professional handbook and an online EM/HS teaching workbook; made 15 EM/HS presentations at local, state, national, and international meetings; and served on 40 EM/HS thesis and practicum committees. Beth created 5 undergrad and 2 grad EM/HS courses and co- created the grad practicum research track with a comprehensive exam.
Beth’s hobbies demonstrate she’s a typical EM adrenaline-seeker. She loves to travel with her husband Paul. Her two favorite destinations thus far are Kenya where they made a crash landing in a hot air balloon and Antarctica where they were charged by a leopard seal after crossing the Drake Passage. She also loves riding mules whether it is on her dad’s mule farm, AR trails, or down Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington DC.
Jamie Stacy, PhD
Jamie Stacy was born and raised in Arkansas. Spending her early years living in West Helena, Jamie moved to Russellville in junior high. An only child, her parents met while attending Arkansas Tech University.
After completing both a bachelors and masters degree in Emergency Management, Jamie worked with numerous organizations on disaster exercise and planning practices. She began teaching at Arkansas Tech full time in 2009.
Jamie has always had a passion for leadership. Her leadership service began early through her participation in student government in both high school and college and continued into her professional career with Faculty Senate, where she is chair for 2020-2021 academic year. In 2012, she began a Ph.D. program in interdisciplinary leadership, completing her dissertation in 2015 on integrative leadership in higher education. Since that time, she has found numerous ways in which to incorporate leadership in both her teaching and service.
Jamie has served as the faculty advisor for several student organizations over the past 10 years and continues to encourage student involvement in the organizations as both members and leaders. Currently, Jamie serves on the National Board of Epsilon Pi Phi, Emergency Management Honor Society, where she is in charge of student membership. Jamie also serves as the co-chair for FEMA’s Higher Education Program’s Symposium planning special interest group.
In 2018, Jamie began working with University Honors students, and shortly thereafter became the Assistant Director of University Honors. In 2020, she took on the interim position of Director. Through this she has helped to develop future leaders, providing students with opportunities to volunteer with organizations such as the campus food pantry, the Green and Gold Cupboard, of which she is the chair of the board. As the chair, she is responsible for managing volunteers, donations, inventory, and records. Additionally, Jamie has served on several community and civic organizations.
Jamie has presented at local, state, and international conferences on a number of topics, including emergency management, teaching best practices, assessment, and leadership. Her research interests include leadership and crisis communication.
In her spare time, Jamie enjoys reading fiction; her favorite authors are James Rollans and Steve Berry. Jamie also enjoys hiking, hunting, and fishing with her husband, son, and daughter.
Rejina Manandhar, PhD
Rejina Manandhar is one of the three international faculty in the Department of Emergency Management at ATU. Born and raised in Nepal, she is proficient in four languages. Rejina graduated with a Bachelor’s in Architecture from Tribhuvan University, Nepal and has both private and public sector work experience as an architect in her home country. Her professional experience includes structural mitigation to earthquakes, housing design, land use planning, and urban development.
Rejina received her Master’s in City and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Arlington and then completed her Ph.D. in Public Administration and Management, with a specialization in Emergency Management, from the University of North Texas.
Additionally, she has over ten years of experience in teaching and research in the U.S Her teaching and research interests include emergency management, risk communication, disaster vulnerability, disaster return-entry, risk perception and protective action decision-making, and organizational behavior.
Rejina is committed to academic excellence and has served on several university committees. Currently, she is a member of the University Admissions, Academic Standards & Student Honors Committees, and the Online Learning Advisory Board at Tech. Rejina is also actively involved in her profession. She has reviewed numerous articles for 15 professional journals and has also served as a jury member on professional association award committees.
Rejina has conducted extensive research on many disasters such as the 2012 West Nile Outbreak, Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy, 2019 Arkansas River Floods, and hazardous transportation incidents in Arkansas. Her research has been published in professional journals such as International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, and Journal of Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy. Additionally, she has presented her research in several national and international conferences.
Rejina is the recipient of the 2018 Gilbert F. White Dissertation Award from the American Association of Geographers (AAG), Hazards Specialty Group. She also received Honorable Mention Award in 2015 from the American Society for Public Administration’s (ASPA) Section on Emergency and Crisis Management. Her current research focuses on risk perception and protective action adoption during the COVID-19 Pandemic. In her spare time, Rejina enjoys journaling, cooking, sewing, and spending time with her family.
Ekong J. Peters, PhD
Born in Nigeria, Ekong J. Peters migrated to the US and spent his adult life here. He is one of the three international faculty in the Department of Emergency Management at ATU.
Ekong has a wide breadth of professional experience in the public and private sectors: he has been an Economic Planner for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, a business analyst for the Greater Dallas Chamber, an Information Specialist for Lockheed Martin and a Planner for the City of Beaumont, Texas.
At the Greater Dallas Chamber, Ekong and his team aggressively recruited and attracted national and international organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, to the region. They organized the annual conference and luncheon to showcase the area’s business attractiveness, including features like Cowboys Stadium, Rangers Ballpark, American Airlines Center and the Baron Nelson annual golf tournament. They also highlighted DFW’s comprehensive transportation network, colleges, universities, hospitals, and medical centers. Through this and other experience, Ekong developed his extensive networks and interacted with development officials, planners, and researchers in public and private sectors; used GIS in incident analysis; and interacted with policy makers at state and local government levels.
Ekong received his Bachelor of Architecture from Prairie View A&M University in Texas. He went on to complete his Master of Urban Planning at Texas A&M and PhD in Public Administration with specialization in Emergency Management from the University of North Texas.
Ekong publishes in renowned emergency management and public administration professional journals. He does solo and group presentations at the annual FEMA-EMI higher education symposium. Ekong’s research interests are in disaster response, community preparedness, organizational response to extreme events, risk and vulnerability reduction, risk communication, business continuity, and social and economic impacts of disasters.
At Tech, Ekong is a member of the IRB committee reviewing applications for research projects. Ekong served as faculty advisor to Epsilon Pi Phi Emergency Management Academic Honor Society and is a 2020 ATU Graduate Symposium Competition Judge.
While you can often find Ekong in his office, mentoring students, you may meet him as an usher and greeter at Russellville First Assembly. In his spare time, Ekong likes cycling and going to the gym. He also enjoys soccer, golf, and football, but mostly as a spectator!
Bethany Swindell, DBA
Bethany Swindell was born and raised in Russellville with strong ties to ATU. Her grandfather started working at ATU in 1973 and a member of her family has been on campus, either work or attending school, ever since. As a National Merit Finalist, many colleges recruited Bethany; however, it was always Arkansas Tech. Bethany earned a B.S. in Emergency Administration Management from ATU in 2005.
Bethany began her career with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) in 2005 with the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program and coordinator of the Arkansas Continuity of Operations Program. Three months in, Hurricane Katrina made landfall and she was deployed to Louisiana as a Public Information Officer. At ADEM, she oversaw the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) and managed all resource requests for hurricane response. After a whirlwind eight months, she transferred to the Arkansas Department of Transportation as a Training and Safety Specialist, which actually meant emergency management coordinator, business continuity specialist, disaster recovery lead, safety officer for statewide maintenance crews, training specialist, ESF1 lead, and critical infrastructure protection program lead! Bethany has deployed to numerous state and federal disasters and worked side-by-side with community partners in the state EOC. She has been a private contractor for FEMA and Parsons Brinckerhoff conducting post-disaster building inspections.
After 12 years working in the field, Bethany completed a M.S. in Management and Leadership with a concentration in disaster management. She completed her Doctor of Business Administration in 2021, with a research emphasis in organizational resilience of critical infrastructure providers. Other research interests include Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and risk communication. Bethany actively presents at local, state, and regional conferences. Bethany thrives in helping to foster, guide, and support students, fellow EM professionals, and organizational leaders to reach a greater measure of success.
At ATU, Bethany is the Faculty Senate Secretary and is also the faculty advisor for Epsilon Pi Phi Honor Society for Emergency Management (EPP). She also serves on the university Scholarship Appeals and Academic Appeals Committees. Professionally, Bethany serves on the Arkansas Governor’s Earthquake Advisory Council, as a board member of the national EPP, and as the Program Coordinator for the Arkansas Infragard professional organization.
A firm believer in giving back to the community, she is actively involved in numerous community organizations and activities including the ATU Alumni Board, the local Boys and Girls Club Mistletoe Market Executive Board, the River Valley Food 4 Kids Executive Board, and as Past-President for Junior Auxiliary. She is currently serving on the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission. In her spare time, Bethany is an avid golfer and enjoys dog training and running a hobby farm with bee hives and quail. She also manages the social media account (@JuneandWaffles) of her famous animal children which have made multiple appearances on national and international TV shows.
Chris Sheach, MA
Chris Sheach is one of the three international faculty in the Department of Emergency Management at ATU. Born in Canada, Chris has spent more than half of his life living abroad, starting during high school, when he spent two years in a Kenyan boarding school.
Since then, he has travelled to 34 countries and lived in places as far flung as Indonesia, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Mozambique. Chris has over 15 years of humanitarian management experience and has worked in several combat zones and deployed in the aftermath of natural disasters including tsunami, volcanoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.
During his career, Chris has developed networks on every continent and specializes in multiagency coordinated relief and recovery programs, with an average of $2million in grant implementation each year. He has served on global committees and advisory panels for food security, emergency shelter, technology and clean energy. Along the way he has learned seven languages and picked up a love of soccer, exotic food and strong coffee.
Chris is a first-generation graduate with a BA in Intercultural Studies from Houghton College, NY. He received his MA in Disaster and Emergency Management from Royal Roads University in Canada while deployed to international disaster responses. In fact, he did group work from hotel rooms in Chad, Somalia and Nepal!
At Tech, Chris is the faculty advisor for the new Emergency Management Student Association. He has a phased approach to building its membership and reaching from university to community. Currently in phase two, the membership recruitment is geared toward EMHS students and phase three will target alumni of both DEM programs. This association has launched some amazing innovations, such as a peer mentoring program. He serves on several advisory committees at Tech and in the community, including as Board Secretary for Disaster Action Project, a non-profit based in Maryland.
Chris will present with Dr. Jeff Aulgur on November 11 to the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) regarding the impact of Covid-19 on international non-profits and the future of humanitarianism. He is planning a study abroad course in Guatemala for 2022, focused on disaster mitigation in rural communities. Currently, he is enrolled in the PhD program at Oklahoma State University for Fire and Emergency Management Administration, where his research interest are building resilience and community engagement for disaster mitigation.
In his spare time, Chris is a volunteer firefighter and enjoys coaching soccer and exploring the Natural State with his wife Laura and their Catahoula Leopard dog, Juniper or lounging with their two Ragdoll cats.