State lawmaker says UALR billboard highlighting dance major 'not OK'; former Miss America disagrees

Posted: February 7, 2018 at 11:29 a.m.
Updated: February 8, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

State Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, and Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields

A state lawmaker, in a social media post, says a billboard advertising dance studies instead of other degrees at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is “not OK.”

“They lease a sign to encourage computer science degrees or math teachers? No, they push for dance majors,” Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, wrote Monday on Twitter.

The lawmaker said that for that reason, higher education does not need increased funding.

“Lots of hardworking Arkansans subsidizing this,” Hester said.

The billboard along Interstate 30 shows a dancer to the words "dance major" and features the statement: “Unlimited pathways. Close to home.”


Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields, who is studying art at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, took issue with Hester’s comments in a reply.

“I disagree with this on so many levels,” she said. “As an artist and a dancer, I have seen the arts influence, inspire, challenge and transform society.”

Shields added that art education is “crucial in the advancement of Arkansas.”

State Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, also chimed in on Twitter, questioning Shields' stance on the issue.

“Really, how so? How is art education crucial to the advancement of Arkansas?” Ballinger asked.

Judy Williams, UALR's associate vice chancellor of communications and marketing, said the billboard is one of several marketing tools in a campaign that features students in various programs.

"Our university offers the only dance performance program in Arkansas," Williams said in an emailed statement. "This is only one ad in the campaign."

Other UALR programs spotlighted include engineering, biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, economics, nursing and American sign language.

Williams said the marketing campaign "is designed to introduce prospective students and the community to the variety of majors and programs that are available."