Former Miss America Responds To Controversial Tweet By Arkansas State Senator

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- Former Miss America, Savvy Shields responded to a tweet by Arkansas State Senator, Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, regarding a University of Arkansas at Little Rock billboard depicting a dancer promoting the school's dance major.

Hester tweeted Monday (Feb. 5) a picture of the billboard with a caption: "Why higher ed does NOT need increase funding. They lease a sign to encourage computer science degrees or math teachers? No they push for dance majors. Lots of hardworking Arkansans subsidizing this! Not ok @UALR"

Shields, a fine arts major at the University of Arkansas quoted Hester's tweet, saying: "I disagree with this on so many levels. As an artist and a dancer, I have seen the arts influence, inspire, challenge, and transform society. Art education is crucial in the advancement of Arkansas."

5NEWS spoke to Hester Wednesday (Feb. 7) who was not surprised by the reaction of his tweet, saying he was "okay with that."

"My wife is a dancer, my daughter is a dancer, but for me, with the priorities with our state right now, [the billboard] just certainly didn't align with what the needs are," Hester said of the billboard's message. "So, I decided to tweet about it."

Hester insisted he meant no harm to any person or fine arts major, but would rather see higher education institutions push needs of the state, like STEM education.

"Dancing is a great thing, and art is a great thing. It's a needed thing in our communities," Hester said. "What I was really pointing out and what I said in the tweet was we have other priorities right now."

Shields was unable to be interviewed, but did release the following statement:

"Design and creative thinking are behind all social, scientific, and business innovations. If we want to progress, to continue to advance, we have to support STEM fields AND the fine arts."

When asked for a response to Shield's reply tweet, Hester called the former Miss Arkansas "nothing but classy."

"She's represented Arkansas and all of America so great, I couldn't be prouder of her," Hester said. "I think she reached a little bit on the tweet. I didn't say anything negative about dance or the arts."

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock released the following statement:

"Our Unlimited Pathways marketing campaign is designed to introduce prospective students and the community to the variety of majors and programs that are available at UA Little Rock. The billboard on I-30 features a BFA dance performance major in an astounding photo on our theater stage. Our university offers the only dance performance program in Arkansas. This is only one ad in the campaign. Other ads in the campaign (billboards, digital, print, and radio) have featured our students in these programs:

  • Architectural and construction engineering
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Nursing
  • American Sign Language

Students truly do have unlimited opportunities by obtaining a college degree at UA Little Rock, whether it's in the liberal arts or in STEM disciplines. Our recruitment campaigns tie back to the university's mission statement:

TheĀ missionĀ of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is to develop the intellect of students; to discover and disseminate knowledge; to serve and strengthen society by enhancing awareness in scientific, technical, and cultural arenas; and to promote humane sensitivities and understanding of interdependence.

-Judy Williams, Associate Vice Chancellor of Communications and Marketing"