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Workman Grant Recipient Reflects on Summer Experience’s Potential for Ongoing Impact

Marleigh Hayes ’25 used grant funds to study drug and alcohol use among arrested individuals

CONWAY, Arkansas (November 28, 2023) — When Marleigh Hayes ’25 accepted a $2,600 Elizabeth T. and John S. Workman Summer Project Grant awarded through the Hendrix College Office of Religious Life, the politics major saw it as a fitting way to combine her United Methodist faith and her interest in advocating for social change. The Workman Grant supports summer projects by Hendrix students pursuing careers in the United Methodist Church, social justice, the news media or writing.

With the guidance of her academic advisor, Dr. Delphia Shanks of the Hendrix Department of Politics, and working with the Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition, Hayes helped develop a study that would evaluate the prevalence of drug and alcohol use in Washington County arrestees through interviewing recently arrested persons. The data the team gathered and the report Hayes generates will eventually provide tools to inform new programs and reduce recidivism, improving the lives of those who face struggles with addiction.

Though the study itself occurred during the summer, Hayes engaged in an independent study with Shanks during the Spring 2023 semester to ensure she was prepared for the work ahead. This phase included reviewing the 2008 Washington County Arrestee Drug and Alcohol Report and changes that have occurred since its release. That existing report and the nuts-and-bolts elements of preparation, such as choosing a survey results collection tool and learning how to use it, helped her build a framework for the interviews she would conduct inside the walls of the Washington County Detention Center.

Even with detailed preparation, Hayes found the two-week survey period more meaningful than she could have known in advance.

“We really got to talk to people, form connections, and allow them a safe space to be heard,” she said.

Hayes and others who gathered survey responses face-to-face worked in a windowless room inside the detention center from 3 p.m. to midnight, interviewing persons who had been arrested within the past 48 hours and who indicated a willingness to participate in the study. Respondents ranged from a young adult being held on a first-time DUI charge to someone who had served 50 years behind bars and had just been re-arrested.

Being in the detention center was “a tense environment,” Hayes said, but she found her interaction with the respondents incredibly meaningful, as was her experience interacting with the center’s administration to agree upon the conditions under which the survey interviews would be conducted. The survey team argued successfully for interviewing the respondents without them wearing shackles or other restraints.

“We wanted them to feel comfortable while having these conversations” about potentially emotional topics such as their addiction history and other significant life events, Hayes said. While interviewers could not offer participants any kind of compensation, they did give respondents a soda and a candy bar as a thank-you for their time—again, in the interest of providing a comfortable environment for individuals already facing struggles.

Among the findings: Substance use has increased among the detention center population since 2008, and white respondents reported higher rates of illicit drug use than non-white respondents. Also, most people who participated in the survey reported living in destitute conditions before their arrest.

Hayes has long wanted to work in the nonprofit arena, and this experience gave her a window into how she can be on the ground advocating for people and the systemic change that will help them. She also hopes to learn more about criminal justice and what her role can be as a person of faith with a desire to create change.

“I met Marleigh when she was a high school student participating in Hendrix Youth Institute, where our serving experience touched on the injustices in mass incarceration,” said the Rev. Ellen Alston ’82, chaplain of the College. “It has been a privilege to watch her grow in her faith, insights, and calling, now as a United Methodist Leadership Scholar at Hendrix, as she invests her time and energies to serve and lead in ways that can make a positive difference for others.”

One element of this summer’s experience has already proven life-changing for Hayes. Because no members of their team spoke Spanish, she saw how that missing skill hampered the project’s reach to a significant number of persons held in the detention center. As a result, when she returned to campus this fall, she immediately declared a minor in Spanish.

“Marleigh has been a fantastic partner throughout this project, and I am impressed by her willingness to do whatever she can to increase her capacity to effect change in her community,” says Shanks, Hayes’s academic advisor and mentor. “She is learning from her experiences and taking action in a meaningful and reflective way.”

Members of the Workman family read Hayes’s written report and viewed a recording of the presentation she made November 16 to Hendrix community members. They offered praise for her project, expressing how well it aligned with their parents’ passions—their mother’s human rights work, in particular.

“We value our parents’ contributions to society and feel that the best way to honor them is to give others an opportunity to pursue similar goals,” said Susie Workman Jones ’78. “I am very pleased that the 2023 grant was awarded to such an obviously appropriate recipient.”

John Workman Jr. ’75 said his parents would have been “so pleased and heartened” to know that the program established to honor them is funding such justice-oriented work. “From my own experiences with summer projects at Hendrix, way back in the 1970s, I can assure you that your work over these past intensive months will stay with you, will inform you, and will enrich you—for many years to come,” he wrote in an email message to Hayes.

Hayes says she would like to work on a similar project in the future, but with a focus on mental health in addition to addiction issues. Before then, though, she will complete this project’s report and then find the best ways to share it with community organizers, policy makers, and law enforcement in her Washington County hometown of Fayetteville and beyond.

“I’m really wanting to continue to learn more about criminal justice and what role I can play in improving the approaches that our justice system uses,” she said. “As a citizen and as a United Methodist, I know I can find ways to have a positive impact. My experience with the Workman Grant has made that even more clear.”

About Hendrix College

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. Learn more at

“… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” —Hendrix College Statement of Purpose