UALR Fast Forward – Our Strategic Plan

Letter from the Chancellor

Universities are extremely important, enduring, elevating, and expensive institutions. Our recent planning endeavors are intended to improve our stewardship of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and to increase our success in accomplishing the university’s noble purposes.

UALR Fast Forward exhibits a keen awareness that UALR is a public university that exists to serve the people of Arkansas. That awareness is a keynote of the pages that follow.

UALR Fast Forward, a strategic planning report, is one of three major university planning documents. The issues addressed by the other two—one focusing on campus grounds and facilities, the other focusing on revitalization of the part of the city around the campus—are given only limited attention in this document.

Readers are likely to find more than they expect in UALR Fast Forward.

The report reflects an intent to build a powerhouse university in the capital city—as fast as possible—not for the sake of those who work at the university but for the sake of the people the university exists to serve.
The report outlines the rise of metropolitan universities since World War II and offers information and insights about the nature of UALR and what sets this university apart from others.
The chapter on universities and economic development will be of particular interest to business leaders and government officials. Today, universities are essential and powerful economic engines that pull and push regions, states, and the nation forward.
The analysis of institutional strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is candid, as are the data presented and the inferences drawn throughout the document.
The vision of the university given in Chapter 8 is ambitious, but the university which is envisioned in a decade is much needed, overdue, and substantially achievable within that period of time.
Chapter 9 will show the reader an extensive set of goals, objectives, and strategies which will go far in making the vision a reality. This chapter will be a basis for internal management and accountability. It will also be used as a basis for annual progress reports to the UALR Board of Visitors, University of Arkansas System officials, and other stakeholders.
The report concludes in Chapter 10 with seven pledges to external stakeholders.
I must acknowledge and express my appreciation for the great amount of thought, time, and energy a large number of persons on and off campus gave to the planning effort.

Foremost among them is Provost David O. Belcher, who led the planning activities with enthusiasm, determination, and good humor. He organized a process for broad participation of campus and community representatives. It included a 32-member steering committee, nine expanded subcommittees, standing campus committees, standing external advisory councils, and some 20 focus groups of faculty, staff, and students. The use of electronic discussion technology further broadened participation.

I know I speak for all of us on campus in expressing special appreciation to all of the community representatives—our essential partners—who contributed so generously of their time and wisdom in the planning process.

This report embodies thoughtful planning today and can be expected to provide helpful guidance tomorrow. Nonetheless, we will not be embarrassed to revise our plans tomorrow when circumstances change in unexpected ways.

My colleagues in the UALR faculty and staff have always shown a wonderful can-do attitude and a capacity to work hard and adapt and change with the times. Therefore, I am optimistic about major success in accomplishing the ambitious goals and objectives set out in this report. In addition, I see much evidence that external stakeholders are recognizing how critical UALR is to the future of this region and of the state. I believe they are also ready to do their part to fast-forward the university—for the sake of the people it exists to serve.

Joel E. Anderson
Chancellor

Executive Summary

1. Introduction

The introductory chapter cites benefits of higher education, the state’s ranking on indicators of those benefits, and the role of UALR as Arkansas plays catch-up.

Universities make a difference. Universities confer a wide range of significant benefits relating to quality of life, healthiness, employment and income, economic productivity, civic participation, and reliance on government support—only a partial list.

The State of Arkansas ranks among the very lowest of the 50 states in the number of citizens with baccalaureate degrees, and the state also ranks on the low end in income, healthiness, and other significant benefits associated with higher education.

Arkansas needs to move forward at a faster pace if the people of Arkansas are going to maintain, much less improve, their standard of living in the intensely competitive global economy of the 21st Century. UALR is committed to helping Arkansas advance at a faster rate through the university’s instructional, research, and public service programs. The development of UALR, therefore, must be put in fast-forward mode.

UALR Today

2. What Kind of University?…A New Hybrid.

Chapter 2 states that UALR is very much in the mainstream of American higher education. At the same time, it is a different kind of university—a metropolitan university.

In light of the credentials and records of the faculty, the recognition accorded the curricula, and the across-the-board accreditations it has achieved, UALR is correctly viewed as very much in the mainstream of American higher education. The university offers a full range of undergraduate majors, 38 master’s degrees, a law degree, and 6 doctorates. In 2005, the university awarded 1,803 diplomas, with 1,213 at the undergraduate level and 590 at the post-baccalaureate level.

At the same time, UALR is a different kind of university—a metropolitan university. Most states have at least one metropolitan university and some have several, with most of them coming on the American scene since World War II. In 1969, the private Little Rock University was absorbed into the University of Arkansas to provide a public university in the capital city and the population center of the state.

Serving the complex higher education needs of metropolitan regions, metropolitan universities have become complex institutions. They can be defined as hybrids which combine major characteristics of all four dominant strands of American higher education—the liberal arts college (strong undergraduate education), the community college (access to higher education for place-bound people who may not be well-prepared), the land-grant university (outreach and public service), and the research university (research).

UALR and similar campuses have served more than the traditional students who have long dominated thinking about higher education—18-24 year-olds, mostly white, enrolled full-time, and living in campus housing. The new metropolitan campuses have served the traditional 18-24 year-olds just described and have also extended higher education opportunities to many nontraditional students—commuting students who hold jobs, have families, are older, and might be enrolled part-time, with many of them being minority students and women who are place-bound and cannot move away to attend college. Metropolitan universities have also responded to the increasing higher education requirements of the sizable professional communities typically found in metropolitan regions—as illustrated by the growth of UALR’s law school, master’s degrees, and doctoral programs.

These metropolitan universities have also been different in their relationships with their communities, seeking a close as opposed to a distant town-gown relationship. Metropolitan universities are “partnership” universities ready to join with government offices and agencies and with community organizations and groups to solve problems. Such universities focus a significant amount of research and extension activities on the challenges faced by people living in their respective urban areas.

3. We Teach…And More!

Chapter 3 gives a profile of the UALR student body. It also shows that in addition to the fundamental role of teaching, UALR also makes significant contributions through research/creative activities, and public service.

UALR’s student body profile is distinctive in Arkansas. Enrollment for fall 2004 was 11,806. In the course of the year—fall, spring, and summer terms 2004-2005—UALR enrolled a total of 15,247 different students. The average age of all UALR students typically falls between 27 and 28 years. Female students are in a sizable majority at 63 percent. Sixty-two percent of UALR undergraduate students enroll full time and 38 percent enroll part-time, with the average semester course load falling between 10 and 11 credit hours. A high percentage—97 percent—of UALR students commute to classes.

The students served by metropolitan universities include large numbers of transfer students. That UALR serves many transfer students is evidenced by this fact: UALR is the only university in the state where year after year the number of undergraduate degrees awarded by the campus has exceeded the number of first-time, full-time entering freshmen of the campus.

Ninety-three percent of UALR students are Arkansans, and 92 percent of UALR graduates remain in Arkansas.

The UALR student body is the most diverse in Arkansas, with 64 percent white, 29 percent African American, 2 percent Hispanic, .05 percent Native American, and the balance international and “other.” UALR enrolls more African American students than any other campus in Arkansas and over the past five years has led all institutions in graduate degrees awarded to African American students—32 percent of such degrees 2000-2004.

In regard to research, much has changed since 1989 when the State Board of Higher Education noted that “research is of growing importance” at UALR. Today research activities span numerous areas from giant pandas to robots to Shakespeare. In the 15 years following 1989, the level of funding from grants and contracts rose from $5 million to $22 million. The university has not only been authorized to offer doctoral programs but now offers six. In the national Carnegie classification system, in 2000 UALR was moved into a “research intensive” category. In the last seven years, seven UALR faculty members have received Fulbright appointments to teach and research in seven countries around the world. Other faculty members have been awarded a variety of nationally recognized fellowships.

In regard to public service, or external engagement—which is the least understood of the three major university roles of teaching, research, and public service—UALR has an outstanding record. Public service by faculty and professional staff involves the application of their expertise—professional expertise based in their respective academic disciplines—to issues and problems external to the campus.

In an effort to achieve better understanding of public service activities and UALR’s outstanding record in this university role, Chapter 3 provides extensive examples of these outreach activities. This Executive Summary will give a single example from each of four categories of public service:

By individual faculty members: A biology faculty member and three students helped the city fight the West Nile Virus by identifying and monitoring mosquito breeding grounds so the areas could be treated by the city and the insects tested for the virus.
Public service activities based in an academic unit: Through an outgrowth of the gifted and talented graduate program, College of Education faculty and students offer Summer Laureate/University for Youth (SLUFY) programs each year. These summer programs provide enrichment experiences for the participating pre-collegiate students and at the same time provide required professional development experiences for UALR students pursuing degrees in teaching.
University efforts to address major community issues: At the request of the County Judge and other leaders in Saline County, an interdisciplinary team of seven UALR faculty members and one graduate student studied and offered recommendations that helped resolve decades of controversy among 14 different water purveyors in Saline County—a county with a history of much litigation of water issues.
Major campus units which have outreach as their primary mission: The Institute for Economic Advancement provides a regular state economic forecast which is an important component in the state government’s official revenue forecast. The institute is a source of an immense amount of census data and provides technical assistance in the use of the data. The institute also supports statewide economic development by offering the Certified Economic Developer program.
4. Peer Group Comparisons…An Over-Achiever?

Chapter 4 reports that when UALR is benchmarked among a group of 15 metropolitan universities across the nation, it compares very well; yet there are areas in which improved performance is clearly indicated—specifically student retention and graduation rates.

The peer group includes these metropolitan institutions: Boise State University, Cleveland State University, Georgia State University, Portland State University, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Central Oklahoma, University of Colorado-Denver, University of Massachusetts-Boston, University of Memphis, University of Missouri-St. Louis, University of Nebraska-Omaha, University of New Orleans, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, University of Southern Maine, and Wichita State University.

Here is how UALR compares on a number of student characteristics:

1st in percentage of female students
3rd in percentage of undergraduate under-represented minorities
1st in percentage of undergraduates 25-years and older
5th in percentage of undergraduates enrolling part-time
11th in percentage living on campus
1st in percentage of undergraduates receiving federal need-based Pell Grants, an indicator of more low-income students
13th in first-year freshmen retention rates
14th in undergraduate six-year graduation rates
UALR’s overall performance compares very favorably to its peers as evidenced by the following:

holds all applicable national professional accreditations (one of five institutions in peer group)
is classified in one of the Carnegie research institution categories
is 3rd highest for total Federal Science and Engineering Research and Development Support over five years and 2nd highest per full-time faculty
provides a very good student/faculty ratio, 4th lowest in the group
offers doctoral degrees with 30 percent of degrees at master’s level and above
offers degrees in cutting-edge sectors
competes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I
Planning Environment

5. Essential Underpinning…The Financial Outlook

Chapter 5 reviews major revenue and expenditure categories and discusses the outlook for funding.

In 2004-2005, UALR had an operating budget of $109 million (not counting more than $20 million in grants and contracts), of which 49 percent came in state appropriations and 41 percent from student tuition and fees. Over the previous 20 years, state support has increased 1.3 percent annually when adjusted for inflation as reflected in the Consumer Price Index and only 0.45 percent when adjusted for inflation as reflected in the Higher Education Price Index. The university has made its improvements and advances with a very thin margin of increased state dollars each year.

In advance of the 2005 biennial session of the Arkansas General Assembly, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) developed a revised funding model for the state’s public universities based on an extensive national study of the actual costs to universities of providing academic programs, by discipline and level, conducted by the University of Delaware. ADHE calculated a needed level of funding for each Arkansas university, based on mission and mix of programs, to equal the national average. UALR was calculated to be at the 75.9 percent level before the legislative session in 2005 and 78.4 percent afterward thanks to the increased appropriation for the new biennium.

In recent years, the university has had the benefit of major private donations for capital improvements—the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business and Economic Development, the Dr. Ted and Virginia Bailey Alumni and Friends Center, and the Jack Stephens Center.

Although the record would suggest that the university can expect gradual increases in state funding, the rate will be slow and will put a premium on increasing other revenue sources—grants and contracts, private donations, congressional earmarks, and local support. Over the last decade, student tuition has increased an average of just less than 5 percent per year and can be expected to continue to increase. Tuition is the major source of revenue over which the university exercises substantial control, and the level of tuition is heavily influenced by the level of funding from the state.

6. New Expectations…Universities and Economic Development

Chapter 6 reports that in the first decade of the 21st Century universities are viewed as critical to—not just important to—economic development within a region and also critical to the nation’s economic competitiveness in the global economy. Chapter 6 also reports relevant findings of three recent economic development studies in Arkansas: (1) Report of the Task Force for the Creation of Knowledge-Based Jobs, (2) Milken Institute Report, (3) AngelouEconomics Report.

National leaders such as Alan Greenspan view higher education in a global perspective and define the role of universities as a key to economic competitiveness. Universities across the nation are repeatedly challenged by national leaders to strengthen the nation’s hand in the global market place. UALR accepts the challenge. Not all universities do.

The national economy is made up of numerous regional economies, each with a dominant city. These regional economies develop within states, and sometimes across state lines, around cities such as Little Rock, Tulsa, Memphis, St. Louis, and Chicago. For example, in central Arkansas there is a six-county regional economy pivoting around Little Rock that is labeled a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) by the U. S. Department of Commerce.

A recent massive scan of economic performance variables in 100 metropolitan areas across the nation, including Little Rock, for the decade of the 1990’s documented that “…urban areas contain the nucleus of the U.S. economy. Cities disproportionately house the nation’s assets, and play key roles as drivers and hubs of economic growth.” (Chapter 6, Note 5) The importance of cities is magnified in the new knowledge-based economy because of the “benefits of agglomeration” in cities where people and ideas cluster and interactions intensify.

A university provides a regional economy with more than college graduates, research and development assets, technical assistance, and an infusion of money into the local regional economy. UALR, with 1,283 full-time employees and 1,080 part-time employees (many of them students) in 2004-2005 is a major community employer, purchaser, investor, and developer that is not going to move out of state.

A university in a city makes another contribution that recently has come to the fore. The faculty and other professional personnel of a university are part of the “creative class” of a community which, according to Richard Florida, is a key to economic growth. He contends “that regional economic growth is driven by the location choices of creative people—the holders of creative capital—who prefer places that are diverse, tolerant and open to new ideas.” (Chapter 6, Note 12)

Florida, author of the study entitled The Rise of the Creative Class, has developed a creativity index for 268 regions and grouped them by size. In his analysis of data on the regions for 2001, Little Rock fared well, ranking 62nd overall out of the 268 regions and 6th best out of 32 in the regions of 500,000 to 1,000,000 population. (Chapter 6, Note 13)

Three recent reports paint a picture with a challenging future for Arkansas in the global economy of the 21st Century.

Report of the Task Force for the Creation of Knowledge-Based Jobs: According to the first of these reports, by the Task Force for the Creation of Knowledge-Based Jobs in September 2002, “In the new economy, the things that matter most are college, graduate science and engineering degrees, research, intellectual property, new business starts and expansions, and participation in global commerce.” (Chapter 6, Note 14) The task force urged that priority for university resources focus on degree programs that will make the largest contribution to the economic development of the region, and made favorable note of UALR’s CyberCollege.

Milken Institute Report: The second study was carried out by the Milken Institute, which in September 2004 issued its report entitled Arkansas’ Position in the Knowledge-Based Economy. (Chapter 6, Note 18) The Milken Institute report gives a very valuable and highly detailed analysis of the state’s strengths and weaknesses in the new, high-tech, knowledge-based economy. It offers a point-by-point comparison and ranking of Arkansas among the 50 states. It repeats an all too familiar story. With an overall ranking of 49th from the top on the State Technology and Science Index, Arkansas is playing catch-up and needs to try harder, run faster, and play smarter than other states.

The Milken report stressed that Arkansas needed to educate a technologically skilled workforce; to expand support for research, intellectual property, and commercialization; and to provide an environment congenial to innovation.

Two references to UALR in the Milken report should be noted.

In the first of these, the Donaghey College of Information Science and Systems Engineering (CyberCollege) is identified as one of the “critical programs and initiatives that nurture the development of a technologically skilled workforce in Arkansas.” (Chapter 6, Note 20) The other reference to UALR was in a discussion of how to boost the critical areas of research and science in Arkansas by developing research clusters:

Attempting to develop a research cluster from the ground up is both risky and expensive, which means that the three most viable candidates are the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock, and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, even if other candidates such as Arkansas State University in Jonesboro might establish itself as such further in the future. (Chapter 6, Note 21)

AngelouEconomics Report: Business and civic leaders in 11 central Arkansas counties with a combined population of almost one million have formed an organization with the name Metro Little Rock Alliance (MLRA). The organization retained the services of AngelouEconomics, a consulting firm in Austin, Texas, to assist in developing an economic development strategy for the 11-county region. In October 2004, the consulting firm issued its final report. (Chapter 6, Note 22)

The AngelouEconomics report included analyses and recommendations reminiscent of those noted above in the first two reports, urging priority attention, for example, to workforce development and education, entrepreneurship, and quality of life factors. In a list of seven priority recommendations, the second listed by AngelouEconomics was, “Invest in and expand UALR to become a premier higher education institution.” The report urged support for CyberCollege and for an expansion of engineering offerings. (Chapter 6, Note 23)

For administrators and faculty at UALR, it is both gratifying and sobering that universities have come to play such crucial roles in the economic well-being of the community, state, and nation. Indeed, one cannot read the three reports just noted without feeling urgency about strengthening this university so that it can play a stronger and more effective role in moving the state into fuller participation in the economy of the 21st Century. The need to get on with this task is heightened by the two stories reported in Chapter 6 about major opportunities that were missed—with one example from the 1960’s and one from the 1980’s—because central Arkansas lacked the graduate, science, and engineering programs it is finally on the verge of having at UALR.

7. Situational Analysis…Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Chapter 7 summarizes the results of a situational analysis through which university strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats were identified.

Strengths:
State funding. UALR would require an unrestricted endowment in excess of a billion dollars, assuming a 5 percent annual yield, to provide income equal to the dollars provided by the state. (State funding will also appear in the list of weaknesses below.)
University of Arkansas System. Being part of a recognized and dominant state university system confers prestige and credibility inside and outside the state and communicates that a young university is in the mainstream of American higher education.
Faculty. A few minutes spent browsing through the listing of UALR faculty and their credentials will show a remarkable collection of talent, covering virtually all academic fields and holding terminal degrees from many of the world’s finest institutions of higher learning.
Academic breadth. UALR is a comprehensive university, offering major programs of study across the full range of academic disciplines and from the associate through the doctoral degree. The university is therefore capable of responding to the individual higher education needs of a great variety of people.
Undergraduate core curriculum. The core curriculum, reviewed and updated from time to time, instills a broad foundation of knowledge and skills equipping individuals to manage their lives in today’s complex civilization and to be flexible in the face of changes in the future.
Convenient class schedule. For the many students who have to juggle college attendance, job demands, and family responsibilities, UALR, in addition to the traditional day-time class periods, has for many years offered classes during the late afternoon, evening, and weekends and has recently added many on-line classes, making them available to students essentially anytime and anywhere.
Outreach units. UALR has numerous outreach units noted in Chapter 3 that do an outstanding job of extending university expertise and services to people in the urban community and across Arkansas, with a partial list including the Institute for Economic Advancement, the Arkansas Small Business Development Center, Institute of Government, Community School of the Arts, Intensive English Language Program, Advanced Placement Summer Institute, Summer Laureate-University for Youth, the MidSouth Center, Speech and Hearing Clinic, Bowen School of Law Mediation Clinic, and UALR Children International.
Campus diversity. As noted above in this executive summary, the UALR student body is the most diverse in Arkansas, and UALR has led in the number of graduate degrees awarded to African American students. The campus is positioned to provide leadership on the issue of race, a foremost barrier to progress throughout our state’s history.
Technology. UALR was the first campus in the state to offer students on-line class schedules, on-line registration, on-line student aid applications, and a wireless network on campus. The campus boasts a Virtual Reality Center and in 1999 launched the CyberCollege with programs that prepare students to work at the forefront of the knowledge-based economy.
Grant and contract funding. UALR faculty and staff have achieved considerable success in increasing resources through grant and contract funding—exceeding $20 million per year over the last four years.
Service to transfer students. UALR each year admits more transfer students as a percentage of undergraduate enrollment than any other four-year campus in the state.
Weaknesses:
State funding. State funding was listed above as a strength. However, when compared with the funding levels that other state governments provide their public universities, the level of state support for UALR is a weakness. With UALR funded at only 78.4 percent of the average of universities across the country with a similar set of programs, it is difficult for UALR to pay competitive salaries, provide a competitive number of scholarships, keep abreast of technology, adequately fund the library, maintain buildings, etc.
Assets for recruiting recent high school graduates. As a commuter campus, UALR throughout its history has not been well-positioned to compete for the best entering freshmen against institutions with abundant student housing and long traditions of student life on campus. A related weakness is the limited supply of private scholarships to attract entering freshmen and then retain them in subsequent years of study.
College-readiness of entering freshmen. The average composite ACT score for UALR’s entering freshmen has hovered around 19, a score that reflects a minimum admission threshold. The institution receives and works with a large number of students who need one or more remedial courses.
Graduation rate. As noted above, the comparison with the higher graduation rates of metropolitan peer institutions indicates this is a performance measure on which UALR should do better.
Absence of well-based and accepted academic outcome measures. All institutions of higher education suffer for lack of widely accepted measures of educational effectiveness. Those most commonly used, including retention and graduation rates, favor traditional campuses with selective admission criteria.
Limited alumni and development programs. As UALR moves into a comprehensive fundraising campaign, the very limited investments made to date in alumni and development programs are apparent. These programs need to be strengthened significantly.
Opportunities:
Location. UALR has a singular advantage among universities in Arkansas in its location in the capital city and geographic center of the state. The Greater Little Rock metropolitan area is the center of population; government; medicine and health care; finance and business; transportation; communications; and cultural organizations. The metropolitan area also includes a presidential library, a zoo and a large variety of non-profit organizations including Winrock International and Heifer International. The university thus has numerous opportunities to leverage its resources and enrich the curriculum and provide students with enhanced learning experiences through partnerships with businesses, government offices and agencies, courts, health care organizations, law firms, non-profits, and other organizations.
Changing demographics. The changing demographics in central Arkansas
and the state, particularly the growth of the Latino population, give UALR
an opportunity to serve another segment of the population that will benefit
greatly from higher education.
Two-year colleges. The number of two-year campuses in Arkansas has grown to 22, and the increased enrollment at those campuses should give UALR an expanded source of transfer students.
Low percentage of Arkansans with college degrees. With Arkansas ranking 49th among the 50 states in the percentage of persons with bachelor’s or higher college degrees, UALR and other four-year campuses have not saturated their markets.
State workforce priorities. UALR, on the basis of the programs of study it offers, is well-positioned to address areas of critical shortages in the workforce that have been identified by state officials including nursing, a number of K-12 teaching fields, and a variety of high-tech and scientific disciplines.
Threats:
Increased competition for students. The creation of Pulaski Technical College in 1991 and its subsequent growth is a development UALR officials have viewed as good, even overdue, for central Arkansas and the state. However, it has meant a competition for freshmen and sophomore students that has taken a toll on UALR enrollments. At the same time, other four-year institutions have intensified their student recruitment activities and advertising in the Little Rock area; and a number of for-profit universities based out of state have begun to offer classes in Little Rock. The competition for students is important since funding—both tuition and state appropriations, which together provide 90 percent of annual revenue—are both tightly linked to student enrollments.
Neighborhood in slow decline. Between 1960 and 2000, population in the area of the city within an approximate 20-block radius of the UALR campus has fallen by 29 percent. Although the extent of neighborhood decline should not be exaggerated, it is real and, at minimum, makes it harder to recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff.
Future Direction

8. Responding to the Realities…Vision for a Decade

Chapter 8 presents a vision that takes account of the realities described in the preceding chapters. In “Vision for a Decade” the reader is asked to become a time traveler and visit the campus a decade from now to see the university we intend to build. The following paragraphs offer an abbreviated version of that visit to the future a decade hence.

The time traveler finds a state that has moved up several notches from the bottom on a number of measures of comparison due in part to the contributions of this university. The grounds and facilities have been further improved and made more beautiful as the campus has implemented the Campus Master Plan completed in 2005. There is a signature landscaped area along Coleman Creek that draws visitors from both the campus and the community. There is a grand front door to the campus at the intersection of University and Asher Avenues.

The student body has grown. The sense of community on campus has grown stronger, a by-product in part of more student housing. Higher retention and graduation rates have been achieved. There has been a steady increase in the percentage of traditional-aged, full-time students; and there is more ethnic diversity reflecting the local increase in the Latino population and a steady increase in the number of international students. At the same time, UALR continues each year to serve thousands of place-bound commuting students—citizens that metropolitan universities serve so well.

The faculty are making significant contributions to research and development, essential components of robust economic development in central Arkansas and the state.

The university has strengthened its graduate education niche and has moved into the Southern Regional Education Board’s Four Year 2 category of institutions of higher education.

One key to the university’s rapid progress during the decade was the increase in private donations produced by a comprehensive fund-raising campaign. The increase in annual giving, major gifts, and deferred giving have all been encouraging and exciting. The increased private support has enhanced numerous teaching, research, and public service activities. All the colleges and the law school now boast one or more endowed chairs or endowed professorships as well as a number of endowed student scholarships. The university’s intercollegiate athletics teams have all become more competitive with improved facilities and an increase in scholarships for all teams made possible by the increase in private donations.

The faculty are providing courses of study that are up to date, technology-enhanced in many instances, and that prepare students to live, work, and lead in the unfolding 21st Century. Through regular assessment of student learning outcomes and rigorous evaluation of academic programs, faculty constantly improve the institution’s academic courses and programs.

The dollars brought to the university and the state through grants and contracts at UALR, which provide a boost to the economy, have increased significantly during the decade as UALR faculty members have been increasingly successful in competing for federal research dollars. The number of inventions and patents from the campus grew significantly during the decade. As a result of commercialization of intellectual property developed on the campus—after an early success in nanotechnology—the state economy now includes a growing cluster of high-tech businesses in central Arkansas. The education of undergraduates has been enriched as faculty have expanded the opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research.

The time traveler finds that UALR has continued to give and receive benefit through a rich set of partnerships with a variety of organizations in the community. The university’s annual survey of racial attitudes in Pulaski County, based on the premise that a community must face its problems in order to remedy them, has continued to focus attention on a paramount community issue. As a result, at least in part, of the efforts of the university to promote regional cooperation across central Arkansas, leaders in one community after another are coming to recognize the implications of being part of an intensely competitive global economy. Working together, they have been able to make life better for citizens in all towns and counties in the region.

Driving through the university’s neighborhood, the time traveler sees that more than the campus has changed. When the city of Little Rock widened University Avenue, it was transformed into an attractive, tree-lined boulevard, with new pedestrian safety features. The university’s partnership with the people, businesses, churches, city government offices, and others has had a good effect. Throughout the University District, businesses are starting or expanding, there are new housing starts, and at Asher and University one encounters a thriving international business village.

In short, the visitor to the future a decade from now would find in UALR a higher education powerhouse, deeply engaged with its community and the world, contributing very broadly and powerfully to both social advancement and economic growth through its noteworthy instructional, research, and public service programs.

9. Getting From Here to There…Implementation

During the planning process an extensive set of goals, objectives, and strategies were developed to achieve the vision for a decade. They constitute an internal management and accountability document. Here are the goals and objectives, omitting the more detailed
strategies for achieving the objectives.

Goal One
UALR will provide programs of study that will educate students to live, work, and lead in the complex, technological, diverse world of the 21st Century.

Objective 1: The university will ensure the quality of its educational programs.
Objective 2: The university, in accord with its mission, will graduate students who understand the roles they can play to make a difference in society.
Objective 3: The university will give priority to new academic programs which promise the greatest impact on meeting the needs of Arkansas in such areas as economic development, health care, education, and social welfare.
Objective 4: The university will increase the number of certified, K-12 teachers it graduates by 40 percent in five years.
Objective 5: The university will increase the number of nurses it graduates by 100 percent in five years.
Objective 6: The university will expand its cultural programs to contribute to the quality of life in central Arkansas.
Objective 7: The university will increase the number of baccalaureate degree graduates by 20 percent in seven years.
Objective 8: The university will be the high-tech campus in Arkansas where relevant technology is prominently available and used extensively by students, faculty, and staff.
Goal Two
UALR will provide a student-centered educational environment.

Objective 1: The university will organize its operations and shape its practices, policies, and procedures to be as student-centered as possible, as evidenced by increased student satisfaction and success.
Objective 2: The university will strengthen the sense of campus community through expanded on-campus student housing, specific academic offerings, strengthened extracurricular programs, and selected faculty activities.
Objective 3: The university will implement research-based strategies for increasing persistence (retention) and graduation rates of UALR undergraduate students by 20 percent in five years.
Goal Three
UALR will continue to expand its graduate offerings to address regional and state needs.

Objective: The university will expand graduate offerings, particularly those that address regional and state needs and those that contribute significantly to the economic development of the state.
Goal Four
UALR will expand its research capabilities to support UALR’s academic mission and to strengthen regional and state economic development plans.

Objective: The university will increase its commitment to research.
Goal Five
UALR will provide exceptional service through partnerships and outreach activities.

Objective 1: The university will build mutually beneficial partnerships with community institutions and organizations.
Objective 2: The university will continue to offer its services as an honest broker and a neutral convener in efforts to address community issues and problems.
Objective 3: The university will offer its services to the community through campus units which have community-focused missions.
Objective 4: The university will be an integral player in the cultural life of central Arkansas.
Objective 5: The university will be a leader in efforts to revitalize the University District.
Goal Six
UALR will support and strengthen its human resources.

Objective 1: The university will support faculty, its key human resource, by providing expanded professional development opportunities.
Objective 2: The university will reward the faculty appropriately as evidenced by faculty salaries at or above Southern Regional Education Board averages.
Objective 3: The university will continue to provide professional development opportunities and to reward staff appropriately as evidenced by salaries at the appropriate market rate and by the satisfaction level of staff.
Goal Seven
UALR will provide the institutional infrastructure necessary to achieve its educational mission.

Objective 1: The university will be a model of responsible stewardship of the physical resources of the campus.
Objective 2: The university will continue to expand the information technology resources of the campus to ensure effective and efficient use of technology.
Objective 3: The university will consistently engage in benchmarking and in process improvement efforts to make the functioning of the institution more efficient and user-friendly.
Goal Eight
UALR will develop a strategy to enhance resources to accomplish its mission.

Objective 1: The university will develop a funding strategy that will align potential sources—such as internal reallocations, state appropriations, tuition, fees, grants, contracts, foundation awards, Federal earmarks, private donations, local tax support—with appropriate goals.
Objective 2: The university will vigorously communicate who it is and what it does for the people of Arkansas in order to increase understanding and support at local, state, and federal levels.
10. Looking Ahead…Pledges to External Stakeholders

The final chapter of the report offers seven pledges to the university’s external stakeholders. They reflect UALR’s broad commitments as a public university located in Little Rock today—commitments in response to the strategic challenges of the state, the central Arkansas region, and the greater Little Rock/North Little Rock metropolitan community.

Pledge One
UALR pledges to provide programs of study that will educate students to live, work, and lead in the complex, technological, and diverse world of the 21st Century.

Pledge Two
UALR pledges to shape its programs and align its resources to address state-identified priorities.

Pledge Three
UALR pledges active support of regional and state strategies to speed economic development.

Pledge Four
UALR pledges to work in partnership with governmental entities and community organizations and groups to solve community problems and advance the community in other ways.

Pledge Five
UALR pledges to be a keeper of the flame on the subject of race.

Pledge Six
UALR pledges to be a keeper of the flame on the need for regional cooperation in central Arkansas.

Pledge Seven
UALR pledges to work as an active partner in revitalizing the University District, the area of the city immediately around the university.

Epilogue…Two Challenges

The epilogue notes two challenges—an internal challenge to the administration, faculty, and staff of UALR; and an external challenge to external stakeholders, particularly civic and business leaders.

The challenge to the administration, faculty, and staff of UALR:

The strategic planning exercise is done for now. Your challenge is to make the strategic plan a reality. It does not matter how compelling the vision or how well-based the goals, objectives, and strategies or how sincere the pledges. What matters now is what the people on campus do. That is what will be remembered. Action is what will make a difference.
The challenge to the external stakeholders, particularly to civic and business leaders:

There is no doubt that a fully developed, powerhouse university in the center of the state is a critical state and regional asset needed immediately—indeed, was needed several decades ago. Your challenge is to recognize a personal interest, a vital interest, in fast-forwarding the development of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock—not for the university’s sake but for yours.