Academic Growth and Change

Growth in Enrollment and Degrees Awarded

Fall enrollment at UALR has grown from 11,806 in 2004 to 13,176 in 2010. Two factors in particular have contributed to this growth: the increase in graduate student enrollment and the increase in concurrent enrollment partnerships with central Arkansas high schools. Graduate student enrollment has increased almost 20% over the past six years while the number of high school students participating in concurrent enrollment has grown from 49 in Fall 2004 to nearly 1100 in Fall 2010.

The number of students graduating also has risen over the past eight years. In Spring 2010, the University awarded 2132 diplomas to 2036 students, the most ever for the institution. These included 1 certificate of proficiency, 205 associate degrees, 1,093 baccalaureate degrees, 90 graduate certificates, 574 graduate degrees, 8 specialist degrees, 31 doctoral degrees, and 130 law degrees.

Applications to UALR’s William H. Bowen School of Law have increased 6 of the last 7 admission cycles. Since 2003, applications to the Bowen School have risen from 674 to 1674 in 2010—an increase of 157%. Since 2006, class size and student body diversity have increased as well. Entering class size is up 17%, from 135 in 2006 to 158 in 2010. Student body diversity has increased 54%—from 70 students of color and foreign nationals in 2006 to 108 in 2010.

Accreditation

Accreditation remains a vital part of the UALR academic landscape, for the peer evaluation nature of national accreditation processes validates the institution’s programs.

In 2010, the UALR received affirmation of its accreditation status for the maximum ten years through the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. The site visit team noted the following in its final report:

  • The commitment of multiple units within the university to thoughtful engagement with the Little Rock community and other stakeholders is apparent as evidenced by the University District Initiative.
  • The support of distance learning is very good from planning through execution and the overall strength of the distance learning programming is very high.
  • The Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence (ATLE) is exceptional. It is a faculty initiative with resource support that clearly signals UALR’s commitment to teaching.
  • There is a strong and clear commitment to assessment and to the use of assessment results across campus.
  • The institution’s development of a transfer student center is a clear indication of the dedication
    UALR has to meeting the special needs of transfer students.
  • There is a focus on academic success in the developing housing and residential life programs.

The UALR Fast Forward timeframe has also witnessed successful programmatic accreditation processes across the university. For example, the university’s education program completed its most recent accreditation visit by the Board of Examiners from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in Fall 2009. The year prior to the visit, all content areas and programs submitted extensive program reports to multiple Specialty Professional Associations for review. Not only were all programs that submitted reports nationally recognized, but also four – Educational Administration (ELCC), Reading (IRA), Science (NSTA) and Foreign Languages (ACTFL) – were cited as national models for others to follow. Additionally assessments used in Gifted Education (NAGC), Foreign Languages (ACTFL), Reading (IRA), Middle School (NMSA), and Mathematics (NCTM) were cited as exemplars on the NCATE website. The results detailed in the Board of Examiners accreditation visit report as confirmed by the NCATE Unit Accreditation Board were that every standard of the six unit standards was met with no areas for improvement. All six of the standards were met at the acceptable or target level for both initial and advanced programs. Of the 54 elements encompassed by the six standards, 30 were cited as target, the highest possible rating.

Degree programs in audiology and speech pathology, computer science, construction management, engineering technology, information science, nursing, rehabilitation counseling, social work, systems engineering, and theatre have all been accredited or reaccredited by the relevant national accrediting agencies in the last six years. This list includes all undergraduate programs in the still relatively young Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology. In March 2010, the William H. Bowen School of Law completed its sabbatical accreditation visit by the American Bar Association, and initial, unofficial reports have been positive. Of course, other academic programs are accredited as well but did not undergo accreditation reviews during the UALR Fast Forward years.

Finally, in 2009, the University received official notification of reaffirmation of certification from the NCAA Division I Committee on Athletics Certification, following a thorough self-study process and peer- review team site visit. While the steering committee which oversaw the self-study process identified areas for attention and improvement, the overall results were extremely affirming. The peer-review team specifically noted as highlights the Jack Stephens Center and the strong support of the faculty for athletics.

Graduate Programs and Research

UALR Fast Forward envisioned continued strengthening of graduate programming and an increasing emphasis on research in recognition of both the graduate program and research needs of the state of Arkansas and of UALR’s status as a doctoral research university. The institution has made progress in achieving these goals.

In 2005, UALR expanded the position of Dean of the Graduate School to create the Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, a position vested with responsibility for expanding the graduate enterprise and raising the profile of and support for research. Infrastructural progress in the years since has included a strengthened Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, the creation of a two-person Research Compliance Office, a maturing Institutional Review Board, and more consistent graduate coordinator meetings focusing on centralizing and standardizing the administration of graduate programs where possible. The university has also expanded its focus on research to include an emphasis on undergraduate research.

One of UALR’s priorities in its pursuit of a higher research profile has been increasing the institution’s success in securing external funds through grants and contracts, and UALR has experienced progress in this regard. During the last five years, UALR has been the recipient of more than 1000 grants and contracts totaling more than $140 million; the annual dollar value of grants and contracts received increased by more than 15% in the same time period. These figures represent a wide variety of successful projects, including:

  • Consortial efforts such as Arkansas EPSCoR through which UALR is collaborating with other higher education institutions in the state and which will bring in over $30 million over a ten-year period.
  • Long-term, annually renewed programs such as the approximately $5 million MidSouth contract.
  • An increasing number of new grants secured from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, NASA, etc.

In light of current state and national funding priorities, UALR anticipates that sponsored program growth in the coming years is likely to occur in such fields as materials (with a focus on nanomaterials), information quality and security, communication technology, clean electrical power generation and distribution, criminal justice, and STEM education.

UALR has significantly broadened its graduate offerings in recent years. In addition to a number of new graduate certificate and masters degree programs, UALR has implemented six new doctoral programs – in audiology, communication sciences, bioinformatics, reading, criminal justice, and integrated computing – bringing the institution’s number of doctoral programs to nine.

One area of both progress and challenge is that of graduate assistantships, which serve to enhance both research and graduate program efforts. Competitive graduate assistantships attract top graduate students who assist in both the teaching and research functions of the university. While there has been an increase in the number of graduate students with assistantships and in the size of graduate assistantship stipends in the last five years, the increases have been modest at best. Thus, the UALR Fast Forward goals of increasing the number of graduate assistantships and the level of assistantship stipends remain priorities.

UALR has made progress in its support of the Ottenheimer Library, a primary research resource for faculty and students alike. The university has increased the Library’s materials budget substantially over recent years, bringing purchasing closer to the level of peer libraries and offsetting inflation in the cost of library materials. The Library has been able to purchase resources in all formats and has enhanced availability of electronic databases.

The robust research profile to which UALR aspires will require strategic investments in research infrastructure in the coming years. In addition to increases in the number of graduate assistantships, graduate assistantship stipends, and support for the Ottenheimer Library, UALR will also need to increase support for additional reassigned time for research, equipment and technology, seed funding, and funding for equipment match opportunities.

The advent of an agreement for the development of a research park involving UALR, UAMS, and the City of Little Rock and located between UALR and UAMS offers a remarkable, long-term opportunity for the university as it pursues its research mission.

UALR Nanotechnology Center

The emergence of the UALR Nanotechnology Center has been among the most notable achievements at UALR in the last few years. The Center was established in March 2006 with receipt of $5.9 million in State of Arkansas General Improvement Funds. With this foundation, the Center has obtained $10.2 million in research and operations funds from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Army, NSF, U.S. Small Business Administration, NASA, the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority, and private donations. The Center, through these projects, is engaged in cutting-edge research in nanomaterial fabrication, micro-nano thin film deposition, and nanomedicine. Innovations in these research areas represent potential solutions for alternative and renewable energy, electronics, surface coatings, tissue engineering, and cancer treatment.

The Center’s cross-disciplinary team of researchers has grown from Dr. Alexandru Biris, its director, to include a total of eight other full-time researchers. An aggressive publications agenda has produced 145 journal publications. The Center initiated the Affiliate Scientist program to engage researchers at other Arkansas universities, providing them access to its instrumentation; the program now includes faculty at Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University, Henderson State University, Hendrix College, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and the University of Central Arkansas. The Affiliate Scientist program includes a total of 48 collaborators in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Romania and the United Kingdom. Intellectual property creation to date has produced four issued patents, 28 patent applications and 2 invention disclosures. The University of Arkansas System’s Board of Trustees in September 2009 approved the inclusion of $9 million for a new nanotechnology research facility as part of a campus bond issue. This facility, slated for completion in Fall 2011, will expand the Nanotechnology Center’s capacity for scientific collaboration and student training and will provide lab space designed specifically for the needs of the Center’s multidisciplinary research projects.

Office of Innovation and Commercialization

Established in June 2008, the UALR Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC) leads university efforts to advance and commercialize university research and inventions. The OIC provides expertise in intellectual property protection, licensing, investment funding, and business startup services. The goal is to create sustainable Arkansas jobs with a high likelihood of survival while training the next generation of entrepreneurs. Since 2007, UALR has been awarded 11 patents, and 46 additional patent applications have been filed. The OIC operates a business incubator, which currently hosts two information technology startup companies with 15 full-time employees. The OIC has also created or is advising 4 additional startup companies, employing 8 part-time individuals, in the fields of nanotechnology and related areas.

Development in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Disciplines

UALR has responded to calls at the local, state, and national levels to increase the numbers of graduates from Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs. Specific progress within the context of UALR Fast Forward includes the following:

  • The Fall 2010 opening of the new $35 million Engineering and Information Technology (EIT) building providing much needed teaching and research space for faculty and student s in EIT.
  • Renovation of the chemistry labs in Fribourgh Hall.
  • Expansion of engineering offerings to include tracks in electrical and mechanical engineering made possible by a $6 million endowment gift from the Trinity Foundation.
  • Implementation of the first information quality program in the world with a gift from the Acxiom Corporation and in partnership with MIT. UALR offers the M.S. in Information Quality and a new
    track in the Ph.D. program in Applied Science in Information Quality.
  • Implementation of several degree programs which are unique in Arkansas, including the Ph.D. in Integrated Computing, the M.S. in Systems Engineering, Ph.D. and M.S. programs in Bioinformatics (jointly offered with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)), and a BS in Construction Engineering.
  • Introduction of the Graduate Certificate in Applied Statistics (Department of Mathematics and Statistics), a program designed to develop students for the knowledge economy and which is successfully placing interns at Acxiom and other high-tech companies in Central Arkansas.
  • Greatly increased enrollments in both EIT and CSAM. The number of EIT majors has grown from 382 when the college was founded in 1999 to 929 in Fall 2010, and the number of Ph.D. students in Applied Science grew from 15 in 1999 to 141 in Summer 2010. The number of science and mathematics majors increased from 590 in FY2005 to 839 in FY2010.
  • Particularly successful recruitment from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts.
  • Creation in 2008 of the Arkansas-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (ARK-LSAMP) to foster success among underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines. A consortium of eight colleges and universities led by UAPB secured the NSF funds for this program which provide a summer bridge-to-college program, mentoring throughout the academic year, and summer research internship opportunities.
  • Development of the UALR Science Scholar Program to enhance opportunities for qualified students with financial need who are interested in biology, chemistry, and earth sciences. Scholarship funds from the NSF’s Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) program enable students to attend UALR and afford special mentoring opportunities in areas of difficulty for young scholars. The program, now in its third year, has been highly successful as evidenced by strong retention and high GPA averages.
  • With funding from NSF, establishment of the first UALR high performance parallel computing cluster which will serve graduate programs in CSAM and EIT.
  • Active engagement of faculty and administrators with the STEM Coalition, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and such central Arkansas businesses as Acxiom, Southwest Power Pool, L.M. Glasfiber, Welspun, and others.
  • Implementation of summer STEM programs in EIT to reach, engage, and recruit talented pre- college students. These programs include:
    • The Exxon Mobil program for middle-school children which, in 2010, hosted 48 students on campus for two weeks.

    • The Engineering Scholars program which hosted 22 high school students on campus for two weeks to interact with engineering faculty and to learn about the various engineering disciplines.
    • The high school research program which engaged 17 students working in individual faculty labs for three weeks.

Health-Related Disciplines UALR’s commitment to meeting the needs of the community and state has resulted in significant attention to health-related disciplines as health care issues and needs have emerged as societal priorities. The Department of Nursing has experienced particularly dramatic growth in recent years, achieving its UALR Fast Forward goal of doubling the number of nurses graduated within five years. The department implemented a number of strategies to facilitate this success, including the introduction of an 18-month accelerated ASN program, and the building of a strong partnership with the St. Vincent Health System which provides scholarship support for students, additional teaching facilities, and clinical rotation opportunities for nursing students. In order to meet the need in central Arkansas for BSN- trained nurses, UALR’s Department of Nursing initiated a BSN completion program in Fall 2008 which is delivered online for practicing nurses.

The Department of Nursing has received significant support of its mission from the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation which has established a $3 million endowed scholarship fund for nursing scholarships. With support from internal and external sources, including a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and support from the Cabe Foundation, the department has created a major simulation laboratory which includes two SimMan simulated patients, two Noelle labor simulators (each with a Baby Hal simulator), and several other simulators for teaching specific nursing protocols.

Baptist Health Medical Center has recently initiated a relationship with the Department of Nursing to facilitate matriculation of its diploma graduates to the UALR BSN program.

The Masters of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling was the first totally online master’s degree program in the state. Initially designed to meet increased certification requirements of practitioners, this program has had a national reach since inception, drawing students from as many as twenty different states.

The Department of Health Sciences has emerged as one of the largest programs at UALR in the last few years. The department implemented a Master of Science in Health Sciences in 2007. The department has a well-earned reputation for making a difference in the central Arkansas community and requires a service-learning experience of its students.

The Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, a joint program of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), has made impressive strides in recent years. The department launched two doctoral degree programs in 2006, a clinical doctorate in Audiology (Au.D.) and a Ph.D. in Communication Science. The Ph.D. program is a consortium program of UALR/UAMS, and the University of Central Arkansas; UALR/UAMS has the only audiology program in the state. Recent statistics confirm the quality of the department and its programs. For example, the national ranking of the department’s program in Speech Pathology has risen from 113 (out of 250 programs in the nation) to 72 in eight years. department receives over 100 applications each year for 25 slots in the master’s program, many from out-of-state students. And the pass rate on the licensure exam is 100% compared to a national average of 79%. The department is also known for its commitment to the broader community through such outreach arms as the Speech and Hearing Clinic which provides over 6000 clinic visits each year to the residents of central Arkansas.

Teacher Preparation

UALR Fast Forward set a five-year goal of increasing by forty percent the number of licensed teachers that the university graduates. UALR achieved this overarching university-wide goal though a small number of individual programs did not. These latter will continue to be the focus of attention. Among strategies which have assisted UALR in meeting this goal has been the strategic hiring of faculty champions of teacher education in the content disciplines. Another promising development is the recent implementation of a graduate certificate program for students who have an undergraduate degree in a content discipline and who want to pursue licensure at the graduate level.

The Arts

UALR has expanded arts programs and opportunities during the UALR Fast Forward years. For example, the Department of Art, with significant philanthropic support from the Windgate Foundation for state- of-the-art equipment, scholarships, student recruitment, a summer arts institute, and an artist in residence position, initiated the Applied Design program in Fall 2006, one of few such programs in the United States. The program consists of emphases in furniture design, metals, blacksmithing, and ceramics. The furniture design and metals programs are housed in 18,000 square feet of renovated space in the University Plaza facility.

The Department of Music has built an opera program which stages two full operas each year, one of the most ambitious opera production schedules among Arkansas universities. Committed to reaching a broad audience, the program has regularly staged productions in various venues in the Little Rock area, including the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and Wildwood Park for the Arts, in addition to UALR’s Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, whose complete renovation, made possible with support from the Stella Boyle Smith Trust and the Rebsamen Fund, makes this performance setting itself a highlight.

In 2009, the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance inaugurated a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance degree program, the only professional dance degree in Arkansas. Dance enrollment has grown dramatically.

William H. Bowen School of Law UALR’s William H. Bowen School of Law initiated the Public Service Externship Program in 2005 which provides exceptional learning experiences for selected students and service for the legal community. Through this externship program, students are placed in the offices of Arkansas Supreme Court Justices, members of the Arkansas General Assembly, and others to assist these public servants with a variety of legal issues. The program has been well-received by Law School students and externship partners alike.

Recent national recognition for the Bowen School includes the following:

  • In 2003-2004, the Bowen School’s Journal of Appellate Practice and Process received the
    Eisenberg Prize for excellence in scholarship regarding appellate practice and procedure. The
    Journal was the first recipient of the award.
  • In 2009, the National Jurist Magazine listed the Bowen School of Law among the Top 50 law
    schools in clinical education.
  • In 2010, the Bowen School of Law’s legal writing program was ranked 22nd nationally.

UALR Benton Center UALR continues to offer a variety of courses at its Benton Center. UALR students can take courses leading to the AA degree or to satisfy the non-clinical requirements for the ASN and BSN degrees. Since fiscal year 2004, an average of more than 800 UALR students has taken at least one course at the Benton Center each year. In addition, an average of more than 500 UALR students each year has received assistance with admissions, registration, financial aid, or other student services from the UALR Benton Center staff.

International Programs

UALR created the Office of International Services (OIS) in 2005 under the aegis of the Provost’s Office in an effort to strengthen and broaden the scope of study abroad, international student services, and exchange programs. In the intervening years, the number of students studying abroad each year increased from 32 to 110, a 243.8% increase. These students come from majors across the university. The number of international students attending UALR increased from 262 to 512, a 196% increase over the five-year period. These students come from 74 countries. And the number of exchange programs with universities in other countries has also grown dramatically. In 2005, UALR students could take advantage of exchange programs with 5 universities in 4 countries, while today, students can choose from 23 foreign universities located around the globe in 15 different countries.

The Evolution of Faculty Expectations and Related Policies UALR’s entry into the ranks of doctoral research institutions nearly a decade ago and the emergence of research as a major goal in UALR Fast Forward prompted several significant studies and documents in the last five years. In Fall 2005, then Faculty Senate President Fred Williams and Provost David Belcher appointed a faculty-led task force to draft and vet with university colleagues a Faculty Roles and Rewards statement which explores the roles and rewards of tenured and tenure-track faculty within the context of UALR’s evolving vision. The resulting document was adopted in 2007.

In Fall 2007, then Faculty Senate President Richard Ford and Provost Belcher asked the Committee on Tenure to take on the charge of drafting university-wide promotion and tenure guidelines. This document in final form was adopted in 2010.

In Fall 2008, then Faculty Senate President Ford and Provost Belcher appointed a faculty-led task force to draft and vet with university colleagues a second Faculty Roles and Rewards statement focused on the roles and rewards of full-time, non-tenure-track faculty and thus, a companion document to the initial Roles and Rewards study. The resulting document was adopted in 2010.
The adoption of these documents has triggered a systematic review of college and departmental governance documents which will take place over the next few years. And this body of documents, taken as a whole, will guide UALR as it hires new faculty members in the coming years with an eye toward the emerging vision of the institution’s future.

Academy of Teaching and Learning Excellence In the 2006-2007 academic year, a faculty-led task force undertook the task of creating what has become known as the Academy of Teaching and Learning Excellence (ATLE), a center designed to offer professional development opportunities for UALR faculty seeking to enhance and improve their effectiveness in the teaching and learning environment. The Academy is led by three UALR faculty members each of whom serves a three-year term as an ATLE director. ATLE activities have included peer teaching demonstrations and lectures, mentoring programs, book discussion sessions featuring writing on pedagogy, and campus visits and lectures by nationally known authorities in the teaching and learning field.

Review of the Undergraduate Curriculum Prompted in part by the self-study process undertaken for reaccreditation by the North Central Association’s Higher Learning Commission, UALR has launched a full-scale process to review the university’s undergraduate curriculum. The overarching charge to the task force leading this review is to study the undergraduate curriculum within the parameters of UALR’s mission, existing law, policies of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, and current trends, and to consider appropriate revisions to the UALR undergraduate curriculum to ensure its relevance for the 21st century. Topics for review and possible revision include, but are not limited to the core curriculum (the number of hours required and courses included therein), the number of hours required for an undergraduate degree, the requirement of a minor, and the residency requirement.