Although the University of Arkansas at Little Rock exhibits the distinctive characteristics of an urban or metropolitan university as discussed in the preceding chapter, the university is very much in the mainstream of American higher education.
As is true of all recognized public universities in the United States, UALR is accredited by one of the regional associations recognized by the U.S. Department of Educationâ€”in UALR’s case by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
UALR faculty members are highly credentialed graduates of recognized universities around the nation and the world and have been hired to provide high-quality instruction in their respective academic disciplines.
The curricula of the various academic departments at UALR are broadly interchangeable with those in academic departments at other universities across the country, and academic credits awarded to UALR students are transferable to other campuses.
The university’s professional programs are accredited by their respective national accrediting bodies.
The research conducted by the UALR faculty is reported in established regional, national, and international journals, and external research funding comes from substantially the same national sources that support research at leading universities across the country.
Although more evidence could be offered, these major points of similarity are sufficient to show that UALR is very much in the mainstream of American higher education.
“We Teach…and More!”
For many citizens, the picture of a college or a university is that of a place where faculty teach and students study, and both attend athletic events, plays, concerts, and distinguished lectures. At small undergraduate institutions, that picture may not be too far from reality; and it was probably a reasonably accurate picture of this institution during its years as Little Rock Junior College and Little Rock University. But the picture has changed significantly since the institution became the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1969.
Educating students remains the primary mission of the university, but this chapter is entitled “We Teach…and More!” because the activities of faculty and the services provided by the university go far beyond the broad instructional programs offered to a remarkably complex student body. After a look at the instructional programs and the demographic characteristics of the students the university serves, this chapter will note the significant presence of research and public service activities.
Degree Programs. The university now offers an extensive set of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in the capital city, meeting critical state needs which went unmet until the creation of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1969. Table 3-1 lists 8 associate, 51 baccalaureate, 9 graduate certificate, 38 master’s, 2 educational specialist, 1 first professional degree, and 6 doctoral programs of studyâ€”115 in allâ€”available at UALR.
In 2004-2005, the university awarded a record 1,803 degrees, with 1,213 at the undergraduate level and 590 at the post-baccalaureate level. (See Table 3-2. See also, Appendix A-3 for their distribution across fields.)
UALR has consistently awarded more graduate degrees to African Americansâ€”24.2 percent of the state total in 2003-2004â€”than any other institution in Arkansas. (See Table 3-3.)
The university offers an outstanding honors program, the Donaghey Scholars Program, open to approximately 80 students in all undergraduate majors. This program offers a unique interdisciplinary core curriculum and funds a required study-abroad experience. The William G. Cooper, Jr., Honors Program in English is an endowed program available to exceptional students in English. Other departments offer a variety of honors courses and undergraduate research experiences to their students.
Student Enrollment. Today’s student body at UALR, 11,806 in the fall semester 2004, more than triples the student body the last year of Little Rock University in 1968-69.
UALR serves numerous students who are not able to commence college immediately after high school. And once these students enroll, they are not likely to graduate four years later. They are likely to enroll part-time some semesters and not enroll at all during others as they work to satisfy degree requirements. This distinguishing characteristic shows up in institutional statistics, as the following example shows.
The fall semester enrollment is the highest on virtually every college and university campus, including UALR, and enrollment drops in the spring semester, with few new students enrolling in either spring or summer terms. The result is that on most campuses during the course of the year, the total number of different individuals served, regardless of the term or terms in which they enrolled (fall, spring, summer) is not appreciably higher than the total fall enrollment. But at UALR there is much more flux, and the result is that the “unduplicated headcount” for the full year shows UALR serving a considerably greater number of individuals than the number enrolled in the fall semester, the traditional benchmark. The contrast with other institutions is shown in Figure 3-1.
Transfer Students. Transfer students are a larger component of the student body at UALR than at other Arkansas universities. In fall 2004 UALR enrolled 1,151 new transfer students, which was 12.4 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment. (See Table 3-4 regarding transfer data.)
Diversity. UALR’s student body is the most diverse among the public universities in the state. Although two out of three students enrolled at UALR are white, the institution plays a special role in Arkansas for African Americans, who constitute 29 percent of the student body. UALR’s total number of enrolled African American students exceeds the enrollment of African American students on any of the other four-year campuses in Arkansas. (See Table 3-5 for the racial/ethnic profile.)
Geographic Origin. A large majority of UALR’s studentsâ€”93.4 percentâ€” are from Arkansas. (See Table 3-6 for geographic origins of students.) The university plays a significant role in preparing the state’s workforce: 92 percent of UALR graduates remain in Arkansas after graduation, according to the ACT Alumni Outcomes Survey of the 2003 graduating class.
Age, Gender, Housing, Jobs. Table 3-7, Selected Student Characteristics, rounds out the demographic picture of UALR students. Although a majority are in the traditional 24-and-under college age group, the average age is 27 to 28; and at virtually every graduation ceremony a person in his or her 70′s is awarded a degree. The heavy majority of women reveal that metropolitan universities have been particularly important in providing higher education opportunities to place-bound women who otherwise would be unable to attend college. Although the percentage of commuting students is high at all metropolitan universities, at 96 percent it is quite high at UALR and reflects the lack of on-campus student housing, a fact which has deprived students who could not commute access to UALR programs.
Students who work 20 or more hours a week and on average enroll for 10.2 credit hours will, predictably, take longer to graduate than students who can live on campus, do not have to work, and enroll full-time. When UALR students graduate, they deserve a big tip of the hat for their accomplishments because most of them have not had the advantages of being traditional college students.
Retention and Graduation Rates. UALR has been working to increase retention rates. The U.S. Department of Education definition that is also used at the state level is the percentage of full-time first-year students who continue and enroll for their sophomore year. In UALR’s case, of first-time full-time freshmen in fall 2003, 67 percent of them enrolled again the following fall. This retention figure puts UALR at the median of retention rates among the public universities in Arkansas.
UALR’s graduation rate for first-time full-time freshmen six years later (also the official definition of the U. S. Department of Education and used at the state level) was 22 percent for first-time full-time freshmen entering in 1998. This figure is at the bottom among the universities in Arkansas. However, there is more to the story if one digs deeper into the data.
For example, if one takes the federal benchmark of first-time full-time entering freshmen for all of the public universities in Arkansas and simply compares it with the number of undergraduate degrees awarded four years later, the number of degrees awarded is always smaller than the number who were entering freshmen (less than 1:1 ratio). These figures have been consistent over the years, both individually and collectively, for all other public universities in Arkansas. But in UALR’s case the degrees-awarded figure is consistently larger than the entering freshmen figure (greater than 1:1 ratio). Figures 3-2 and 3-3 display the data showing the differences.
The reason for UALR’s remarkable productivity figures are transfer students, but UALR’s role in graduating these students is not recognized in the traditional measure of graduation rates. Students transfer to UALR to take advantage of the strong academic programs it offers, some of which are one-of-a-kind in the state; other people who began college in another town or state move to the Little Rock metropolitan area for jobs or other reasons. Clearly UALR plays a special role in providing such students an opportunity to complete their degrees.
(Note: Retention and graduation rates will be addressed again as a planning issue in Chapter 5.)
On-Campus Crime Rates. Because of its urban location, UALR is often perceived to be a less safe campus than others. In reality, the incidences of crime per enrollment are virtually identical for the four largest public universities in the stateâ€”University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas State University, University of Central Arkansas, and UALR, as Table 3-8 shows.
Researchâ€””Of Growing Importance”
The role of research at UALR has been changing, as was anticipated by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in 1989.
UALR faculty members are engaged in research on subjects appropriate to their academic disciplinesâ€”from Arkansas in the Civil War to electronic commerce to giant pandas to robots that can assist persons with disabilities. Even at the undergraduate level, faculty often include students in research projects, adding an enriching component to the educational experience.
To show the research and creative accomplishments of UALR faculty, this report could include a list of numerous books written by faculty and published by recognized publishers, a list of hundreds of articles and research reports of UALR faculty that have appeared in peer-reviewed professional journals, plus a similar list of invited and juried exhibits and performances and productions by faculty. In lieu of that evidence, the following recent examples of national awards and appointments will suffice to underscore the point that the research and creative contributions of UALR faculty are significant and are widely recognized.
- A member of the Applied Science faculty is on leave for a two-year appointment as a program director at the National Science Foundation in Washington.
- A UALR Shakespeare scholar was invited to England to lecture on her research at the Globe Playhouse in London where Shakespeare’s plays were performed 400 years ago. The same faculty member had previously been invited to give a series of lectures at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.
- A faculty member in educational psychologyâ€”nationally recognized for research on the influences of the family, the father, and the home environment on a child’s developmentâ€”recently chaired the Biobehavioral and Behavioral Research Review Committee of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Previously he served on the NIH Maternal and Child Health Research Review Committee.
- One history professor was recently named a National Humanities Center Fellow, and another was named a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Each fellowship recognizes and supports the faculty member’s research.
- A psychology faculty member has been named a Mary E. Switzer Distinguished Fellow by the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education to conduct research on international disability rights.
- During the last seven years, seven faculty members have received Fulbright Scholar appointments for research and teaching at universities in Panama, Slovak Republic, Austria, Belarus, Albania, Republic of China, and Hungary.
Two external reviews of the institution can be cited to confirm a change in the importance of research at UALR. The first was conducted by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the Arkansas State Board of Higher Education. In 1989, at the end of a “role and scope” review of each public institution of higher education, the state board adopted a new role and scope statement for UALR that declared that “research is of growing importance.”
The statement was prophetic. In 1990, UALR received authorization for its first doctoral program; today there are six. Annual reports of the UALR Office of Research and Sponsored Programs show that between 1989 and 2004, the level of external funding secured by UALR faculty and staff increased four-fold from $5 million to $22 million. (See Figure 3-4 Grants and Contracts.) What makes the record of UALR faculty even more impressive is that the campus does not offer programs in medicine or agriculture, and it also has not had a wide range of doctoral programs in engineering and the sciencesâ€”all representing disciplines that enjoy considerable opportunities for external research funding.
The second review came in 2000 when UALR moved into a research university category in the Carnegie Foundation’s national classifications of institutions of higher education. In Arkansas, two institutionsâ€”the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the University of Arkansas, Fayettevilleâ€”were classified as doctoral/research extensive (DRE) due to the breadth of their doctoral programs and the number of doctoral degrees conferred. With a narrower base of doctoral programs, UALR was classified as doctoral/research intensive (DRI). There are 146 (3.8 percent) DRE’s and 112 (2.9%) DRI’s across the nation. More recently, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education staff stated in a report in 2004 that they expect UALR to move up a notch soon in another classification system, that of the Southern Regional Education Board.
Later in this report, Chapter 6 might be seen as a third review in regard to the role of UALR in research. It will take note of several recent studies that strongly underscore the important role of university-based research and development as a key to the economic progress of a region. During the biennial legislative session in 2005, the governor proposed and the General Assembly approved an appropriation of $5.9 million to support UALR’s nanotechnology initiative. This action was evidence of the readiness of state leaders to invest in university research that has promise of commercialization and an impact on economic development.
This least understood university role requires the most explanation. The teaching role is almost universally understood. The research role is reasonably well understood. The public service role is not well understood at all.
UALR embraces and excels in the first two rolesâ€”teaching and research. But it is the magnitude of the third roleâ€”public serviceâ€”which most sets UALR apart. UALR’s record in public service, although generally typical of metropolitan campuses, clearly sets this university apart from other universities in Arkansas and from most universities across the nation. Indeed, the university’s record in external engagement has produced a distinctive character and has added significantly to the luster produced by the more traditional and familiar teaching and research activities of university personnel.
This university’s record in public service reflects an understanding that a public university is an expensive public investment in a formidable collection of intellectual resources that are relevant and can be helpful beyond the classroom, laboratory, and campus.
Terminology. Unfamiliar terminology can be a barrier to understanding. Faculty and staff and a number of specific organizational units of UALR make contributions beyond the campus through a wide variety of activities variously referred to as public service, outreach, professional service, community service, extension, and engagement. Although these terms carry some different nuances, they all refer to professional activities of university personnel aimed directly at solving community problems or otherwise assisting people, governments, groups, and other organizations beyond the borders of the campus.
In a university perspective, not all good deeds or acts of community service qualify as public service as the term is used here. For example, university faculty and staff might be involved in sponsoring youth organizations, church ministries, soup kitchens, etc. Such activities represent good community citizenship, but they do not require advanced preparation in specific academic disciplines; other dedicated citizens could provide the desired service. But as noted in the previous chapter, in a university context, public service has a professional character to it. That is, it typically involves the application of the faculty member’s professional expertise, based in an academic discipline; or in other instances the public service programs or activities are extensions of or adjunct to the programs of an academic unit.
Although a comprehensive list is not feasible within the confines of this report, the variety of the following examples will serve to illustrate this university’s public service role that is not always recognized or understood.
Public Service by Individual Faculty Members. Here are a few examples of the numerous instances of public service by individual faculty members at UALR. More often than not, university students assist in and learn much from these activities.
- For 17 years a member of the Department of English has led the Student Literacy Corps in which UALR students tutor elementary school students who have difficulty reading.
- A faculty member in the School of Mass Communication noted the need for more local Hispanic programming to meet the needs of the growing Hispanic population. He worked with UALR students and faculty to produce a 30-minute show, “De Todo un Poco” (A Little Bit of Everything), a series with cultural, community, and university segments.
- 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.
- For eight years a Shakespeare expert at UALR has led an annual Shakespeare Scene Festival in the university’s Theatre for the Performing Arts in whichâ€”at 30-minute intervalsâ€”high school, middle school, and elementary school students from area schools stage some portion, adaptation, or spoof of the works of William Shakespeare.
- In advance of the launching of the Clinton School of Public Service, a UALR political science professor developed and offered the first course on the Clinton presidency, which was also the first semester-long college course aired nationally on C-SPAN2. The former president, several members of his administration, and a number of prominent opponents and critics met with the class during the course of the semester.
- UALR faculty assisted in numerous ways in planning and launching the UA Clinton School of Public Service. Two emeritus faculty and 15 current faculty from UALR were appointed as inaugural faculty members of the school.
- A member of the social work faculty has assisted advocacy groups for the homeless by conducting a survey of the homeless in central Arkansas to achieve a better estimate of the number of the homeless population and increased understanding of their needs. Undergraduate students assisted in the research.
- A faculty member in the Department of Music has organized a Community Orchestra that has given the rare opportunity to rehearse and play in an orchestra to music lovers who otherwise would never have the experience. Among others young and old, an octogenarian has been able to continue her lifetime love of the violin by playing in the Community Orchestra.
- A UALR geologist used her expertise in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)to assist first responders in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. She volunteered to help develop maps that detailed road conditions, power outages, and facilities with hazardous materialsâ€”information used by the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Her work was noted on CNN Radio.
Public Service Activities Based in an Academic Unit. Here are several examples of public service activities based in academic programs at UALR. In most of these instances, university students assist in and learn much from these activities.
- The Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology provides diagnostic services, treatment, and rehabilitation benefiting young and oldâ€”the young child with speech or hearing deficits as well as senior citizens who have suffered strokes. The clinic provides services to clients and valuable training for students.
- The Community School of the Arts in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences provides non-credit, after-school, pre-collegiate programs in the visual and performing arts for school children.
- The William H. Bowen School of Law features three in-practice legal clinics, making it possible for students with faculty supervision to represent low-income clients while in law school.
- Evenings with History has been a remarkably successful outreach program for two decades. Members of the history faculty themselves, usually six each year, present public lectures based on their individual research specialties to a regular audience of approximately 100. Each session includes refreshments and an opportunity for informal conversation among friends and guests. Those who attend the lectures pay an annual subscription to the History Institute, which was formed in 1987 to respond to community interest in history and to develop community support for the department.
- Through its Business Forum begun in 1979, the College of Business each year presents five prominent speakers who address major state, national, and international issues. Attendance averages 165. This is an annual subscription program for business and civic leaders.
- Faculty and students in the Department of Health Sciences started the Prescription Assistance Line for Seniors (PALS) which offers information on locating prescription medication assistance for low-income seniors. The savings for hundreds of individuals have been substantial.
- During World War II, 110,000 Japanese Americans were removed from the west coast and interned in 10 camps, with 16,000 Japanese Americans sent to camps in Arkansas at Jerome and Rohwer. With the encouragement of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and with grant funding from the Foundation that exceeded $2.5 million, UALR faculty in the Public History graduate program, in partnership with the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, undertook a project named Life Interrupted. The faculty and their partners developed a whole set of print and electronic educational materials, a traveling exhibit, and a documentary about these camps which historians have largely ignored and about which most Arkansans were unaware. A conference in Little Rock in September 2004 capped the project, and was attended by 1,300 people with 70 percent of them from out of state.
- A quarter-century ago UALR’s faculty in the College of Education started the state’s first graduate program in gifted and talented education. Through an outgrowth of the graduate program, now thousands of area youngsters have had their summers enriched through educational experiences in Summer Laureate/University for Youth (SLUFY) programs. Two weeks in length, these programs do more than provide enrichment experiences for young people. They also provide required professional development experiences for UALR students pursuing degrees in teaching.
- Faculty in the gifted and talented program in the College of Education each year offer the Advanced Placement Summer Institute to hundreds of Arkansas teachers to help make the rigorous and popular advanced placement courses available to students in schools across the state.
- Wanting to assist a larger number of Arkansas high school graduates to be calculus-ready and therefore prepared to move without delay into rigorous engineering and science curricula, the CyberCollege initiated an on-line pre-calculus course. In fall 2004, 362 high school students were enrolled in the course in 17 participating high schools across the state.
- Each summer since 2001, faculty in CyberCollege have offered the CyberTeachers Program to equip 25 teachers from the Little Rock School District to be very knowledgeable and proficient in the use of the computer-based instructional technology now available to educators.
- UALR’s faculty in reading have helped thousands of teachers in Arkansas and across the nation become more effective teachers of reading, thus addressing one of the root issues in student achievement. UALR has provided national leadership in researching the impact of the Reading Recovery approach and has significantly assisted state education efforts in developing and implementing a comprehensive literacy model. This model has been studied and copied by schools in other states. Each year the College of Education organizes a nationally recognized conference in Little Rock that is usually attended by 800 persons involved in reading education.
Major Community Issues.
Peace and progress in a community require success in addressing major community issues, which usually are divisive issues. The university has shown a willingness to assist the larger metropolitan community in addressing a number of its foremost issues, drawing on the ability of the university to conduct research, to provide good information, and to facilitate discussion and debate in a neutral setting. Of the following examples, the first two are repeated each year; the others were specific projects of limited duration.
- In the history of Arkansas, race, particularly black-white relations, has been the mega issue that has most retarded the development of the state. To encourage the community to give sustained attention to this persistent issue, the Institute of Government conducts an annual survey of racial attitudes in Pulaski County and hosts a half-day conference at the time of the release of the survey results.
- In the highly competitive global economy of the 21st Century, the competitiveness of businesses and the standards of living of communities everywhere are at risk. For leaders in the 11 counties included in the Metro Little Rock Alliance of central Arkansas, UALR holds an annual conference on regionalism as the university endeavors to raise the vision of civic and business leaders to the better day that can be enjoyed with the laying aside of old rivalries.
- In 1996, at the request of the governor and of the director of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), UALR conducted a study of the roles of the ADE and its organization, operations, and internal communications, a politically sensitive undertaking. The study team included UALR administrators, faculty, staff, and also business people and public school administrators. The Arkansas Board of Education used the report as a basis for major changes in the department.
- In 1997, UALR released Plain Talk: The Future of Little Rock’s Public Schools, an in-depth study of the litigation-plagued school district conducted by an interdisciplinary team of eight faculty members. A former Mississippi governor and member of President Bill Clinton’s Initiative on Race Commission, said, “It is the best study that I have seen on this intractable problem that involves so many complex facets.”
- At the request of the two mayors and two water commission chairs, an interdisciplinary team of six UALR faculty members studied and helped resolve decades of controversy over water issues between Little Rock and North Little Rock with recommendations that led to the merger of the water utilities of the two cities.
- At the request of the County Judge and other leaders of Saline County, probably the most litigious county in the state in regard to water issues, an interdisciplinary team of seven faculty members and one graduate student studied and helped resolve decades of controversy among 14 different water purveyors in Saline County with recommendations that they jointly establish a Saline Watershed Regional Water Distribution District, a plan which was adopted, which received court approval, and which now is in place.
- In 2003, an interdisciplinary team of nine faculty members and one graduate student conducted a study of central Arkansas transit issues at the request of the Pulaski County Judge and the mayors of the five municipalities that constitute Metroplan, the regional planning agency. The benchmarking and evaluation provided in the team’s report produced a better understanding of the needs and the quality of service of Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA), the joint public transit agency. The team also provided recommendations for an expanded, better-funded transit system.
- The Institute for Economic Advancement (IEA) is the largest outreach unit with a budget of $3 million and 48 employees who provide research, data, and training. IEA provides a regular state economic forecast which is an important component in the state government’s official revenue forecast. It is a source of an immense amount of census data and provides technical assistance in the use of the data. IEA conducts economic research on specific issues for governmental units, businesses, labor organizations, and communities. It further supports statewide economic development by offering the Certified Economic Developer program to train persons who can work with communities, economic development districts, and chambers of commerce. IEA initiated and manages websites for almost 50 Arkansas cities and municipalities, with an average of 400 pages of information about each. It also has a Geographic Information System which enables it to display the geographic distribution of demographic and other data. IEA’s Workplace Skills Enhancement Program offers bilingual job-readiness and other training programs for Hispanics and communications training for a number of businesses with significant numbers of Hispanic customers.
- The Arkansas Small Business Development Center, funded approximately 50/50 by the university and the U.S. Small Business Administration, was established in 1980 and is the state’s only economic development entity that provides face-to-face assistance to Arkansas businesses in their local communities through a network of seven offices located around the state. In addition to face-to-face consulting, it provides numerous classes and short courses on starting a business, cash flow, loan proposals, marketing, business planning, and government contracting. It has an outstanding record in guiding clients to financing for start-ups or expansions. An economic impact study in 2004 by a Mississippi State University researcher found an annual impact of $73 million in increased sales and $3.3 million in tax revenues for Arkansas.
- The Institute of Government, besides being the home of the Master of Public Administration program, offers applied research to a variety of external organizations. It also includes a survey research unit. The institute houses the Arkansas Public Administration Consortium, a joint program of UALR, Arkansas State University, and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, that provides a variety of training and certificate programs for workers in government offices and agencies and non-profit organizations.
- UALR Public Radio includes two stations. KLRE-FM 90.5 is a 40,000-watt station broadcasting classical music 24 hours a day. KUAR-FM 89.1, a 100,000-watt station, is a National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate with a focus on news and information. The two stations offer numerous locally-produced programs on Arkansas events, people, politics, culture, history, and the arts. The stations, which have won many awards, are commercial-free and reach 70,000 listeners each week. They inform, enrich, and entertain; and they regularly provide hands-on opportunities to UALR students interested in careers in broadcasting.
- The Intensive English Language Program (IELP), offering English language education to international students and other limited English speakers, has been especially helpful to persons wanting to study in the United States but whose English is inadequate for university-level study. A majority of the students who come to the IELP to study English matriculate at UALR.
- The Mid-South Summer School of the College of Professional Studies has for more than three decades provided training for professionals in the areas of alcohol abuse, addiction, and child welfare. Attendance for the week-long school typically exceeds 800. The MidSOUTH Training Academy operates with 65 employees out of six regional offices around the state and provides training for the child welfare service workforce in Arkansas.
- The Office of Community Engagement helps students, faculty, and staff find volunteer opportunities with local organizations. For example, it assists juniors and seniors in the Friday-Sturgis leadership program find volunteer opportunities to satisfy the 130 hours of community service required by the program.
Special Neighborhood Initiative. In 1994, UALR started the Oak Forest Initiative in the neighborhood immediately east and north of the campus with funding assistance from both the federal level and the city of Little Rock. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city, and Habitat for Humanity, five houses have been rehabilitated and 10 new houses have been built, the first new additions to housing stock in this area in several decades. The dilapidated baseball field in Curran Conway Park, a city park, has been renovated by the UALR Department of Athletics with major private donations. The baseball Trojans now play their games in one of the best baseball facilities in the Sunbelt Conference.
The centerpiece of the neighborhood initiative has been UALR Children International (previously UALR Share America), made possible by grant funding from Kansas City-based Children International, better known for its humanitarian programs for children and families in poverty outside the United States. The grant funding over the last decade has totaled more than $5 million. Approximately 1,800 children in Little Rock are served each year by UALR Children International programs.
Since 1994, a cluster of programs serving low-income children and families has been developed that reach beyond the Oak Forest neighborhood. The multi-faceted initiative has included the after-school Neighborhood Homework Center with tutoring and summer camps for neighborhood children. Some 14 UALR units have participated, with academic departments often developing service-learning opportunities for their students. For example, construction management faculty and students have built two playgrounds and renovated the UALR Children International director’s office. After-school programs at three sites include educational enrichment programs taught by certified teachers and UALR students with a focus on mathematics and literacy. (Last year’s assessment showed a 72 percent performance improvement from pre-test to post-test.) The Department of Nursing’s faculty and students have for eight years provided annual health screenings to children in the Children International program. The Labor Education Program has offered neighborhood parents a computer training and job-readiness program. Since 2000, 91 parents have completed the program, resulting in 22 percent gaining employment and 66 percent receiving job promotions.
The scope and success of programs based in UALR Children International have been possible only because numerous organizations, both public and privateâ€”31 in allâ€”have joined as Partners in Service. Perhaps most noteworthy has been the health services, particularly the dental services, made available to low-income children. During the last year a dental clinic was opened at Wakefield Elementary School.
The profile of the university given in this chapter supports the proposition of the preceding chapterâ€”that the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is a complex, hybrid institution of higher education.
- As research increases in importance, UALR faculty and administrators should integrate teaching and research to maintain and enrich the tradition of excellent classroom teaching.
- A first order of business for a university with a comprehensive set of programs of study is to maintain, update, and enhance the quality of those existing programs, paying particular attention to those that serve critical public needs and to those that can achieve national prominence.
- With 115 programs of study, faculty and administrators should proceed cautiously when initiating new programs. Periodic program reviews could identify programs that should be discontinued, freeing resources for high-priority areas.
- For a student body with a sizable majority of students who hold jobs and often have family responsibilities, offering convenience in schedules, facilities, business operations, and a variety of policies and procedures is not a luxury. Convenience, to the extent achievable, enables students to complete their education goals sooner rather than later.
- Among universities in Arkansas, UALR clearly has a nicheâ€”transfer students. If enrollment continues to increase at two-year campuses in the state, enrollment of transfer students is likely to increase at UALR. This niche and its potential for growth make paying careful attention to the policies and procedures that facilitate or delay the progress of transfer students an obvious priority.
- Arkansas Higher Education Plan: 1989-1994, Adopted by the Arkansas State Board of Higher Education, 1989, p. 149.
- “Status of Doctoral Education in Arkansas,” An Arkansas Department of Higher Education Report to the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board, April 2004, p. 17.
- Letter from William F. Winter, former Governor of Mississippi, to UALR Chancellor Charles E. Hathaway, August 13, 1997.