September 2010

Enrollment

The 11th-day UALR headcount enrollment this year was 13,242. This figure is higher than the comparable statistic last year by 75 students. Because of this year’s advent of the Lottery Scholarship, some might have anticipated a larger headcount gain, but several factors, including increased admissions standards, contributed to the modest nature of the gain. It is important to remember that the 11th-day figure is a preliminary number; all universities spend several weeks after the 11th-day census date reviewing enrollment data to ensure that it is clean. Typically, the final count is lower than that reported on the 11th day.

The latest information I have is that 1336 UALR students hold the Lottery Scholarship this year. One of the challenges before UALR and the other colleges and universities around the state is helping Lottery Scholarship students to understand the requirements (minimum GPA, hours completed, etc.) for retaining their scholarships. Various offices and people around campus will be making a special effort in the coming weeks to reach out to Lottery Scholarship students toward this purpose.

Student Success

As those of you who were present know, the Chancellor and I used our University Assembly address to charge to the university community to own improvement of retention and graduation rates. Here is a brief update on student success initiatives:

  1. Most importantly, this effort has generated great enthusiasm and energy around campus.
    1. There are conversations taking place all over campus in various departments and units, looking for effective ways to contribute to the cause.
    2. Several faculty who teach in the College of Business’ MBA program are starting CafeMBA, an initiative which will pull MBA students together into a community through regular social activities.
    3. The Department of Teacher Education is redefining the job description of an open staff position to focus more on advising.
    4. The Department of Music has divided its former Recruitment and Retention Committee into two separate committees because retention was getting lost in recruitment activities.
    5. College of Business Dean Chelte has dedicated some one-time funding for an internal granting opportunity for faculty who want to seek ways of engaging students in research activities.
    6. I’m sure there are many more examples of great faculty- and staff-led initiatives being launched in pursuit of student success. These are just the ones about which I’ve heard.
    7. I emailed earlier this week a Request for Proposals for funding from one-time dollars which have been set aside for various campus units – singly or in partnership – to support creative ideas of faculty and staff designed to enhance student success. The deadline for applications is October 15. Susan Hoffpauir is shepherding this project; she received about 20 queries about this opportunity from around campus within hours of the email announcement.
    8. As I announced at the University Assembly meeting, one of our student success strategies is to create a new position reporting to me – an Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Success – who will champion the cause of student success. We will vest in the person in this position the authority, responsibility, and accountability for improving retention and graduation rates at UALR. I hope to have the position announcement out within the next two weeks.
    9. Once the new Associate Vice Chancellor is hired, he/she will work with others on campus to orchestrate the shifting of Academic Advising to Academic Affairs. This undertaking will necessitate a great deal of thought and consultation with people across campus, particularly our good colleagues in University College, to determine how to organize advising to be most effective. And I anticipate that we will have to invest additional resources to adequately meet the needs of faculty, departments, and colleges as they assume greater ownership of advising.

    Transfer Pilot

    As you may recall, Chancellor Anderson requested and received Faculty Senate approval several years ago to launch a pilot project to allow four departments (Biology, Construction Management, Criminal Justice, and History, all of whom volunteered for the pilot) to waive for transfer students certain university-wide requirements for the baccalaureate degree when it appeared to make sense to do so. The five baccalaureate degree requirements involved were:

    • UALR core curriculum requirements.
    • Major requirements.
    • Minor requirements.
    • The requirement of 45 upper-level hours.
    • The requirement of 30 hours in residence.

    Participating programs were asked to collect quantitative and qualitative data on each student included in the pilot program, including types of waivers given, reasons for waiving the requirements, number of transfer credit hours the student brought to UALR, and the number of hours toward graduation saved as a result of the waivers.

    We now have preliminary results of the pilot in an initial report. You can access that report at http://ualr.edu/academics/files/2010/08/TransferPilot10.pdf. Some items which may be of particular interest include these:

    • 110 students participated in the pilot program.
    • Requirements most often waived: UALR core curriculum requirements (average waived was 3.9 hours) and requirement of 45 upper-level hours.
    • Typical reasons for waiving UALR core hours included:
      • Course was in the core at a previously attended private or out-of-state institution.
      • Student had taken one or more other, non-core courses in the subject area.
      • Student had met the 35-hour core requirements specified by ADHE.

    I urge your review of this document and anticipate that the results may perhaps prompt consideration of extending additional flexibility to all departments and/or changing the undergraduate degree requirements with which the Undergraduate Curriculum Revision Task Force is grappling.

    Strategic Plan

    We began the process of revising the strategic plan with a review of accomplishments associated with UALR: Fast Forward, a review which included a campus-wide solicitation last spring semester for achievements related to the goals, objectives, and strategies of that document. Jim Lynch took the more than 550 responses and fashioned them into a broad outline for an accountability report envisioned as more of an executive summary-type document rather than a strategy-by-strategy accounting of achievement. In light of Jim’s retirement, Huey Crisp from the Department of Rhetoric and Writing has taken responsibility for completing that report which should be out in the coming weeks. We will make the resulting document available to all.

    The strategic planning steering committee held preliminary meetings in the summer to frame issues which then formed the basis for the bulk of the conversation at the Chancellor’s Leadership Group’s annual retreat. Once we had decided to devote the CLG Retreat to the strategic planning process, we requested that Joel invite additional faculty and staff to participate in the retreat in light of the fact that faculty (other than deans) and staff (other than administrators) are not particularly well-represented on CLG. He readily agreed, and we included faculty leadership from the colleges.

    Six themes have emerged from these initial conversations:

    1. Making student success UALR’s top priority.
    2. Offering high-quality, cutting-edge educational experiences for students prepared for rigorous study at the university level.
    3. Fostering the maturation of the research mission in alignment with UALR’s Carnegie classification as a doctoral research university.
    4. Responding to local, state, region, and national priorities to generate economic development and ensure quality of life.
    5. Demonstrating UALR’s commitment to diversity, equality, and global understanding.
    6. Maintaining and supporting the human resources and infrastructure necessary to support UALR’s mission and vision.

    I spent 15 days early this semester trying to shape the broad array of brainstorming ideas which emerged from the CLG Retreat around these themes into an organized document. This material will serve as a point of departure for series of conversations in a variety of formats (roundtable discussions, web-based response opportunities, focus groups, open hearings) with faculty, staff, students, and external partners later this semester.

    Thank you for your commitment to UALR.

    Sincerely yours,
    David Belcher

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