April 28, 2011

Please find below my remarks at the University Assembly meeting on April 28, 2011.

Let me begin by reviewing some of the progress we’ve made on a number of fronts this past year:

Strategic Plan: we are well on our way to completing the new strategic plan. During the past year, we have compiled an accountability report, reviewing the UALR Fast Forward years against the backdrop of that document. This report will serve in some ways as a companion piece to UALR Fast Forward and as a preface to the new plan. We shared an early draft of the strategic plan with both internal and external audiences, and the strategic plan subcommittees revised their assignments in light of that input. Next, the six subcommittee chairs reviewed the resulting material to streamline, eliminate duplication, and focus on strategic priorities. I will forward the resulting document for campus-wide review and input before the end of the semester.

Student Success: as the strategic planning process has unfolded, student success has emerged as UALR’s top priority, and we have made good progress on student success initiatives this year. We initiated a student success granting opportunity which afforded a number of units across campus the opportunity to pursue evidence-based, results-oriented efforts targeting the success of our students. We undertook some restructuring in central administration to heighten the focus on student success. The Chancellor and I, as promised, held a series of meetings with all chairs whose units include undergraduate programs and their deans to discuss the performance of students in their departments. I have been very impressed with the enthusiasm with which student success has been embraced and by the innovative and thoughtful ways the campus community has responded to this charge.

Undergraduate Curriculum Review: this year has witnessed much study and work by the Undergraduate Curriculum Revision Task Force focused toward making appropriate recommendations to ensure the quality of UALR’s undergraduate curriculum with specific attention to the core. We should expect to hear much more from that group next year.

Governance Document Revision Process: in light of the Faculty Roles and Rewards I and II documents and the University Promotion and Tenure Guidelines, many academic units across campus have expended a great deal of effort and thought revising their governance documents this year. Only a few documents have actually made it to my office and to the Governance Committee for our review, and I thus anticipate a great deal of activity on governance documents next year.

Leadership Changes: UALR is experiencing a significant set of leadership changes.

  • Dr. Mary Good, the inaugural dean of the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology will retire this summer; Dr. Eric Sandgren from UNLV will join us as her successor.
  • Dr. Linda Musun, Professor of Psychology, former Associate Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, former Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and current Dean of Extended Programs, will retire this summer.
  • Jerry Stevenson’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs duties are changing to include Linda’s responsibilities and continued responsibility for the Office of International Services.
  • Christy Drale will assume responsibility for some of Jerry’s current responsibilities (management of the Provost’s Office and its budgets, special events, faculty hiring, orientation, reappointment, tenure, promotion, OCDA, and retirement activities) while expanding the position’s portfolio to include emphases on areas we have simply not heretofore had the resources to staff: leadership development, management of academic space utilization, and support and advocacy for academic affairs instructional and research technology.
  • Daryl Rice joined our office in January of this year as the new Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/Student Success. His portfolio will include supervision of the Office of Transfer Student Services, the Academic Success Center, Cooperative Education, and the Office of Undergraduate Academic Advising.
  • The shuffle of responsibilities has allowed us to expand the responsibilities of Susan Hoffpauir’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs position to include a concentrated focus on diversity. We will miss Susan as she moves to the position of Associate Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service.

It has been a challenging year, but it’s been a good year in which we’ve taken on some important issues which will advance our university.

While I’m noting leadership changes, allow me to salute to Dr. Andrew Eshleman who has made an excellent Assembly President during the past year. He has offered a strong voice on behalf of the faculty and their perspective. He is a solution seeker and a facilitator. He is a caring leader and an excellent partner. I know that he will experience much success in his new leadership role as Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Portland. We send with him our very best wishes for success.

Reflections

I take here the opportunity to express my gratitude to the UALR community for eight great years of working together on behalf of UALR. Personally, I have been blessed with and appreciated your support, your patience and forgiveness, your vision, your hard work, and your mentorship. I have grown as an administrator through my association with you, and I know that, for many reasons, I owe the opportunity which is now in front of me to you and your tutelage. I have enjoyed excellent working relationships with people throughout this campus. I have had particularly rewarding relationships – even when we didn’t agree – with faculty leadership, especially the four Assembly Presidents – Pete Tschumi, Fred Williams, Richard Ford, and Andrew Eshleman, and members of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee. I have learned from you whether you knew it or not. I have had excellent dean colleagues, excellent Associate Vice Chancellors for Academic Affairs, a great office staff, and excellent partnerships with my colleagues in the Direct Reports Groups.

I must particularly and seriously acknowledge Joel. As I noted in my acceptance speeches in North Carolina, Joel has been a real mentor to me, providing me opportunities during my provostial years to take on projects normally associated with the role of a chancellor in order to prepare me for this time. I am very grateful.

It’s breathtaking for me to look back to 2003 when I came here. I want to note a handful of what’s happened. This is not about me; rather it’s where we as an institution have come together.

  • We raised admission standards twice.
  • UALR’s average ACT has gone up 3 points in 3 years.
  • The numbers of UALR students in developmental courses have dropped dramatically.
  • We have the highest enrollment in institution’s history.
  • We have seen the strong emergence of an emphasis on undergraduate research.
  • The Donaghey Scholars Program has expanded to 100 students.
  • Under Charles Donaldson’s leadership, the African-American Male Initiative has emerged as a very successful student success initiative which in just a short time has achieved widespread recognition.
  • We have added seven new doctoral programs – in Audiology, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Reading, Criminal Justice, Bioinformatics, Integrated Computing, and Engineering Science and Systems.
  • We have expanded online offerings.
  • We have retooled and reintroduced the Executive MBA program.
  • We have added extraordinary niche programs in applied design, dance, information quality, taxation, and construction engineering.
  • The Law School has achieved national recognition of its legal writing program.
  • We have founded the Nanotechnology Center, the Institute on Race and Ethnicity, and the Arkansas Studies Institute, and strengthened the Sequoyah National Research Center.
  • We have doubled the number of nursing graduates and increased by 40% the number of licensed teachers we graduate annually.
  • We have built the Stephens Center and the new EIT Building.
  • We have purchased the University Shopping Center and moved KUAR/KLRE, Audiology and Speech Pathology, Applied Design, the Sequoyah National Research Center, TRIO programs, and others into much better facilities there.
  • We began the long-term project of redeveloping Coleman Creek through the Trail of Tears Park.
  • We have renovated Stabler Hall and the chemistry labs and Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall.
  • We have tripled the number of beds in residential facilities through the beautiful addition of new, state-of-the-art student housing.
  • We have broken ground for the Nanotechnology Building, the track and field/cross-country/and soccer complex, and the Student One-Stop Center.
  • We have brought in millions of federal dollars to support instructional and research programs at UALR.
  • We have well surpassed the original $75M goal for the comprehensive campaign, having recently hit $92M.
  • We saw both men’s and women’s basketball teams make it to the big dance this year.
  • We have launched the University District initiative to redevelop our part of UALR.
  • We landed one of only 21 U.S. Department of Education Promise Neighborhood planning grants out of around 350 applications.
  • We helped to parent the Clinton School into being.
  • We have conducted studies for our region on wastewater management and transportation and the prison system and Riverdale traffic issues.
  • We have hired fabulous new faculty and staff.
  • We have updated business processes.
  • We have gotten connected to ARE-ON.
  • We have articulated Faculty Roles and Rewards I and II and university-wide Promotion and Tenure Guidelines.
  • We have made real strides in improving our infrastructure for and focus on student success.
  • We have developed a much-improved public relations campaign to tell our story.
  • We have built a robust alumni association.
  • We have reached out to partner with other institutions of higher education.

For every item noted above, there are 20-30 others that are just as wonderful. But also, for every achievement noted above, there are 20-30 other projects we need to tackle and accomplish. But it is important acknowledge what we have accomplished.

Let me reiterate that this list is not about me; I have not been involved in many of these efforts. But, as I prepare to leave, I am taking a look back at the years I’ve spent here, and I’m taking a moment of personal privilege to hold up a mirror to you to show you what you have done. It is incredible just how far we have come in such a short period of time. And we have done it with integrity and by working together.

Let me end with an exhortation: now is not the time to slow down. There are plenty of challenges to go around, not the least of which is the budget scenario. But stay focused on the long view – the university we want to be…

  • Where measures of students success demonstrate the success of our efforts.
  • Where we graduate students who make remarkable contributions in their professions and in their demonstrated understanding of the roles they need to play in their communities.
  • Where we embrace and own our designation as a doctoral research university.
  • Where we hire brilliantly, inviting colleagues to join our ranks who are demonstrably committed to students and their potential, who have robust research agendas, and who represent the diversity which is our community and which is America.
  • Where we mentor colleagues and future leaders.
  • Where the name University of Arkansas at Little Rock is synonymous to everyone with adjectives such as “excellence”, “innovative”, and “vibrant.”
  • Where student life and co-curricular activities ground students in their university.
  • Where we continue to lead the way in what I refer to as “the new world order in higher education”, embracing the rapidly changing world of higher education for maximum benefit and competitive advantage.
  • Where we not only engage the community, but are the community leader.
  • Where the university’s immediate community, the University District, is a revitalized, vibrant part of our city.

UALR has made remarkable progress. It has a long, challenging, rewarding, fulfilling, and meaning-filled road ahead of it. Keep focused on moving forward toward that evolving vision. And thank you for letting me share the ride for these past years.

Sincerely yours,
David Belcher
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

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