Spring 2013

Advancing UALR as a Metropolitan Community-Engaged Research University —Dr. Zulma Toro, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

April 25, 2013

Opening Remarks

Good afternoon. It is my privilege and honor to be here celebrating a great year for UALR.

I know that you must hear this at every assembly, but really, What a Year!

As I was preparing for today’s assembly, I could not believe everything I read about the things that you, the faculty and staff, have made happen over the past year.

I also can’t believe that only four months have passed since I arrived. As busy as you have kept me, it feels like four years instead of months!

Still, I want to thank all of you for making this a relatively painless four months. You have been successful at making me feel at home.

The names you have seen scrolling on the screen since you entered the auditorium are faculty who won college and university excellence awards, AND faculty who received tenure and/or promotions this year.

In reading all of the information about these individuals, I was astounded by what an excellent faculty we have and how honored I am to be your Provost. My sincere congratulations to all of you.

Speaking of Faculty Excellence–some of you may have missed the faculty excellence ceremony so I wanted you to be aware that—even as I speak—my staff is diligently working on ordering the right microphone for my future presentations.

One that will allow you to hear an authentic deep Southern accent. I promise, next year we will have the appropriate microphone and you will hear a Puerto Rican speaking with a deep Southern accent.

This truly has been a full year–and I want to briefly comment on several initiatives in particular, but we cannot rest on our laurels and must keep up with the great work you have been doing. Your passion, dedication and commitment to our students and our noble institution will lead UALR to be a top metropolitan, community-engaged research university.

Two days ago, I was prepared to share with you some brief remarks.

This afternoon’s main speech was going to be delivered by a charismatic and funny individual.

A performer better than Jay Leno and even better than Jimmy Fallon.

But, while I was preparing my presentation, I received news that Chancellor Anderson was not going to be able to attend today’s assembly.

Therefore, you have to settle for me; a dry engineer with a funny accent who will be talking about the following:

  • Your accomplishments in Academic Year 2012-2013,
  • Goals for the next five years,
  • Performance metrics that will impact the state funding for UALR,
  • Additional metrics of interests,
  • Academic restructuring,
  • Initiatives we will be undertaking next academic year, and
  • Budget priorities for fiscal year 2014.

Academic Year 2012-2013 in Review

The two main activities that affect the state funding of Arkansas higher education institutions are student recruitment and retention.

Therefore, in reviewing what we have accomplished during the current academic year it is important to frame our accomplishments based on these two main activities.


Let’s start by looking at our main accomplishments as they relate to recruitment.

We have achieved the following over the past year:

  • Developed a new E-Commerce Degree at the UALR Benton Center
  • Collaborated with Extended Programs on the Academic Partnerships’ initiative and will be offering the following online degrees:
    • B.A.-Criminal Justice (Fall 2013)
    • M.S.-Criminal Justice (Spring 2013)
    • M.Ed.-Reading (Fall 2013)
    • B.A.-Speech Communication (Fall 2013)
    • B.B.A.-General Business (Fall 2013)
    • B.S.N.-Nursing Completion (2013-2014)
  • Revised and streamlined the policy for awarding a second baccalaureate to UALR graduates
  • Adopted and displayed the ADHE-ACTS common-course numbers in public documents
  • Continued general education transfer improvement through use of Transflex
  • Collaborated with the UALR Enrollment Management Division to streamline university admissions and enrollment processes
  • Created a Graduate Student Recruitment Plan
  • Researched extensively the process to award graduate assistantships across academic and non-academic units

Continuing with our main accomplishments, let’s look at retention.
We have achieved the following over the past year:

  • Partnered with the Division of Educational, Student Services, and Student Life for the creation of Learning Communities
  • Redesigned Developmental Education
  • Conducted Additional Experiments with Supplemental Instruction
  • Collaborated to Develop Online Modules for Use in First-Year Colloquium Courses
  • Developed and adopted a university-wide, Undergraduate Catalog template for ease of student and advisor’s understanding of program requirements
  • Redesigned the process by which students declare majors and minors
  • Continued with our revision of student advising process by accomplishing the following:
      Created the College Advising Strategic Plans
      Established the CoB Advising Center
  • Coordinated Student Research Expo, which serves as a high-impact retention activity
  • Prepared for release of degree audits for student viewing
  • Partnered with the Division of Enrollment Management, OIR, and IT Services to create a data warehouse
  • Developed a plan for a student early alert system

After all of those accomplishments, it is no wonder why so many are retiring

Tenure Track 14
Instructors 11
Directors 1
Deans 2

Many faculty members have asked me to clarify where the institution is going. How will we look 5 years from now?

UALR: Next Five Years

The answer to that question is, in the next 5 years UALR should be One of the Top Metropolitan, Community Engaged, Research Universities in the Southeastern region of the country.

To do this we must do the following:

  • Achieve SREB Four-Year 2 Category Consistently. This means we must – Award at least 30 doctoral degrees across at least five disciplines annually.
  • Excel as a Student Success Centered Institution Foster Interdisciplinary Collaborations in order to Encourage Entrepreneurial Faculty Involved in
    • Pedagogical Innovation,
    • Community Engagement,
    • Creative Work,
    • Discipline-based Research, and
    • Knowledge Discovery.
  • Expand Our Contributions to both the Social Advancement and Economic Growth of the State of Arkansas and Central Arkansas.
  • Successfully Serve a Student Population that Reflects the Ethnic Diversity of the City of Little Rock and the State of Arkansas.
  • Provide Courses of Study that Prepare Graduates to Live, Work, and Succeed in the 21st Century.
  • Offer a Variety of Academic Program Delivery Modes that serve the Needs of Both Traditional College-Age Students as well as Adult Learners.

If are going to accomplish our goals, the state metrics become critical.

UALR Performance on State Metrics

Based on the new funding formula, 75% of the state funding student enrollment. This means that student enrollment is a performance measure.

Let’s talk about how well we are performing when it comes to enrollment.

From the graph above, it’s easy to conclude that UALR enrollment has been flat and the rate of enrollment increase has lagged behind other institutions.

The same thing can be said about SSCH’s.

In order to maintain the 75% portion of our state funding, we must pay closer attention to these performance measures as well as others.

Four Mandatory Performance Measures

Within 5 years, 25% of our funding will depend on a set of performance measures of which there are four of these are mandatory for all state institutions. The mandatory performance measures include the following:

  1. Number of Bachelor Graduates
  2. Number of Total Credentials
  3. Number of STEM Credentials
  4. Retention (Progression)

This last measure deserves some explanation. It is based on a cohort of credential-seeking students enrolling in 6 or more hours during a fall semester.

The cohort is then tracked through the next academic year to identify students in the cohort who earned a total 18 or more credit hours through the two academic years.

In order to receive credit for this measure, students must be continually enrolled and have earned 18 hours during a 2-year period.

Ten Optional Performance Measures

There are also 10 Optional Performance Measures.

  1. Course Completion
  2. High-Demand Credentials
  3. Minority-Student Credentials
  4. Non-Traditional Student Credentials
  5. Remedial Student Credentials
  6. Regional Economic Credentials
  7. Transfer Student Credentials
  8. Expenditure of Federal Awards
  9. Patents
  10. New Company Startups

Out of these, UALR will be asked, at a later date, to select six.

We would be here until next year if I were to go over all of these measures in depth, so let me tell you about a few and how we compare to other select universities in Arkansas.

Number of Bachelor Graduates

With regard to the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded you can see that both ASU and UCA have significantly leaped ahead of UALR and ATU is quickly gaining ground. We believe that our loss of enrollment (and other institutions’ double digit increases in enrollment) have resulted in our lag in bachelor’s degrees granted.

In terms of number of total credentials we move ahead of UCA, which is good news. This is due to our higher number of graduate degrees awarded. Thus, the importance of our continued discussions regarding graduate enrollments and completions.

STEM Credentials

On number of STEM credentials we still maintain a competitive advantage and UALR is the second producer of STEM credentials in Arkansas.

However, it appears that ASU is poised to surpass us in this area. I would encourage us to take advantage of our unique positioning in STEM education and continue to increase the number of credentials we award in these important fields.

Retention (Progression)

UALR performance on retention metrics needs improvement. We have the lowest retention rate among our competitors. This could be due to the fact that our students take too few credit hours per semester and/or due to the lack of persistence by our students.

We need to look carefully at our data to determine contributing factors, because it is of the utmost importance for all of us to work as a team to help our students persist and make progress towards degree completion.

Now for a few of the optional measures

Course Completion

This is successful course completion rate for students in non-remedial courses within the same term.

Here again, this must be something that needs our full attention as we move forward. UALR is has the worst performance among our competitors.

Minority-Student Credentials

Until not too long ago, UALR prided itself in the fact that we had historically led the state in awards to minority students.

Now, UAF has moved ahead of us and ASU is a very close third. We owned this measure for years and we should own it again.

Non-Traditional Student Credentials

This is another metric that we should own. Let’s make this a focus area and move out of third place in the state.

Remedial Student Credentials

In terms of remedial student credentials, we are third among our competitors once again.

I hope you understand that for UALR to keep the current level of state funding, we have work ahead of us.

We must understand that the retention and recruitment of our students is a shared responsibility and every individual in this room has a role to play in these activities.

Additional Metrics of Interest

Besides the metrics that directly affect our state funding, there are additional metrics that I would like to share with you. These are critical in advancing UALR as a top metropolitan community-engaged research university.

The metrics are

  • headcount/enrollment,
  • our service/community engagement,
  • grants and contracts, and
  • intellectual property/patents.

As you will see, we have some successes and also some opportunities.


With regard to Headcount/enrollment, we are in a down turn at all levels.

Increasing these numbers must become Job 1. In fact, we need to increase our enrollment to 20,000 students.

Service/Community Engagement

UALR has always excelled in this area. And, we are proud of the 100’s of students and faculty who give of their time, energy, and intellect to address community, state, and regional issues.

We know that when students provide service, there is a greater likelihood that they will be retained and graduate. They also will be more likely to continue their commitment to service after graduation.

I hope that we can engage even more students in giving back to communities across the state.

Sponsored Programs: Grants and contracts

We are down over the past 3 years in this measure. A clear indication of the effects of federal funding cuts. Reaching our 5 year goals will require innovative approached to work with grants and contracts.

Intellectual Property-Patents

The total number of patent applications filed in the last two years is 22, five of which are provisional applications, and 17 are full applications.

The total number of patents issued is six.

This is good progress: We are on the right track; however, as Jeff would say, we need to double our efforts in this area.

Academic Restructuring Process Common Themes

Based on the feedback from Town Hall meetings and draft of reports from task forces, some common themes have surfaced. These themes are as follows:

  • Create Policies and Procedures that Foster Interdisciplinary Collaborations
  • Recognize Community Engagement as an Important Faculty Contribution to Advance Our Institutional Mission
  • Review Faculty Workloads and Salary Equity
  • Increase Communication with University Community
  • Review the Structure of the Graduate School and ORSP
  • Create an Effective Process to Identify Academic Program and Professional Development Needs
  • Assess IRB Processes and Procedures

Actions will be implemented based on this feedback within the next few weeks. As you will see in a couple of minutes, the work agenda for the next academic year will be influenced by this feedback.

Major Initiatives for Academic Year 2013-2014

As I mentioned before, the feedback received so far from the campus community plus our understanding of the institution’s priorities have influenced selection of the major initiatives for the next academic year. Those major initiatives will be the following:

  • Academic Restructuring
    • UALR Fellow Program
    • Faculty Workload Policy Review
  • New Core Curriculum Implementation
  • Graduate Student Recruitment
    • Review of Distribution and Award Process of Graduate Assistantships
  • Student Success Programs
  • Ongoing Collaboration with Extended Programs on Academic Partnerships Initiative
  • Quality Initiative
  • UALR Research Strengths

Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Priorities One-Time Funding-Academic Core Priorities

Unfortunately, our funds are not limitless. So, in order to achieve our goals we must set priorities. We will use one-time funding for the following Academic Core Priorities.

  • Purchase Student Success Software
  • Repair First-Floor Restrooms in the Library
  • Upgrade Library Wiring and Improve Access to the First Floor
  • Support New Faculty Start Ups

We will also use One-Time Funding for two Collaborative Priorities

  • Establish a UALR Presence Downtown
  • Address the Condition of the Physics Building

In our budget request for Recurrent Funding we have identified the following Academic Core Priorities:

  • Student Success Software and Early Alert System
  • Strategic Investments in Critical Areas or Areas of Growth and Demand
  • Library Materials
  • Faculty Salary Increases
    • Equity Adjustment
    • Merit Based-1%
  • Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence
  • UALR Fellow Program

Our Collaborative Priorities for Recurrent Funding are

  • A Shared Instructional Designer between CAHSS and CoB (A Partnership with Extended Programs)
  • Establish UALR Presence Downtown


As we leave this Assembly, I’d like for you to think about where UALR has been and what we want for the future of UALR because as Peter Drucker states…

The best way to predict the future is to create it.—Peter F. Drucker

There is one thing left for me to do and that is to recognize the service of Laura Smith-Olinde as Chair of the Faculty Senate.

As chair, she has been an invaluable asset to me and the institution over the past year.

Particularly, her work with the new general education core curriculum will insure that future UALR students will have the knowledge necessary for success in the workplace and in life.