- Analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
- Challenge: Responding to State Educational Needs and Demographic Shifts
- Demographic Shifts
- Transfer Students
- Increase in the Latino Population
- Increase in Veterans Entering or Returning to College
- Challenge: Responding to Changing Needs of Constituents
- Certificate Programs
- Bachelors of Applied Technology and Applied Science
- Offering the BA in Interpretation at Tulsa Community College
- Office of Innovation and Commercialization
- Challenge: Responding to Changing Technology Needs
- Challenge: Responding to Globalization
- Challenge: Responding to Ongoing Evaluation of Institutional Effectiveness
- Institutional-Level Assessment and Feedback
- Programmatic-Level Assessment and Feedback
- Educational and Student Support Services Assessment and Feedback
- Challenge: Responding to Faculty and Staff Professional Development Needs
- Challenge: Responding to Fiscal Issues
- Challenge: Responding to Physical Capacity Needs
- Upon Reflection
Criterion Two: Preparing for the Future
The organization’s allocation of resources and its processes for evaluation and planning demonstrate its capacity to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its education, and respond to the future challenges and opportunities.
- 2a The organization realistically prepares for a future shaped by multiple societal and economic trends.
- 2b The organization’s resource base supports its educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future.
- 2c The organization’s ongoing evaluation and assessment processes provide reliable evidence of institutional effectiveness that clearly informs strategies for continuous improvement.
- 2d All levels of planning align with the organization’s mission, thereby enhancing its capacity to fulfill that mission.
On December 12, 2002, the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees (UA Board of Trustees) named Dr. Joel Anderson the eighth chief executive officer of UALR. At that time, Dr. Anderson had more than 30 years of experience at the University. After joining the institution in 1971 as an assistant professor of political science, he had advanced through every academic level at UALR, had served as president of the University Assembly and Faculty Senate, and had acted as chair of the Department of Political Science on three occasions. In 1977, he became the first Dean of the newly created Graduate School, where he assisted in designing and approving the first 17 master’s degrees offered by UALR.
Dr. Anderson was named Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in 1984. In this position, he assisted in implementing the Donaghey College of Information Science and Systems Engineering—now the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT)—with majors in systems engineering and information science and a minor in information technology for non-technology majors. He also provided leadership as UALR began to offer doctoral programs.
By the time he became Chancellor in 2003, Dr. Anderson had been instrumental in shaping, guiding, and achieving the vision, values, goals, and strategic priorities of UALR for almost 30 years. He understood that UALR was evolving as an institution, with an added focus on engineering and technology as well as growth potential in doctoral programs, and he knew the mission of the institution was evolving as well. When he tasked the then-new Provost, David Belcher, with conducting a broad strategic planning initiative, Chancellor Anderson did so in the context of re-visioning the institutional mission in light of the changing societal and economic trends.
The strategic planning process that resulted in UALR Fast Forward234 demonstrates the process for setting and obtaining university goals. As has been discussed previously in this self-study report, the Provost provided leadership as external and internal constituencies worked together for over a year to identify UALR’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
The data garnered from this process determined the goals, objectives, and pledges delineated in the strategic plan. Once these were vetted to the University and community, groups across campus developed the specific strategies to implement the plan. Thus, with appropriate leadership from the Chancellor, organizational goals were developed through collaborative processes involving campus governance structures and external constituencies.
UALR Fast Forward provides a thorough and thoughtful analysis of institutional strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and embodies the physical implementation of the mission and values documents over the next ten years.
The analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is addressed at the end of each chapter in UALR Fast Forward with a section on “selected planning implications” that summarizes the main findings presented and delineates the implications they have for planning. For example, some of the implications noted at the end of Chapters 1 through 5 include the following:
- Controlling expenditures is the first requirement in maximizing resources.
- In light of the constraints of state funding when the University is seeking to hire faculty in the competitive national market, the University needs to secure other sources to pay moving expenses and start-up equipment costs for new faculty.
- The University should and will continue to make a fundamental contribution by providing a significant component of the community’s creative class—its faculty and professional staff as well as a number of students. As the University grows stronger and larger in any of its academic disciplines, this fundamental contribution will grow larger as a by-product.
- The University should move forward with community partners in developing plans for revitalizing the University District.
Within the state, particularly in the higher education funding arena, UALR must work persistently to increase understanding of UALR’s role, contributions, and needs.
- The better rates of student retention and graduation at other metropolitan universities in the peer group suggest that UALR should improve its performance on these two indicators, and the comparative entering ACT scores suggest a need to focus attention on admissions criteria.
- Among universities in Arkansas, UALR clearly has a niche—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.
- Given legislative term limits, and given that the two major sources of university revenue—state appropriation, tuition and fees—are dependent upon the good will and understanding of others, UALR needs to follow a carefully constructed communication plan.
Such issues are further developed in UALR Fast Forward‘s Chapter 7, which presents a more detailed analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT), and concludes with a comprehensive overview of the analysis that matches the identified SWOT (listed below). In addition, fiscal issues are addressed in part in Chapter 6 of UALR Fast Forward, “Planning Environment,” which presents projections of the University’s financial resources based on data available at the time and assesses the role UALR will play in providing graduates who will lead in the new knowledge-based economy of Central Arkansas.
Threat: New Competitors
PTC, Other Universities, Students going Out-of-State
Relative Institutional Strengths
Relative Institutional Weaknesses
Threat: Neighborhood in Decline
Relative Institutional Strengths
Relative Institutional Weaknesses
Large professional communities, UAMS, PTC, Diverse demography, Job opportunities for students, Numerous partnerships
Relative Institutional Strengths
Relative Institutional Weaknesses
Although a SWOT analysis done today would look different in some ways, the assessment of capacity and environmental scanning that occurred during the strategic planning process produced a realistic foundation for the University’s successful planning. UALR Fast Forward continues to guide the University’s responses to the challenges it faces.
UALR is committed to fulfilling its mission to improve the quality of its educational programs and respond to future challenges and opportunities. This is demonstrated in the following mission objective:
Responsiveness: The University has a responsibility to remain responsive to a changing environment and society. This responsibility includes a continuous assessment of the University’s strengths and weaknesses in planning for and meeting internal and external needs. It also includes developing the faculty, staff, and students’ desire and capacity in order to create an academic community that is open to change and ready to meet the demands of a dynamic environment and student body. (Adopted by Faculty Senate, 1988)
This chapter, “The Future-Oriented Organization,” will focus on how UALR has responded to and continues to respond to various challenges and changes that affect the University’s ability to fulfill its mission while working to its full capacity in the future. These challenges include the following:
- Challenge: Responding to State Educational Needs and Demographic Shifts
- Challenge: Responding to Changing Needs of Constituents
- Challenge: Responding to Changing Technology Needs
- Challenge: Responding to Globalization
- Challenge: Responding to Ongoing Evaluation of Institutional Effectiveness
- Challenge: Responding to Faculty and Staff Professional Development Needs
- Challenge: Responding to Fiscal Issues
- Challenge: Responding to Physical Capacity Needs
Three reports cited in UALR Fast Forward—the Report of the Task Force for the Creation of Knowledge-Based Jobs, the Milken Institute Report, and AngelouEconomics Report—describe Arkansas’s need for new high-tech, knowledge-based jobs to advance economic development in Arkansas. UALR’s ability to help prepare graduates for these types of jobs was specifically mentioned in the recommendations of three reports.
Task Force for the Creation of Knowledge-Based Jobs
In 2001, the director of the Arkansas Department of Economic Development established the Task Force for the Creation of Knowledge-Based Jobs as part of an effort to formulate an economic development strategy for the state. In its report, the task force noted
In the new economy, the things that matter most are college, graduate science and engineering degrees, research, intellectual property, new business starts and expansions, and participation in global commerce.
The task force urged that priority for university resources focus on degree programs that will make the largest contribution to the economic development of the region, and it made favorable note of UALR’s Donaghey College for Information Systems and Systems Engineering or the “Cyber College.” Today, this college is known as the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT).
In 2004, the Milken Institute issued its report titled Arkansas’s Position in the Knowledge-Based Economy. This report gives a valuable, detailed analysis of the state’s strengths and weaknesses in the new high-tech, knowledge-based economy. In its overall ranking of states on the State Technology and Science Index, Arkansas is 49th out of 50.
The Milken report stresses that Arkansas needs to educate a technologically skilled workforce; to expand support for research, intellectual property, and commercialization; and to provide an environment congenial to innovation. In this discussion, the report references UALR twice. Again, the “Cyber College” is identified as one of the “critical programs and initiatives that nurture the development of a technologically skilled workforce in Arkansas.”
In its discussion of how to boost the critical areas of research and science in Arkansas by developing research clusters, the report notes
Attempting to develop a research cluster from the ground up is both risky and expensive, which means that the three most viable candidates are the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock, and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, even if other candidates such as Arkansas State University in Jonesboro might establish itself as such further in the future.
The Metro Little Rock Alliance, a group of business and civic leaders in Central Arkansas counties, retained the services of AngelouEconomics, a consulting firm in Austin, Texas, to design an economic development strategy for the 11-county region. In 2004, the consulting firm issued its final report.
The AngelouEconomics report included recommendations similar to those of the other two, urging priority attention to workforce development and education, entrepreneurship, and quality-of-life factors. In a list of seven priority recommendations, the second listed by AngelouEconomics was, “Invest and expand UALR to become a premier higher education institution.” As with the others, the report urged support for the “Cyber College” [Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology] and for an expansion of engineering offerings.
In response to these reports, UALR has expanded its academic offerings in targeted areas to meet local, state, and regional needs for graduates in knowledge-based, high-tech areas. What was known as the “Cyber College” became EIT. The mission of the college is to “educate the next generation of technical professionals in the skills and knowledge base necessary to create and manage the technology based enterprises… this mission includes technological education at all levels….”
Since its inception in 1999 when it began offering two baccalaureate degrees in information science and systems engineering, the college has expanded its curricula to include three additional baccalaureate and graduate degrees in the areas of computer science and engineering technology, both mechanical and electrical. The college is developing a PhD in Integrated Computing that they plan to offer in Fall 2010.
In addition to responding to state economic needs, UALR has been affected by three specific demographic shifts: an increase in two-year college transfer students, an increase in the Latino population in Central Arkansas, and an increase in veterans entering or returning to college. The first is both an opportunity and a threat while the remaining two are opportunities for the University.
The increases in the Latino population and in two-year college transfer students are discussed in UALR Fast Forward, and strategies to address them are articulated under Goal 1, Objective 7: “The University will increase the number of baccalaureate degree graduates by 20 percent in five years.”
- UALR will focus increased recruitment efforts on transfer students from both two-year and four-year campuses.
- The University will place shared personnel on site at Pulaski Technical College (PTC) to facilitate the transfer of students from one institution to the other.
- UALR will aggressively recruit minority students and will work with advocacy groups and the state legislature to make it easier for recently arrived Latinos to enroll without penalty in the state’s public colleges and universities.
The ways in which the University has responded to these events is described below.
The demographic shift that has affected UALR the most over the past decade is the increase in students who take courses at a two-year institution before transferring to UALR. As mentioned in Chapter 3, “The Connected Organization,” the ratio of first-time entering freshmen to first-time entering transfer students each year has changed from approximately 1:1 in 2002 to almost 1:2. This fact is both a threat to and an opportunity for UALR.
Over the past decade, the number of two-year institutions in Arkansas has grown to 22, and more UALR students take their lower-level courses at two-year institutions, most often at nearby PTC. The result has been a substantial drop in the number of first-time entering freshmen at UALR. The figure below shows the effect PTC had on lower-level enrollment at UALR after opening in 1991. Although the sharp downward trend of the 1990’s has been replaced with a stable but flat trend during this decade, it is unlikely that UALR will rebound to pre-PTC lower-level enrollment.
However, the increase in students attending two-year institutions also is an opportunity for UALR. UALR Fast Forward states
UALR has a singular role among public universities in Arkansas in serving transfer students, 1,151 of whom entered UALR in Fall 2004 [projections for Fall 2009 are over 2,200]. Each year UALR admits more transfer students as a percentage of undergraduate enrolment than any other Arkansas four-year campus. The significance of this service for the state cannot be overstated, given the state’s compelling interest in seeing a higher percentage of the Arkansas population hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
Goal 1, Objective 7 states, “UALR will focus increased recruitment efforts on transfer students from both two-year and four-year campuses.”
The groundwork for accomplishing this objective was laid in the late 1990’s when UALR and PTC began working more collaboratively (as discussed in Chapter 4, “The Connected Organization”). In 2004, the institutions worked together to establish an advising office on the main campus of PTC for students interested in transferring to UALR. The liaison officer in this office has advised and assisted hundreds of PTC students and serves as a resource by providing information about UALR admissions and financial aid processes as well as policy regarding transfer credit. The liaison also acts as a representative of UALR at recruitment fairs and PTC community activities.
Directly related to UALR Fast Forward, Goal 1, Objective 7, were changes in transfer credit policy and the creation of the Office of Transfer Student Services. In 2008, using initial findings from the Chancellor’s Fast Track Transfer Project (discussed in detail in Chapter 4, “The Connected Organization”), the Faculty Senate created more flexible policy regarding the transfer of general education or core credit. This change allows faculty to address the unique needs of each transfer student rather than feeling constrained by policies largely created for students without transfer credit.
The purpose of the Transfer Office is to expedite the articulation of core transfer credit, trouble shoot for faculty and staff on core transfer issues, and help inform policy change that will reduce barriers for students with core transfer credit. In order for the Transfer Office to accomplish its purposes effectively, faculty have delegated some transfer articulation authority to it with oversight from faculty governance structures.
From 1990–2000, Arkansas’s Latino population grew by 337 percent, the second highest growth rate in the nation. The number of residents in the state who are Latino is projected to increase to 240,404 by 2020 or to approximately 7 percent of the total population. In 2006, there were approximately 100,000 documented and undocumented Latinos living in Arkansas.
Since 2000, the number of Latino students at UALR has increased 83 percent, with a 28 percent increase in the last three years. One way UALR is connecting to the Latino population is through its partnership with the Mexican Consulate, which is located across the street from the campus. When the Consulate opened in 2007, Chancellor Anderson noted at the opening ceremony that “a consulate is government at its best. It is government helping citizens directly.” Since then, Andres Chao Ebergenyl, Mexican Consul, has joined the UALR Board of Visitors and plays an active role in supporting UALR’s connection to the Latino community.
UALR Fast Forward rightly recognizes this shifting demographic as an opportunity and states, “With its record of welcoming minority students, UALR could become the campus of choice for this growing segment of the state’s population.” However, the focus of the University has been more on helping Latinos acclimate to Central Arkansas than merely on recruitment. UALR Fast Forward commits the University to working with advocacy groups and the state legislature to make it easier for recently arrived Latinos to enroll without penalty in the state’s public colleges and universities. Additionally, the University has initiated programs to address specific needs of this population.
The Citizenship Radio Training Project grew out of discussions during a meeting of the Latino Task Force at UALR in 2004. The task force noted that citizenship training is needed by many immigrants but is accessible to few. Conflicting work schedules, inadequate transportation, and lack of childcare keep most immigrants from participating in English as a Second Language and citizenship classes hosted by adult education centers. To meet this need, UALR created the Citizenship Radio Training Project with funds from three private foundations—the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Arkansas Community Foundation, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
The project offers immigrants a citizenship training course delivered through the use of a radio program, a handbook, and facilitated group discussion sessions. The course is a semi-self-paced independent study with opportunities for participants to interact with other students during two group discussion sessions facilitated in the three cities where the program is piloted: Little Rock, Fayetteville, and Fort Smith.
At the time UALR Fast Forward was developed, no one knew the extent to which Army National Guard and Army Reserve units would be utilized in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or that a new GI Bill with expanded educational benefits would be developed. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have affected the lives of many UALR constituencies including students and other Central Arkansas residents in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve who were deployed.
UALR has always welcomed veteran students and has been a Service-Members Opportunity College (SOC) member since the early 1980’s. Long-standing policy allows students in the military to receive a full refund of their tuition and fees when a semester is interrupted due to deployment orders. After discharge from active duty, they have one year to use the Free Semester Grant for tuition and fees.
However, despite these accommodations for students called to service, past university policies have not been especially “military friendly.” For example, prior to last year, the most academic credit veterans could receive for their military training was 12 hours of lower-level electives and three hours of physical education. This has changed recently.
During the 2008–2009 academic year, UALR contacted the continuing education unit of the Army National Guard located at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock (this unit serves all Army National Guard members worldwide) to discuss ways in which the University could better serve veterans. In response to meetings with educational counselors at Camp Robinson, the following was achieved:
- Policy on how military education credits are evaluated as transfer credits was changed by Faculty Senate. The new policy states: “… military education credit evaluated by the American Council on Education will be accepted as transfer credit at UALR.”
- A task force to help plan a comprehensive, holistic approach to meeting the needs of active duty, National Guard, and retired military personnel who are interested in attending UALR either through online, hybrid, or traditional programs was created. Recommendations from this task force resulted in the appointment of a military ombudsman located in the Provost’s Office. UALR is now listed in the 2010 Guide to Military Friendly Schools.235
- A plan to educate faculty and staff about “trauma informed” best practice models of support needed to help military veterans succeed on campus was created. In February 2009, faculty and staff participated in the Academic Impressions Webinar Psychological Needs of Returning Veterans sponsored by Educational and Student Services.
Long-range state educational needs and demographic shifts are not the only things to which UALR responds. A significant number of other changes have occurred due to UALR’s relationship with its external constituencies and the effective environmental scanning UALR does. This environmental scanning has resulted in fresh, inventive programs offered by UALR as well as different types of services provided to Arkansas to help improve its economic status and help accomplish UALR Fast Forward‘s Goal 1, Objective 3: “The University will give priority to new academic programs which promise the greatest impact on meeting the needs of Arkansas in such areas as economic development, health care, education, and social welfare.” All of these responses demonstrate how UALR supports change and innovation within its structure to help meet the needs of its constituencies.
Graduate certificate programs are an example of this. In 2000, UALR had one graduate certificate program—Marriage and Family Therapy; now there are 19. These certificates are designed for professionals in the community who wish to further their skills in a particular area or advance their careers. Although most are too new to evaluate their viability, many are thriving. Particularly popular are the certificates in Conflict Mediation, Management, Reading/Literacy Coaching, Rehabilitation Counseling, Accountancy, and Taxation.
UALR also offers joint certificate programs. In 2009, UALR received approval to offer the Graduate Certificate in Technology Innovation, a program offered jointly through the College of Business and EIT. The certificate is designed for post-baccalaureate students and working professionals interested in business and technology innovation. It is intended to provide people in the workforce with technical skills and the tools necessary to develop, evaluate, and implement ideas for new products, services, and processes in their field of interest.
This approach to meeting the needs of constituents by a four-year institution is unprecedented in Arkansas. UALR has worked closely with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in developing these programs to meet the needs of Arkansans.
Another population of constituents with unique needs is the one comprised of those who have completed an associate degree in applied science (AAS) but who need a baccalaureate for professional advancement or to pursue a new career. Historically, these students have not been able to apply most of their previous academic work toward a bachelor’s degree at UALR due to the fact that they had not completed a liberal arts core of courses. Previously, faculty felt strongly that it was not the role of UALR to accommodate these students through degree programs that built upon their pervious academic work. Even though change at an institutional level tends to occur slowly, UALR faculty have demonstrated the ability to adjust their perceptions and change processes expeditiously when needed and have become more open to exploring the development of such programs as a result of two developments.
The first was the increase in transfer students coming to UALR, as described earlier in this chapter. Over the past decade, as the number of transfer students rose to 70 percent of the student population, UALR faculty have realized that transfer students are UALR students. In 2006, Chancellor Anderson challenged the faculty’s long-held belief that students should complete a majority of their coursework at UALR by asking them to consider whether more liberal transfer policies would result in graduates who were less prepared for their professional lives or for graduate school. This challenge led to the Transfer Pilot Program discussed in Chapter 4.
The second development was the changing relationship between UALR and the closest two-year college, PTC, also discussed in Chapter 4. As the institutions began to work more collaboratively, the faculty became more sensitive to the needs of students with AAS degrees and more willing to find ways to accommodate them.
In 2006, to meet the needs of these students, EIT began offering the Bachelor in Applied Technology (BAT). Located in the Department of Engineering Technology, the BAT has options in Industrial Computing and Manufacturing Management. The goal of the program is to provide students who have an AAS with a path to a baccalaureate degree that builds on their previous academic work. The program accepts 60 credit hours from the AAS and applies them toward the UALR core requirements and technical electives.
In addition to the BAT, faculty in programs located in three different colleges—the College of Professional Studies, the College of Business, and the College of Science and Mathematics—are developing baccalaureate degrees in applied science to accommodate students with the AAS. These will be considered by the Undergraduate Council in Fall 2009.
Another way UALR is offering innovative programs is through interstate collaborations. In 2004, Tulsa Community College (TCC) approached the Interpreter Education Program at UALR seeking a university partner to provide TCC AA in Interpretation graduates an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in interpreting. In the mid-2000’s, national reports were highlighting concerns about the failure of school systems to provide certified and qualified educational interpreters. Oklahoma’s response to these concerns was the passage of the Educational Interpreters for the Deaf Act in 2002. This legislation established minimum educational standards and certification for school personnel in Oklahoma who function as interpreters in classrooms.
Additionally, faculty at TCC knew that by 2012, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf was going to require a baccalaureate degree as a prerequisite for taking the national certification test. Since there are no baccalaureate programs in interpreting in Oklahoma, TCC approached UALR for assistance because UALR’s baccalaureate interpretation program is nationally recognized for its quality.
The result was an interstate collaboration between TCC and UALR wherein students who complete an associate’s degree in the Interpreter Education Program at TCC can continue their studies to complete the BA in Interpretation: ASL/English at UALR via distance education. The program is delivered on-site in Tulsa through interactive video and online courses. Students are required to travel to Little Rock to complete a required service-learning component.
The program has been successful. Currently there are ten students set to graduate in Spring 2010, and ten more are ready to start the program this fall. Because of its success, UALR has been approached by associate programs in Texas to duplicate the program there. Progress on establishing similar collaborations in Texas has stalled because of technology problems with the available interactive video equipment. However, through a grant from the UALR Office of Extended Programs and help from its staff in Scholarly Technology and Resources, the interpretation program is creating an innovative web-based interactive classroom that they will begin testing this fall.
UALR’s support of innovation goes beyond offering creative programs. The University also provides the necessary resources to develop groundbreaking ideas in the areas of business and technology through supportive infrastructure. An example is the Office of Innovation and Commercialization.
The Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC) is designed to assist faculty, staff, and students to move their innovative research and creative work into the marketplace for public use. The OIC is directed by the Vice Provost for Innovation and Commercialization (VP for IC), a position created in 2006. The VP for IC at UALR provides a bridge between the innovative research coming out of the University’s labs and the marketplace by incubating start-up companies, finding venture capital to help them grow, and coordinating with the UA System for technology transfer and technology licensing.236 The VP for IC is also the focal point of contact for outside organizations, companies, and individuals that may want to collaborate with UALR faculty.
The OIC assists faculty, staff, and students to move their innovative research and creative work into the marketplace for public use by developing the infrastructure needed to license to outside organizations. This is achieved by working closely with faculty, staff, and students to create invention and intellectual property disclosures. When disclosures show a potential for commercial success, the OIC provides the methodology to seek intellectual property protection (copyrights and patents) for the research and/or creative work, then attempts to identify commercial partners to negotiate a license and option agreements for continued development. It may also recommend that inventors create a new company to commercialize their own innovations. If a technology is commercialized successfully, the revenues are distributed among the researcher(s) and the University.
The first projects on which the office focused were the result of work currently being conducted in the Nanotechnology Center. During its first year, the center has published 20 papers in refereed journals, presented at international conferences, created a significant number of patent applications, partnered with firms in and out of Arkansas, and formed one new firm in Little Rock. It is expected that the center will provide the technical foundation for two to three new firms a year and that its work will enhance the scientific and economic development of Central Arkansas.
UALR has demonstrated that it is supportive of innovation and change through its ability to adapt its academic programs and infrastructure to meet the changing needs of its constituencies. As it does so, the University becomes more relevant to the community and more effective in accomplishing its mission.
In addition to preparing graduates for high-tech, knowledge-based jobs by adding programs and majors specifically for that reason, UALR is helping prepare all its graduates to work with technology by integrating it across campus and in classrooms. Goal 1, Objective 8 reads
The University will be the high tech campus in Arkansas where relevant technology is prominently available and used extensively by students, faculty, and staff.
Despite increased expenses, major strides have been made toward achieving this goal. Technology is used extensively in research, teaching, and administrative functions at UALR and sets the University apart from other institutions in the state. Since 1999, the annual investment in UALR’s Office of Computing Services has grown by 107 percent. However, this budgetary figure does not capture the increase in information technology (IT) costs that have occurred across the campus. In colleges, libraries, and other organizational units, technology support staff positions have been funded, additional hardware and software have been purchased, and maintenance expenditures have increased.
An effect of the increase in technology on campus has been an increase in online course offerings. As discussed in Chapter 3, “The Learning-Focused Organization,” UALR currently offers 369 courses online, including 110 graduate-level courses. Corresponding with the increased number of online courses available is an increase in the number of students taking them. Most online sections of courses fill more quickly than do those offered on campus. From 2004–2005 to 2008–2009, the number of undergraduate students and graduate students taking at least one online course each year has grown from 2,688 to 5,553, and from 759 to 1368, respectively. Currently, almost 60 percent of UALR students take at least one online course annually.
There also has been an increase in international students who take UALR courses online. As discussed in Chapter 3, “The Learning-Focused Organization,” the Master of Science in Information Quality program links students in four countries and four states.
In response to the increased focus on the use of technology, the Office of Off-Campus Programs became the Office of Extended Programs,237 and a deanship was created to coordinate and supervise the development and deliverance of technology-enhanced instruction on- and off-campus. The Dean of Extended Programs has been charged with creating a streamlined and efficient structure for these initiatives. Additionally, the Office of Extended Programs is responsible for training and supporting faculty in their use of technology through the Scholarly Technology and Resources (STaR)238 office.
UALR also has used renovation projects as a means of increasing access to technology on campus. Since 2000, the major renovations made at the Bowen School of Law included adding state-of-the-art academic technology in all classrooms and a video capture system in most classrooms. Similarly, renovations made to Stabler Hall, which houses most of the classrooms for the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHSS), made it one of the most technically advanced classroom buildings on campus. The building is now completely wireless, and all of the classrooms have state-of-the-art computer and audio-visual equipment. A digital learning and collaboration center aids in language instruction, and a state-of-the art computer classroom accommodates instruction in subjects such as social science statistics and methodologies.
Systematic replacement of technology partially is paid for through the use of student technology fees. This has allowed a steady cycle of upgrading technology without being dependent completely upon state funding. It also has allowed increasing the number of technology classrooms available to students. For example, the College of Education has a three-year replacement plan for faculty technology, replacement of teaching stations in priority use smart class rooms, and for upgrading and replacement of EAST lab technology in the college. The plan has been in effect for approximately four years and has allowed the College of Education to create three additional sole-use smart classrooms for college faculty and adjunct use.
AHSS has a five-year replacement plan for technology in its technology-enhanced and computer classrooms, a three-year interim software update cycle for its classroom computers, and a five-year plan to replace departmental technology used in student advising. The classroom and software replacement plans have been in place for five years, and this is the first year for the advising technology replacement plan. The technology fees and systematic replacement plan, along with generous help from the institution, have allowed the college to add an additional computer classroom, a digital language lab, and 23 presentation-style classrooms. The computer classroom supports upper-level social sciences and statistics classes, and the digital language classroom supports second language classes at all levels.
Although the increased use of technology has affected all UALR students positively, one population in particular has benefitted—students with disabilities. The Disability Resource Center239 has worked hard to incorporate the principles of universal design in both on-campus and online course development. All websites must meet accessibility requirements for screen-reading software, and certain classrooms throughout campus are equipped with technology such as Typewell, a speech-to-text software used for deaf and hearing-impaired students which enables students to see on their laptops what is being said in class. A transcriber who has been trained in this program sits in on the lecture, and his or her notes are transmitted wirelessly to the student’s laptop.
In addition to working to accomplish Goal 1, UALR has made progress on Goal 7, Objective 2, which commits the University to developing and supporting the proper infrastructure to expand the information technology resources of the campus to ensure effective and efficient use of technology.
Work on this objective has included maintaining Internet2 status as a user of advanced network applications. This next-generation Internet infrastructure allows researchers to send large files, images, and streaming video. It has almost 2,000 times the bandwidth available on a broadband connection. Maintaining Internet2 status will be accomplished by establishing a connection to the Arkansas Research and Education Network (ARE-ON),240 which is a regional optical network that will connect the 11 four-year public universities to a high-speed national network.
After the connection to ARE-ON is complete, the National Lambda Rail network will be available to the campus community. The National Lamba Rail runs over fiber-optic lines. This major initiative of U.S. research universities and private sector technology companies provides the infrastructure to advance research and experimentation in networking technologies and applications.
UALR also has created two advisory committees to ensure that faculty and staff are communicating about technology needs. The first, for technical support personnel, meets regularly with the Department of Computing Services to coordinate the support of technology on the campus. The other, the BANNER Users Group, is a standing committee of the Faculty Senate that addresses technical support for academic and other programs.
To support the use of technology by faculty and staff, a training unit in the Department of Computing Services specializes is developing and delivering training for BANNER, the University’s administrative software application. The training is developed by first defining employee work roles and tailoring specific training classes based on the employee’s job duties and responsibilities. Additionally, the Ottenheimer Library Strategic Planning Training Task Force conducted a training needs assessment of all its employees in 2007 and identified computer training as the most pressing need. The task force developed a pilot training module to help accomplish its educational goals.
Additional support of technology will be necessary if UALR intends to be a high-tech campus. The Customer Satisfaction Evaluation conducted by MGT found that, although 80.2 percent of the student respondents were satisfied with the courtesy and friendliness of the Student Technology Support Services staff, only 72.7 percent were satisfied with technology services.
At the end of UALR Fast Forward‘s Chapter 6, “Planning Environment,” the following implications for planning are identified:
In Arkansas, UALR must play a larger role in enabling the community and the state to compete in the global, increasingly knowledge-based economy. Policies, programs, and resource allocations must be shaped accordingly.
UALR Fast Forward‘s Goal 1 recognizes that UALR constituencies operate in a diverse, global society: “UALR will provide programs of study that will educate students to live, work, and lead in the complex, technological, diverse world of the 21st century.” To help accomplish this goal, UALR offers support for students and faculty interested in studying elsewhere, as well as educational courses of study that focus on international affairs.
In 2007, the functions and units related to international students and international studies reorganized into one operational unit housed under the auspices of the Office of the Provost. This increased the effectiveness and consolidated many of the functions being performed by the previously separate offices. The newly formed Office of International Services241 provides comprehensive assistance and support for approximately 300 international students.
International students and faculty represent more than 60 countries and enrich the educational experience for all members of the University by exposing them to different cultures. UALR’s international students enhance the campus environment, provide a variety of different viewpoints, and help cultivate global awareness among UALR students.
Programs Abroad offers students deeper cultural exposure. Through this program, UALR students have the opportunity to study and immerse themselves in another country and culture, thus expanding their view of the world. While working to fulfill major and minor coursework requirements, students also acquire firsthand knowledge of another culture, develop or improve fluency in another language, hone skills critical for professional success, and gain a global perspective.
UALR has bilateral exchange agreements with Karl-Franzens Universität in Graz, Austria; Université d’Orléans in Orléans, France; City University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong (SAR); Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico; and Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo in Pachuca, Mexico. In addition to formal exchange agreements, UALR students have additional short- and long-term study and internship opportunities in locations such as Austria, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and Yemen. Beyond UALR-sponsored programs, the Programs Abroad office assists students in finding, applying to, and receiving credit for opportunities abroad administered by other universities or institutions.
In addition, over 40 UALR faculty and staff have taken the opportunity to travel and work abroad at the Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria.242 The exchange program is designed to internationalize the UALR curriculum and stimulate innovation in UALR’s delivery of services to students by providing faculty and staff with an in-depth introduction to the workings of a foreign university. Costs of the program are partially underwritten by UALR.
Students also have the option of majoring in international business, through the College of Business’ BBA in International Business.243 The international business program uses an interdisciplinary approach to study the intricacies of the international marketplace. This major focuses on the complexities and interconnections between the world’s markets and cultures. The goal is to prepare students to be managers in the 21st century.
There is a foreign language emphasis and a general business emphasis within the international business major. Students accepted into the international business program are advised by the international business coordinator and faculty. Currently, the college is pursuing the addition of an International MBA program. This program will further the study of business in the international community and infuse both language and culture as a part of the studies.
The infusion of an international focus throughout the curriculum helps educate students about other cultures. One such program is the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program.244 This program is multidisciplinary and endowed by the University of Arkansas King Fahd Fund for Middle Eastern Studies.
The Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program has a dedicated group of faculty specializing in the Middle East. Academically, the UALR Middle Eastern Studies Program offers a series of courses on the Middle East and is centered on a projected academic minor in Middle Eastern Studies.
The Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program also conducts monthly events (lectures, conferences, films) on the Middle East aimed at the academic community and the general public. Because of its generous endowment, the program is able to distribute grant monies among UALR faculty and students interested in pursuing specific scholarly endeavors. The UALR Ottenheimer Library has a large and growing collection of books, periodicals, and other sources on the Middle East. The Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program also funds UALR student participation in the Model Arab League and other simulation programs.
The Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program’s chief goal is to foster knowledge of the Middle East and of the Islamic world among the UALR campus community, the community of Little Rock, and the State of Arkansas. The program has begun offering free, non-credit, Arabic language classes open to the general public. This will have a far-reaching impact within the greater Little Rock community and around the globe.
Another UALR global initiative designed to facilitate the acclimation of Latinos to Central Arkansas is the Bringing Mexico to Arkansas Schools Program (BMAP) sponsored by the Arkansas Global Programs.245 The program increases teacher and student awareness of Mexican culture, provides a study tour of Mexico, and sponsors community events and teacher conferences.
To date, BMAP has had a direct affect on 12,000 students, 600 teachers, 66 schools, and 40 communities. BMAP has reached many additional Arkansans through its website, community outreach at international festivals, school outreach, the traveling exhibit on Mexican culture, and museum exhibits. Most importantly, BMAP has helped teachers interact positively and productively with students and families who have a culture and language different from their own. In addition to improving intercultural understanding and opening cultural dialogue, the project has encouraged educational partnership and exchange.
Arkansas Global Programs also coordinates the Bringing China to Arkansas Program, which provides the first opportunity Arkansas teachers have to learn about China in-depth; the Bhutan Small Businesswomen Development Project, which provides Bhutanese entrepreneurs with small business training at UALR and elsewhere in Little Rock; and the Southwest Minorities Cultural Heritage Project, which orients and trains cultural heritage experts on the protection and preservation of minority heritages in western Sichuan Province, PR China.
As described in Chapter 3, “The Learning Focused Organization,” UALR has created an assessment infrastructure that maintains a system for collecting, analyzing, and applying evaluation data at all levels of the institution. Ensuring the quality of academic, support, and resource services through data-based evaluation is a priority at UALR. This is evinced by Goal 2 in UALR Fast Forward which states, “UALR will provide a student-centered educational environment.” Under this goal, Objective 1 commits the University to
organiz[ing] its operations and shap[ing] its practices, policies, and procedures to be as student-centered as possible, as evidenced by increased student satisfaction and success.
This assessment infrastructure helps UALR respond to changing external and internal challenges, as well as provide valuable information on the effectiveness of the curriculum.
Significant resources have been allocated to build an infrastructure that supports assessment on campus. Annually, each college, the Ottenheimer Library, and the Office of Testing Services and Student Life Research246 receive assessment funds through the Office of the Provost. These funds are used to support assessment efforts in a variety of ways, such as to purchase program evaluation instruments or to pay for faculty and staff to attend assessment conferences.
Support also is provided through the Provost Assessment Advisory Group (PAAG). PAAG is led by the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/Academic Policy, and includes a representative from every college, Educational and Student Services, and the Ottenheimer Library. This group is responsible for reviewing assessment plans for all new degree programs and providing a direct communication link between the college assessment teams and university administration.
PAAG manages the Assessment Central website.247 The purpose of Assessment Central is to showcase what UALR is doing to promote assessment excellence and accountability to stakeholders both on and off campus, provide access to assessment resources for faculty and staff, and provide information on assessment events. Assessment Central also is linked to college assessment websites where annual assessment progress reports are posted. These reports include information on student learning objectives, assessment measures, most recent assessment findings, and curricular changes or other decisions that were the result of assessment findings.
Biology Department assessment poster at the Assessment Expo.
At the institutional level, achievement of the University mission is evaluated annually through assessment of progress made on the goals and objectives articulated in UALR Fast Forward, as described in Chapter 2, “The Distinctive Organization” and this chapter. As each goal and objective is revisited, the extent to which identified strategies have or have not been successful becomes apparent. Using this information, the University is able to continue effective strategies and revise or discontinue those that are not.
The University also receives annual institutional data through the National Survey of Student Engagement and the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement and periodically through the faculty survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute. These data provide organizational-level information about student and faculty perceptions of each other and the institution. These data have been used during the self-study process to identify the misperception held by faculty that students do not care about and do not participate in service opportunities (discussed in Chapter 4, “The Connected Organization”). Now that this issue has been identified, strategies for addressing it will be developed.
UALR also receives feedback from external constituencies. The UALR Board of Visitors which includes prominent business and civic leaders (discussed in Chapter 1, “The Distinctive Organization,”) is charged with advising the Chancellor on ways of maintaining high standards in the development and operation of UALR. Additionally, the growing Alumni Association provides the University with a rich source of information about its effectiveness in preparing them for professional employment, further education, and a life of learning.
At the departmental level, all academic programs have articulated processes for assessing student learning. This begins with identifying measurable student learning outcomes formulated by program faculty based on the knowledge and skills graduates will need for professional competence and/or for pursuing further education. Faculty construct five-year program assessment plans that outline how achievement of these outcomes will be measured. The results of the assessment are used to improve both curriculum and teaching.
Academic units are required to submit annual program assessment progress reports for each of their degree programs. These reports are based on the learning goals and strategies set out in the unit’s five-year assessment plan. The student learning objectives and outcomes of each program in the unit—doctoral, master’s, undergraduate major, and/or certificate level—are clearly articulated in the plans.
These reports focus on the student learning goals addressed that year: what student learning objectives were measured for those goals, which assessment measures were used, how stakeholders were involved, what the assessment findings were, and how the findings will be used for program improvement. Additionally, in an effort to “assess assessment,” programs are asked for feedback regarding assessment processes at UALR.
Oversight of degree program assessment is provided by college assessment teams composed of faculty from college departments. These teams review annual assessment reports submitted by the degree programs and provide feedback to help improve evaluation processes, help clarify how assessment data are used, and/or suggest further use of data. Each college determines how the assessment team will function and the form in which feedback to programs regarding their assessment processes will be given. After program assessments reports are reviewed, a summary of assessment in the college is posted on the college website. In this way, assessment processes, findings, and use are available for review by administrators, students and other stakeholders.
Periodic external review of academic programs is another evaluation component. Programs with accreditation are reviewed every seven to ten years by professional accrediting organizations and must provide evidence of the currency and relevancy of their curricula and pedagogy. Such reviews also include information on graduation rates, passage of licensing exams, employment rates in the professional area, and alumni satisfaction with the program.
Accreditation site visits by external professional peers often involve interviews with university administration to assess support for the program as well as meetings with students and community constituents to ensure the program actively involves each in evaluation of program effectiveness. Site visitors provide programs with feedback on their strengths as well as areas that need improvement. Continued accreditation is evidence that the program is providing graduates with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful professionally.
In April 2008, the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board directed the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) staff, to revise the existing program review process to ensure quality academic programs that support Arkansas’s economic development goals and to reduce barriers to graduation. This was done in cooperation with the public colleges and universities.
For accredited programs, nothing changed. Their accreditation reviews will serve to fulfill quality assurance requirements. However, the adopted policy requires that every non-accredited academic degree program participate in a self-study process and produce a report that includes the following:
- a clear statement of the programs goals and objectives
- a detailed discussion of the programs curriculum linked to goals and objectives
- evidence that program faculty are qualified
- a description of program resources
- a discussion of instruction delivered via distance technology
- a discussion of how the program supports the academic success of students
- evidence of ongoing program assessment that has resulted in program improvement
- evidence of program effectiveness
The self-study report must be reviewed by two unbiased out-of-state reviewers, approved by ADHE, who are affiliated with programs similar in mission and scope to the program under review. One of these reviewers must conduct an on-campus site visit of the program. ADHE program review guidelines and timelines are available online.248
UALR was supportive of these changes and played a major role in formulating the new processes. Many of the procedures adopted were in keeping with the University’s strategy of “strengthen[ing] the University’s internal system of academic program review” articulated in UALR Fast Forward under Goal 1, Objective 1.
Assessment also is integrated into student services units (discussed in Chapter 3, The Learning-Focused Organization”). The Division of Educational and Student Services conducts ongoing evaluation of its programs. This reflects the division’s commitment to improving support and academic services that complement and enhance student learning. Each of the departments within the areas of Student Development, Enrollment Planning, and University College submit five-year assessment plans that provide information on the methodology used to assess goals and objectives on an annual basis. Unit assessment components with a timeline and status updates measure the outcomes, monitor progress, and permit continuous improvement. Data are available, and accumulated descriptions can be obtained on the website for each unit. A selection of assessment data and outcomes that support decisions made about effective services and student learning is available online.249
2b Example of Evidence
The organization’s history of financial resource development and investment documents a forward-looking concern for ensuring educational quality (e.g., investments in faculty development, technology, learning support services, new or renovated facilities).
The idiom human resources is such a generic term for the most important element within the University—the people. The faculty, staff, and administrators are what make UALR unique, vibrant, and an exciting place to work. The importance placed on people is apparent in Goal 6 in UALR Fast Forward, “UALR will support and strengthen its human resources.”
To achieve this goal, in the last five years, UALR has worked to provide faculty with expanded professional development opportunities:
- provided orientation and mentoring programs for new faculty, including special programs for international faculty
- sought additional funding to support faculty development, travel, and other professional activities of faculty. New policies regarding indirect cost income has sent dollars directly to primary investigators and departments to use for travel and faculty development.
- reviewed and approved a new faculty roles and rewards document. The purpose was to ensure that expectations of faculty and the ways in which faculty are rewarded are aligned with the roles which faculty must play in a metropolitan university. The document was endorsed by the Faculty Senate in Spring 2007.
- revised the Ottenheimer Library’s faculty governance documents to meet the new standards in 2007
In addition, the University is developing policies and practices to encourage and support enhanced efforts in recruiting a strong and diverse faculty. One step toward is that the University now pays to bring in two candidates for interview; previously, the University only paid for one, though departments could pay to bring others to campus. Additionally, the Ottenheimer Library developed a diversity plan in 2007 and routinely posts job ads to minority listservs.
To ensure UALR’s ability to compete for qualified faculty, administrators have been working with state officials to increase funding for faculty salaries to enable the campus to compete in the national market. This has been difficult to do in the current economic climate.
UALR also has been working to bring salaries up to or above Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) averages in order to reward the faculty appropriately. While SREB averages have been achieved in some disciplines, this has not been possible for all. During one recent budget cycle, UALR ensured that all assistant professors were at $40,000, all associate professors were at $45,000, and all professors were at $50,000. Periodically, the institution has been able to allocate a modest amount of money during the budget process to allow deans to address equity issues.
At the Bowen School of Law, the former dean partnered with the UAF law school dean to advocate at the Arkansas General Assembly for an increase in litigation filing fees. These fees provide funds for the Administration of Justice Fund, which is allocated to the two law schools. The resulting increase afforded UALR’s law school the opportunity to increase substantially the salaries it pays its faculty, thus assisting the school in competing nationally for faculty.
An issue raised repeatedly during the information-gathering component of UALR Fast Forward was the role of full-time, non-tenure-track faculty on UALR’s campus. Several departments rely heavily on these faculty members in the teaching, research, and administration of the department. In the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, for example, 12 of the 22 faculty are full-time, non-tenure track. Of these faculty members, four currently hold terminal degrees and one is completing a doctorate. Out of these instructors, one runs the University Writing Center, one directs the First-Year Composition Program, and one was the lead writer for the last institutional accreditation report in 2000. The faculty members obviously are valuable to accomplishing the mission of the department and the University.
Despite their importance to the functioning of the University, full-time non-tenure-track faculty have had no ability to advance—other than annual pay raises, they had no “rewards” or promotion system similar to the one available to tenure-track faculty. To remedy this, an objective in UALR Fast Forward was the creation of a Faculty Roles and Rewards Task Force to review the roles and rewards for full-time, non-tenure-track faculty. Faculty Senate will begin work on this in Fall 2009.
Objective 3 of Goal 6 reads, “The University will continue to provide professional development opportunities and to reward staff appropriately as evidenced by salaries at the appropriate market rate and by the satisfaction level of staff.” Staff salaries have long been a concern of the administration, and UALR has consistently worked with state officials to increase funding for staff salaries to enable the campus to continue to compete for talent in the regional market. In a recent budget cycle, UALR upgraded one of the lowest staff positions on campus which, in raising the floor, resulted in higher average for all staff salaries. In addition, within resources available, the University addresses staff salary equity issues on campus.
With each budget cycle, some progress is made. In addition, the University has worked very hard to keep fringe benefit programs under control in an effort to strengthen this source of compensation for staff. For example, although the institution’s costs for providing health care benefits have risen by $2 million over the last five years, rather than raising employee insurance costs, the institution has absorbed the increase.
UALR also actively supports and encourages professional development for faculty and staff, whether through the tuition discount policy, on-campus professional development opportunities, or through providing financial support for off-campus/external professional activities and other opportunities.
The tuition discount policy is one of the most popular on-campus development opportunities available to UA System employees. Many faculty and staff take advantage of it; full-time employees of UALR, their spouses, and their dependents are eligible for tuition discounts. Employee discounts are 90 percent of tuition for classes taken at UALR or 70 percent of tuition for classes taken at any other UA System campus. Employees must have supervisor approval, may take only one course during normal working hours in lieu of a lunch hour, and will be reimbursed no more than 11 credit hours per fall/spring term and a total of six credit hours in the summer.
Employee tuition discount applies to any undergraduate or graduate (master’s-level) course of study, except for the following professional and terminal programs:
- the Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA)
- the online Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling (MARC)
- Law (JD)
- all doctoral programs (EdS, EdD, PhD)
Spouses and dependent children are also eligible for a tuition discount for classes taken within the UA System campus, although fees are not discounted. Spouses and dependent children may take up to 132 undergraduate credit hours at the discounted rate. Discounts for spouses and dependent children are 50 percent of tuition for classes taken at UALR or 40 percent of tuition for classes taken at any other UA System campus.
Some of the staff have received multiple degrees from UALR in this way. Karen Palmer, the administrative assistant in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, has obtained an AA in Interpreting for the Deaf (1988), an AA in General Studies (1997), a BA in Liberal Arts (1998), and a MA in Professional and Technical Writing (2005) during her employment at UALR.
The Provost’s Office also provides funds for faculty development workshops before the fall term and throughout the year. The Provost’s Office has underwritten the expenses for dozens of faculty to attend workshops and conferences on timely issues in academe, particularly assessment and support of the values in the core curriculum. Mini-grant programs are administered through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs as well as the Provost’s Office.
Various campus units also offer faculty development workshops for topics relating to specific disciplines. Other units on campus offer workshops related to their mission and aim. For example, Project PACE,250 a program of the Disability Resource Center, offers faculty and staff training, consultation, and technical assistance to improve learning environments. Project PACE promotes equity, inclusion, usability, and sustainable learning environments at UALR through the provision of training solutions, consultation, technical assistance, Internet resources, and products.
Project PACE offers workshops and presentations to faculty, staff, and administrators at postsecondary institutions statewide. These workshops can be provided campus-wide, in departmental or in-service meetings, or as sessions for a conference. Topics offered include Reframing Disability, Universal Design, Web Accessibility, and Universal Design of Online Courses. PACE also co-sponsors workshops through the state affiliate organization of AHEAD. Current funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Education and UALR.
UALR consistently invests in off-campus duty assignments (OCDAs)251 as a primary means of faculty development and renewal. Faculty members use their OCDAs primarily to conduct research or for instructional or curriculum development activities. Faculty become eligible in their seventh year of continuous service. Applicants for successive off-campus duty assignments must have completed six years of continuous service at UALR since the last off-campus duty assignment. Off-campus duty assignments are not automatic but must be judged meritorious.
A faculty member approved for an OCDA is paid full salary for one semester or half salary for two semesters. Since 2003, an average of 20 OCDAs per year have been approved, at an annual cost of half a million dollars.
The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs provides travel funds when possible for faculty and students presenting research at a conference. Colleges also provide support. During the 2007–2008 academic year, the College of Business awarded each tenured faculty member $600 and each tenure-track faculty member $1,000 for their research expenses. The College of Professional Studies offered matching grants of up to $500 for first author’s domestic travel (up to $800 matching for international travel). In a new initiative, the College of Professional Studies began granting up to four summer research grants (three at $5,000, one at $10,000), starting Summer 2008. They also have used assessment funds to send faculty to assessment conferences.
The economic status of the state impacts the institution’s ability to accomplish its goals. Ninety percent of UALR’s annual operating budget is generated by two sources of revenue—state appropriations, and tuition and fees. The University’s ability to be pragmatic in planning is reflected in the fact that state funding is listed as both a strength and a weakness in the SWOT analysis conducted during the strategic planning initiative. As a strength, the state’s record shows a steady if very modest increase in state financial support, as reflected in constant dollars through the years. Additionally, the Arkansas General Assembly has been willing to fund new university initiatives that target state health needs or economic development goals.
As noted in UALR Fast Forward, UALR received $53 million from the state in fiscal year 2004–2005. At that time, had UALR been a private institution, based on the assumption of a 5 percent annual yield it would have required an endowment in excess of $1 billion to provide that level of annual funding. In the discussion of state funding weaknesses, however, the following is said:
As noted in the preceding section, state funding is a strength when put in the perspective of the size of the endowment that would be required to provide funding equal to the annual state appropriation. However, when compared with the funding levels that other state governments provide their public universities, the level of state support for UALR is a weakness. With UALR funded at only 78.4 percent of the average of universities across the country with a similar set of programs, it is difficult for UALR to pay competitive salaries, provide a competitive number of scholarships, keep abreast of technology, adequately fund the library, maintain buildings, etc.
By any national standard, tuition levels are low at all public universities in Arkansas. Over the last ten years, UALR tuition increases, which must be approved by the UA Board of Trustees, have averaged 4.95 percent per year. However, UALR, cognizant of the socio-economic status of its student population, is understandably reluctant to generate increases in revenue through tuition.
Although UALR is underfunded, thanks to a conservative approach to budgeting, UALR has weathered recent budget cuts with a minimum of pain. All budget planning at UALR occurs within the larger context of UA System and state appropriations. The Arkansas Department of Higher Education, in behalf of the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board, coordinates statewide planning and budgeting in higher education. UALR’s annual budget request to the Arkansas General Assembly and governor is approved through this process. Once funding decisions have been made by the state, UALR’s budget must be reviewed and approved by the UA Board of Trustees.
The budget process at UALR changed dramatically with the launch of UALR Fast Forward. Each budget request—one-time, on-going, and personnel—must be tied to and justified by a goal in the strategic plan. This change of mindset forced campus decision makers to look at the strategic plan and justify to themselves and the administration that their request supported UALR Fast Forward and, in turn, the mission of the University.
Budgetary planning for the 2008–2009 fiscal year proved to be especially harrowing due to uncertainty about how the downturn in the nation’s economy would affect state revenue and appropriations. Campus leadership was asked to present three budgets: one with no budget cuts, one with ten percent budget cuts; and one with 25 percent budget cuts. Though the financial picture currently appears to be less dismal than anticipated, this exercise in fiscal restraint demonstrates that UALR is able to adapt its plans to financial realities when necessary.
As stated above, during the annual budgetary process, planning is linked to the goals and objectives of UALR Fast Forward. Each vice chancellor, working with unit heads, analyzes his or her respective university division and establishes budgetary priorities. For example, in academic affairs, the budgetary process begins in January when members of the Deans Council discuss budgeting priorities for the coming year within the context of the strategic plan, mission of the University, and expected resources. After funding priorities have been established, council members discuss general resource requests, from faculty and staff positions to funding for retention initiatives to equipment, and identify the funding priority the request addresses. These discussions inform the budget requests of each unit head.
During formal budget hearings for academic affairs, budget requests linked specifically to the goals and objectives of UALR Fast Forward are presented in an open forum that includes faculty leadership. After these hearings, the Provost considers all requests again within the context of identified priorities and expected resources and creates the budget request for the academic affairs unit.
In March, the budget requests for all units are presented at the Chancellor’s budget hearings, which are open to the campus. Each vice chancellor presents his or her budget requests with justifications linked to the strategic plan. The Chancellor makes decisions about UALR’s budget requests in April after appropriation decisions have been made by the Arkansas General Assembly. The Chancellor then presents UALR’s budget requests to the UA Board of Trustees for final approval.
After the budgeting process is over, leadership groups of other major divisions on campus hold annual retreats to discuss progress made on the strategic plan and to prioritize goals for the year. Campus leadership then comes together at the annual Chancellor’s Leadership Group retreat, traditionally held in late July, to discuss progress made on UALR Fast Forward and re-prioritize goals in light of the fiscal, academic, and legislative context; to review concerns from the past academic year and discuss upcoming cutting-edge issues in higher education; and to continue to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that face the University.
The limitations inherent in the University’s major funding sources—state appropriations and tuition dollars—are addressed in Goal 8: “UALR will develop a strategy to enhance resources to accomplish its mission.” Objective 1 of this goal is as follows:
The University will develop a funding strategy that will align potential sources—such as internal reallocations, state appropriations, tuition, fees, grants, contracts, foundation awards, federal earmarks, private donations, local tax support—with appropriate goals.
To help accomplish the strategies developed for this objective, the University has strengthened the Office of Development252 by adding four positions, including additional field staff, accounting staff, and a research office. With the added resources, this office has been able to create a viable structure and solid foundation to cultivate all facets of private giving to the University. Many of the strategies developed for this objective have been achieved.
Three examples of the effectiveness of the Office of Development are the growth in successful fundraising, the progress made to date on the University’s first comprehensive campaign, “It’s Time for UALR,” and the participation of faculty and staff in the annual campus campaign.253
UALR has been particularly successful with its fundraising. Since 2005, UALR has added several privately funded scholarships for teacher education students; received funds for privately endowed scholarships to support teacher education students, including one which exceeds $800,000 in the corpus of the trust; and created annual fundraisers such as Blue Jeans & Birkenstocks, which provides scholarship funds for the School of Social Work. The University has continued to expand and develop “Finale,” the AHSS’ performing arts fundraising dinner, and raised more than half of the $100,000 Alumni Scholarship funds at an alumni-attended “Taste of Latin America” 2009 fundraiser.
The fundraising success is the result of increased outreach to alumni with the hiring of a new director and additional staff. In 2006, staff made 31 meaningful contacts with alumni; in 2009, 164 contacts were made. In addition, the number of alumni giving to the Alumni Scholarship fund annual solicitations has increased steadily—from 12 in 2006 to 276 in 2009. Annual gifts to the alumni scholarship fund are on the rise. In less than five years, UALR has been able to increase the number of endowed scholarships, both need-based and merit-based, by 20 percent. The alumni endowment earnings currently produce interest for 16 scholarships. Conservative forecasting puts award amounts one year ahead of schedule.
In 2005, UALR launched the silent phase of the comprehensive campaign. During this phase, UALR raised over $100 million; over $50 million was raised in 2008 alone, a clear indication of the community’s support for UALR. Examples of giving include the following:
- The late Jack Stephens gave $2.2 million for the building of a new events center, the Jack Stephens Center, which allowed UALR to hold graduation on campus for the first time.
- The Trinity Foundation gave $6 million in 2005 to endow the creation of the mechanical and electrical engineering options in Systems Engineering. This gift is seen as a positive step in meeting the engineering employment needs in Central Arkansas.
- In 2005, the George W. Donaghey Foundation made a special $5 million pledge dedicated for the new EIT building.
- In 2008, the Willard and Pat Walker Foundation created a $1 million endowment for nursing scholarships.
- In 2007, William and Connie Bowen gave the Bowen School of Law $1 million for an unrestricted endowment used by the Dean of the college to meet emergency and special college needs.
- Tom and Marge Schueck recently pledged $1 million to create an endowed deanship in EIT.
- UALR alumna Phyllis Keltner gave $50,000 to endow a fund for the operation of the University Writing Center.
The campaign steering committee, formed in 2006, provides feedback on initial campaign strategies, develops volunteer leadership, helps expand the base of prospective donors, and serves as informed advocates for the campaign.
In 2008, the public phase of the campaign was initiated with a campus-wide picnic for faculty, staff, and students (pictures are available online).254 The picnic was an enormous success—1,500 t-shirts were given out in 45 minutes, or, as a voice-over on the picnic slide-show says, “That’s 37-and-a-half shirts A MINUTE!” The excitement is apparent in the faculty and staff’s contributions to the campus campaign. In 2008, 53 percent of faculty and staff—or 750 members of the UALR community—contributed, exceeding that year’s goal of 50 percent. Last year, top-level administrators gave $1 million to the comprehensive campaign. When the campus campaign began in 2001, a mere 6.5 percent of faculty and staff contributed. Over the years, participation rates have increased at an amazing rate.
In 2007, 13 offices and departments across campus reached 100 percent giving.
- Construction Management
- Sequoyah National Research Center
- AVC Facilities and Services
- Gifted Programs
- Education and Student Services
- Office of Recruitment
- Office of Campus Life
- Office of Communications
- Academic Success Center
- UALR Alumni Services
- Athletics Department
- Office of the Budget
- Office of the Provost
Less than two years later, twenty-five units had 100 percent participation, and many more had over 75 percent participation.
State funding is more likely to decrease than increase, especially in current economic times. UALR’s work with the Office of Development—hiring a new director, strengthening alumni involvement, expanding the University’s donor base—is long overdue. The strides made toward achieving this objective have had a positive effect on the image of UALR.
UALR recognized in UALR Fast Forward the need to develop and follow a carefully constructed communication plan in order to enhance its image. Objective 2 reads: “The University will vigorously communicate who it is and what it does for the people of Arkansas in order to increase understanding and support at local, state, and [f]ederal levels.” In order to accomplish this, the University has begun communicating the accomplishments and contributions of its students and faculty through a vigorous media campaign.
The media campaign is aimed at multiple audiences, including prospective and current students; parents of these students; high school counselors and teachers; Central Arkansas business and community leaders; alumni; prospective and current donors; local, state and U.S. elected officials; residents and business owners in University District; and print and electronic media. This media campaign has included developing various Web 2.0 media outlets such as a YouTube channel;255 various pages and streams on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Ning, and MySpace; and electronic advertising.
More traditional advertising has included the UALR Magazine;256 an award-winning television campaign; billboards; daily radio spots; TV spots highlighting faculty and staff; a re-designed website; and various micro-sites aimed at recruiting specific groups such as non-traditional students, returning students, and international students. Earned media includes increased newspaper coverage of UALR and its faculty, staff, and students, including three “High Profile” features in one year in the only statewide newspaper—the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
KTHV, the CBS affiliate, made UALR a strong partnership offering. The station manager and sales team agreed to broadcast a series called Project Arkansas,257 stories that talked about UALR programs and projects that were economic forces in Arkansas. UALR spotlighted research, university initiatives, faculty experts, and students. A professor of economics, Dr. Mark Funk, did a regular interview each Friday night live on Arkansas’s economy. During the general election, a group of faculty was invited to give commentary on specific issues on election night. Project Arkansas was so popular that UALR has negotiated the program for another year in added value.
In addition, the promotions department at KTHV did a series of four one-minute vignettes as added value that featured UALR students who had overcome adversity to come to college.
KTHV was not the only added value partner. Arkansas Business, a weekly business publication, gave the University a 3 to 1 ad buy as their contribution to UALR’s comprehensive campaign. Hola! Arkansas, a Latino publication, gave the University a one-free for one-buy ad schedule, as did Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the statewide newspaper. KATV, the ABC affiliate, produced a 30-minute program about UALR today and aired it twice in prime time. The University also receives a 25 percent match for the spot buy.
This negotiation has set a precedent for ad campaigns for UALR. Each year, the University looks for good advertising buys, but also asks for partnership relationships that will help extend the buy and reach into the community.
Throughout this process, the University has focused on communicating a consistent message about UALR’s mission, community leadership, and strong academic programs. To increase the consistency of this communication and to improve and market the UALR brand, there has been a focus on enforcing conformity to the campus standard—including the use of the new logo, introduced in 2004, and a standardized website format.
2b Example of Evidence
The organization’s history of financial resource development and investment documents a forward-looking concern for ensuring educational quality (e.g., investments in faculty development, technology, learning support services, new or renovated facilities).
As previously discussed, part of the University’s long-range planning activities included creating the Campus Master Plan. UALR On the Move258 gives physical form to UALR’s strategic vision and strengthens what Chancellor Anderson describes as the “power of place.” The master plan is intended to be a living document—a flexible framework for phased development of the campus over the period of a decade. Its purpose is threefold:
- to guide the physical development of the UALR campus—its buildings, open space, circulation, and infrastructure—consistent with the University’s strategic vision
- to create a vibrant, memorable, and safe student-life experience
- to expand the University’s presence and leadership role in the greater metropolitan Little Rock region
At its most detailed level, the master plan contains specific, tangible recommendations for future development of the campus physical resources. At its most comprehensive level, the master plan crafts a vision for the campus clearly linked to the University’s strategic vision and goals.
The recommendations outlined in the Campus Master Plan were based on a ten-year planning horizon, from 2005 through 2015. In the past four years, the University has made progress on implementing the master plan. The following have been started or completed:
- Stabler Hall renovations, which houses most of the classrooms for the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, make it one of the most technically advanced classroom buildings on campus. The building is now completely wireless, and all of the classrooms have state-of-the-art computer and audio-visual equipment. A digital learning and collaboration center aids in language instruction, and a state-of-the art computer classroom accommodates instruction in subjects such as social science statistics and methodologies.
- Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business and Economic Development houses the College of Business Administration, Arkansas Small Business Development Center, and Institute for Economic Advancement. This building has specialized classrooms to enable technology transfer, distance education, and research to advance economic development in Central Arkansas. Its meeting rooms, library, and information clearinghouse resources are available to the faculty, staff, students, and the metropolitan community.
- The Jack Stephens Center, a 149,000 square foot athletic center that features a full-court practice gym named after UALR alumnus Derek Fisher, an academic support center complete with 23 computer terminals, a first-class weight room, an athletic training room, locker rooms for the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams, and offices for the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball coaches, as well as the athletic administration and support staff.
- The Dr. Ted and Virginia Bailey Alumni and Friends Center, available to campus and community groups for meetings, programs, and social functions, and home to the Office of the Alumni Association and the Office of Community Engagement
- University Plaza, a 22-acre shopping center bordering Asher Avenue directly south of the campus, purchased and much of it renovated. This space is now home to the public radio stations KUAR and KLRE, the Sequoyah National Research Center, the Applied Arts Program, the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, Public Safety, and components of the Department of Construction Management.
- North and South Halls, two apartment-style on-campus residential halls that hold 164 students each and annually are filled to capacity.
- A building under construction that will accommodate programs of EIT. This facility is partially funded through appropriations authorized by the Arkansas State Legislature. The college intends to move into this new space in Summer 2010.
- New signage throughout campus
- Campus Drive was closed to create a pedestrian corridor and improve safety on campus
In 2009, UALR was one of only three universities in Arkansas to receive funding of $4 million in federal educational stimulus money. UALR will use these funds to replace an aging and inefficient heating, ventilation, air-conditioning system in Fribourgh Hall that houses faculty and student research labs.
For the past year-and-a-half, it has been difficult to miss the other big construction project on campus, the Coleman Creek Project. In its current state, Coleman Creek is a hidden landscape with adjacent green space that runs throughout the length of the campus. UALR On the Move highlighted the area as a “missed opportunity” and said “a restored and accessible natural amenity of this significance would be the envy of many a university.” In addition to being a natural resource to the community, Coleman Creek is also a historic site. The area was once a site where members of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations stopped for water during the forced migration known as the Trail of Tears. Coleman Creek will serve as the centerpiece of the campus and as a natural resource to the community.
Construction started in December 2008 on the $650,000 donor-financed effort to create the Trail of Tears Park. The five-acre plot of what was concrete, asphalt, old restaurants, and a bowling alley is well on the way to returning to its natural state with native trees, rocks and grasses. A time-lapse video of the deurbanization is available online.259 UALR’s partners in the restoration, which Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said was the biggest “de-urbanization” project in Little Rock, include Audubon Arkansas, the Chamberlin Family Foundation, FTN Associates, and Design Consultants, Inc., along with many private donors to the project.
Dr. Dan Littlefield, director of UALR’s Sequoyah National Research Center, said the new park will include footpaths creating a “circle of life” in which three historical markers will be placed to identify the creek as a stop-over along the foot, horse, and wagon path known as the old Southwest Trail—now Asher Avenue.
The undertaking is the first part of the Coleman Creek Greenway Project, described in UALR On the Move, to create a 47-acre greenway reaching the full length of campus with lush vegetation, bicycle and walking trails, benches, and other amenities that complement the natural settings along the creek. The restoration project will provide an outdoor laboratory for biologists, earth scientists, and hydrologists for teaching and research activities and will unite the campus and tie Coleman Creek to a regional open space system that includes the Fourche Creek Wetlands and War Memorial Park, which will have long-term impact for years to come.
- UALR is achieving the goals and objectives set forth in its strategic plan, UALR Fast Forward.
- UALR conducts effective environmental scanning.
- Staff professional development opportunities need to be increased and expanded.
- UALR has made a concerted effort to develop the alumni office. As Alumni Association membership increases, the University benefits through direct assessment of its effectiveness in preparing graduates professionally and as life-long learners; an enhanced reputation in the community; and additional partners in recruitment.
- Enhanced program review criteria give UALR an opportunity to identify programs that need to be strengthened or discontinued.
- UALR supports its human resources. Specific examples include absorbing increased insurance costs and committing to raise faculty salaries to Southern Regional Education Board averages.
- UALR’s conservative approach to budgeting has helped it weather state and national economic downturns; however, overall funding remains an issue.
- UALR’s image in the community is improving as evidenced by a 9.4% increase in enrollment Fall 2009.