The accreditation self-study process built upon the strategic planning initiative, conducted in 2004-2005, that resulted in UALR Fast Forward, the University’s strategic plan. Four goals were identified for the self-study process:
- conduct a comprehensive review and evaluation of progress made on the goals and objectives outlined in UALR Fast Forward
- conduct a thorough evaluation and update of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats identified during the strategic planning process
- identify emerging institutional goals based on self-study process
- secure reaccreditation of the University for the maximum available term of ten years
The preparation of the report included a review of progress made on the goals and objectives in UALR Fast Forward and an evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats identified during the strategic planning process. The specific results of the review and evaluation are discussed in the report. The purpose of this concluding chapter is to summarize the emerging institutional goals that were identified in the accreditation self-study process.
Emerging Institutional Goals
The self-study report discusses progress made on the goals and objectives of UALR Fast Forward and evaluates the earlier SWOT analysis within the context of the criteria for accreditation. This review and evaluation identified two particular goals and objectives that need to remain priorities for UALR. The first is Goal 7, Objective 2: “The University will continue to expand the information technology resources of the campus to ensure effective and efficient use of technology.”
The Customer Satisfaction Evaluation conducted by MGT indicated 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 on campus. If UALR intends to be a high-tech campus, having a strong infrastructure to support technology is essential.
The second is Goal 8: “UALR will develop a strategy to enhance resources to accomplish its mission.” As long as UALR depends heavily on state appropriations and tuition as major sources of revenue, adequate funding will remain an issue. Although the University has made progress on expanding its revenue base by developing alternative funding sources such as contracts, foundation awards, federal earmarks, and private donations, these and additional sources of revenue need continued cultivation.
Two institutional goals emerged during the self-study process. The first is increasing effective communication among administration, faculty, and staff. The lack of communication was identified during the self-study process several times. A major example was that, although significant progress on UALR Fast Forward has been made and annually is discussed by campus leadership at the Chancellor’s Leadership Retreat, faculty and staff had not received an update. Another was the faculty’s lack of awareness about both the number of service opportunities available to students and the number of students who participate in these.
The University has developed effective communication structures at the administrative level. This structure needs to be extended across campus to ensure that faculty, students, and staff are aware of UALR’s progress and priorities. The result will be a stronger sense of community and shared vision.
The second institutional goal that emerged is integrating the enhanced role of research into the metropolitan university mission of UALR. As discussed in Chapter 1, “Introduction,” the University’s expanding role as a leading research institution in Arkansas positively affects the campus, the community, and the state.
However, faculty are grappling with the implications this has for UALR’s metropolitan mission, its traditional focus on teaching and service, and expectations regarding the criteria for tenure and promotion. The goal of integrating the enhanced role of research into UALR’s mission will continue to evolve over the next few years. Identification of it during the self-study process allows the University to address it early and openly in productive campus-wide discussions.
UALR Fast Forward
The functionality and flexibility of UALR Fast Forward is apparent in the evidence provided for the five accreditation criteria. The strategic plan continues to provide a clear plan for achieving the mission of UALR. Although the University faces challenges, both internal and external, and has areas of weakness to address, its strengths and opportunities make it a vibrant, thriving institution of higher education. Evidence of this is the fact that UALR’s Fall 2009 enrollment is its highest ever at 13,167, an increase of 9.4% from Fall 2008.
UALR is advancing the vision described in UALR Fast Forward. It is becoming a leader in providing excellent educational programs, conducting cutting-edge research that addresses real-life issues, and partnering with for-profit and nonprofit businesses and organizations to solve problems and promote prosperity in Central Arkansas and beyond.