- Institutional History
- Significant Changes: A Decade of Self-Reflection, Planning, and Growth
- History of Accreditation
- Goals of Self-Study Process
- Description of the Self-Study Process
- Organization of the Self-Study Report
A member of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)1 is distinguished by the strength of its demonstrated commitment to and partnership with external communities and constituencies. UALR is committed both to educating tomorrow’s global citizens and to dedicating its research and service resources to advance economic prosperity, social and physical well-being, educational development, and cultural vitality in Central Arkansas.
UALR is a partnership university ready to join with government offices and agencies, and with community organizations and groups to solve problems. As such, UALR focuses on challenges faced by people living in the metropolitan Little Rock area and throughout the state. UALR accomplishes its mission through excellence in teaching, research, and service.
The first and foremost priority of faculty and administration is teaching. One hundred percent of respondents in recent, separate faculty surveys ranked teaching as their most important job duty. The philosophy of teaching articulated by the UALR Academy of Teaching and Learning Excellence2 reflects that of the institution:
[The] educational experience needs to entail more than what might be called the transmission model of teaching. From such a model, professors often assume, “[I]f we tell students, we’ve taught students.” The transmission model is teacher-centered implying that the teacher holds all knowledge. If, however, we become learning-centered in our teaching, and we put the focus on the students, we become student-centered. This shift encourages us to think about ways we can understand how students learn… we must develop a new way of thinking in which students and teachers are co-constructors of the learning experience… We also believe with John Sexton (President of New York University), as quoted in Ken Bain’s book What The Best College Teachers Do, that all faculty must become part of a teaching community for the entire enterprise of learning, scholarship, and teaching.
Captured in this philosophy is the belief that learning, scholarship, and teaching are integral, interwoven components of the educational experience, where faculty use their scholarship and service to enhance their pedagogy in order to engage in a learning partnership. At UALR, this philosophy is a core value, demonstrated by the commitment of faculty to enhance their pedagogy through continued education and training and by outcomes assessment data that show students are acquiring the level of knowledge and skills they need to be successful, personally and professionally.
But as important as the learning experience is, it must be accompanied by a recognition of the diversity and needs of student learners. In his inaugural address (2003), Chancellor Joel E. Anderson said,
First, a comment on the students we serve… many of them [are young], recent high school graduates. And many of them are well beyond the traditional college age, coming to college later for the first time, or returning after an absence, often with job and family responsibilities to discharge along with their studies. Many must pursue their quest for a degree on a part-time basis. A large majority of them commute. A third of them are minorities and a majority are women.3
Therefore, the University is committed to providing excellent educational opportunities to both traditional and non-traditional students of all sorts: students who are older; students who transfer from other colleges and universities; students who are minorities or women; place-bound students; commuting students; students who hold jobs and have families; students who are enrolled part-time; and sometimes, students who are all of the above. The University is committed to providing learning environments that meet the needs of all students. This commitment is manifested in the wide range of programs and resources UALR provides for its diverse student body.
A discussion of the ways in which UALR addresses effective teaching and student learning is provided in Chapter 3, “The Learning-Focused Organization.”
The role of research at UALR has changed over the past decade. In 2000, UALR moved into a research university category in the Carnegie Foundation’s national classification of institutions of higher education.4 Today, the University’s position as a leading research institution in Arkansas is confirmed by the Role and Scope statements recently adopted by the University of Arkansas System (UA System) Board of Trustees (2006) and the Arkansas State Higher Education Coordinating Board (2008).
UALR faculty engage in a remarkable range of both basic and applied research—from examining Arkansas in the Civil War—to studying giant pandas—to creating robots that can assist persons with disabilities—to developing laser-activated nanotubes that can fight cancer. More and more during the last decade, the research conducted by UALR faculty has gained national and international attention.
The same can be said of the research conducted by UALR students, whose work has received accolades from an international audience. To integrate research and teaching, UALR has taken deliberate steps to include both undergraduate and graduate students in research projects with faculty and to develop undergraduate and graduate research projects, adding an enriching component to the educational experience.
While the growth in the role of research at UALR has generally been viewed as a positive development by the campus, the community, and the state, it also has resulted in some growing pains for the institution. As faculty have grappled with revising the University’s Tenure and Promotion document, discussions about what research is, how its merits should be measured, and the weight it should play in tenure and promotion decisions have been lively. It is likely that these discussions will continue over the next few years as the University adapts to its enhanced role as a research institution and becomes more comfortable with the notion of “both/and,” rather than “either/or.”
A discussion of the ways in which UALR addresses the acquisition, discovery, and application of knowledge is provided in Chapter 3, “The Learning-Focused Organization.”
Although UALR embraces and excels in the areas of teaching and research, it is what the University contributes through public service that sets it apart the most from other institutions of higher education in the state and the nation. The service work done at UALR reflects the active role metropolitan universities play in enhancing the well-being of the local community and their constituencies.
Faculty in virtually every academic unit use their expertise to address local and regional problems. They also involve students in community service through service-learning components of courses, capstone projects, internships, externships, and service projects sponsored by student groups. Staff also are actively engaged in service projects that benefit members of both the UALR and Little Rock communities. These are but a few of the ways in which UALR actively strives to be a good community citizen and uses its resources and abilities in a manner that benefits its constituencies.
A discussion of engagement and service activities at UALR is provided in Chapter 4, “The Connected Organization.”
At UALR, teaching, research, and service are not separate, discrete activities. Indeed, a core institutional value is that the best scholarship involves the integration of all three, as described by Boyer in Scholarship Reconsidered (Carnegie Foundation 1990). One project that demonstrates such scholarship is the Central Arkansas Watershed Center of Excellence.
In June 2008, UALR, Central Arkansas Water, and the U.S. Geological Survey Arkansas Water Science Center signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work cooperatively to establish the Central Arkansas Watershed Center of Excellence.5 The purpose of the center is to understand how the watershed affects aquatic ecosystems in Central Arkansas. The project includes the following four programs:
- the Limnology Program, a science-based monitoring, research, and information-gathering program to provide long-term observations of water quality and management strategies for lake, reservoir, and stream protection in Central Arkansas
- the Water Science and Engineering Program, a research program that encompasses the scientific investigation of water quality/quantity issues as they relate to source security of drinking, agricultural and industrial water supplies, and the engineering processes that can be developed to enhance security
- the Watershed Stewardship Program, a community-based program designed primarily to educate the public about conservation, preservation, and stewardship issues of particular water bodies and ecosystems within the Central Arkansas region
- the Research and Educational Outreach Program, a program that will develop research and outreach opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in limnology, hydrogeology, and watershed science and that will communicate stewardship goals and research results to the community, by working through local teachers and citizens on science education workshops and citizen-based watershed projects
The example of the Central Arkansas Watershed Center of Excellence demonstrates UALR’s distinctiveness. It is a university that dedicates its resources to educating students and advancing the health and prosperity of all its constituencies.
UALR’s connection to the Little Rock community was present at its inception when local high school graduates began insisting on having the opportunity to complete their post-secondary education while remaining in the city. This led to the creation of Little Rock Junior College, under the supervision of the city Board of Education in 1927. That first semester, there were eight instructors and about 100 students.
By 1929, the new junior college was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, a status it has kept through changes in size and status. First housed in public school buildings, the College moved to UALR’s present location in 1949, a beautifully wooded 272-acre site donated by Mr. Raymond Rebsamen, a local businessman and philanthropist. At that time, the College also was the sole beneficiary of a continuing trust established by former Governor George W. Donaghey.
In 1957, the institution began a four-year degree program, became independent and privately supported under a separate board of trustees, and took the name Little Rock University. In September 1969, after several years of discussion and study, Little Rock University merged with the UA System and became the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, a part of a multi-campus system that now includes 15 institutions of higher learning. Within this structure, UALR, the second largest institution in the UA System, is state-supported and operationally separate.
With the University of Arkansas merger, UALR began a period of rapid growth. In 1975 the University began offering graduate and professional programs, including a Juris Doctorate. In the early 1990’s, UALR began offering courses in Benton, 30 miles south of Little Rock, through a cooperative effort between UALR and the Saline County Education Development Association to promote higher education in the city of Benton and all of Saline County.
Today, UALR is a comprehensive university with six colleges and a law school offering 53 baccalaureate degrees, 44 graduate degrees, two law degrees, and eight doctorates. To meet the region’s diverse needs, UALR also offers one undergraduate certificate, seven associate degrees, and 19 graduate certificates. In 2009, the University awarded 2,084 diplomas, the most ever for the institution. These included 244 associate degrees, 1,084 baccalaureate degrees, 97 graduate certificates, 509 graduate degrees, 7 specialist degrees, 22 doctoral degrees, and 121 law degrees.
During its history, UALR has had six Chancellors:
- Carey V. Stabler (1969–1972)
- James H. Fribourgh (acting Chancellor 1972–1973, 1982)
- G. Robert Ross (1973–1982)
- James H. Young (1982–1992)
- Joel E. Anderson (interim Chancellor 1993)
- Charles E. Hathaway (1993–2002)
- Joel E. Anderson (2003–present)
An original building on the campus of then Little Rock Junior College.
Following its last accreditation visit by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities in 2000, UALR entered into a period of self-reflection, planning, and unprecedented growth.
During the early- to mid-2000’s, UALR conducted three long-range planning activities that resulted in UALR Fast Forward,6 a comprehensive strategic plan; UALR On the Move,7 a complete revision of the campus master plan; and Partners for Progress: Shaping the Future of the University District,8 a revitalization plan for the commercial and residential areas surrounding UALR.
UALR Fast Forward
Following his investiture in 2003, Chancellor Anderson challenged the University community to address the challenges of the new century and to commit to “build a powerhouse university in the capital city—as fast as possible—not for the sake of those who work at the University but for the sake of the people the University exists to serve.” The result of this challenge was the development of UALR Fast Forward. Published in 2006, the strategic plan is designed to enhance the educational excellence of the University and its ability to help address the needs of the State of Arkansas.
The strategic planning process, led by Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (hereafter referred to as Provost) David Belcher, allowed for broad participation of campus and community representatives. It included a 32-member steering committee, nine expanded subcommittees, standing campus committees, standing external advisory councils, and some 20 focus groups of faculty, staff, and students. The use of electronic discussion technology further broadened participation.
The planning committee included representatives from local and regional businesses and nonprofits, including Entergy; Aristotle; Delta Trust Investments, Inc.; Moses and Tucker Real Estate; Arkansas Rehabilitation Services; and the Little Rock School District; as well as both the Pulaski and Saline County Judges.
During the strategic planning process, these groups worked cooperatively and candidly to create a vision that affirmed UALR’s mission for the beginning of the 21st century and would, as Chancellor Anderson noted in his introductory letter in the strategic plan, “… improve our stewardship of the University and… increase our success in accomplishing the University’s noble purposes.”
UALR Fast Forward provides a thorough and thoughtful analysis of the institutional strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that existed in the mid-2000’s and also delineates eight goals and seven pledges to external stakeholders that lay the foundation for UALR to achieve the institution’s vision.
Much progress has been made between the publishing of UALR Fast Forward and the writing of this self-study document. While some objectives have been accomplished or re-prioritized, the strategic plan continues to be relevant and dynamic. UALR Fast Forward is discussed in detail in Chapter 2, “The Distinctive Organization” and is referenced throughout the self-study report.
UALR On the Move
The second major planning initiative, completed in 2005, was a comprehensive update of the campus master plan: UALR On the Move. In the introduction, Chancellor Anderson states,
The planning reflected in this document manifests our desire to be good stewards of the small part of the planet the [u]niversity occupies. Beyond our desire to be good stewards, there are two important reasons for UALR to engage in campus master planning.
First, for a university located in the heart of a city—and very glad to be here—land for outward expansion of the campus will always be limited. Therefore, we need to make optimum use of the land presently available.
Second, today’s decisions on the location of additional buildings and facilities will limit the choices of those leading the University tomorrow. For example, a campus parking deck, wherever placed, will strongly influence the use of the area around it indefinitely. Therefore, for the sake of those leading the University tomorrow, we should endeavor to take an informed and long view today.
For a year, both on- and off-campus constituencies were involved in collaborative planning. Throughout the process, the consultant team met regularly with the UALR Campus Master Plan Update Committee, the Chancellor, and the Board of Visitors. At every stage, the campus and larger community were involved through a variety of forums including workshops, neighborhood meetings, and public open houses. Concurrent planning for the campus and University District allowed for the seamless integration of ideas. Over 150 people—residents from surrounding neighborhoods, business owners, nonprofit leaders, school officials, and local governmental officials—took part in the process.
The resulting master plan update offers a ten-year vision for the physical development of the UALR campus and outlines specific actions to make the plan a reality. In keeping with UALR’s mission as a metropolitan university, the plan forges clear connections with the surrounding community, strengthening the University’s role as a cultural and economic resource to the region. UALR On the Move is discussed in more detail in Chapter 5, “The Future-Oriented Organization.”
The third major initiative is Partners for Progress: Shaping the Future of the University District. This initiative drew attention to the declining area surrounding UALR. Until the repaving and widening of University Avenue in 2008–2009, no major public infrastructure investment had taken place in the area in two decades.
Homes in the neighborhood are increasingly owned by absentee landlords, who defer maintenance on the residences, which contributes to a higher incidence of code violations and nuisance crimes in the area. Similarly, many of the older commercial areas have obsolete buildings, and fragmented land ownership inhibits large scale redevelopment. The University District Partnership was created as part of a long-term planning process to address the continuing problems plaguing the larger community of which the University is a part. The steering committee consisted of a coalition of neighborhood business, community, and institutional leaders, as well as city, regional, and state department and agency representatives.
The planning and policy framework for the University District Partnership is articulated in Partners for Progress: Shaping the Future of the University District, which describes major physical development projects that will upgrade the basic public infrastructure of the area. Additionally, it outlines a strategic plan that addresses socio-economic conditions of the area and describes partnerships for delivering programs and services. Partners for Progress: Shaping the Future of the University District is discussed in detail in Chapter 4, “The Connected University.”
The road map outlined in UALR Fast Forward, UALR On the Move, and Partners for Progress has resulted in significant, focused growth and change at UALR. Since the last self-study visit, the University has expanded and enhanced its campus, its curricula, and its role as a significant community partner in Little Rock and Central Arkansas.
During the last decade, UALR has experienced an unprecedented expansion of its campus and facilities. In 2005, the University purchased and renovated much of University Plaza, a 22-acre shopping center bordering Asher Avenue directly south of the campus. 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, the Department of Public Safety, and components of the Department of Construction Management.
Over the past ten years, the following buildings have been added to the campus:
- H. Tyndall Dickinson Hall, which houses the College of Education and the Departments of Computer Science and Mathematics and Statistics as well as the office for the Academy of Teaching and Learning Excellence and the office of Scholarly and Technology Resources
- Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business and Economic Development, which houses the College of Business, the Institute for Economic Advancement, and the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center
- 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 Alumni Association and the Office of Community Engagement
- 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, partially funded through state appropriations, that will accommodate programs of the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology.
In addition to these building projects, UALR has completed several major renovation projects at both its main campus and at the William H. Bowen School of Law. On the main campus, renovations made to Stabler Hall, which houses most of the classrooms for the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, 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.
Since 2000, several renovation projects have been completed at the Bowen School of Law. These include adding new office space for student organizations; remodeling the administrative offices to create additional office space for expanded student, development, and alumni services; relocating the bookstore and the career services center; adding state-of-the-art academic technology in all classrooms and a video-capture system in most classrooms; and remodeling and updating the first-, second-, and third-floor public areas.
UALR fulfills its mission as a metropolitan university by developing and offering degree programs that meet identified regional needs. The close relationship to—and involvement with—the community allows UALR to work in partnership with constituent groups to offer educational programs that will benefit students as well as the region and the state. In the past decade, UALR has expanded its academic offerings in targeted areas to fulfill its mission and to meet local, state, and regional needs.
An example of how UALR has focused its curricular energies to meet the needs of constituencies is a commitment to graduate more students with nursing degrees. One of the goals articulated in UALR Fast Forward was to increase the number of graduates with either an ASN or BSN in Nursing by 100 percent, a goal that UALR is well on its way to accomplishing.
Graduate programming has been a particular area of curricular growth, most significantly in graduate certificates and doctoral degrees. Since 2000, faculty at UALR have designed and implemented 18 new graduate certificates designed for professionals in the community who wish to further their skills in a particular area, or advance their careers. These include the following:
- Information Quality
- Gifted Education
- Teaching Advanced Placement
- Reading/Literacy Coach
- Systems Engineering
- Applied Statistics
- Conflict Mediation
- Geospacial Technology
- Nonprofit Management
- Public Service
- Rehabilitation Counseling
- Orientation and Mobility of the Blind
- Information Systems Leadership
- Management Information Systems
Growth in doctoral programs also has been focused in areas that will benefit the metropolitan area and the state. Since 2000, UALR has added the following doctoral programs:
- PhD in Bioinformatics
- Doctor of Audiology (with UAMS)
- PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders (with UCA and UAMS)
- PhD in Reading
- PhD in Criminal Justice
Enhanced Role as a Community Partner
UALR has become a regional leader in the area of economic development. For example, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC)9 is a university-based economic development program that provides assistance to entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout Arkansas via a statewide network of seven offices. Over the last decade, ASBTDC clients have
- created 2.4 new jobs per day for a total of 8,575 new jobs;
- made $260,000 in new sales per day for a total of almost $1 billion in new sales;
- obtained more than $130,000 in financing per day for a total of more than $476.1 million in financing; and
- generated $42.3 million more in state and $23.8 million more in federal taxes than if they had performed like the average business in the state.
The growing role of UALR in regional, national, and international innovation is demonstrated most clearly by the establishment of the Nanotechnology Center at the University. In 2006, UALR received approval from the Arkansas State Legislature to spend $5.9 million in Arkansas General Improvement funds to establish the center. When the funds were received in March of that year, the Center had already filed several patent applications for new nanotechnology breakthroughs related to UALR faculty research and had purchased state-of-the-art instrumentation and equipment. The money provided by the legislature led to $1.9 million in additional grant funding from the federal government and allowed the center to deepen and expand its research efforts.
Additional examples of UALR’s enhanced leadership role in economic development and innovation are as follows:
- The Institute for Economic Advancement.10 The institute provides specialized services which support the economic advancement of Arkansas and are available to businesses, governmental units, labor organizations, communities, and private individuals throughout the state. The institute offers multiple programs that offer economic assistance to Arkansas.
- The Office of Innovation and Commercialization. Created in response to the successes of the UALR Nanotechnology Center, the purpose of this office is to develop UALR’s technology transfer infrastructure, policies, and procedures; to create and grow a business incubator; and to foster start-up companies.
- The George W. Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology.11 Founded in 1999 specifically to meet the engineering and information technology needs of business and industry in Central Arkansas, curricula in the College have been developed and enhanced in response to industry need.
UALR’s enhanced role as a community partner is discussed in detail in Chapter 4, “The Connected Organization.”
The University was founded in 1927. By 1929, the College was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1957, the College became the independent, privately supported Little Rock University, with a four year program. In 1960, the University was granted a change of status to be accredited at the bachelor’s degree level.
In 1969, Little Rock University merged with the University of Arkansas to created the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 1971, UALR was accredited as a separate institution. Since then, the following changes in affiliation status have occurred:
- In 1975, following a comprehensive review for continued accreditation, UALR was granted continued accreditation with authorization to offer programs at the master’s degree level.
- In 1980, following a comprehensive review for continued accreditation, UALR was granted continued accreditation with authorization to offer programs at the First Professional degree level.
- In 1986, following a review by the evaluator’s panel, UALR was authorized to offer the Educational Specialist degree.
- In 1990, following a comprehensive review for continued accreditation, UALR was granted continued accreditation with authorization to offer the Doctor of Philosophy in Instrumentation Science (now know as Applied Science).
- In 1991, following a review by the evaluator’s panel, UALR was authorized to offer the Education Doctorate in Higher Education and also in Educational Administration.
- In 2000, following a comprehensive review for continued accreditation, UALR was granted continued accreditation with its next comprehensive visit scheduled during the 2009–2010 academic year. One challenge, assessment, was noted. The issue was resolved in 2003. No additional reports on UALR’s assessment program were requested.
- In 2004, following a review by the evaluator’s panel, UALR was authorized to offer the Doctor of Philosophy in Bioinformatics jointly with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and the Doctor of Philosophy in Communication Sciences and Disorders cooperatively with the UAMS and the University of Central Arkansas. Additionally, the stipulation in the affiliation status regarding doctoral programs was removed.
Identified Concern #1
It is critical to align enrollment and recruitment efforts with the mission and emerging programs. The University should determine the most appropriate mix of graduate and undergraduate students and develop a comprehensive enrollment management plan to address the improvement of recruitment, retention, and graduation. The planning process should seek representation from faculty and other groups throughout the campus and community.
As part of the strategic planning initiative, UALR completed several environmental scanning initiatives focused on enrollment management in the early- to mid-2000’s. In addition to several committees formed during the strategic planning process, these initiatives include the work of a Retention Task Force and the completion of the Foundations of Excellence study. Recommendations from these initiatives produced three specific strategies of particular note.
Office of Recruitment
Identified as a critical need, the Office of Recruitment12 was created in 2005. The office is directed by Mr. Cleveland James, who reports to both Provost Belcher and Dr. Charles Donaldson, Vice Chancellor for Educational and Student Services and Dean of University College. This organizational structure was designed as a clear message to faculty and staff that everyone on campus plays a role in the recruitment enterprise.
In addition to the director, the Office of Recruitment has seven staff, including three recruiters assigned to specific areas of the state. The activities of the office are directed toward high school students as well as their parents and high school counselors, students currently attending one of the community colleges in Arkansas, and students attending high school in contiguous states. These activities include the following:
- holding campus high school counselor drive-in updates in the Little Rock and Pulaski Special County School Districts
- the high school counselor appreciation luncheon
- twelve on-site admissions events held at each Little Rock School District and Pulaski Special County School District high school
- call-out nights staffed by members of the Recruitment Task Force Committee, comprised of faculty and staff from across campus
During the 2008–2009 academic year, the Office of Recruitment conducted 237 campus tours for potential students and parents, made 66 high school visits, attended 87 community college fairs, and held 11 outreach events.
Enrollment Management Team and Plan
Another identified initiative was the formation of an enrollment management team to create a comprehensive plan for recruitment and retention13. From 2005 to 2006, the enrollment management team, co-chaired by then-Director of the Office of Recruitment, Dr. Robert Mock, and the Associate Dean of the College of Professional Studies, Dr. Christina Drale, drafted a comprehensive strategic enrollment management plan for 2007–2012 that is linked to the mission of UALR. This plan includes an analysis of UALR enrollment trends for the years 1990–2006 as well as a market analysis that takes into consideration projected Arkansas high school graduation rates and trends in market share. Based on this information, the plan outlines both the strategies that were in place in 2006 as well as additional recommendations for achieving the identified enrollment goals. Many of the recommendations for the enrollment management plan were incorporated into the initiatives outlined at the Retention Summit in 2007.
Retention Summit Initiatives
Fall 2007, Chancellor Anderson asked Provost Belcher and Vice Chancellor Donaldson to review the findings of all the environmental scanning activities conducted in the early 2000’s to identify retention initiatives of particular promise for the University in its efforts to improve retention performance. Their review identified six retention strategies that had been recommended by the studies and the strategic planning process:
- mandatory freshman orientation
- comprehensive services for students requiring developmental courses
- improved advising processes
- early declaration of major
- required first-year experience course for all freshmen and freshmen-transfer students
- reporting of mid-term grades for all freshmen and sophomore courses
These strategies, presented to the faculty and staff at the Retention Summit in December 2007, are designed to facilitate early connections between students and faculty; provide support services and early warning measures to increase academic success; and provide services that create a more seamless transition for transfer students. A detailed discussion of the retention strategies and progress made on each is provided in Chapter 3, “The Learning-Focused Organization.”
Identified Concern #2
While a significant investment in network infrastructure and technology has been made, it is essential to develop and implement a
- coherent, integrated faculty development program to assure faculty can effectively use current and emerging technology
- campus-wide strategic plan for integration, implementation, and maintenance of instructional and administrative technology
In 2001, Dr. Linda Musun, then Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Director Aimee Dixon developed the Office of Scholarly Technology and Resources (STaR).14
Now directed by Mark Burris, STaR provides on-going training and support to faculty for their use of UALR’s Blackboard learning management system. STaR also provides the following:
- Opportunities for training and professional development
- Instructional design and course development services
- Quality multimedia production
- Blackboard administration and support
- Tech support for faculty and students
In addition to the director, STaR has five full-time staff, two student workers, is open year round, and offers three or four days of training each week. Topics include Blackboard Basics, how to use the Assessment system, how to use Voice Tools in Wimba, and how to create effective Learning Modules.
As UALR became a leader in the state in distance education, it became obvious that there was a need to centralize administration of these efforts. The result was the creation of the Off-Campus Programs, now known as the Office of Extended Programs,15 currently administered by Interim Dean Dr. Linda Musun. In FY 2009, the University added $211,000 to the Extended Programs budget to serve as an Innovation Fund to support the development of new distance-education classes and programs, or to pilot innovative applications of technology to improve teaching and learning. The innovation fund is an ongoing budget resource.
In 2008, this fund supported installing equipment that will enable the BA in Interpreter Education program, located in the College of Education, to shift the delivery of its distance program at Tulsa Community College in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from a phone-based to Internet-based platform. Students can attend the same class here in Little Rock, in a classroom in Tulsa, or at a computer anywhere in the country. The program plans to use this as a model for programs in other states.
In addition to STaR, Dr. Musun created the Distance Education Advisory Committee. Meetings of this group are called by the Dean of Extended Programs. Members consist of two faculty nominated by the dean of each of the six colleges. It also includes staff from STaR, the library, the Disability Resource Center, and Computing Sciences. The group discusses and makes recommendations about a variety of issues to the Dean of Extended Programs, who then takes them to the Provost.
Identified Concern #3
UALR has initiated a campus-wide coordinated effort to assess student achievement as a part of evaluating the overall effectiveness of the institution. At this time, the commitment to assessment and the use of assessment results are widely variable across academic units. While successful models were noted, the institution has not documented a pattern of evidence that assessment is being used systematically and effectively to assure excellence in teaching and learning. Furthermore, there is little evidence that budget and other decisions are based on assessment results. With persistence, support, and appropriate development, the institution should be able to meet the assessment expectations of NCA.
UALR addressed the concerns regarding assessment in an interim report16 submitted to the Higher Learning Commission in December 2003. The staff analysis of the report states, in part
In addition to documenting that assessment implementation was institution-wide, the evaluation team in its report of the February 2000 visit to UALR provided evidence that assessment results are used across all academic units and that assessment is linked to curricular, budget, and planning processes. UALR reports the following assessment progress:
- Assessment Central17 website showcases assessment activities of each college, including the annual progress reports and assessment summaries.
- Provost Assessment Group approves assessment plans and reports on the “state of the campus.”
- Faculty Fridays are development workshops on assessment topics among other topics.
- Assessment Poster Sessions are held annually and highlight assessment accomplishments in core courses.
- Assessment Expos highlight best assessment efforts from each college.
Subsequent to the visit of the evaluation team, UALR reports a culture of assessment on the campus. Assessment implementation in the general education core, in program assessment, and in the involvement of faculty and students are evident in the documents that can be viewed on the Assessment Central website. The report demonstrates that the Provost and Chancellor’s offices are involved and supportive of the campus assessment efforts. All disciplines have reviewed and revised their outcomes goals. Assessment results are fed back to faculty so that improvements can be made in curricula and pedagogy to improve student learning.
Conclusion: The UALR report and website documents demonstrate the ways that assessment is internalized and a part of the culture of the institution. The website is serving the institution in promoting its goals of teaching excellence and accountability to students. The institution is collecting, analyzing, and using assessment data to inform courses and programs to affect student learning. It is also demonstrating to students and stakeholders the achievement of broader institutional outcomes. Staff is encouraged by the University’s response to the team’s challenges and further encourages the University to continue doing the “hard work” of assessment.
STAFF ACTION: Accept the report focused on assessment. No further reports are due. The institution’s next comprehensive evaluation is scheduled for 2009–2010.
The culture of assessment has continued to grow and evolve on campus since the acceptance of the interim report. Assessment is discussed in detail in Chapter 3, “The Learning-Focused Organization.”
The self-study process was directed toward four goals:
- 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 self-study process began in 2003 with the strategic planning initiative that resulted in UALR Fast Forward. As has been discussed, UALR Fast Forward articulates specific goals, objectives, and strategies for accomplishing the mission of the University during the first two decades of the new century.
In Spring 2007, John Taylor, the Higher Learning Commission liaison for UALR, visited the University and met with campus leadership groups. He was impressed with the comprehensiveness of both the strategic planning that had been accomplished and the resulting UALR Fast Forward document. He encouraged UALR to use the writing of the self-study report as an opportunity to review and evaluate the progress made on the goals and objectives outlined in UALR Fast Forward.
In Summer 2007, Dr. Susan Hoffpauir, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and chair of the self-study process, formed an 11-member steering committee that represented administration, faculty, staff, alumni, and students. The steering committee was responsible for gathering examples of evidence for Criteria for Accreditation I and II. Dr. Hoffpauir also appointed three subcommittees responsible for gathering examples of evidence related to Criteria III, IV, and V.
The steering committee and subcommittee chairs met weekly or bi-weekly as needed throughout the 2007–2008 academic year and reviewed the goals, objectives, and strategies articulated in UALR Fast Forward and two progress updates. In order to re-evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats identified during the strategic planning process, actual and virtual round-table discussions involving faculty, staff, and students were conducted over a two-week period in March and April 2008. Unfortunately, due to late winter storms, participation in these was light. That spring, additional data were collected from students using the National Survey of Student Engagement and from the faculty using both the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement and the faculty survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute.
In Spring and Summer 2008, data were given to the writing team and they began working on the self-study document. As this work continued during the 2008–2009 academic year, updates were shared with the steering committee and subcommittee chairs, campus administration, deans, faculty, and staff. A update on the self-study report was given to Faculty Senate in April 2009. In June, an email was sent to all faculty, staff, and students, inviting them to read and comment on a draft of the self-study report that was posted on the University website. During a two-week comment period, responses were collected electronically and were incorporated into the report.
The findings from the review and evaluation of progress made on the goals and objectives outlined in UALR Fast Forward and the evaluation and update of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats identified during the strategic planning process are at the core of this document. The self-study report clearly shows how these continue to guide curricular, budgetary, and strategic decisions made at UALR.
The self-study report is organized using the four cross-cutting themes articulated in Chapter 3 of the Handbook of Accreditation, 3rd edition. These themes provide the context for four of the six chapters that comprise the document and also provide the organizational structure for discussing how UALR accomplishes each of its six mission objectives: excellence in instruction; scholarly inquiry; service to society; community of learning; accessibility; and responsiveness.
Core components for each criterion for accreditation are addressed within the appropriate chapter. The remaining chapters are Chapter 1, “Introduction,” and Chapter 6, “Conclusion.”
- Chapter Two: The Distinctive Organization
- Criterion One: Mission and Integrity
- Chapter Three: The Learning-Focused Organization
- Criterion Three: Student Learning and Effective Teaching
- Criterion Four: Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge
- Chapter Four: The Connected Organization
- Criterion Five: Engagement and Service
- Chapter Five: The Future-Oriented Organization
- Criterion Two: Preparing for the Future
At the beginning of each chapter, the criteria for accreditation and the core components addressed are identified.
Throughout the document, examples of evidence related to the core components are identified in the margin of the chapter in relation to relevant text.
To further facilitate locating specific examples of evidence in the report, a list of “Examples of Evidence by Criterion and Page” can be found on See Examples of Evidence by Criterion and Page.
Throughout the document footnotes are used to reference external websites or other online resources.