University’s strategic plan includes external engagement
By Amy Tran, Jacob Nash and Jerrell Hardnett, contributing writers
UALR is continuing to make an impact on Little Rock and its surrounding cities, as it is involved with many external engagement projects, according to the website of the Institute of Race and Ethnicity.
Thanks to the university’s ten year “Fast Forward Strategic Plan,” UALR has seen itself being identified as a major influencer and has established itself with a seat in comparison to other universities around the state, according to David Sink, a professor in the Institute of Government that teaches in several community-oriented programs at UALR.
The strategic plan cites that education, historic character, environmental quality, housing public safety, economic development, cultural identity, human services, and technology are all being improved due to the external engagement project goals.
Sink said, “UALR is a state school and has an obligation to serve the people of the state in terms of economic, cultural, and quality of life issues. Because UALR sits in a major metropolitan region of the state, its outreach focus is logically the cites and counties of central Arkansas.”
Some of the largest external engagement activities, according to the UALR strategic plan, are the University District, Children’s International, Institute on Race and Ethnicity, and the Technology Research Park.
One of the main projects that UALR is involved with external engagement is through the University District Partnership (UDP). The UDP was formed in 2006. The UDP’s goal is to revitalize the residential and commercial areas that surround the UALR’s campus, according to the UDP website. UDP’s vision is, “Improving the quality of life for all who live, learn, work, and play in the area.”
The UDP website says that the district encompasses 3.5 square miles around University Ave, with approximately 8,400 people living within the district. The total number of households in the district is 3,367 with 52 percent homeowner households and 48 percent renter households. The university district includes: Broadmoor, College Terrace, Fair Park, Point O’ Woods, University Park, parts of Oak Forest neighborhood and parts of South Asher Avenue.
The UDP cites its vision as a vibrant urban community that overtime “will become a destination and key to the economic vitality of Little Rock.”
Sink, applauds those goals, “We are dedicated to improving the quality of life in these neighborhoods. What helps them helps us.”
One of the larger programs of the UALR external efforts is Children International. CI is a partnership of UALR and the international children’s assistance program. In 1994, Children International and UALR established a partnership to nurture and provide special assistance children and youth attending the Little Rock Public Schools.
Kyle T. Miller, the outgoing executive director of UALR Children International said, “CI provides educational enrichment, health, dental care, and family assistance for underserved kindergarteners through high school in the Little Rock School District.”
The former Chancellor, Charles E. Hathaway, had a strong commitment to external engagement, Miller said. When UALR had the opportunity to participate in a pilot program with CI, Miller said Hathaway readily agreed to become part of this program.
UALR’s commitment to CI eventually made this campus home to CI’s only domestic site in the U.S. UALR has established an endowment, which is being used as a scholarship for CI students to attend the university upon graduation.
Miller said through CI of UALR educational programs, students receive one-on-one academic tutoring and student support services, such as ACT prep, college access programs, and youth leadership courses. These programs prepare students to successfully graduate from high school and matriculate though college.
Stacy Anderson, a student of the Little Rock School District and CI participant believes she will gain a lot for being a part of this program.
“There have been many others who’ve assisted me with my growth efforts and I too someday wish to give back to my fellow community. Bless someone else with the opportunities that I’ve too been blessed with myself,” Anderson said.
Another one of the university’s external efforts is the Institute on Race and Ethnicity. According to the Institute’s website, the institute is working toward improving relations and understanding among races.
UALR has hosted conferences and surveys to bring the community together to discuss the criminal justice system policies. During one of the conferences attorney Crissy Monterrey of Monterrey and Tellez of Little Rock, and the Institute on Race and Ethnicity Executive Director Adjoa A. Aiyetoro held a meeting that resulted in a project to educate the black and brown communities about being confronted by police and immigration officials. Aiyetoro and UALR criminal justice professor, David Montague are co-leading a project that is examining the criminal justice system and any racial and ethnicity problems that still exist.
Finally, in terms of external engagement a development the university is involved in is Little Rock’s Technology Park creation. The technology park supporters are the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, the city of Little Rock, UALR and UAMS.
Supporters of the technology park say such ventures are vital for improving the commercialization of a community’s research and innovation activity. The Little Rock Technology Park Authority says these projects can also provide a significant economic impact in employment.
The technology park is part of Gov. Mike Bebe’s Strategic Plan for Economic Development, according to the ANGLE Technology Group, a specialist technology-consulting and research agency that wrote the strategic plan for the technology park.
Supporters hope to build the technology park between the UALR and UAMS campuses. The goal is for it to be located with no more than a five-minute drive to each university, according to the ANGLE Technology Group.
However, there has been controversy with finding a location. Originally, the technology park was scheduled to flatten a residential neighborhood, but now the Little Rock Technology Park Authority is scoping out non-residential areas.
Mary L. Good, founding dean of UALR’s Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology, said, “Technology parks succeed when local communities, nearby universities, and local industry come together to build an entrepreneurial environment and a collaborative atmosphere.”
Overall, the university takes external engagement very seriously, according to Chancellor Joel E. Anderson, “UALR continues to stay engaged in the community through various initiatives and partnerships.”
UALR has made progress in the past ten years alone, Sink said, “We are considered a player and a strong contributor not only to the economy but to the quality of life in the community.”