UALR Chancellor Anderson announces retirement

Chancellor Joel E. Anderson

University of Arkansas at Little Rock Chancellor Joel E. Anderson, a champion of affordable, accessible, and high-quality higher education in Arkansas, announced today that he will retire following a 13-year tenure as chancellor and a 45-year career at the university. His retirement will be effective June 30, 2016.

Anderson became UALR chancellor in 2003, bringing with him more than 30 years of university and community service. He had previously served UALR as provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and as founding dean of the Graduate School.

Chancellor Anderson’s announcement comes on the heels of a 1.2 percent increase in enrollment at UALR, including a 19 percent increase in first-time college students and a 7.1 percent increase in first-time transfer students.

“It has been a tremendous pleasure to see UALR grow and mature into the excellent, comprehensive university that it has become,” said Chancellor Anderson. “The faculty and staff of UALR deserve more credit than they will ever receive for their tireless efforts to help students achieve the dream of a college education that will enable students to adjust to a changing future and support themselves and their families.”

During Anderson’s tenure as chancellor, the campus completed several major building projects including the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology, the Donaldson Student Services Center, the Nanotechnology Center, the Coleman Sports Complex, the Jack Stephens Center, the University Plaza shopping center purchase, the Coleman Creek Greenway Project, and three residence halls.

Among the numerous highlights of Anderson’s service as chancellor are the recent partnership with eStem to build a new high school on the university’s campus; 11 fully online degree programs; the expansion of doctoral programs; completion of a $103 million comprehensive campaign, and the creation of the George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center.

University of Arkansas System President, Donald R. Bobbitt will form a search committee in the coming weeks with the goal to complete the search by July 1, 2016.

“It has been one of the great honors and privileges of my professional career to work with Chancellor Anderson,” said President Bobbitt. “He has been a calm and productive leader for UALR, and it is clear from the length of his service to the institution that he has passion and concern for the students and the faculty who serve them.”

One of the achievements he was most passionate about was the founding of the Institute on Race and Ethnicity in 2011, a center designed to move Arkansas forward on the broad front of racial and ethnic justice through education, research, dialogue, community events, and reconciliation initiatives.

As professor, dean, provost, and chancellor, Anderson always related success of the university to the success of the students UALR served. As chancellor, he launched numerous initiatives to recruit and retain more students and to reach out to underserved student populations. His signature is on more than 26,836 diplomas and the university’s fall-to-fall retention rate is the highest it has ever been.

“Joel is a true gentleman who cares about the university more than himself,” said Dr. Dean Kumpuris, chair of the UALR Board Visitors. “He has no ego and has sought our advice and support more than he probably had to. His primary goal has been to shepherd the university to a better place, which he has done. We are lucky to have had him as a leader for so many years.”

Anderson, who grew up on a farm east of Swifton in northeast Arkansas, received a BA degree in political science from Harding University, a MA degree in international relations from American University, and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan. He also completed the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University.

“The university has good momentum,” Anderson said. “I need time to catch up on a backlog of books and also to see my grandchildren more often.  All the while I will watch with pride as UALR grows and changes.”

Highlights of his service as chancellor include:

Campus-wide achievements

  • UALR achieved a record-high rate of giving to the university among faculty and staff at 62 percent in 2015.
  • The Windgate Charitable Foundation awarded UALR a grant of $20.3 million for a new Visual Arts and Applied Design center.
  • UALR raised $103 million in its first comprehensive fundraising campaign.
  • In 2004, the University District Initiative, which now includes a University District Development Corporation, was launched in partnership with neighborhood associations, businesses, churches, and other organizations to revitalize a 3.5-square-mile area of the city surrounding the university with attention to housing, safety, schools, streets, sidewalks, and business climate.
  • In 2011, UALR became the first Arkansas institution to receive the “Community-Engaged” Carnegie Classification.

Academic success

  • Students living on campus rose to more than 1,300 in 2015, including a 50 percent increase from the previous year in freshmen living on campus.
  • Chancellor Anderson established a meeting once a semester with each head coach to discuss the academic progress of each student-athlete at UALR.
  • Chancellor Anderson established a meeting with deans and department chairs in every college and department to discuss the progress of each declared major.
  • Under his leadership, several student success initiatives have been established, such as the Office of Transfer Student Services, mandatory new student orientation, and the Academic Success Center.
  • The university rose into the SREB Category 2 in 2014 as a result of conferring 30 or more doctoral degrees across five or more disciplines for three years. In Arkansas, only UAF is in Category 1; only UALR is in Category 2.
  • Since 2003, UALR has created 11 fully online degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.
  • Since 2003, UALR has increased online course student semester credit hours by 90 percent.
  • UALR created a bachelor’s degree program in E-Commerce for the UALR-Benton campus to meet educational and economic needs in Saline County.
  • The number of academic degrees awarded has increased each year and to date, Chancellor Anderson’s signature appears on more than 26,000 diplomas and he has presided over more than 30 commencement ceremonies.
  • In 2006, UALR established the world’s first graduate degree program in information quality program.

Capital projects

  • As Provost and then Chancellor, Dr. Anderson was integral to the development of the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology.
  • Since 2003, UALR has purchased the University Plaza shopping center, completed three residence halls, a housing commons, and purchased one apartment complex for student housing.
  • The Jack Stephens Center was completed in 2005 and became the new home of Trojan Basketball and Trojan Volleyball, as well as the primary site for commencement ceremonies.
  • The Coleman Creek Greenway Project was established to continue to beautify the campus and create a park-like atmosphere in the center of campus.
  • As part of the Coleman Creek Greenway project, the Trail of Tears Park was completed in 2011 to recognize the historical significance of the location on the south end of campus where the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes stopped for water along Coleman Creek.
  • The Charles W. Donaldson Student Services Center was opened in 2012 to provide one-stop access to primary student services such as admissions, academic advising, and financial aid.
  • The Coleman Sports and Recreation Complex was completed in 2012 and serves as the home field for the soccer and track and field programs.
  • Much of the campus’s infrastructure has undergone substantial renovations including the University Plaza shopping center, Fribourgh Hall, Ottenheimer Library, Gary Hogan Field, Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, and the Bowen School of Law.
  • The former Administration South building was fully renovated to house the School of Nursing and includes classrooms and a simulation hospital.

Innovation and research

  • Chancellor Anderson forged a new partnership with eStem Public Charter Schools to strengthen STEM education in Arkansas with a new high school on the UALR campus.
  • With $5 million from the Donaghey Foundation, UALR launched in 2013 the George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center (EAC), which provides competitive, visionary data solutions for the region and state in an academic environment.
  • UALR launched the Center for Integrative Nanotechnology Sciences.
  • UALR established “TechLaunch” to assist faculty researchers with commercializing their research.

Racial and ethnic justice

  • In 2003 at his investiture, Chancellor Anderson announced the annual “Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County” survey and mini-conference to address issues of racial and ethnic discrimination in the metropolitan area.
  • Chancellor Anderson served as a “Scholar in Residence” in 2010 at the Center on Community Philanthropy at the Clinton School for his work on issues of race and ethnicity.
  • Dr. Anderson launched the Institute on Race and Ethnicity in 2011 to move Arkansas forward on the broad front of racial and ethnic justice through education, research, dialogue, community events, and reconciliation initiatives.
  • Chancellor Anderson has made several speeches and created several written testimonies supporting the DREAM Act and similar legislation at both the state and Federal levels.
  • Because of Chancellor Anderson’s support of programs that aim to support and assist minority students, UALR remains the most diverse institution of higher education in the state.
  • In 2015, as part of its 40th anniversary celebration, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation honored Chancellor Anderson as one of 40 Community Leaders in the categories of community, education, nonprofits, and prosperity.
  • Chancellor Anderson received the La Esperanza Award and the President’s Award from the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) for his dedication to recruit and assist Latino/a college students.
  • Chancellor Anderson received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from Just Communities of Arkansas (JCA).
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