Having served as CEO of four technology startup companies, Dr. James Hendren, chairman of the Venture Center, is well aware of the impact of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (STEM) education on the state’s economy.
“I think it is very important for the state that we generate more knowledgeable people, especially in the sciences, math, and engineering,” Hendren said. “Those students should know there are large job opportunities in the state of Arkansas. You don’t have to go out of the state to get a job with a STEM degree.”
Already an active volunteer in promoting STEM education, Hendren is continuing to give back by joining the Dean’s Science Council at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Council members advocate on behalf of the UA Little Rock College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences and garner community support for science programs. Their efforts include raising funds for faculty and undergraduate research, the Fribourgh Award receptions, and the Science Olympiad.
“The main thing we want to accomplish is to raise the volume of students taking courses in STEM and promoting those degrees to students,” he said. “We want to generate more students with STEM degrees because they are badly needed in Arkansas.”
While Hendren led Arkansas Systems, Inc., one of the state’s first high-tech companies that started in 1977, he often looked to UA Little Rock for a source of employees.
“My company has hired lots of graduates,” he said. “The candidates were typically Arkansans who would live in and be dedicated to the state. They had good computer development skills. We got good employees from UA Little Rock.”
Hendren always had time to give back to his community. He served on the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority board of directors and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, where he led the charge for changing the economic development strategies to include high-tech startup companies.
At UA Little Rock, Hendren is an avid volunteer serving in a variety of capacities, including serving as the former executive-in-residence for the College of Information Sciences and System Engineering for 10 years.
He also uses his extensive experience as an entrepreneur to mentor students. Every year, he speaks to students taking entrepreneur classes in the UA Little Rock College of Business.
“I give them a layout of what the entrepreneurial environment is like in Arkansas,” Hendren said. “College is a great time to explore your options, make a change, and hopefully make a lot of money.”
As chairman of Accelerate Arkansas, Hendren spearheaded efforts to produce an excellent environment to encourage startup companies in Arkansas.
In 2015, UA Little Rock awarded Hendren the prestigious Fribourgh Award. The award is named after the late Dr. James Fribourgh, professor emeritus of UA Little Rock, and recognizes individuals who made considerable contributions to the state through the disciplines of mathematics and science.