Professor Tom Clifton has been named the interim dean of the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Clifton, chair of the UALRDepartment of Art and Design and a professor of art who specializes in illustration, was selected based on recommendations from the chairs of the departments within theCollege of Arts, Letters, and Sciences and his excellent record of service with the university, said Dr. Zulma Toro, interim chancellor of UALR.
Clifton led efforts that resulted in a $20.3 million gift, the second largest gift in UALR’s history, for the design and construction of a new visual arts building. The Windgate Center of Art and Design, a contemporary educational facility that will integrate UALR’s Applied Design, Art History, and Studio Arts classes, is scheduled to open at UALR in 2018.
“The Windgate Foundation has worked with us since 1995 and has been a great supporter of UALR for more than 20 years,” he said.
Clifton is also one of the primary architects of a new degree program, the Bachelor of Arts in web design and development. The program is interdisciplinary, and includes information science, mass communications, and rhetoric and writing courses.
“During the selection process, it was clear that Professor Clifton has the support of colleagues from different areas in the college, and his interpersonal skills and understanding of higher education in the 21st century have been an asset to his department, college and our university,” Toro said.
Clifton received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Minnesota State University and a Master of Fine Arts from Savannah College of Art and Design. He is a Fulbright scholar who studied the art and culture of Egypt at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt.
He began his career as an illustrator and graphic designer in 1989. As an artist, Clifton enjoys merging traditional art with new technology. Some of his favorite lessons include teaching students how to incorporate laser etching and 3D printing into art.
“My parents were business people, entrepreneurs. To me, commercial art was where I was coming from,” Clifton said. “I really enjoyed painting and drawing, and graphic design was an extension of that. It was a combination of making a living and also enjoying what I was doing — and doing what I was good at.”
Clifton began his career in higher education as an assistant professor of art at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He joined UALR as an assistant professor of art in 2000 and was promoted to associate professor in 2005. In 2013, Clifton became a full professor and the chair of the Department of Art and Design.
“The biggest success of my career has been the opportunity to see my work published, working with students and seeing their successes,” he said. “I have been teaching since 1993, and have seen my students go out in the world and become successful artists and entrepreneurs.”
Clifton and his wife, Suzanne, live in Redfield and are the proud parents of twins. Their daughter, Mariah, is an occupational therapist, while their son, Ian, is pursuing a doctoral degree in biology.
The experience of watching his children attend college has better prepared Clifton to be a leader in higher education.
“My kids have gone through college, and I have had the opportunity to see their struggles as they earned their degrees,” he said. “That has given me a better understanding of what a student goes through. As a dean, I want to have a positive impact by addressing student struggles and distractions before they’re overwhelming.”
A national search to hire a permanent dean for the UALR College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences will be conducted at a later date.