As Chancellor Andrew Rogerson welcomed faculty and staff to a new academic year at UA Little Rock during the Faculty and Staff Convocation on Aug. 17, he updated the campus community on the state of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
His address included updates on new campus initiatives to address falling enrollment, community partnerships, the status of several campus renovation projects, changes in campus athletics, and updates on fundraising and research.
UA Little Rock will implement an Institutional Effectiveness Planning Committee tasked with evaluating all academic and non-academic programs and implementing planning and resource allocation recommendations that align with the university’s mission and strategic plan. The committee will be chaired by Dr. Erin Finzer, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Chasse Conque, vice chancellor and director of athletics.
UA Little Rock is continuing the “YES” campaign begun two years ago to empower faculty and staff to embrace a positive, efficient, and creative outlook in serving students. The university has also centralized advising for undergraduate students with less than 45 credit hours.
Dr. Daryl Rice, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs, will soon be reaching out to faculty and staff to support a new early intervention program to identify students at risk of failure, so these students can get the support they need to remain in college.
Over the summer, UA Little Rock has boosted community partnerships in four ways. The university has renewed its contract with Rock Region Metro to provide free transportation on all metro buses to student, staff, and faculty members to make college more affordable for students.
For the second year, the university is partnering with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. More details will be announced soon.
In Saline County, UA Little Rock has expanded services at the Benton Campus and is offering three complete degree programs and two associate degree programs this fall. Also, the nursing program has been expanded with a new partnership with Saline Memorial Hospital to train nurses.
Rogerson also hopes to form community partnerships to rejuvenate the University District area.
“I have spent a lot of time finding ways to rejuvenate the University District, an undefined area around our campus, but one that I envision encompasses a one-mile radius,” Rogerson said. “First and foremost is our shopping mall on the south end of campus. We are in the process of commissioning an RFP (Request for proposal) to devise a plan to rejuvenate this space for the benefit of both the university and the district. Undoubtedly, this would involve public-private partnerships.”
In downtown Little Rock, the university has leased a new downtown building space that will open this fall. UA Little Rock Downtown will house the Joe Jones mural and serve as a recruitment space, event space, and classroom for relevant downtown lectures.
“This dream realized will result in a remarkable gift to Little Rock’s downtown – making their university visible and accessible in the heart of the River Market,” Rogerson said. “A destination for inspiration, a place of civic reflection, and a vital functioning advertisement for the university.”
On campus, several building renovations and improvements are underway. The University Police Substation on Fair Park Boulevard has recently been completed.
“This high-profile operation will help safeguard this edge of the campus close to our residences,” Rogerson said.
In addition, a renovation of the Physics and Astronomy building is near completion. The Donaghey Student Center will soon receive a new roof. The Field House, which houses coaches’ offices and weight rooms in the Donaghey Student Center, will also undergo a renovation thanks to funding from the Donaghey Foundation.
Finally, the university will build a new collaborative classroom in Ottenheimer Library, thanks to funding from the Ottenheimer Foundation. UA Little Rock will seek input from faculty members who would like to help design the new high-tech, innovative teaching space.
Enhancing campus climate
In an effort to improve the campus experience at UA Little Rock, a feasibility study will look into ways for eSTEM High School to better co-exist on campus, including addressing overcrowded dining facilities. The feasibility study is expected to be completed in October.
Rogerson also announced the hiring of a new diversity director who “will be sensitive and proactive to issues of race on this campus.”
Additionally, Rogerson thanked the Campus Beautification Committee for their hard work in making the campus a more pleasant place to live, study, and work.
“We are proud of the work being done by our beautification committee who have made great strides in making the campus more attractive – whether it’s getting all the rusty poles painted yellow or revamping our flower beds.”
Last but not least, a new arts committee has been leaving its mark on campus by promoting art to better reflect UA Little Rock’s commitment to broad-based education.
In athletics, UA Little Rock has begun the only Division I wrestling campus in Arkansas. Thanks to the generosity of Greg Hatcher, who is committed to promoting wrestling as an intercollegiate sport, UA Little Rock has hired Neil Erisman as head wrestling coach and started construction of a state-of-the-art wrestling training facility. The wrestling program will begin in fall 2019.
This summer, the university received the results of a feasibility study that looked into starting a football team and marching band on campus. A working group has been formed to review the report and make a recommendation on whether to move forward with the football program.
Rogerson also congratulated the university’s more than 200 student-athletes, who earned a combined GPA of 3.3 for the 2017-18 academic year. He welcomed Darrell Walker, the new head men’s basketball coach, and congratulated Joe Foley, head women’s basketball coach and five-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year award winner, for re-signing with UA Little Rock.
Fundraising and research
Through the All In Campaign, UA Little Rock has raised $63 million to date with $18.1 million raised in fiscal year 2018. This year represents the 15th year in a row that the number of donations to UA Little Rock has increased.
Rogerson also highlighted the work of faculty members who received research grants and contracts during the 2017-18 academic year.
“Of course, being an R3 university, we celebrate research success, and I am proud to report that our faculty brought in over $32 million in grants and contracts last year on the back of 186 submitted proposals,” he said. “Truly outstanding. As a former researcher, I know how difficult it is to secure external funding. I am proud of you.”
Finally, Rogerson announced that the university will sponsor 100 signature experiences, 20 more than last year, for undergraduate students at UA Little Rock during the 2018-19 academic year. UA Little Rock is providing 100 $1,000 grants so students can participate in a one-semester signature experience, such as a research project, creative activity, community service project, or study abroad experience, that will contribute significantly to an undergraduate student’s academic development.