Chancellor Drale gifts $25,000 to UA Little Rock faculty professional development 

Dr. Christina Drale

The new chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has started her term with an investment in the future of faculty members at UA Little Rock. 

Dr. Christina Drale, named the university’s eighth chancellor by University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt on Sept. 12, will donate $25,000 over two years to create an endowed fund to support the university’s Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence (ATLE). Drale made the announcement at the University Assembly on Sept. 20.

Drale, who has 34 years of higher education experience, noted that it was important to invest in faculty members who give so much to provide an education for UA Little Rock’s students.

“While we make our way through the budget planning process and adjust to the new normal, it is vitally important that we not lose sight of the need to invest in our strengths,” Drale said. “As your chancellor, I make this commitment to you that I will keep that goal front and center. I am pleased to announce that I’ve started an endowment fund for the Academy of Teaching and Learning Excellence in the amount of $25,000 — a modest token of my commitment to the university.” 

The Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence promotes professional development for UA Little Rock’s faculty members. Its mission is to foster excellence in teaching and learning through sharing ideas, collaboration, and building a strong community of engaged teachers and learners. 

“The gift from Chancellor Drale speaks volumes about her commitment to higher education and UA Little Rock,” said Christian O’Neal, vice chancellor for university advancement. “Dr. Drale highly values the time, dedication, and hard work of the university’s faculty members. As the new chancellor, she wishes to encourage others by leading by example, and her generosity serves as an inspiration to us all.”

Faculty Senate President Amanda Nolen commended the endowment as a way to underscore the importance of faculty development in student success.

“Professional development for faculty is an often underfunded afterthought across the academy,” Nolen said. “In spite of a small budget, ATLE has grown to play a central role in the vitality of this institution’s instructional force. This infusion of resources will add to the sustainability of ATLE as its leadership continues to develop the quality programming available to faculty across campus.” 

Three faculty members serve as ATLE co-directors: Michael DeAngelis, associate professor of Earth Sciences, Amar Kanekar, associate professor of health education and promotion, and Laura Barrio Vilar, associate professor of English.

“Chancellor Drale has always been a strong advocate and supporter of the Academy of Teaching and Learning Excellence, and this generous gift is another clear example of her strong commitment to the professional development of faculty of UA Little Rock,” DeAngelis said. “ATLE strives to provide UA Little Rock faculty with unique and innovative teaching and learning opportunities. This gift and its legacy will help to ensure its continued growth and the development of innovative, diverse and content-driven programming opportunities. The ATLE co-directors and fellows want to express our most sincere gratitude to Chancellor Drale.”

Every month, the academy hosts two lunch-and-Learn events for faculty members to network and learn about teaching techniques and student success programs, and a teaching moments event for members to have direct learning experiences in a variety of classroom settings. These events serve as a powerful way to UA Little Rock faculty members to learn best teaching practices that they share with their colleagues.

ATLE also sponsors teacher mentorships, community engagement opportunities, workshops, and an awards program for faculty.

“I have been attending ATLE events since starting as a new faculty member at UA Little Rock,” said Bailey Oliver, assistant professor of applied communication. “These events are not only fun and offer networking opportunities across disciplines at the university, but they provide insightful and necessary discussions on best teaching practices for our students. I have loved growing in teaching by attending these events, and frequently bring my notes from these events back to my faculty and department to prompt additional discussions as well.”

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