Chancellor believes UAPB is ripe for development

Nearly 10 months into his chancellorship of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Laurence B. Alexander is projecting an image of dedicating himself to leading an effort to transform negatives into positives for the historically black institution as well as Pine Bluff and the remainder of the Delta area.

Alexander illustrated that attitude this week when he told The Commercial that while recent losses in student enrollment currently pose UAPB’s greatest challenge, the setback also opens a door for the its biggest opportunity — growth.

Alexander said he wants to “retain and graduate increasing numbers of students in all available academic disciplines” with a “special emphasis” on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In the process, he also hopes to increase UAPB’s federal research funding for scientific exploration and STEM student support.

The former journalist has some marketing ideas as well, and aims to “increase the visibility of UAPB” by “promoting the great things” occurring there. He said UAPB has already initiated a recruiting campaign and will also better market athletics and other events to increase campus awareness and traffic.

To garner new and additional support for the university’s “growth and expansion” in science and technology, he plans to seek the backing of foundations, corporations and private donors.

The New Orleans native calls UAPB “a jewel” in the University of Arkansas System.

“It has a great history and holds many opportunities for the state, region and nation,” he said.

Among the opportunities, he believes, is a chance for UAPB to contribute to a stronger future for Pine Bluff and Jefferson County, which have experienced shrinking populations for several years.

Noting that the university has solid working relationships with elected leaders here, Alexander said he has had some thoughts on how UAPB might aid in reversing the declining population trend and helping to cure economic woes for a city and region nationally recognized for its poverty and high unemployment rates.

Among those notions is “partnering and collaborating with local entities on initiatives to improve economic development.” He intends for UAPB to increase students’ career potential with workforce training, including “experimental training through internships, co-ops, research opportunities and study and work abroad.”

“We are committed to educating students for a 21st-Century, globalized society with special emphasis on increasing the numbers of students prepared for careers in science and technology and who will contribute to the economic prosperity of the Arkansas Delta,” Alexander said. “We are working collaboratively to advance UAPB to the next level of development.”