A new era began Monday at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with the chancellorship passing from Calvin Johnson — who served in an interim capacity for the past year — to Laurence Alexander.
Alexander’s first day on the job brought to a close a period of transition at the university that began with the May 25, 2012, retirement of Lawrence A. Davis Jr. after more than two decades on the job.
Alexander said he knows what his jumping off point is and that he is ready to get started with the work at hand.
“At the very top of the list is the issue of enrollment and the need to get those numbers up,” Alexander said Tuesday. “Another real concern is student retention. We are working on looking closely at efforts that are being made right now to keep students in school until graduation and making sure that those efforts are buttressed from the leadership level.”
Alexander said that the third issue of concern is that of financial resources.
“We need to look at ways to bring additional revenue to the university including taking a look at our auxiliary enterprises,” Alexander said. “That includes things like the eateries in the student union, tickets to athletic events and the residence halls. We will look for opportunities for revenue enhancement.”
Successes to build on
When asked about campus success stories that he would like to enhance, Alexander began with the aquaculture program.
“The aquaculture program is a real gem on this campus, and I certainly want to see more students involved in it,” Alexander said. “Another great story in the making is the construction of our new [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] Academy. We are really looking forward to its completion next year to attract students, faculty and staff to the university and to provide a home for the STEM program.”
Alexander said the academy will provide these subject areas with the type of distinction that they deserve on the UAPB campus.
“The new facility will be a showpiece on campus and we will use it to bring in donors,” Alexander said.
Alexander said he is impressed with the arts programs on campus.
“I just toured through the gallery the other day and studied the photos and paintings done by our students,” Alexander said. “In addition, our theater program is outstanding and the musical program is, of course, incredible, with the Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South, the Vesper Choir and the Jazz Band.”
Old mixing with new
Alexander said that under his leadership, UAPB will seek out a more diverse student body while at the same time remaining steadfast in its commitment to educating students who come from traditionally under-served populations.
“One of the things that will likely happen is that this will become a more diverse campus,” Alexander said. “I can foresee the day pretty soon where it is more diverse and everyone is benefiting from that diversity. At the same time, UAPB will always be a historically black university. There will be no overall change in student enrollment or population that steers away from that history and this school’s mission.”
Alexander said that UAPB will continue to serve students from low-income backgrounds and continue to produce only the highest quality alumni.
“The university has to put its very limited resources behind helping those students who are able to achieve and able to be admitted,” Alexander said. “We also need to be ready to provide assistance to those students. Those who can’t make it should be counseled on how to reach the skill level needed for admission.”
Alexander said that the admissions department will work to ensure that only those committed to their own success will become Golden Lions.
“You want people who have demonstrated their academic ability at the high school level,” Alexander said. “Letters of recommendation ought to be determiners in saying where our very limited resources should be placed.”
Enrollment the key
Alexander said that bringing up the school’s student enrollment numbers is the top priority for his administration at this time.
“Enrollment is tied to economic development,” Alexander said. “Greater enrollment numbers mean a greater population for the city and the county and also means bringing bright students into the local workforce. If I had to point to my top priority between now and the start of the fall semester, it is maximizing the number of students registered for classes. That is what I am focused on right now.”