Yellow placards indicate the year of UAPB graduates in the crowd of hundreds that listen to the Interim ChancellorCalvin Johnson at the HPER Complex during the Alumni Assembly on Friday. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
President of the UAPB/AM&N Alumni Association Calvin Booker speaks at the podium as other dignitaries from the college sit on the stage during the Alumni Assembly at the HPER Complex on Friday. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Sonya Diamond, the 2012/2013 alumni queen, speaks to the crowd gathered at the HPER Complex for the Alumni Assembly on Friday. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Alumni from throughout the country returned to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on Friday for the annual Homecoming Week Alumni Assembly to pledge their financial support to students in need.
UAPB graduates from many cities and many eras gathered in the H.O. Clemmons Arena to hear remarks from Interim Chancellor Calvin Johnson and selected alumni as well as music from the Magical Marching Machine of the Mid-South and the Vesper Choir.
Johnson said the university needs to do a better job of responding to the needs of the students.
“It is important that we look at how we are serving the people that we are here to serve,” Johnson said. “We must make sure that we improve the way that we inform our students and prepare them for the world of work. At the fall convocation I spoke about the need for accountability and efficiency. By making ourselves accountable, we will increase the efficiency of how we spend the dollars that we receive.”
Johnson said the university needed to improve its customer service.
“We are working with a consultant to improve this,” Johnson said. “Then we will continue to attract students to UAPB. When parents know that their children will be prepared for jobs, then they will feel better about contributing to the cost of that education. Gov. Beebe has challenged all institutions of higher learning in the state to double the number of graduates by 2025. Over the last two years we have increased the number of graduates. The overall GPA for our entering freshmen is up to 2.7 and our entering STEM Academy students have an average ACT of 21 and a GPA of 3.37.”
Johnson said that while freshman enrollment for the fall semester fell by 11 percent from a year ago, enrollment is down for colleges and universities across the country.
“This, however, does not give us an excuse for not trying to maximize enrollment,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that the reconstituted nursing program is preparing for accreditation.
“Our education and mathematics programs will also be receiving accreditation visits,” Johnson said. “We have added a Computer Science and Technology program as well as a master’s program in Special Education.”
Johnson laid out several areas of concern for the university.
“We plan to address customer service and marketing,” Johnson said. “We need to take care of our students and do a better job of marketing UAPB. We will be taking a look at remediation, retention and graduation rates. We must address the topic of financial aid in meaningful ways.”
Johnson said that the university is establishing partnerships with community agencies and businesses to give students more opportunities for internships and practical work experience.
“Our great Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. has been assisting us with these partnerships and we thank him for that,” Johnson said. “We have to do a better job of teaching and will use assessment more to gauge teacher performance. Our faculty and staff are critical to our success.”
Johnson asked the campus public safety officers and then the physical plant staff to come forward and publicly thanked them for the work that they do.
Queen and King
The 2012-2013 alumni king and queen were announced by UAPB/AM&N National Alumni Association President Calvin Booker.
Sonya Diamond of the Metro Atlanta Alumni Chapter and Arthur Holmes of the Memphis Alumni Chapter were chosen as queen and king, respectively, because of the top fundraising totals of the two chapters.
“Just as many of you, I came to UAPB with the dream of graduating with a degree,” Diamond said. “My dream came true in 2005, but many of my classmates had to withdraw before they graduated due to financial issues. The alumni in Atlanta take pride in UAPB and have contributed so that all students who enter UAPB can graduate from UAPB even if they run into financial trouble.”
Booker announced that the total amount of money raised by the King and Queen Drive from all UAPB alumni chapters was $94,585.
Samuel Staples of the Class of 1963 presided over the announcement of pledges of financial support by alumni, who raised $122,000.