Interim chancellor Calvin Johnson considers promoting the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff among the top goals this year.
“I believe that the highest priority we have is to improve customer service and do a better job of marketing what we have to offer,” Johnson told the UAPB Board of Visitors Thursday afternoon.
The interim chancellor presented an overview of what he considered the highest priority issues in need of attention during the coming year.
“We need to recruit better students in terms of preparation and readiness to transfer from high school to college. We desperately need some of those students to mix in with the regular students. We also need to do better in remediation and retention,” he said.
“Another important area to be looked at is financial aid,” Johnson said. “A majority of our students receive financial aid. We must serve these students better.”
Johnson said that the steady addition of internship programs to all areas of study at the university will aid students in securing employment after graduation.
“If we can engage students in internships we will be successful because of the hands-on experience students will receive,” Johnson said. “We are trying to integrate internships into more departments.”
Johnson said that he would like to see a greater emphasis on professional development for faculty members and a further integration of technology including online courses and degree programs into the university curriculum.
“All of this goes towards providing the education we know students must have,” Johnson said. “I would like us to work more closely with the public schools. If we can catch students at the junior high level or before we can get them thinking about college. This makes students more successful once the enter college and increases the student retention rate.”
Johnson touched on several other issues of concern for the university community to be mindful of.
“The Arkansas Department of Higher Education is asking all institutions of higher learning in the state to share their plans for cost containment with them,” Johnson said. “The total pool of money available to Arkansas colleges and universities is getting smaller and smaller. We need to learn to do more with less.”
Johnson said that the average age of faculty at UAPB was gradually moving higher.
“We’re getting pretty old here,” Johnson said with a smile. “We need to recruit younger faculty.”
Johnson said that a major impediment to effective recruiting is the limited amount of money reserved for salaries.
“We can’t compete in terms of salary,” Johnson said. “There are actually some public school districts in the state who can pay more for teachers than we can pay new faculty members.”
Interim dean of the School of Education Fredda Carroll provided a report to the board on an upcoming accreditation visit from representatives with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education Nov. 11-13.
“We are going to have a pre-visit Sept. 16 and 17 from NCATE Board of Examiners Team Chair Suzanne George,” Carroll said. “She will be meeting with administrators as well as review the hotel facilities.”
“All of the teams in our department are currently in meetings preparing for the accreditation visit,” Carroll said.
Dean of Student Life Leon Crumblin gave an overview of the university’s newly developed student success plan.
Crumblin began by summarizing a new state law that concerns admission standards for state-supported institutions of higher education that takes effect with the beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year.
“The law states that beginning with this school year a student who scores below 15 on the ACT or below a comparable score on a comparable exam may be reassessed to determine the student’s ability to benefit using one of the federally approved ability to benefit assessments,” Crumblin said.
Crumblin said that the law provides that students who score below the acceptable federally determined ability-to-benefit assessment score but has a high school diploma or GED may only be enrolled by a two-year or four-year institution of higher education in a specific program approved by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education Coordinating Board in coordination with the university until the student can demonstrate academic proficiency that would predict success in a degree program.
“We must make sure students who come in with less than a 15 on the ACT show that they can benefit from being at the university,” Crumblin said. “We will be providing campus-wide support to anyone who needs it.”
Crumblin said that a Student Success Center will be established to provide academic support to students.
“The center will offer academic enrichment and testing for those prospective students scoring 13 or 14 on the ACT,” Crumblin said. “The Learning Institute and Opportunities for New Students or LIONS program will be offered as a summer residential academic enrichment program. We will have living/learning centers in all freshman residence halls and we will have academic and mentoring support for on-and-off campus students.”
Board member and orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Torrance Walker offered his thoughts to Johnson.
“I decided that I wanted to be a doctor in junior high school so I know that it is good to get students thinking about college in junior high school and even younger,” Walker said. “Online programs are also good ideas because they give you a wider base.”
Board member and retired Pine Bluff School District educator Mattie Collins said that it would be a good idea to conduct a series of interviews with recent successful graduates on the university television station as a way to get high school students thinking about their futures.
Rubye Johnson, board member and academic coach coordinator at Mid-South Community College in West Memphis, asked for an update on the current status of the school’s nursing program.
“We are working with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences nursing program in terms of structure,” Interim Chancellor Johnson said. “The program remains under conditional approval and we will hopefully be fully approved soon. We have an excellent leader of the program in Dr. [Jujuan] English. She has recruited a great staff.”
The board voted to install Rubye Johnson as the new chair and Walker as board secretary.
Board members Robert Dill, Carla Martin, Collins, Rubye Johnson, and Walker were present. Board members Marty Casteel and Alice Barnes were absent.