August 2019 Magazine

A Look At The Leaders of Arkansas’ Four-Year Colleges and Universities

colleges

by Angela Forsyth

[Editor’s note: Every 4-year institution of higher learning in Arkansas was invited to participate in our profile of the state’s college and university leaders. Not all institutions chose to participate.]

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Name: Joe Steinmetz
Title: Chancellor
Education: B.S. in psychology, Central Michigan University; M.A. in experimental psychology, Central Michigan University; Ph.D. in physiological psychology, Ohio University.
Hometown: Marine City, Mich. I moved to Fayetteville in December of 2015.

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?

I think the affordability and accessibility of a college education continues to be one of our biggest challenges. Across the country, the price of tuition has increased at a far faster rate than household income, to a large extent as a result of declining state support. We are in danger of pricing out those who are most in need of college education: underrepresented, underserved and first-generation students. We continue to do our best to keep tuition increases to a minimum – last year we did not increase tuition.  We have also created more need-based scholarships like Advance Arkansas, which help hardworking Arkansans achieve their dream of attending the U of A. And recently, I announced a new scholarship program for U of A system community-college students who are interested in transferring to Fayetteville.  

What is something others would be surprised to know about you or your school?

Between 2007 and 2016, the U of A was the fastest growing flagship university in the country. Our enrollment grew by 63 percent during that time. I think that would surprise a lot of people. And personally, I can say they would be surprised by just how warm and welcoming our campus community is – I was certainly surprised. I still am. Arkansans are remarkable people.

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Arkansas State University, Jonesboro

Name: Kelly Damphousse
Title: Chancellor

Education: Associate degree in law enforcement at Lethbridge Community College; B.S. in criminal justice, Sam Houston State University; M.S. and Ph.D. in sociology, Texas A&M University.
Hometown: Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada. I moved to Arkansas July 1, 2017.

What attracted you to your career? 

I had originally wanted to be a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer (or a goalie in the NHL). I ended up working for three years as a prison guard and for two years as a mall cop. As a result of significant mentoring by teachers, professors and my wife, I eventually ended up in higher education. After spending time as a faculty member, I was invited to move into administration, and I discovered this was a place where I could have an impact on the lives of young people – just as my former teachers had done for me.

What do you love most about what you do?

No question – presiding over graduation. I love everything that is represented by those two hours: The feeling of accomplishment shown by students, the feeling of pride on display by family members who are watching, the feeling of satisfaction expressed by faculty and staff who get to see the realization of all their hard work. For many of our students (and their families), this is the biggest day in their lives.

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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Name: Andrew Rogerson
Title: Chancellor
Education: B.Sc., biology (1974) and Ph.D., microbial ecology (1978) – University of Stirling, Scotland
Hometown: Glasgow, Scotland. Moved to Arkansas in 2016. 

What attracted you to your career?  

After my Ph.D., I wanted to pursue research in microbiology. I have held research positions at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Atlantic Research Laboratory in Nova Scotia and the Freshwater Biological Association in England. During that time, I authored more than 120 refereed publications and book chapters and worked on million-dollar research contracts with grants from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. My research has spanned ecology and taxonomy of amoebae, testing the efficacy of ballast water treatment systems, pathogenic amoebae and marine pennate diatoms. After many years as a professor and researcher, I moved into academic administration. I enjoyed the challenge of leading the academic direction and vision of a college (as a dean), of the whole of academic affairs (as a provost) and now the entire university as a chancellor.

What is something others would be surprised to know about your school? 

We are actively expanding creative opportunities for our undergraduate students – we call these signature experiences. We just held our annual research expo and had over 150 research/creative activity posters, many involving several undergraduates. Other signature experiences include community-outreach projects, business internships and study abroad. The goal is to offer all our undergraduates a creative experience in the course of their degree.

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Arkansas Tech University, Russellville

Name: Dr. Robin E. Bowen
Title: President

Education: Doctor of Education degree in higher education from Texas Tech University, Master of Education degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Arkansas and Bachelor of Science degree in occupational therapy from the University of Kansas

Hometown: My childhood home was between Joplin, Mo., and Galena, Kan. I originally moved to Arkansas to work as an occupational therapist in Fayetteville and to attend the U of A in the mid-1980s. We moved back to Arkansas in 2014 when I assumed the presidency at Arkansas Tech University.

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them? Arkansas Tech University has grown immensely over the past 15 years with the student population increasing 87 percent during that time frame. However, state funding during that period has been relatively flat. It is a challenge to meet the needs and demands of a growing student population when we receive $4,250 per full-time student compared to the state average of $5,988 (29 percent less per student). We do so through dedication, grit and a commitment to our students and to our state.

What school accomplishments make you most proud? We are second only to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in the number of health-care professionals we graduate each year. ATU confers around 800 health-care credentials annually. The next closest institution confers just over 500. Also, Tech is No. 1 in the state in the social mobility of its students and in the top 10 percent nationally. That’s what an education is supposed to be all about…making a better life for yourself and for your family. Arkansas Tech University excels in that area.

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University of Central Arkansas, Conway

Name:  Houston Davis
Title:  President
Education:  Ph.D., Vanderbilt University; M.Ed., Tennessee State University; B.S., University of Memphis
Hometown:  Clarksville, Tennessee. Moved to Conway in January 2017.

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?

I think that all universities are having to shift from trying to be “all things to all people” to focusing on excellence in what we do and being selective about new ventures. We also know that today’s graduates will have multiple changes in their careers, so we work to prepare them for a career full of learning opportunities, industry changes and a highly competitive world that ignores borders more than in prior generations.

What do you love most about what you do?

Every single student that walks across the stage and gets their degree represents a transformational moment in their lives and those of their family. Countless lives will be impacted by them going out into the world and making a difference with what they have learned. That is what energizes me daily and makes me feel lucky to be a small part of it.

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University of Arkansas at Fort Smith

Name:  Dr. Terisa C. Riley
Title:  Chancellor
Education:  Ph.D. in higher-education administration and research methodology, Saint Louis University
Hometown:  I moved to Fort Smith on June 28, 2019.  Previously, I served as senior vice president at Texas A&M University-Kingsville from 2007-19, and I grew up in Missouri.

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?

Our university has faced the same enrollment and retention concerns that most regional universities have faced, and we are overcoming them through keeping our high educational quality while remaining exceptionally affordable.  

Why would you recommend your school to prospective students and their parents?

I highly recommend UAFS as the best choice for prospective students due to our wide variety of accredited degree plans and programs – taught by exceptionally well-educated and engaged faculty – that lead to high-paying jobs.  We offer each student the ability to engage in undergraduate research, creative activity, leadership development and community service on campus and in the Fort Smith region. All UAFS Lions have the opportunity to graduate with hands-on experiences in their chosen professions, and they do so at the most affordable tuition and fee rates in the state of Arkansas.

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Harding University, Searcy

Name: Dr. Bruce D. McLarty
Title: President
Education: B.A. in Bible, Harding College, 1978; M.Th. from Harding Graduate School of Religion, 1982; D.Min. from Ashland Theological Seminary, 2010
Hometown: Born in Nashville, Tennessee; attended grades 1-4 in Little Rock; from grade 5 on lived in Memphis; moved from Cookeville, Tenn., to Searcy in 1991

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?

I’ll speak of what I consider the top three challenges we face at the moment. The first one on my list is maintaining our Christian mission. That is always a challenge for faith-founded universities. It is the tendency of Christian universities to drift from their founding faith and often to become an enemy of the faith that founded them. This challenge is what I wrote about in my dissertation, and now as president I get to teach each new incoming cohort of faculty at Harding a resource we call “Embracing the Mission.” Harding remains very committed to our Christian identity, and we want to be sure to be faithful to that identity going forward. 

A second challenge involves the wildly changing expectations that are connected with higher education in general. Expectations of cost (should it be free?), result (can you guarantee a job?) and value (what is the ROI on a college education?) are all issues that have changed dramatically in the past 10 years. The keys to facing this challenge are listening, respecting, responding and communicating. We are confident that Harding University offers an incredible value to the student and his/her family. However, we are finding that we have to work much harder these days to communicate that value. Understandings that we could assume 10 years ago can no longer be assumed. 

Finally, we face the challenge of enrollment in a time when the pool of prospective college students is declining nationwide. We all knew that this demographic trend would catch up with us, but that doesn’t make the challenge any easier to face. At Harding, we are devoting more resources these days to marketing, to added admissions personnel, to recruiting transfers and to funding need-based student aid. As the pool of prospective students has become more and more shallow, everyone in higher education has come to realize that we have to “bring our A-game” to the task of recruiting new students. 

What is something others would be surprised to know about you and your school?

I think many people would be surprised to find out how widely Harding students travel. About 30 percent of our graduates each year have spent a semester of their college career studying at one of our seven semester-abroad programs. Also, about 30 percent of our graduates each year have traveled abroad on a mission trip while in college. With students from all 50 states and 50 other countries, Harding presents an incredible opportunity for students to be exposed to a wide variety of cultures and international experiences.

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University of Arkansas at Monticello 

Name: Karla Hughes
Title: Chancellor
Education:  B.S. and M.S. in food science and nutrition from Kansas State University; Doctor of Philosophy in agriculture from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Hometown: Kansas City, Kansas. January 2016.

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?

UAM is an open-access institution which means there is not an ACT score cutoff for admissions. We provide opportunity for individuals who may not be able to go on to postsecondary education elsewhere. While that is an important role to play, we know from the data we collect that students who come to UAM underprepared are at risk of not being successful.

We have several initiatives that are helping our students succeed. Our new Pathways, starting fall 2019, is an initiative that will direct students into academic programs where they can succeed based on test scores and past performance. Assessment data is being used to determine where there are issues with retention and implementing programs to enhance student learning and achievement. The “15 to Finish” program has been implemented to ensure most students complete 30 credit hours per academic year and can finish a degree in four years. Our Behavior Intervention Team (BIT) works tirelessly to address mental health issues among our students and helps them find proper care as early as possible. 

What school accomplishments make you most proud?

Our university’s proudest achievements are realized each year at commencement. When we are able to position our students for success, no matter their backgrounds or career goals, and then see them complete a certificate or degree program, we have succeeded in our mission. That accomplishment never gets routine or less exciting.

I’m also very proud of our faculty and staff who have contributed to an impressive increase in retention rates we have been seeing lately. It takes a lot of effort to move the needle, in particular at an open-access institution, but we all work toward the same goal – student success – and it shows. 

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Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia

Name:  Trey Berry
Title: President
Education: B.A., Ouachita Baptist University; M.A. and Ph.D., University of Mississippi
Hometown: Arkadelphia – Moved to Arkansas in 1963.

What are some of the challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?

Universities across the country face challenges in recruitment and retention. Recruiting from an ever-shrinking high school demographic and retaining those students as they work toward the success in completing their degrees is one of the paramount issues facing so many institutions. SAU has created many new academic programs in the past five years that are helping us attract more students from throughout Arkansas and throughout the United States. Creating scholarship endowments and instituting academic success programs like advanced tutoring, mentoring and an “early alert” system, helps us be aware when students are having struggles throughout their time on campus.

What is something others would be surprised to know about you and your school?

Because of our increased undergraduate enrollment growth, SAU has built five new residence halls in the past four years. Also, we are starting new majors in cyber criminology and poultry science next fall. New activities and amenities on campus include a new Panda Express restaurant, a trapshooting team, a fishing team and a new large eSports venue.

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John Brown University, Siloam Springs

Name: Dr. Charles W. Pollard
Title: President
Education: B.A., English, summa cum laude, Wheaton College, 1981-85; J.D., magna cum laude, Harvard Law School, 1985-88; M.Phil., English, Oxford University, 1988-90; Ph.D., English, University of Virginia, 1993-99
Hometown (and when you moved to Arkansas): Grew up in Wheaton, Illinois; moved to Arkansas in 2004 from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

What is something others would be surprised to know about you or your school?

JBU has a wide-range of professional programs, including engineering, construction management, nursing, business, graphic design, digital cinema, accounting, business, counseling, cybersecurity and education. And JBU students excel in their chosen fields including winning the U.S. Enactus National Championship in 2017, being recognized regularly in NASA’s annual robotics competition, being accepted to outstanding graduate schools such as Caltech, University of Texas at Austin, University of Chicago, Oxford and Queens University, and leading corporations and organizations such as Walmart, JB Hunt, Tyson, Mercy Hospital, Northwest Medical Center, Ozark Guidance and many others.  

Why would you recommend your school to prospective students and their parents?

We educate the whole person – head, heart and hand – so that they can serve others in their careers, churches, communities and families. We don’t just educate for a job but for a life, and that is what a student should seek in their education. JBU is a thoroughly Christian university, and our graduates are intellectually curious, professionally adept, compassionately caring and winsomely faithful. 

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University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Name: Laurence B. Alexander
Title: Chancellor
Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of New Orleans; Master’s degree, University of Florida; Juris Doctor, Tulane University; Ph.D., Florida State University
Hometown (and when you moved to Arkansas): New Orleans native. Moved to Arkansas in 2013.

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?

One of the challenges our institution faces is the lack of funds for building, renovating and maintaining educational facilities. We attempt to overcome the shortfall by combining federal capacity-building grants, requesting capital-outlay funds from the state and seeking donations from foundations, corporations and individuals. 

Another key challenge at our university involves enrollment and student success. We have brought increased institutional integration through the establishment of the Division of Enrollment Management and Student Success, which effectively integrated the work of the offices of recruitment, admissions, retention, student success and the LIONS Summer Enrichment Program. Moreover, we have effectively used marketing and communications to reverse a five-year enrollment decline, while simultaneously enhancing student progression by significantly improving retention and graduation rates.  

Why would you recommend your school to prospective students and their parents?

Founded in 1873, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is the second oldest state-supported university in Arkansas. It is the state’s only public Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and one of only two land-grant universities in Arkansas. At our university, student success and academic excellence are at the heart of everything we do. Faculty and staff care about the success and completion of all of our students. With a 15:1 student-teacher ratio, UAPB has a welcoming, family-type atmosphere with a personal touch. Students have an opportunity to get involved in one or more of the 100-plus registered student organizations. Moreover, UAPB is ranked second among the 15 best value colleges and universities in Arkansas for 2019.

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Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia

Name: Ben Sells
Title: President
Education: B.S., Southwest Baptist University; M.A. and Ph.D., University of Missouri
Hometown (and when you moved to Arkansas): Bolivar, Mo.; June 2016

What school accomplishments make you most proud?

Ouachita has been faithful to its Christ-centered mission for 133 years. Its graduates effectively contribute to society through their homes, careers, churches and communities. In the last three years, we’ve experienced consistent enrollment growth as well as record giving by alumni and friends. We’re honored to be ranked the No. 1 private university in Arkansas by Niche.com and No. 1 in student satisfaction among all universities in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas by CollegeConcensus.com. 

Why would you recommend your school to prospective students and their parents?

Our mission is to prepare individuals for ongoing intellectual and spiritual growth, lives of meaningful work and reasoned engagement with the world. Students have very high graduation and placement rates, in large part because faculty and staff know them personally and students experience high-impact learning. Since 95 percent of our students live in campus housing, Ouachita is a vibrant learning community that facilitates deep and lasting relationships.

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Hendrix College, Conway

Name: Bill Tsutsui
Title: President and Professor of History
Education: B.A. Harvard; MLitt, Oxford; Ph.D., Princeton
Hometown (and when you moved to Arkansas): I was born in New York City but grew up in Bryan, Texas. I moved to Conway in 2014.

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?

The changing needs and expectations of students, for everything from new academic programs to enhanced counseling services to more electrical outlets in dorm rooms, keeps colleges like Hendrix always on their toes. Hendrix has a tradition of innovation, and we continue to break new ground among institutions nationally in our new initiatives in career preparation, student well-being and e-sports.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love seeing how quickly and how profoundly students change over their time at Hendrix, going from shy, awkward first-years to confident, polished seniors, ready for graduate school or the workplace. I also thank my lucky stars that I get to eat every day in the Hendrix cafeteria, which last year was recognized as the top college or university food service in America. 

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Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock

Name:  Regina Favors
Title:  Interim President
Education: Arkansas Baptist College, Ouachita Baptist University
Hometown (and when you moved to Arkansas): Born and raised in Arkansas.

Why would you recommend your school to prospective students and their parents?

It’s affordable with small class sizes, and there are tutors and advisers who work collaboratively to help students be successful. We care about every student we serve.

What do you love most about what you do? 

In a highly global economy, students need to be able to get an education or job training that’s needed to secure a decent paying job. Providing a setting where students receive nurturing and support is rewarding. Knowing that students can leave ABC, in a better position than when they started the journey, makes it all worth the effort.

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Central Baptist College, Conway

Name: Terry Kimbrow
Title: President
Education: B.A., Central Baptist College; M.S., Arkansas Tech University

Hometown(and when you moved to Arkansas): Raised in the bootheel of Missouri (Poplar Bluff) and upon graduation from high school began my career in retail management in Memphis (1976). I transferred back to Missouri (1982) and ultimately to Arkansas — Batesville (1983), Forrest City (1984) and Conway (1987) where I have raised my family.

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?
I think every college or university president goes to sleep and wakes up thinking about two things — enrollment and finances. We strive to continue to grow our enrollment, maintain a balanced budget, enhance the academic offerings and build the physical campus. I don’t know that anyone ever overcomes those challenges. To meet them head on, I hire women and men with a heart and passion for college students and in particular the mission and ministry of CBC.

What is something others would be surprised to know about you or your school?
For me personally, most don’t know that I did not take my first college class until age 30.  I never aspired to a career in higher education or certainly to be a college president. In reference to the college — we were founded in 1952 with a faculty of five and a dozen students.

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Lyon College, Batesville

Name: Dr. W. Joseph King
Title: President
Organization: Lyon College
Education: B.A. with honors in computer science and experimental psychology, Southwestern University; Ph.D. in human-computer interaction, University of Washington

Hometown I was born in Fort Worth and raised in Aledo, Texas.

What attracted you to your career?
I had experienced life as an entrepreneur and was looking for a new challenge. I went to work for Rice University knowing I didn’t want to simply start another company. I preferred to make an impact in a much different way. The idea I could play some part in producing an army of graduates who are themselves equipped to go out into the world and make an impact was extremely appealing to me.

What is something others would be surprised to know about you or your school?
I don’t think many people realize Lyon College has been around since 1872 and is one of the oldest colleges in Arkansas. As such, we are steeped in some wonderful and truly distinctive traditions that one will only find at Lyon. One of them is the way we celebrate and embrace our Scottish heritage. For example, our athletic mascot is the Scot, and we even have a crimson and navy blue tartan that is registered in Scotland. We offer one of the most significant programs in the nation for those interested in refining their bagpiping skills and just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Arkansas Scottish Festival, the largest annual festival in Batesville that brings thousands to our town and campus.

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University of the Ozarks, Clarksville

Name: Richard L. Dunsworth
Title:  President and CEO
Education: B.A., political science, Colorado State University; M.S., education, Eastern Illinois University; J.D., University of Illinois
Hometown: Springfield, Colorado. Moved to Arkansas in May of 2013.

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?
The University of the Ozarks struggled with enrollment for many years and has been able to grow by nearly 50 percent over the last five recruiting cycles. Three key strategies that have led to our success in enrollment include: (1) redoubled efforts recruiting locally – resulting in a 300-percent increase in students from our home county; (2) building on nearly 40 years of successful recruiting of students from Central America and Mexico, we increased our international population from 60 to 180; and (3) with a concerted campus-wide effort, we have improved freshman-to-sophomore retention and four-year graduation rates by double-digit percentages.

What is something others would be surprised to know about you or your school?
We predate the state of Arkansas, having been founded in 1834 at Cane Hill.  We have been at our current location since 1891 when Clarksville won the bid (over Hope) to have the college located in the River Valley.

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Strayer University, Little Rock

Name: Dr. Stephanie Cox
Title: Campus Dean
Education: B.S., accounting, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; MBA, business administration, Webster University; Ph.D., management specialization accounting, Walden University
Hometown I am a native Arkansan from Pine Bluff. I moved to Little Rock in 1994.

Why would you recommend your school to prospective students and their parents?
Strayer University is leading the way to make education fit the modern world, so students can actually finish their degree and thrive in today’s workforce. The university provides unique offerings and support starting from enrollment through completion, and we are dedicated to helping students learn the way they learn best.

What do you love most about what you do?
I love supporting the students’ path to graduation. Whenever I attend our graduation ceremonies, I feel a great sense of pride being part of improving the economic mobility of our students.

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Crowley’s Ridge College, Paragould

Name:  Ken Hoppe
Title:  President
Education: B.S. in business from Arkansas State University
Hometown:I moved to Paragould from Poplar Bluff, Mo., to enter Crowley’s Ridge College as a freshman in 1967 and have remained ever since.

What school accomplishments make you most proud?
Transitioning to a four-year, regionally accredited institution a decade ago is a major accomplishment for the college that created an era of enrollment growth and greater recognition. We continue to hold our student-enrollment cost of attendance to a very reasonable amount that allows a student to attend a private institution if the student feels it a better fit for them. Over the past few years, the college has dramatically expanded its facilities with the construction of a new student center, two on-campus housing units and an apartment complex off campus.

What is something others would be surprised to know about you or your school?
The college was founded in 1964 and trustees are comprised of mostly alumni. In recent years, students have come from 11 states and as many as 40 Arkansas counties. I am now the longest-serving private college and university president in Arkansas. I am also the longest serving Christian college and university president, nationwide, of the 14 accredited colleges and universities affiliated with the Churches of Christ. I have served Crowley’s Ridge College as president or as a board member for 29 years. I served as the college’s business manager and business instructor from 1971-75. Before returning to CRC as president in 2003, I served as president of an area bank and also was also owned an automobile dealership and car rental company.

 

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