UA System notebook: Plans approved for UAPB, UAFS

Students and faculty at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith participate in commencement, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, at the Stubblefield Center on the UAFS campus in Fort Smith. More than 600 students graduated during the university’s 107th commencement, which consisted of two ceremonies, beginning with the College of Arts and Sciences in the morning followed by the College of Business and Industry and the College of Health, Education and Human Sciences in the afternoon. Visit for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

Plans approved for UAPB, UAFS

The University of Arkansas System board of trustees on Thursday approved new strategic plans at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.

For the next five years, UA-Fort Smith will concentrate on increasing student access, engagement and success; cultivating teaching and learning opportunities; increasing activity in economic development, community engagement and industry partnerships; and focusing on institutional sustainability, resource development and stewardship. Ending the plan in 2028 aligns with the university's 100-year anniversary.

The new mission statement is: UAFS empowers the social mobility of its students and the economic growth of the River Valley through exceptional educational opportunities and robust community partnerships.

The new vision is: Through dynamic academic programs, innovative research opportunities, and transformational centers of intellectual and economic development, UAFS will advance its community and become an institution renowned for educating and inspiring the ambitious students who call it home.

"We're growing and maturing" -- UA-Fort Smith has only been granting four-year degrees for 23 years -- and this strategic plan "will help us mature," UAFS Chancellor Terisa Riley said. Implementation of the strategic plan will begin this fall.

At UAPB, the new strategic plan will continue for the next seven years, said Chancellor Laurence Alexander. "We serve the Arkansas Delta," but as the only public Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Arkansas, there's a "state responsibility," as well.

The new strategic plan prioritizes leveraging the university's image, reputation and recognition; improving student success metrics and the academic culture; optimizing revenue streams and resources; normalizing the quest for funds to upgrade facilities; and sustaining a culture of institutional excellence and professional development.

The university has prioritized research more recently, as research is "great for its own good," but also as a revenue generator for the campus, Alexander said. The university is also emphasizing professional development -- "I'd like every individual on campus to have their own individual development plan" -- and "[we] are looking under every rock for money to upgrade facilities."

Alexander has "righted the ship" at UAPB and set a positive mission for the future, said Col. Nate Todd, a member of the board of trustees and "product" of Pine Bluff.

UA Trustee Ted Dickey commended both universities for spending the ample time it takes to develop new strategic plans, noting that without master plans, "you don't know what to say 'Yes' to or 'No' to."

Math school to get donated property

UA System trustees accepted four parcels of property donated by the city of Hot Springs for the Arkansas School of Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts.

Corey Alderdice, director of the school, believes this land will aid the progress of the school's transformation. The land includes the Academic and Administration Building, which houses the school's primary classroom, as well as lots behind the Student Center, which are planned for development as a student wellness space and potentially fields for athletics.

"We'd assume maintenance costs" associated with the building, Alderdice added. The Academic and Administration Building "is in strong shape" and should be utilized well into the future.

Architects chosen for softball pavilion

UA System trustees approved WDD Architects, headquartered in North Little Rock, as design professionals for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff's softball pavilion project.

The new pavilion would be similar to the baseball pavilion constructed in 2018, and built on the current softball site, according to Chancellor Laurence Alexander. The project is expected to take a year and cost $1.2 million, but will be paid for by $1.6 million in funds awarded to the university by then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson to address Title IX inequities.

Trustees also approved Lockeby & Associates, based in Little Rock, as design and installation professionals for a campuswide video surveillance and security system project.

The time frame for the $1.5 million-project is 9-12 months, and the university has earmarked funds to pay for it, according to Alexander. The system will improve responses to suspicious activity and emergency response, allow better control and monitoring of building access, and enhance criminal investigations.