Dr. Trey Berry, president of Southern Arkansas University, told the SAU System Board of Trustees that enrollment of freshmen could again reach record numbers this fall, during the Board’s regular meeting Friday, Aug. 11, at SAU.
Berry said “the trajectory is right for record freshman enrollment. The signs are very positive. Signs also point to a very good undergraduate enrollment. We’ll have better figures after enrollment happens.”
The new freshmen are coming from 40 states and 19 nations. SAU’s fall 2016 enrollment was 4,771. About 1,900 students will live on campus this fall. Move-In Day at SAU will be Aug. 20 and classes begin Wednesday, Aug. 23.
Berry said enrollment is about more than numbers. “It is also about quality. These numbers represent wonderful people.” He said SAU will welcome its first student from Guam this year. “She found us online – she is a first-generation college student, and she found us,” Berry said.
He pointed out the University will also receive five Arkansas Distinguished Governors Scholars in its freshman class this year. The honor requires an ACT score of 32 or higher. The University is also seeing “better signs of enrollment” of students from Columbia County. “We have done very well recruiting in this area,” he said.
He added that University residence halls will be full, for the most part. Two new residence halls will open this fall. They are the 85-bed West Hall for freshmen, located next to the new Magnolia and Columbia halls on the north side of the campus, and the 55-bed Rudy and Sharon Eichenberger Hall for engineering students in the former Mule Barn building on West University Street.
He said $2 million was spent to add 210 seats to the cafeteria inside the Reynolds Center, an addition to which will be a Mongolian stir-fry grill.
Berry praised interest and participation in this summer’s Mulerider Kids College and in the first-ever Mulerider Teen College. The Mulerider Kids College, which provides a week-long learning experience for elementary students on campus, saw 417 students in morning and afternoon sessions. Magnolia Public Schools provided 110 scholarships this year along with transportation from Waldo and McNeil. Seventy-five students participated in the Teen College. “Having all these students on campus this summer gave us great energy,” Berry said.
- Praised individual students and groups that made overseas tours in the summer, including Mulerider representation in Antarctica and Paris;
- Said Macy Braswell has joined the SAU team as the new executive director of the SAU Foundation and Michael Woods has started as director of the Alumni Association;
- Told the Board it is planned for the new Alumni Center to be open in time for the first home Mulerider football game on Sept. 9;
- Told the Board that, among the top schools by state in the nation for economic mobility for students after graduating, SAU was listed as the top school in Arkansas
- Reported that plans for an Ed.D program in Education Leadership at SAU are progressing. He said there is a great need in south Arkansas for the program. Berry said a plan is being prepared to submit to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education with the possibility of the program starting in fall 2019;
- Gave an update on SAU on the Square, which will sell SAU merchandise and provide space for community classrooms and activities on the Magnolia Square. The store will come about thanks to the donation of the former K.S. Webb & Son building by Bobbie Ruth Webb of Magnolia on July 26. He said the store should open in fall 2018.
He also introduced the trustees to Abbie Guin, the new SAU Mulerider. Guin, an agriculture major from Minden, La., said that she is looking forward to serving as the University’s mascot for the next three years and has been practicing riding Molly Ann.
Berry said the University signed on Aug. 9 an International Cooperation Agreement with the University of Artemisa in Cuba. He said it is the first academic and cultural exchange program between a university in Cuba and one in Arkansas. “The possibilities are limitless,” Berry said.
Dr. Jason Morrison, chancellor of SAU Tech, also addressed the Board. He said the state of the campus was “improving. We are proud of the hard work we’ve done to put us in position to say that.”
He reported the appointment of Jenny Sanders as the new dean of enrollment services; a new course schedule process; the establishment of a new SAU Tech Choir with 15-plus members; a new budgetary process tied to the strategic plan, and the purchase of new solar panels as examples of the progress made. “All programs have been touched or modified to improve services to students,” Morrison said.
Dr. David Lanoue, provost and vice-president for academic affairs, spoke on plans to establish an Ed.D. program in Education Leadership at SAU in 2019. He said that according to a survey conducted by Dr. Roger Guevara, assistant professor of Educational Leadership, “it is a needed program. Faculty members, superintendents, community college teachers, all feel there is an overwhelming need for a doctoral program here.”
Lanoue said bringing “the first doctoral program to our half of the state will raise the level of K-12 education and higher education in Southwest Arkansas. We are ready in terms of capacity and faculty. It is about time.”
The Board also heard from Roger Giles, vice-president for administration and general counsel, on the campus alcohol policy. He told the Board that, while the policy on alcoholic beverages was adopted “years ago, it now reflects the change in Columbia County from dry to wet.” He said there were no other changes to the policy, which stipulates that “no alcoholic beverages will be possessed, served, sold or dispensed on SAU System premises.” Except, alcohol may be served for functions approved by the president at the downtown location on the square at 113 N. Jefferson, the SAU Alumni Center, the president’s home on the Magnolia campus, and at locations on the SAU Tech Campus or in Camden as designated by the Chancellor.
Following the meeting, members of the Board along with Berry toured West Hall.