Gov. Asa Hutchinson has appointed a new member to the Southern Arkansas University Board of Trustees. Erica (Jackson) Woods of Little Rock was sworn in as a trustee on Wednesday, March 4; Dr. Trey Berry, president of SAU, informed the Board at its meeting on Friday, March 6. Woods graduated from the nursing program at SAU in 1993 and is a Registered Nurse at CHI St. Vincent with the Arkansas Specialty Orthopedics Surgery Center. A decorated U.S. Army veteran, Woods will join the Board at the next regularly scheduled meeting.
Trustees welcomed Lawrence Bearden as the new Board chair. He has served on the Board of Trustees since his appointment in 2015. Monty Harrington was elected as vice chair and Therral Story as secretary.
Agenda items included two SAU program changes presented by Dr. David Lanoue, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. Gaye Manning, vice president for Finance and Administration at SAU Tech, also presented Tech’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan.
Trustees approved the addition of a certificate in web design for SAU that will give students an extra skill set upon graduation. The credential will add value to any SAU graduate as it will provide an understanding of web site creation and design. Trustees also approved modifying the existing Masters of Education in Curriculum Instruction with licensure in instructional facilitation and lead teacher.
In his remarks to the Board, President Berry said that SAU’s Rankin College of Business has been officially notified of its five-year accreditation extension by AACSB International. AACSB accreditation is the gold standard in business education, demonstrating the Rankin College meets the highest standards. “We continue to receive accolades as the most affordable, accredited university in the nation,” Berry said.
He also updated trustees on the new Endowed Professorship in Education. Dr. Neelie Dobbins, associate professor of education, is the first endowed professor in SAU’s College of Education. “She is a great teacher and well-deserving of this Endowment,” Berry said.
Progress has been made on the site for the new College of Education building adjacent to the Wharton Nursing Building. The new facility will group all Education programs together under one roof for the first time.
The Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition, “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America,” will make its first national tour stop at SAU Beyond the Campus on the Magnolia Square. It will be displayed in the room behind the main bookstore April 18-May 30.
SAU’s Engineering Department has received a grant from the Arkansas Department of Transportation to study the potential use of wood ash as a binder in asphalt production. “This would be a revolutionary new method for the paving of highways,” Berry explained.
The College of Science and Engineering has received $25,000 from NASA through the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium to host a high-powered rocket workshop on campus July 20-24.
Great things are happening in student life, with students enjoying the new golf driving range, the disc golf course, and the Mule Rides bicycle sharing program, among other activities. “As the sun comes out, so do the students,” Berry said. “There is so much activity, and we offer so many opportunities for our students.”
He noted the success of the SAU Fishing Team this year as well as that of the growing eSports program. The Theatre Department’s recent Wiley and the Hairy Man featured life-sized puppets built for SAU’s production by the Arkansas Center for the Arts in Little Rock. “It was a wonderful play,” Berry said.
Mulerider athletics are having a productive year. Berry expressed pride for the men’s and women’s basketball teams playing in the 2020 Great American Conference Basketball Championship Tournament in Bartlesville, Okla. Mulerider tennis, baseball and softball teams are succeeding in national polls, and with cross country and track under way, there is a lot happening in SAU sports.
Berry updated the Board on the many improvements to athletic facilities on campus, including the new Player Development Center to be dedicated soon and new covered bullpens for softball. Mulerider athletes were also recognized among this year’s GAC All-Decade teams, which honors athletes in all sports sponsored by the league. Berry expressed congratulations to those athletes.
Speaking for the Board, Bearden congratulated President Berry on being named Columbia County Citizen of the Year by the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce.
In his remarks, Dr. Jason Morrison, chancellor of SAU Tech, informed trustees that core enrollment at Tech is up more than 12 percent for spring 2020. “We are proud of what is happening with freshman and sophomore students,” Morrison said. “We have fought hard to be up in enrollment.”
He said SAU Tech recently was designated as a Military Friendly School and that ground has been broken on a new dormitory for the Arkansas Fire Training Academy. A new preschool will also be launched on the campus with the support of the South Central Cooperative. Morrison also explained that SAU Tech is now home to a new softball field and that the new Rockets program is experiencing success and drawing visitors.
SAU Tech’s five-year strategic plan was unanimously approved, with Manning explaining the student-and administration-oriented goals covered by the plan. It identifies greater student access and increased enrollment, student success through educational planning and support services, workforce development, sustainability and effectiveness, and leadership and professional development as some of Tech’s priorities under the plan.