The Southern Arkansas University System Board of Trustees met virtually in a regular session on Thursday, February 3. SAU President Dr. Trey Berry opened the meeting by welcoming new board member Jason Sullivan. Sullivan graduated from SAU in 1995 and most recently served on the Board of Governors of the SAU Foundation. He resides in Mena, where he is Vice President of Loans at Union Bank. Sullivan expressed his excitement to serve SAU in this capacity.
The annual election of officers was the first order of business of the meeting. Monty Harrington was reaffirmed as Chairman of the Board, with Erica Woods named Vice Chairman and Laura Winning named Secretary.
Administrators heard campus reports from Dr. Berry and SAU Technology Chancellor Dr. Jason Morrison. Berry reported on a new SAU initiative, Finish the Ride, which focuses on students who left the institution without graduating. Finish the Ride launched on February 1 and helps returning students with re-application, financial aid and counseling processes. “We have a lot of great people working on this,” Berry said, noting Dr. Jennifer Rowsam’s role in developing the program and the appointment of Amy Womack as graduation coordinator to lead the program. program. “It’s another way of fulfilling our mission,” Berry said.
The generosity of SAU alumni and friends is evident in the 2021 Year-End Report on Academic Advancement. The report cites more than $6 million in gifts for the second year in a row, an increase in donor retention, an increase in alumni giving, and a 29% increase in the number of gifts received over 2020 figures.” It’s such a testament to our alumni and friends,” Berry said.
In his closing statements, Berry noted improvements on campus, such as updates to the Alumni Center and the completion of the Dawson Sports Complex. Other upgrades included upgrades to the WT Watson Gymnasium, upgrades to the campus entrance at Wilkins Stadium, and the upcoming construction of a new facility to house the Mulerider golf and tennis programs.
Dr. Jason Morrison reported that spring enrollment was up at SAU Tech despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Credit production has also increased at Tech, signaling that the increased focus on student retention is paying off.
To support the launch of Rocket baseball, SAU Tech recently launched a campaign to fund the construction of an on-campus baseball complex. The Diamond Club contains several tiers of donor recognition designed around a baseball theme, such as Hall of Fame, All-Star, and Grand Slam. Dr Morrison acknowledged the support of Doug Wasson, a tech alum, who provided the lead donation for the campaign. Morrison noted that thanks to generous donors, Tech has reached 60% of the campaign goal, with hopes to break ground on the complex in June.
During his closing remarks, Morrison indicated that SAU Tech continues to build and strengthen the SAU Tech Foundation, with the addition of Jeff Avant and Rich Robertson to the Foundation Board.
Dr. Valerie Wilson, SAU Tech Vice Chancellor for Academics, presented the application for a new program, Medical Diagnostic Sonography. Dr. Wilson noted that this program is a significant academic improvement for the region and the only program in the state.
Dr. David Lanoue, provost of the SAU and vice-president of academic affairs, made three requests for academic program changes. The first was the addition of a new finance minor for non-business majors. Another was a new certificate in World War II and Holocaust studies, which Lanoue described as an important academic area, especially for high school teachers. A third was the addition of a stand-alone mechanical engineering program. Mechanical engineering is currently part of the larger general engineering curriculum. The administrators approved all of Lanoue and Wilson’s academic change requests.
Financial reports provided by Shawana Reed, SAU Vice President for Finance, and Gaye Manning, SAU Tech Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, provided a favorable image of the system. The trustees approved the solvency certificates of the two institutions, as well as the 2019-2020 audit reports. Directors commended Reed and Manning for their work in maintaining fiscal stability.
Trustees approved the execution of a bond redemption, which will save $7 million over the life of the bonds and result in the transfer of ownership of the Magnolia, Columbia and Arkansas halls from the Alumni Association to the University of the Alumni Association.
The next regular meeting of the Board of Directors will take place on June 16, 2022.