Eight people have applied to be director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education since the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board started its new search Aug. 16. The current interim director, Shane Broadway, says he plans to apply soon.

Broadway, a former Arkansas speaker of the House, state senator from Bryant, and unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010, became interim director in February 2011. The Coordinating Board tried to appoint Broadway as permanent director until some Republican legislators objected because Broadway did not meet a legal requirement to “be an experienced educator in the field of higher education.” He eventually removed himself from consideration for the job. That part of the law was changed by the Legislature this year with Broadway in mind.

The position plays a coordinating role between the state’s colleges and universities, each of which has its own board of directors. The Coordinating Board has been unable to fill the position in part because the salary is less than in similar positions in other states. The previous director, Dr. Joe Purcell, left for the same job in Louisiana for a much higher salary. As of March, Broadway’s salary as interim director was $129,000.

Dr. Charles Allen, chief administrative officer of the Arkansas Correctional School and chair of the Coordinating Board, emphasized that the board would conduct a fair and legitimate search but said that Broadway would be “a formidable candidate” and had the support of the higher education community.

“That was obvious from before the law was passed,” he said. “All of the chancellors and presidents of both the four-year institutions and the two-year institutions had supported Director Broadway, but we have to advertise, and obviously we will look for the best possible candidate that we can get.”

Allen said higher education leaders have continued to ask him to appoint Broadway. Applications must be submitted by the end of Sept. 15. Allen said a new director would be hired, “I would hope as soon as possible.”

Broadway said he will apply but has been busy with professional and personal responsibilities the past few weeks.

Other applicants are:

– Felicia Johnson of Little Rock, associate director of academic affairs for the Apollo Group, University of Phoenix
– Howard Smith, Ph.D., of Wynne, chief executive officer and board chair of the Plum Foundation
– Israel Mfune, Ph.D., of Berrien Springs, Mich., an adjunct instructor at the Department of Computer Information Systems at Ivy Tech Community College
– Rick Weems of Sandy, Oregon, assistant vice president for enrollment services at Southern Oregon University
– Sherry Hawn of Newark, New Jersey, the former chief financial officer of Metropolitan College
– Tonya Kilpatrick of Mableton, Ga., director for research and sponsored programs, Clark Atlanta University
– Yoon Sik Kim, Ph.D., of Shawnee, Okla., an English professor at Colorado Technical University
– Joseph Stevenson of Madison, Miss., adjunct distinguished scholar/professor, Jackson State University

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Steve Brawner

Steve Brawner

Steve Brawner is a freelance journalist and contributor to Talk Business & Politics. He is also a syndicated columnist in 10 Arkansas newspapers. You can email him at brawnersteve@mac.com or follow him on Twitter: @SteveBrawner.