Dr. Charles “Chuck” Welch celebrated his sixth anniversary at the helm of the Arkansas State University System on April 23, 2017. As president of the system, Welch has guided the campuses of ASU through an incredible growth period.
Not only has the flagship Jonesboro campus expanded, the system has additional campuses, locations and offices at Beebe, Heber Springs, Jacksonville, Jonesboro, Marked Tree, Mountain Home, Newport, Paragould, and Searcy. During Welch’s term, ASU also absorbed Mid-South Community College to add the West Memphis-based school to the lineup.
With enrollment in the range of 23,000 students, ASU is a public research university and the state’s second largest college system. It was founded in 1909 as one of the state’s four original agricultural schools, a mission that it still carries today.
Talk Business & Politics conducted an email interview with Welch to gauge his thoughts on his six-year anniversary with the university.
TB&P: What do you think has been your biggest achievement in 6 years?
Welch: I would have to say the growth of the Arkansas State University System profile and brand. People all over the state and the nation are beginning to take notice of our system and the innovative operations of our campuses. From unique workforce training programs at our community colleges, to projects such as the D.O. School and Mexico campus, people realize that we are doing things differently in an effort to be a change agent for higher education. Growing our profile, influence and brand was one of the initial charges of the Board of Trustees to me when I was hired. While we still want to go even further, I am very happy with how far we have advanced over the past six years.
TB&P: What do you think will have the biggest long-lasting impact on the ASU system: the D.O. school, Mexico campus or future convention center?
Welch: That is a difficult question to answer as they will also have a long-lasting impact on different areas. The D.O. school will have a long-lasting impact on the entire Delta region as we train doctors who will hopefully serve the rural communities up and down the Delta and provide high-quality and accessible health care to our Delta residents.
The Mexico project will have a long-lasting impact on the A-State campus through increased revenue, visibility in the international arena, and unique learning and teaching opportunities for our students and faculty.
The convention center project will certainly benefit our campus, but even more importantly it will benefit the greater Jonesboro area by bringing more people to our community to see all of the exciting things happening in Northeast Arkansas. I am just very proud that our faculty and staff have been open to innovation, creativity and thinking outside the box. It is these traits that will further set our campus apart in the years to come.
TB&P: You’ll soon be operating with a new higher education funding formula. Is ASU going to see more funding, less funding or same amount of funding as a result?
Welch: That is hard to say at this point, but I am confident that our campuses will ultimately see more funding. Each of our ASU System campuses has historically ranked among the statewide leaders in student success initiatives, and I do anticipate that this trend will continue. I believe that our system focus on student success and efficiency measures will result in stronger retention and graduation rates, leading to enhanced funding from the formula.
TB&P: What will ASU do differently to operate under the new funding formula rules? Can you gauge that yet?
Welch: We will continue to remain focused on whether our institutional programs and activities are geared towards student success and whether our operations are as efficient as possible. We will continue to ensure that all of our programs and activities are strategically geared toward giving our students the best chance possible of persisting and graduating.