Dr. Terisa Riley has been recommended as the next University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Chancellor. If the recommendation is accepted by the University of Arkansas System Board, she will be the first female leader of the university and its preceding institutions.
Dr. Donald Bobbitt, president of the UA System, on Tuesday (April 16) announced his selection. If approved by the Board, Riley will begin the job July 1. Former chancellor Dr. Paul Beran left Aug. 31 for a new job as executive director and CEO of the South Dakota Higher Education Board of Regents.
“While the pool of finalists was extremely strong with all of the candidates being highly qualified and making a great impression during their on-campus visits and interviews, Dr. Riley rose to the top with the clear vision and palpable energy needed to help continue the strategic growth and upward trajectory of UAFS,” Bobbitt said in a statement. “I couldn’t be any more confident in the work that our search committee, search firm and all of the various other constituents contributed during this process to help identify the next chancellor at UAFS. I am extremely excited about Dr. Riley’s arrival and the future of the university.”
Nate Hinkel, director of communications for the UA System, said it is uncertain when the UA Board will act on Bobbitt’s selection. Hinkel said the Board has a meeting set for May 22-23, and no special meeting has been scheduled to consider Bobbitt’s recommendation. The starting salary for the job leading an institution with around 5,840 students and 914 faculty is not being published, but will be based on the qualifications of the selected person. Beran, who served as chancellor for 12 years, was earning $224,910 when he left the position.
Riley, senior vice president for student affairs and university administration at Texas A&M University at Kingsville, was one of four candidates to visit UAFS as part of the search for a new chancellor. The other candidates were Dr. Marilyn Wells provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., Dr. Robert Marley, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Mo., and Dr. Philip Way, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at the Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
“I am thrilled and humbled to be recommended as the next chancellor for the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith,” Riley said in the statement provided by the UA System. “My interactions with faculty, staff, students and members of the Fort Smith community reinforced my belief that UAFS is preparing students to work and compete globally, and that empowering students to reach their academic goals continues to be the focus of campus decision-making. UAFS has a rich and unique history as an economic advancement engine for the Fort Smith region, and I look forward to playing my part to help shape the success of the institution, the community and our students, faculty and staff for years to come.”
During her April 4 campus visit, Riley said the university should consider a marketing and branding campaign that better tells the institution’s story and extends the messaging reach.
“You have to do that work together as a community. … What are the messages that are really showing the excellence of this place? How do we show that this is an institution of first choice and not just of convenience?” Riley said.
She also said during the Q&A with students, faculty and members of the community that the job of a chancellor is to be a facilitator who puts “great people” with great ideas together and “let them get to work.” She said her passion is about being better and that often requires everyone to be able to give and receive honest feedback, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Institutions doing that “in a healthy way” typically avoid mistakes and have more successful outcomes.
“If there is an elephant in the room, I like to pet it, ride on it, name it,” she said.
Bobbitt had selected Dr. Edward Serna to be interim UAFS Chancellor during the search. Serna also applied for the job.
“Dr. Serna is well-respected on campus and in the UAFS community, and I’d like to thank him for leading the campus during this time of transition,” Bobbitt said. “He did an exceptional job keeping things moving forward, and I know Dr. Riley’s transition into her new role will benefit from the great job Dr. Serna did as interim chancellor.”
Greenwood/Asher & Associates Inc., a search firm based in Miramar Beach, Fla., is assisting in the chancellor search. The firm will be paid about $84,000 for its work.