Serna talks of ‘culture change’ and ‘improved morale’ at UAFS

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 723 views 

In his final chancellor’s report to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Board of Visitors Wednesday (April 24), Dr. Edward Serna said he has seen many positive improvements to the university over the past year.

“It’s amazing how quickly this year has gone by. It seems just like yesterday I was sitting here for the first time last fall and I was laying out this really aggressive agenda for this academic year,” said Serna, UAFS interim chancellor. “Some people thought it was a little too aggressive, but I thought the initiatives we launched were important for several reasons. One was that we needed to turn around our enrollment.”

Serna took the interim position Sept. 1. Former Chancellor Dr. Paul Beran left Aug. 31 to take on a new job as executive director and CEO of the South Dakota Higher Education Board of Regents. Dr. Terisa Riley, senior vice president for student affairs and university administration at Texas A&M University at Kingsville, has been recommended as the next University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Chancellor by Dr. Donald Bobbitt, UA System president. The recommendation must be accepted by the University of Arkansas System Board at a future meeting.

Serna touted the new adult degree completion program, which will provide “a streamlined educational pathway for students returning to school with 30 or more credit hours” who are working toward a bachelor’s degree in either organizational leadership or general studies.

“A year ago, this was just an idea we had. To me this is exciting,” Serna said, noting Dr. Tina Root was recently hired as the program’s new director and the program was starting.

Dr. Edward Serna, interim chancellor at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith

Other initiatives that came about this academic year include ROAR First Year Advising, which will work toward first year retention and gives first year students a more personal touch, and the military recruiting campaign, which launched Tuesday. The objective of the military recruiting campaign was to show that UAFS is a military friendly campus, Serna said.

The campaign also gets the UAFS brand onto a national stage where it hasn’t been before, he added.

“We put that video out on Facebook yesterday. That video has already had 8,000 views in 24 hours. That is amazing,” Serna said.

One thing helping the recruitment is the university’s associate degree program in unmanned aerial systems.

“A year ago that program didn’t even exist. Now it’s being used as a recruitment tool,” he said.

The new programs and other marketing campaigns have led to change on campus that can be marked with phrases like “transformational, culture change and improved morale,” Serna said.

“I’m proud of this campus. We didn’t just talk about making changes, we made changes,” Serna said. “I just wanted to thank you for your support here.”

The board thanked Serna for his leadership through the past year.

“In my experience in the business world interim has often been a place keeper. That is exactly opposite of what you have done here,” said board member Gary Campbell.

Serna said he did not know what his future steps would be.

“Right now, I am focusing on commencement,” he said. “After that, I will talk with my wife and see what the options are and see what makes the most sense for us.”

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