Utter begins his term as the Arkansas State University Provost

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 197 views 

Arkansas State University Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Alan Utter is an avid runner. The newly appointed administrator has only lived in Jonesboro for less than six weeks and wanted to participate in a community activity and chose to run in the St. Bernards sponsored Hot Pepper Nights 5k/10k.

He learned a quick lesson about weather in Northeast Arkansas during the summer. It was still in the upper 80s when the race began and the humidity was at about 100%.

“Boy, did I make a mistake,” Utter said to a chorus of laughter at the ASU Faculty Conference held Wednesday (Aug. 14). He later added “I did win my age group.”

Utter replaced Dr. Lynita Cooksey who retired at the end of the last academic year. Utter had served as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas prior to his arrival at ASU. Utter previously was the vice provost for research at Appalachian State University. While there, he was the founding director of the university office of student research and had a lengthy tenure as a professor in the department of health and education.

ASU had several qualities that appealed to him, he said. The university has placed an emphasis on research programs. The school is similar in size to Appalachian State, a place he worked for 22 years. ASU is a relatively rural school, pulling students from a large swath of the depopulated Delta, and it’s more than an hour away from a major airport.

Utter also liked the fact that ASU is on the front end of a five year strategic plan. He did a little research on ASU Chancellor Kelly Damphousse and learned that he is a forward thinking administrator that’s not afraid to take risks. That was the clincher.

“Five weeks in (how long he’s been on the job) … it’s a good fit,” he said.

There are five areas that he wants to emphasize during his term, but he only talked about three of them during the conference. He said it’s essential that the school develop and expand revenue streams and elevate its research program. Curriculum and programs must be constantly evolved in a hyper-competitive higher education sector, he added.

With research and professional associations in the sports medicine field, Utter has led National Institute of Health grant-funded research as well holding a patent. He co-invented a body weight and nutrition monitoring system. He holds both his doctorate in exercise physiology and a master’s in public health from the University of Pittsburgh. A first generation college degree earner, Utter said he grew up in the small town of Branchville, New Jersey, a town that to this day still doesn’t have a stop light.

“I go back and visit a lot,” he said.

During the upcoming weeks, Utter has a lot of work to do. The school has to replace three deans. Another thing he has to do is learn the “culture” of the campus, its students and the faculty.

“I’m very excited to work with all of you this upcoming academic year,” he said.

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