Arkansas State University approves five year strategic plan

by George Jared ([email protected]) 914 views 

Arkansas State University’s new five-year strategic plan, “Discover 2025,” has been approved by the ASU System Board of Trustees, marking the official start of efforts to determine ASU’s future, Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said.

“I am grateful that the Board of Trustees has endorsed our new strategic plan,” Damphousse said. “While the final stages were delayed by coronavirus precautions, I am extremely proud of the work done by our entire Pack – students, faculty, staff, alumni and community friends – in the creation of this new plan for our future. It is the culmination of input from hundreds of individuals and thousands of hours of study, discussion and feedback.”

The core of Discover 2025 features five statements covering student success, teaching and learning, research and creative activities, community engagement and campus climate.

“We call these statements the pillars of our plan, and they will guide us in the establishment of priorities over the next five years and beyond,” Damphousse said. “And in reality, they are already having an impact.”

Prior to the onset of the global pandemic, Discover 2025 was slated to be completed in late Spring 2020. However, the administration decided to extend the plan’s development in the wake of the pandemic.

“Functionally, we’ve taken to heart the feedback we received and started making changes to fulfill parts of our specific objectives,” Damphousse said. “Two important examples are the filling of two new dean positions to provide oversight for our Graduate School and University College, which will greatly enhance opportunities for student success at A-State. Our faculty encouraged me to re-establish our Graduate School when I first came to campus in 2017, so I was glad to be able to see that happen this year.”

This fall, three key objectives within the Discover 2025 goals got underway as Provost Alan Utter charged task forces to look at the university’s general education curriculum, program viability, and test score admission standards.

Under each pillar, Discover 2025 identifies specific progress indicators and projects at the university level, and with full approval of the plan, Damphousse is looking ahead to the next steps in the process.

“I’m excited to see how each division, college and department at Arkansas State will translate our broad pillars into goals and objectives at their level,” Damphousse said. “This is how Discover 2025 has impact across our entire campus community.”

The preliminary work for several other projects named in the plan is also underway.

“Our faculty have already begun to create new interdisciplinary centers of study, which will be the hallmark of the teaching, learning and research pillars,” Damphousse said. “I am also excited to see other large scale projects come to life – like our proposed College of Veterinary Medicine, the creation of a Rural Studies Center, the expansion of our P-20 Center partnerships with schools in the Delta, and the completion of our new Windgate Center for Three-Dimensional Arts, along with new collaborative degree programs like data science and applied artificial intelligence are on the horizon.”

In other board business, ASU President Chuck Welch said the number of students infected with COVID-19 during the fall semester has been relatively low compared to the community spread numbers throughout the state.

Damphousse said 2,900 students were in residence halls at the beginning of the fall semester and 2,600 remain, though most classes converted to online after Thanksgiving. ASU-Beebe Chancellor Jennifer Methvin said 40 students paid an additional fee to stay in campus housing through the Thanksgiving holiday “because it was the safest place for them.”

Welch said the system is hopeful regarding another federal stimulus package to assist higher education institutions and students. Damphousse noted that about $2 million was spent at ASU to prepare for students’ return this fall with more needs to be addressed for the spring semester.

Henderson State University received approval from the Higher Learning Commission to proceed with its plan to join the ASU System, Welch said. Interim Chancellor Jim Borsig reported that Henderson was already “integrating into the system” in several areas and is “in much better shape” since July thanks to efforts of the system and the entire faculty and staff. The merger is awaiting action by the Arkansas General Assembly.

In his report to the board, Welch expressed optimism about the state general revenue budget, which is exceeding forecast. ASU System campuses did not budget funds in Category C or D in the Revenue Stabilization Act, but Welch said he is “extremely comfortable that C will flow and pretty confident about D.” The ASU System has a combined $4.47 million designated in Category C funding and $4.47 million in Category D.