SAU board holds virtual meeting

Magnolia -- The Southern Arkansas University System Board of Trustees met virtually in a regularly scheduled session Thursday, February 2.

The annual election of officers was the first order of business for the meeting. Erica Woods was named as board chair, with Laura Winning named vice-chair and Nate Evers named secretary. Dr. Berry thanked Monty Harrington, who served as board chair for the previous two years, and presented him with a gift of a framed gavel.

Trustees heard campus reports from Dr. Trey Berry, SAU president, and Dr. Jason Morrison, SAU Tech chancellor. Berry reported on the continued trend of increased enrollment, with SAU recording a record spring class of 4677 students. The outstanding results of SAU reporting a 15% increased enrollment from fall 2021 to fall 2022 ranked SAU first in the state for percentage growth. Following this accomplishment and a strong spring enrollment, it is exciting to see that the applications for admission and housing, along with multiple other indicators, points toward another very positive fall 2023 enrollment for SAU.

In other highlights, Berry noted that in November, SAU hosted the Higher Learning Commission site visit team for the HLC reaffirmation of accreditation. He commended the campus community for their preparations and completion of the visit. The official decision will be forthcoming from HLC this spring. Berry also shared that on January 12, 2023, SAU was delighted to announce the generous contribution of a $1 million gift from alumna Joan Dempsey and her husband, Jack Dempsey. In recognition of this gift, the University has renamed the College of Liberal and Performing Arts as the Dempsey College of Liberal and Performing Arts.

Berry concluded his report with an overview of advancement efforts, academic highlights, athletic accomplishments, and facility improvements that are in progress on the SAU campus.

Dr. Jason Morrison shared updates from the SAU Tech campus. Morrison touted the academic initiative to incorporate live-streaming courses. He noted that nationally this concept is referred to as high-flex. This allows students to choose from the traditional classroom setting or to participate from a location of choice that provides a synchronous opportunity. Morrison stated, "The move to this format allows students from all over the country to take a traditional class from SAU Tech and experience real-time interaction with the instructor and fellow students." There are currently 16 streaming sections, and the end goal is to have 29 classrooms equipped for these high-flex courses.

SAU Tech received a $150,000 grant for new engineering equipment. Morrison called attention to the new campus Loudmouth wireless public address system. This system allows announcements to be made promptly to all buildings so that immediate notifications can go out to the campus when needed in emergency situations. In support of food insecurities for students on the SAU Tech campus, the food pantry has received several updates. Morrison indicated that last fall and into the spring, there has been a 300% increase in students utilizing and needing support from the food pantry. There are ongoing efforts for food drives to help support this effort.

Dr. David Lanoue, SAU provost and vice president for academic affairs, announced that the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved the stand-alone degree for SAU in mechanical engineering just last week. Dr. Lanoue stated, "Our industry partners in engineering have urged us to offer a pure mechanical engineering program because they are in desperate need of mechanical engineers." Dr. Lanoue also presented a few additional title changes and additional certificates for Board approval.

Dr. Valerie Wilson, SAU Tech vice-chancellor for academics, presented several academic adjustments to the following programs: Aviation Maintenance Technology, Computer Information Systems, Industrial Sciences and Technology, Engineering Technology, and Professional Studies.

Audit reports for 2020-2021 were provided by Shawana Reed, SAU vice president for finance, and Gaye Manning, SAU Tech vice chancellor for finance and administration. Both campus audit reports resulted in no findings being reported by the state. Reed and Manning also presented 2022 year-end financial updates. Trustees accepted and approved the 2020-2021 audit reports.

A resolution of state policy for reimbursement of expenses for Board of Trustees members was presented by Roger Giles, SAU vice president of administration and general counsel. This resolution was approved.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Trustees will be June 14, 2023, at 1:30.

Southern Arkansas University provides students with the complete college experience in a caring environment of service, innovation, and community. With more than 100 degrees in four distinct colleges and the School of Graduate Studies, SAU initiates new degree programs to fit the needs of career and professional trends of today.

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