Enrollment Increases, New Campus Leaders Highlight ASU System Trustees Meeting
JONESBORO, Ark. — Enrollment results for the fall indicate strong positive trends for the Arkansas State University System, System President Chuck Welch told the Board of Trustees today.
“Six of our campuses had an enrollment increase, and Henderson outperformed expectations,” Welch said. “At the end of the day, all seven outperformed what we anticipated. Everything across the board was encouraging. I appreciate our campuses working very hard on improvements.
“I’m also proud of how we finished financially,” he added. “You’ll see a picture of continued financial strength, and improvement and recovery at Henderson. Sound financial processes continue to pay enormous dividends.”
Welch welcomed Dr. Bentley Wallace as the new chancellor of ASU-Mountain Home and introduced Dr. Bob Fisher, who begins Monday as interim chancellor of Henderson State University.
Fisher succeeds Dr. Chuck Ambrose, who stepped down after two years, and Welch thanked Ambrose for his service.
“You had difficult days but always pointed to student success,” Welch said. “You leave the university better than you found it, and we appreciate all your hard work.”
Ambrose told trustees he appreciated their support and leadership of Henderson.
“Not only the love and concern, but also providing resources to return Henderson to a viable future,” Ambrose said. “ASU System assets were resources that enabled us to make the progress we have made – plus a willingness to do what’s best for the Henderson community.”
Fisher, a Henderson alumnus and former dean of business, noted that Trustee Robert Rudolph is one of his former students.
“It’s such a surreal moment and I’m so grateful,” Fisher said. “It means so much to me. We have Reddie spirit in our blood. I thought maybe I could help for this short time. I’m so grateful for what Dr. Ambrose has done — I couldn’t have done that work. I have looked at plans and financials and talked to the leadership team, and this is going to be great. Henderson is back. We’re looking to the future. I look forward to being part of that.”
Welch noted that Fisher agreed to serve in an interim capacity through December and that the chancellor search efforts will be launched next week.
A-State Chancellor Todd Shields, who took over campus leadership a year ago, said he was “absolutely more convinced than ever that A-State is an amazing university. I’m very proud to have almost 15,000 students attending A-State, and that most of our students are from Arkansas.”
In his report to trustees, Shields said the university expects the first site visit by accreditors for the planned College of Veterinary Medicine this spring. He also noted that A-State’s online program has produced 23,000 graduates over the last 15 years.
A-State is the largest provider of education graduates in the state with superintendents, teachers and counselors in every county, Shields said, adding that 20,000 graduates since 2015 work in education across the state.
Soon, Shields said, A-State will be the only university in the state with a medical school, veterinary school, the largest graduate school and an international campus while strategically maintaining its traditional culture.
Three current or former A-State students shared their experiences with the trustees.
Jacqueline Vargas of Mexico City started at A-State Campus Queretaro, then moved to Jonesboro for a study abroad program and is now a graduate student conducting research at A-State with hopes of ultimately teaching biomedical science.
“I knew Campus Queretaro was a community I wanted to belong to and knew being part of an American education system and classes in English would be important,” she said. “Campus Queretaro opened my eyes to opportunities I didn’t know, and I was amazed by the work at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute on the campus in Jonesboro. I’m passionate about research work on underrepresented populations.”
Caleb Fields, a student-athlete on the A-State basketball team, said he considered transferring after last season’s coaching change but decided to stay because of the love he and his family have for Arkansas State. He expects to graduate with a degree in accounting in December.
Cori Keller, the 2018 Miss A-State who became Miss Arkansas in June, described her involvement on campus.
“I had the best experience at Arkansas State,” she said. “Now I have a unique opportunity to represent A-State throughout the state” through travels as Miss Arkansas.
The board approved a resolution that confers to Niel Crowson the designation of Trustee Emeritus and praised his service and contributions to the ASU System. He was first appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to serve on the board in 2015 and was reappointed in 2020. He resigned in 2023 after more than eight years’ of service.
In other business, the board approved:
- Adjustments to fees for the Henderson aviation program for the first time since 2016 to meet the additional costs necessary to fulfill its mission as the state’s only university program for training pilots.
- Revisions to the ASU System Early Retirement Benefits Policy and ASU System Staff Handbook to update various sections, correct inconsistencies, update terminology and eliminate potential interpretation conflicts.
- Application for a grant from the Arkansas Department of Human Services to continue participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which services approximately 600 children in the Arkansas Delta region.
- Renaming of the ASU-Mountain Home Technical Center Building to the Czeschin-Newth Workforce Development Center in recognition of Calvin and Sissy Czeschin and Kenny and Laura Newth for their contributions to the campus.
- ASU-Newport granting a utility easement to City Water and Light of Jonesboro on property along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to support an Arkansas Department of Transportation project.
- A new strategic plan for ASU Three Rivers.