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Forum for Innovation Attracts Higher Education Leaders for Exchange of Ideas


JONESBORO – Taking a fresh look at innovation and its future in higher education was the focus when higher education administrators from six states convened for a forum Thursday at Arkansas State University.

The University Innovation Alliance was the topic presented by its executive director, Dr. Bridget Burns, during a keynote luncheon address.  She discussed the alliance's record of success and its support for the diffusion of best practices in higher education.

Dr. Jason Penry, vice chancellor for university advancement at A-State, was the primary organizer of the conference at Fowler Center.

“The challenges facing higher education, and meeting those challenges, has never been more crucial than today. Rising costs will require diverse ideas and strategies; affordability and accessibility depend on it,” Penry said. “The purpose of the Forum for Innovation in Higher Education is to convene some of the region’s top leaders to discuss the role of innovation -- change for the better -- in the future of higher education.”

Following the welcoming address by A-State Chancellor Kelly Damphousse, a morning panel discussed the importance of innovation.  Dr. Zora Mulligan, commissioner of higher education for the State of Missouri, and Dr. Joseph Rallo, commissioner of higher education for the State of Louisiana, were the featured panelists.

After the exchange of ideas at lunch, a second panel convened to talk about implementing innovation on campus.

This panel featured Dr. Andrew Morriss, founding dean of the School of Innovation at Texas A&M, Dr. Chuck Welch, president of the ASU System, and Dr. Heidi Leming, vice chancellor for student success at the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Those attending the forum used the event hashtag #AStateFIHE to continue their exchange of ideas.  Each session was livestreamed via Twitter.


Burns, as leader of the national consortium of large public research universities, has advised campus and university system chief executives along with state and federal policy leaders.  She advocates strategies to expand access to higher education, address costs, and promote degree completion among students from all backgrounds.  Previously she was an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow at Arizona State University, and chief of staff and senior policy adviser for the Oregon University System.

Mulligan, commissioner of higher education since August of last year, previously had served as chief of staff and as general counsel for the University of Missouri System.  She holds a master's degree and juris doctor degree from the University of Kansas.

Rallo, commissioner since January 2015, previously was vice chancellor for academic affairs for the Texas Tech University System and president of Angelo State University.  He holds a juris doctor degree from Western New England University, and master's and Ph.D. degrees from Syracuse University.

Morriss became founding dean of the School of Innovation and vice president for entrepreneurship and economic development at Texas A&M earlier this year.  He also was the initial dean of the Texas A&M School of Law.  His juris doctor degree is from the University of Texas, and his Ph.D. in economics is from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Leming has been with the Tennessee Board of Regents since 2014.  Her focus is on student retention and college completion initiatives for all TBR colleges and universities.  Previously she was vice president for student affairs at the College of Coastal Georgia.  She completed her master's degree at Virginia Tech and Ph.D. at the University of Georgia.

Welch, president of the ASU System since 2011, chairs the board of the Arkansas Association of Public Universities, and co-chairs the executive council of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.  He earned his master's at George Washington University, and his doctorate at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

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