Following the resignation of former Chancellor Andrew Rogerson, Dr. Christina Drale was appointed as our new Chancellor back in September and has done a lot of work already, with more goals she plans on completing.
In the short time of her position at UA Little Rock, Drale has fit into her new role nicely.
“I have a routine now and I’ve gotten things scheduled out and planned,” she said. “I feel a lot more settled in than I did when I first came into this office.”
According to Drale, the early days in the office were quite hectic due to the one week notice of her acceptance.
“We still have many challenges and are working through a lot of things,” she said. “We are very busy, but I think we are on track.”
In addition to the responsibilities on campus that can’t be ignored, Drale said the most difficult part of her position is all of the external work that needs to be done. Spending time in the community doing interviews with local media, legislatures and businesses are all vital to building partnerships.
“There’s been a lot more [external work] than I’ve ever done before and that has been an adjustment, primarily in terms of scheduling,” she said. “The campus expects constant communication as well and that sometimes is a balancing act.”
During this balancing act that has been happening ever since Drale was appointed, the campus has been forthcoming with their feedback on the quality of the job being done. Drale says that she’s gotten mostly positive remarks about her work, but that there are still quite a few negative ones.
“There are some faculty members who are very concerned about the retrenchment announcement/process because we’ve never done anything like this before and it could potentially involve the termination of tenured faculty,” she said.
According to Drale, the people of the university are happy that she is finally making a plan for going forward and isn’t just waiting to see what happens. Another positive remark was that she isn’t just making across the board cuts without any strategic thinking about it.
“We recently did a set of focus groups on the faculty, staff, and students,” she said. “I am proactively seeking input because I want to see what the people want to see, what they want kept, what they want focus on and what they want supported.”
An open forum was held on Feb 19 for students, and there will be another one before the end of the semester.
“These face-to-face discussions are a nice way for people to get to know each other on a more personal level,” she said.
UA Little Rock’s website has a page called “Improve UA Little Rock ” under the Office of the Chancellor page for any students and/or faculty that have any suggestions on how to improve the university.
Although she can’t do something about every suggestion or complaint, Drale has been very busy getting things accomplished to better our university.
“The primary goal right now is to plan out the budget because there was a revenue shortfall due to declining enrollment,” she said. “We are ⅔ of the way done with that right now and I am confident we will be done with it by the end of the year.”
Another less tangible goal that Drale has for the university is building partnerships with the surrounding community. An example of these developing partnerships is the new Building Information Modelling (BIM) lab that was built for the construction management and civil engineering department. The dedication happened on Feb 20 and this is all because of a partnership with the Associated General Contractors of Arkansas.
“BIM is essentially the cutting edge of construction management and construction engineering,” Drale said. “Now student have cutting edge modeling to work in that’s being used in industry.”
Not only will this partnership improve the education of the construction management students, it will also allow them to have job opportunities post graduation through the partnered companies. This is just one of many developing partnerships that Drale has acquired in order to improve our campus.
In addition to the budget right sizing process that will be continuing into next academic year, accreditation for the campus is just around the corner. Once accreditation is renewed, and the budget is more predictable, Drale has future plans that are proposed to happen in 2021/2022 for developing a mission statement and strategic plan that are updated.
“We have a mission statement that was written in 1988,” Drale said. “It’s not a bad mission statement, but it does need to be updated and made to be more contemporary.”
Although the current strategic plan was updated a few years ago, it was based on an older strategic plan that previous Chancellor, Andrew Rogerson, did not want to make new.
“Rogerson thought the strategic plan simply needed to be updated, and I think we need to start over,“ Drale said. “As soon as accreditation and retrenchment is over, the updates will begin.”
In five years, Drale sees the university having a stabilized enrollment and a stabilized budget. She wants a fully integrated planning and budget process in place and for the investments to match the universities priorities. Drale predicts that the budget will be ironed out and stabilized in less than five years, then a majority of time will not be spent talking about budget.
“I want to see conscious decisions about where to put our resources,” Drale said.
Another continued goal Drale hopes to see play out is the relationships with the surrounding community. The two main relationships Drale wants to focus on are with UAMS and Pulaski Tech (PTC).
“I have been speaking to the Chancellor at PTC and we are working on making transitions from PTC smoother and more welcoming for transfers here,” Drale said. “We want to make the experiences of those students as good as we can make it.”
Drale is hopeful about the upcoming future of UA Little Rock under her leadership.
“We have a lot to be proud of here at UA Little Rock,” she said. “We have a lot of good people doing good things, and I think that’s important for everyone to focus on and keep in mind as we make our way through the budget adjustments.”