New Residence Hall Names at A-State Honor Prominent African-American Faculty

BEEBE, Ark. — One of two new student housing developments under construction on the Arkansas State University campus in Jonesboro will be named in honor of four prominent, retired African-American faculty members for their historic roles in desegregation.

The ASU Board of Trustees approved resolutions at its meeting today that will name the new 165-bed graduate residence complex and individual halls on the west side of campus. The complex will be known as The Circle, and the buildings will be Gaines Hall, Richmond Hall, Smith Hall and Strickland Hall.

The campus location on what was Faculty Circle is historically significant for its role in desegregation in the early 1970s. The area served as the site of the home for the late Dr. Calvin Smith, the first African-American faculty member at Arkansas State, as well as Dr. Wilbert Gaines, the late Dr. Mossie Richmond and Dr. Herman Strickland.

ASU System President Chuck Welch told trustees that the university “felt like it was an appropriate designation because of their historic role as trailblazers.”

The 350-bed undergraduate residence hall will be known as Pack Place. Both projects are part of the university’s first public-private partnership to construct on-campus housing and will open for the fall 2017 semester.

Welch said the system is preparing for the upcoming legislative session. A new higher education funding formula based on productivity and outcomes and a proposal to allow faculty and staff to carry concealed guns will be among the major issues, he said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson proposes $10 million in new funding for higher education for fiscal 2019. Welch expressed appreciation for what would be the first increase available to all institutions in 20 years.

Welch said he also anticipates a number of national issues to be discussed during the session, including bathroom accessibility, the Affordable Care Act and the concept of sanctuary campuses.

Chancellor Debra West of ASU Mid-South said the campus would join the ASU System’s self-funded health plan with Cigna effective Feb. 1. Mid-South currently is a member of the Arkansas Higher Education Consortium, for which QualChoice is the provider. Among other benefits, West said, the change will allow Mid-South employees to obtain family coverage at a more affordable rate.

“I often get asked about the advantage of joining a system,” said West, whose campus became part of ASU in 2015. “One of the true advantages is the health care plan. Our current family rate is prohibitive, and we look forward to offering this opportunity to our faculty and staff.”

Chancellor Robin Myers of ASU-Mountain Home said a new 4,500 square-foot Mechatronics Lab opened in the campus Technical Center. Baxter Laboratories, a local manufacturer, committed $1.55 million for the lab construction and equipment.

Trustee Ron Rhodes of Cherokee Village said the Mountain Home lab “is pretty indicative of what community colleges are doing for our workforce.”

The new IGNITE Academy pilot program launched this fall at ASU-Newport, Chancellor Sandra Massey said. The career training center for high school students will provide 70 high school students from four Newport area school districts an opportunity to earn workforce-ready credentials upon graduation.

Chancellor Karla Fisher of ASU-Beebe said the campus continues to implement a reorganization plan and is updating its strategic plan with “a process that focuses on what should we be and not what should we do.”

In other business, the Board:

• Elected Ron Rhodes to succeed Howard Slinkard of Rogers as chair of the board in 2017. Dr. Tim Langford of Little Rock was elected vice chair, and Niel Crowson of Jonesboro will serve as secretary.

• Approved revision of the system’s Investment Collateralization Policy to include a letter of credit from the Federal Home Loan Bank as an eligible financial pledge.

• Approved an easement to City Water and Light Plant of Jonesboro to install sanitary sewer line infrastructure through a portion of A-State property near the corner of Longhorn and Hereford Drives. The university will bear no cost, and the infrastructure work will support future development on A-State property.

• Approved the new College of Liberal Arts and Communication, which combines the previous Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences, Media and Communication, and Fine Arts.

• Approved A-State’s request to offer a master’s degree in athletic training and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree with nurse anesthesia option.

• Conferred an honorary doctorate degree from A-State to Robert M. “Bob” Wood, posthumously. The A-State College of Business created the R.M. “Bob” Wood Sales Leadership Center in 2015 after the Wood family provided a gift of $1 million.

• Approved ASU-Mountain Home’s request to offer the Associate of Applied Science degree in Programming/Mobile Development, a Technical Certificate in Programming/Mobile Development and a Certificate of Proficiency in Programming/Mobile Development.

Following an executive session, the Board approved several academic and non-academic appointments and extended Welch’s five-year contract as president to June 30, 2021.

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