The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Senate sponsored an open forum Friday afternoon in the Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Center that provided interested faculty, students, staff and members of the community with the opportunity to learn about and contribute their ideas to the selection process for the next chancellor.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Senate sponsored an open forum Friday afternoon in the Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Center that provided interested faculty, students, staff and members of the community with the opportunity to learn about and contribute their ideas to the selection process for the next chancellor.

The forum was attended by University of Arkansas System President Donald. R. Bobbitt, who briefed the audience of approximately 70 people on the next steps in the search for a successor to former chancellor Lawrence A. Davis, Jr., who retired May 25 after more than 20 years of service.

“Who replaced Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls?” Bobbitt asked. “Actually it took three people but I ask this because I am the successor to B. Alan Sugg, who served as University of Arkansas System President for 21 years. In addition, we are beginning the process of finding a successor to Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, who served here admirably for years.”

“This is one of those moments that don’t come around very often,” Bobbitt said. “This is an opportunity for the world to know more about UAPB across the United States and an opportunity to present its accomplishments, hopes and aspirations of this institution if we do it right. That is why this is a watershed moment for UAPB.”

Bobbitt said that the next step in the search process would be the selection of a search firm.

“We should look at a search firm to participate in the selection process in part because this can help to preserve anonymity for candidates to a certain extent,” Bobbitt said. “Search firms have a Rolodex of potential clients that they can contact. By using a search firm we can project the image of UAPB across the U.S.”

Bobbitt said that another part of the process will be the selection of an advisory committee to work with Bobbitt and participate in the vetting of potential chancellor candidates.

“I envision asking for five faculty members, two deans, or two senior administrators and one student to make up the committee,” Bobbitt said. “There will probably be at least one community member and one member of the UAPB Alumni Association.”

“At least initially many individuals will apply but not all will meet the minimum qualifications,” Bobbitt said. “The search firm will be an assistant to the process. We will reduce the pool of applicants down to somewhere around 10 to 14 which will then be whittled down to three or four that the committee feels the university community will respond to as a leader.”

Bobbitt said that the final candidates will be invited to the UAPB campus, where they will participate in interviews with committee members over a two day period.

“This involves the whole campus community,” Bobbitt said. “I will make clear to the committee that they provide me a list of acceptable candidates. Serious candidates will have to learn a lot about UAPB in a short amount of time.”

Bobbitt said that requests for search firms will go out next week with 12 or 13 firms on the contact list.

“No more than six weeks from now we will have a committee and a search firm in place,” Bobbitt said. “The application deadline will be in November or December and the interviews should begin by February or March.”

Q and A

The forum included an opportunity for audience members to ask questions.

Several people asked if the makeup of the advisory committee was already set or whether suggestions would be accepted as to who might sit on the panel.

“What I gave was a rough outline and is not set in stone,” Bobbitt said of the plans for the committee. “It is important that we have a strong academic side of the committee because the product we produce in a university is the students.”

UAPB chemistry professor Grant Wangila said that time limits on chancellor contracts with any renewal contingent upon a successful performance review would be a good idea.

Bobbitt agreed that such an approach was a good one and said that his own contract was for three years and would include a performance review before a contract renewal.

Desired chancellor traits

Finally, attendees were encouraged to share their thoughts on the type of person who should be selected as the next chancellor of UAPB.

“We do need someone who understands the traditions of historically black colleges and universities but they do not need to live and die by it,” said UAPB student John James Jr. “We need someone who understands the rest of the world and knows that we are not just in competition with other HBCUs but with the rest of the world. We need someone who will help us to compete with the world and not just in Pine Bluff.”

UAPB student Marquies Carter said that the new chancellor should work to foster the UAPB brand.

“When people hear ‘Razorbacks’ they they know you are talking about Fayetteville,” Carter said. “The new chancellor should promote the UAPB brand so that when people hear ‘Golden Lions’ they will think of UAPB.”

UAPB student affairs coordinator Elbert Bennett said that a new chancellor should be sensitive to the needs of the community in seeing that qualified students have opportunities in Pine Bluff after they graduate.

“We need to stop the brain drain and partner with businesses in Pine Bluff to create internships,” Bennett said.

UAPB employee James Vaughn said that a new chancellor should be God-centered.

“One of the things we need most in a chancellor is that they know God,” Vaughn said. “They need to have a well-rounded belief in God. Now, which God, I don’t know. They need to be human-centered and not money-centered.”

Summing up

“I’ve heard all of your comments and there are men and women who can live up to the standards you have conveyed,” Bobbitt said. “I have no doubt about that.”

Bobbitt cautioned that the next chancellor would have to be creative in maintaining the highest quality education for students because federal funding for grants and other forms of student aid is being dramatically cut back.

“Federal programs are under assault,” Bobbitt said. “The next chancellor will be functioning in resource-limited conditions.”