University's Role in Economic Development to Be Amplified

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Through the University of Arkansas' grassroots process of strategic planning and its development of eight guiding priorities, one element that emerged is the need for the university to broaden its established role in supporting the state's economic development. In order to refocus the university's strategic economic development presence, Chancellor Joseph E. Steinmetz has given a special assignment to Dean Stacy Leeds to serve as interim vice chancellor for economic development, in addition to her role as dean of law.

Leeds will be tasked with defining, crafting and implementing a plan for economic development for the University of Arkansas. Working with other units across campus, she will inventory and assess what the institution is currently doing in the full range of its activities to drive economic well-being in Arkansas' communities, determine what needs business and industry in Arkansas have, and propose ways the university can play a mutually beneficial role in advancing these interests. Further, her duties will include coordinating with the academic units on campus and other deans. 

"I am excited to help maximize the university's capacity for adding direct social and economic value to Arkansas communities and beyond," Leeds said. "In this role, I will listen, learn and develop strategies that are mutually beneficial to business, industry and the University of Arkansas while also providing opportunities for students to gain experience and faculty to lend their expertise." 

Both students and faculty will benefit from an enhanced economic development program and support, meeting the university's land-grant and flagship responsibilities of serving the state through experiential opportunities afforded for participating in such projects and programs that advance the economy, support industry and positively impact the quality of life in the region and state.

 Chancellor Steinmetz is currently serving as presiding co-chair of the Northwest Arkansas Council, which provides synergy and good timing for the establishment of the university's economic development strategy. The council is a group of area business leaders charged with developing strategies to elevate educational attainment, infrastructure, regional vibrancy and a comprehensive approach to economic development.

"Dean Leeds was assigned this role in large part due to her strong record of public service and engagement," Steinmetz said. "She has achieved substantial success in the School of Law in recent years and is a well-respected leader and consensus builder on campus."

In 2011, she was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to serve a two-year term on the National Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform. The commission conducted a forward-looking, comprehensive evaluation of the federal government's management and administration of nearly $4 billion in American Indian trust assets. 

Leeds is frequently tapped to provide conflict resolution (including arbitration and mediation) in government, higher education and the private sector. She currently holds board appointments with Arvest Bank, Arkansas Children's Northwest, the American Indian Graduate Center Inc., the Law School Admission Council Inc., the Charles Thomas & Mary Alice Pearson Educational Foundation, and the Northwest Arkansas Council Executive Committee.

 The university's contributions to economic development are distributed across many campus units. These include active collaborations with industry, engaging students in industry projects and entrepreneurism, and helping to establish student internships. Additionally, the university improves economic well-being in Arkansas' communities through services the campus provides such as in health and education and through cultural and athletic activities.

Driving economic development through research, innovation and the commercialization of intellectual property has been an important focus of the vice provost for research and economic development. Research,  discovery-and innovation will become an even more important role for the university, per the university's eight guiding priorities, and Jim Rankin will continue leadership of the research and discovery mission as well as the commercialization of intellectual property with a new title as vice provost for research and innovation.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations
University Relations


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