U of A Institute to Launch Statewide

Elecia Smith
University Relations

Elecia Smith

The IDEALS Institute at the University of Arkansas is slated to open in fall 2019 after earning a grant to help fund its initiatives and receiving approval last month from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. The institute, which receives external support, will provide diversity- and inclusion-related research, educational and training services, and outreach and engagement to entities across the state.

The IDEALS Institute will serve the U of A campus and partner with government agencies, community groups, philanthropic organizations, businesses, public schools and fellow higher education institutions, serving Arkansas as a hub of expertise, leadership and support for diversity and inclusion efforts.

"The IDEALS Institute — standing for inclusion, diversity, equity, access, leadership and strategic supports — will provide resources, expertise and thought leadership to advance those six key areas across our state and beyond," said Yvette Murphy-Erby, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. "Research shows that diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in leadership can increase a company's bottom line, drive innovation, attract talent and foster growth — all of which translate to positive outcomes for our campus, region and state."

While the institute is opening in the fall, it is already developing a series of internal best practices and recommendations as a participant in TRUE Northwest Arkansas, a pilot initiative aimed to engage communities in diversity and inclusion, administered by Arkansas Community Foundation with support from the Walmart Foundation and Walton Family Foundation.

Elecia Smith, currently the assistant dean of human resources, diversity and faculty services in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, will lead the institute's development as its executive director, effective May 13.

She brings a wealth of qualifications to the role, highlighted by working in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance at the U of A and nearly seven years in human resources and diversity-related positions in Fulbright College, in addition to serving on numerous diversity committees at the university and in the community.

"I am extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity to lead the IDEALS Institute," Smith said. "I believe our mission to provide transformational diversity, equity, and inclusion education, research, leadership, outreach and support will contribute to organizations that seek to foster growth, maximizes effectiveness, and supports well-being. I am honored to be a part of this important endeavor."

Murphy-Erby added the U of A is uniquely suited to serve as a conduit for addressing the statewide need for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.   

"As one of the largest employers in the state with a robust research and scholarship capacity, technological infrastructure and other resources, the U of A is well-positioned to drive transformative and achievable change in the areas of diversity and inclusion," Murphy-Erby said.

The institute will continue to be supported in part by grant and philanthropic support and revenue generated from its services. 

For more information about the IDEALS Institute, contact Murphy-Erby at 479-575-3338.

Contacts

John Post, director of academic communications
University Relations
479-575-2151, johnpost@uark.edu

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