Chancellor Steinmetz Delivers Annual State of the University Address
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Chancellor Joe Steinmetz delivered his annual state of the university address virtually this year, noting successes in the last year, discussing the challenges and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and gave an update on the future of the academic mission.
“For me, this annual fall tradition is important: It allows us to pause and take stock of the university – and in many ways count our blessings,” Steinmetz said, adding that despite the ongoing public health emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic the university achieved some major accomplishments over the last year. These included:
The extraordinary transition to 100% remote learning over the course of 9 days last spring.
Successful completion of Campaign Arkansas, which raised nearly $1.45 billion for student, faculty, program and capital support.
This included a $194.7 million grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to establish the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research – or I3R.
It also included funds to establish a satellite campus in Bentonville that will include outreach, research, lab space, and educational space.
Graduation rates reached 68.49% and freshmen retention rates reached 85% - both record highs.
Enrollment increased slightly, to 27,562.
The ability to do increased COVID-19 testing, ideally no less than 300 tests a week.
The U of A will remain open following Thanksgiving break and will hold in-person fall commencement ceremonies.
Securing three separate NSF grants averaging $1 million to advance diversity in the STEM fields.
Steinmetz also spent some time detailing the financial impact of the pandemic. He noted that university budgeted for a $15.7 million reduction in state funding this year, due to an expected decline in tax revenues. He also calculated the cost of discounted, canceled and delayed classes, programs, and events as being in excess of $22 million through early August. This included lost revenue from things like canceling the Walmart shareholder’s meeting, issuing dining and housing credits, and canceling athletic events.
Noting that the university faced a similarly large cut last year, only to see it restored on the last day of the fiscal year, Steinmetz added, “I have my fingers crossed that revenue for the state will continue to come in higher than predicted in the spring and that at least some of our current fiscal year cuts will be restored.”
Steinmetz also encouraged students and faculty to resume face-to-face classes, noting that they can be done safely, “as evidenced by the extremely low rates of infection by our faculty, staff, and grad students.” He went on to say that “Face-to-face classes are an important part of the energy and atmosphere of campus – as well as the uniqueness of both the college experience and the University of Arkansas experience.”
Despite the challenges of the last year, Steinmetz remained confident that the U of A would continue to make progress.
“I think the overall message here today is that we are going to stay focused. We are not going to let COVID-19 prevent us from moving forward. We are going to retain students and graduate students at record rates and we are going to position them for post-graduation success. We are going to conduct world-class research, continue to build and maintain strong graduate programs, and continue to find ways to provide our faculty with the support they need to be successful. We are going to win grants, gifts, and awards that open doors and create opportunities. We are going to continue diversifying our students, staff and faculty and create a more inclusive environment. And we are going to continue to do everything in our power to keep our campus community safe and healthy…. We are going to look back and be proud of who we were and what we accomplished in difficult times.”
The State of the University address highlights One University Week, which continues through Oct. 16 and also features an academic update from the provost and other key university news. The address was livestreamed on the university’s Youtube channel and can be found here.
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 fewer than 3 percent of colleges and 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.
Hardin Young, manager of executive communications
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