December 1, 2006
Arkansas State University –

Warm Greetings! I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. As your newly appointed chancellor, I am pleased to continue Dr. Les Wyatt’s practice of sharing information with you monthly through this report. In preparing for interviews during the search process, I found these reports to be most helpful in learning about current issues facing the campus. Likewise, I shall attempt to keep you informed of items that might interest you as we move forward together in serving our campus, region and state. In this issue, I want to thank you for voting in favor of the higher education bond issue, tell you what I have done during my first days as your chancellor, and acquaint you with some of the things I will be doing over the next few weeks.

First, let me express my sincere thanks to the Search Committee, Dr. Wyatt, and the Board of Trustees for giving Irene and me an invitation to join you on the Jonesboro campus. We are humbled and delighted to have been chosen from an excellent field of finalists. This is a wonderful opportunity to work with outstanding faculty, staff, students, governing board, community, alumni and friends network, and our system president to move ASU to even greater accomplishments in the weeks and months ahead. I pledge to you my best efforts to become an effective and collegial member of your team.

On Nov. 7, the higher education bond issue was passed, with 69 percent of Arkansas voters expressing support for the plan. This support was especially pleasing to the higher education community because a similar proposal was defeated in a previous referendum. Your work and vote for the bonds, along with supporting efforts by our colleagues on other public campuses, made a huge impact on the success of the effort. Thanks so much for your support.

According to our best estimates, ASU-Jonesboro will receive approximately $9 million from the issue for capital projects. Dr. Wyatt described them in the Nov. 3 issue of First Friday. The Jonesboro campus will use $1.5 million to link to National Lambda Rail, a network of research universities; $4.5 million to renovate the Chickasaw Building for academic use by the College of Nursing and Health Professions; and $3.3 million to match two federal grants for construction of a building to house the Delta Center for Economic Development and related spaces that will be shared with the College of Business.

Since beginning my duties on Nov. 15, I have been very busy orienting myself to the campus and its people, and attending functions and events. I was pleased during my first two days on campus to host at separate times the Faculty Senate officers, the Staff Senate Officers and the SGA officers. This was an opportunity for me to ask them about important issues facing our campus and to solicit their advice as to matters I should focus on during my first weeks and months in office. I appreciate all of them giving me their advice. Likewise, I was pleased to attend a recent meeting of the Paragould Rotary Club where Dean Len Frey spoke to the group about activities and plans in the College of Business.

Also, I represented the university at the annual meeting of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. I have been a member of AASCU for many years, and served a term on its Board of Directors.  Jim Fisher, a former university president who has written and consulted widely about universities and colleges, gave a keynote address about the characteristics his empirical research has shown are possessed by effective university leaders. My friend Sally Clausen, president of the University of Louisiana System, gave the annual Presidents-to-Presidents lecture where she highlighted examples of transformational leadership from chancellors, faculty and students in her system who dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on their respective campuses. Also, we heard the somewhat controversial views of Charles Miller, who chairs U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ Commission on the Future of Higher Education. I also attended a roundtable discussion with other chancellors and presidents on what works to internationalize a campus.

Finally, Irene and I have enjoyed cheering for our student athletes in two recent sports events. The first was on Nov. 14 when our women’s basketball team soundly defeated the University of Alabama. An impressive ceremony at halftime also recognized 156 student-athletes from all sports who had achieved distinction in their studies as evidenced by their GPA and membership on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for the spring 2006 semester. Second, we attended the football game at Troy University on Nov. 18, where our team played brilliantly and defeated Troy, 33-26.

Another important event in the life of our university is coming up soon. Fall Commencement will be Friday, Dec. 15. There are 730 candidates for degrees, 167 at the graduate level and 563 at the undergraduate level.  I commend these students for their significant achievements, and wish them well as they pursue their goals. Thanks to all of you who contributed to their success.

Shortly after the beginning of the spring semester, I want to begin visits to the colleges, divisions and departments on campus to meet as many of you as I can, and to listen personally to your concerns and suggestions. In the meantime, I plan to work hard for you as we together move our excellent university forward. If you have questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me at Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful Holiday Season.

Robert L. Potts

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