One of the most significant accomplishments to occur for the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith since Dr. Paul Beran became chancellor is now moving forward.
Beran applauds the leadership of Dr. Donald Bobbitt, president of the UA System, and the Board of Trustees for the University of Arkansas System for approving at the board’s last meeting the opportunity for UAFS to make application for a role and scope change. Successful completion of the approval process will allow UAFS to offer master’s degree programs, with the first a Master of Science in Healthcare Administration.
“This is very exciting for UAFS and the Greater Fort Smith Region,” said Beran of the role and scope change, “with the opening of our new library as another significant accomplishment in the last seven years. In the biggest, biggest perspective, the ability to grant master’s degrees -- with the library to support it -- shows we are meeting the needs of our region’s citizens.”
Beran also said the new role and scope for UAFS fits with the University’s vision, connecting education with careers.
“In our Five-Year Strategic Plan, we said we planned to explore the feasibility of graduate programs to be implemented based on the region’s economic demands,” said Beran. “The approval of this master’s degree program will serve as a forward step in this direction. The new degree also fits with the UAFS mission, preparing students to succeed in an ever-changing global world while advancing economic development and quality of place.”
The role and scope change now goes before the Arkansas Department of Higher Education on July 26 before going to the Higher Learning Commission. Both entities will assign evaluators to visit the UAFS campus.
“The System Board approval was a very important day in the history of the institution,” said Beran, who also acknowledged vast community support from the region’s health care, business, and donor professionals.
“I thank both Doug Babb, CEO of Cooper Clinic, and Paul Harvel, president of the Greater Fort Smith Chamber, for attending this UA Board meeting in Stuttgart to show the community’s support for this action.”
Dr. Ray Wallace, provost and senior vice chancellor, said UAFS developed a compelling case for the role and scope change.
“We also designed a very solid first degree program in Healthcare Administration,” Wallace said. “The degree will be completely online and will be open to those holding undergraduate degrees in the healthcare or business fields.”
Wallace said “persuasive” documents were developed by Dr. Brenda Mitchell, associate provost and former dean of the College of Health Sciences, and Dr. Carolyn Mosley, the current dean, as well as selected healthcare and business faculty.
“We have cleared the first hurdle, and now we move forward in what will be a two-year process to become eligible to offer this graduate degree,” said Wallace. “After the first graduate degree proposal process is completed, then we expect to add additional graduate degrees.”
UAFS contacted 30 major healthcare employers in the service area and asked them to respond to a survey about the new master’s degree possibility. A total of 71 percent of those responding said they would have positions for graduates of this program if it were currently offered.
Of 292 licensed nurses who were told about the possible master’s degree program, 132 reported a high level of interest. In addition, UAFS surveyed current students with declared degree intent of a bachelor’s degree in a health sciences program. That survey showed an interest in the program by 109 of the 166 students responding.