Chancellor's Message: Welcome to Spring 2022
This Monday, we begin our spring 2022 classes. As we enter this new year, I am filled with a mixture of excitement and concern. I am excited about the programs, events, and education that occur on and off-campus, and I am equally concerned about our safety as we are gripped by the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and the increases in active infections and hospitalizations in Arkansas and across the United States.
On Monday, a large group of university administrators, faculty, staff, and students met to discuss updated guidance from the CDC and Arkansas Department of Health. As a result of our discussion and further information from the Arkansas Department of Health, we have revised our campus procedural document, Protecting the Pride for Spring 2022. The document elaborates on the following major changes:
- The CDC has reduced the number of days required for isolation and quarantine (please see the document for details) and our campus will follow the guidelines published for the public.
- The Arkansas Department of Health announced that they will no longer conduct contact tracing for individuals aged 18 and older. They strongly encourage individuals who test positive for COVID-19 to notify the people with whom they have had close contact, defined as 15 minutes or more over the course of 24 hours, so those individuals can quarantine or get tested.
- UAFS will continue to require individuals on campus to wear face masks/coverings while indoors and when a distance of 6’ or more cannot be maintained. Masks and/or face coverings should be well-fitting, covering nose and mouth, and we encourage wearing a disposable, medical mask (available for free all over campus) or KN95/N95 mask (not available on campus).
Our leadership team will meet weekly to discuss active case counts for our campus and region to make determinations about future actions which may be necessary to provide a safe campus environment.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday: The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith will observe Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, January 17. Although offices are closed and classes are not held, there are many opportunities for our whole community to celebrate the life, legacy, and teachings of Dr. King, including:
Sunday, January 16 An Ecumenical service will take place at 6:30 p.m. at St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Smith.
Monday, January 17 The annual MLK Breakfast will begin at 8 a.m. at the Stubblefield Center at UAFS. The free, public event will include a panel discussion featuring panelists from the Community Clearing House, Literacy Council, Salvation Army, Crisis Stabilization Unit, and will be moderated by Mayor George McGill.
Wednesday, January 19 A fireside chat will take place at noon at the fireplace of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center featuring Bente Eriksen, Executive Director of the Literacy Council of Western Arkansas.
Friday, January 21 A fireside chat will take place at noon at the fireplace of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center featuring Joey Potts, Program Director at the Sebastian County Crisis Stabilization Unit.
January 10 – January 20
- A school supply drive benefitting regional students will be held throughout the week in honor of Dr. King’s commitment to education.
- A collection of books and selected writings about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be on display at the UAFS Boreham Library.
- A peanut butter drive will be held with collection boxes at the Stubblefield Center entrance and in the Smith-Pendergraft the Campus Center benefitting the River Valley Regional Food Bank. Peanut butter is a shelf-stable source of protein that is highly coveted by food banks and the families and children who frequent them.
Peak Innovation Center: Last Thursday, I spoke with Fort Smith Public Schools Superintendent Terry Morawski, and he made me aware that the Peak Innovation Center, FSPS’ center for career and technical training, will not open in January due to supply chain delays and labor shortages. As you may be aware, UAFS is in partnership with FSPS to offer credentials in computer network engineering, advanced manufacturing, and health sciences/LPN at the Peak Innovation Center for students from 22 high schools who enroll through the Western Arkansas Technical Center. I am grateful for the work of Dean Latisha Settlage, Director Amanda Seidenzahl, and the faculty teaching in the programs. Through their strategic decision-making and quick actions, we have made arrangements for classes to continue on our main campus until we can occupy the space. Our new plan is to move our equipment to the Peak Innovation Center during spring break in order to maximize contact hours for classes, minimize downtime for the equipment, and allow students time to learn in the state-of-the-art facility for the last 4-5 weeks of the semester.
UAFS Center for Economic Development: I am delighted to announce that the UAFS Center for Economic Development, the only Center of its kind in the state of Arkansas, has transitioned all operations to their new home at The Bakery District. I had the opportunity to visit on Tuesday of this week, and I was excited to see offices and learning spaces that are both well-designed and honor the heritage of the historic Holsum Bakery. I appreciate our partnership with KMW Properties, owners of the Bakery District, who allowed us to lease this space in order to create the hub for innovative economic development strategies that will transform, diversify, and grow the number and types of businesses in our Region. I am particularly grateful for the leadership and vision of Kendall Ross, Director of the Center for Business and Professional Development and Interim Director of the Family Enterprise Center. He has engaged in meetings with the City of Fort Smith, the KMW Properties, architects and engineers, and included experts from our faculty, Plant Operations, IT, and UPD to ensure that the space is safe, inviting, and well-designed to meet our needs today and in the future. It is primarily due to his hard work that this project is completed on-time, and on-budget which is no small feat during these tough times. Kendall assures me that we will host a formal ribbon cutting/open house for employees, students, and friends of UAFS this spring. I look forward to making good use of this new space, including tonight when the UAFS Chapter of AAUP hosts the “Faculty Welcome Back Bash” at the Bakery District Entertainment Space.
Confession: I have already failed at my new year’s resolution to shorten my campus messages, but It is always my pleasure to share each of the important news stories and events of our university with you. I wish each of you a safe, productive spring 2022!
As always, I am honored to serve as your chancellor.