I tour the campus of Southern Arkansas College with SAU president and childhood buddy Trey Berry. When you find yourself the chief of Magnolia’s Mule Riders, you drive a pickup truck after all. Berry drives by means of his truck, into the parking zone, and even onto the path so you may witness what I name the “SAU miracle.”
Most of southern Arkansas is struggling lately. Almost each county south of Little Rock is declining in inhabitants, and native enterprise and civic leaders are struggling to reverse the development. However SAU is flourishing.
In recent times, the newspaper has devoted hundreds of column inches to tales in regards to the struggles of Henderson State College in Arkadelphia, which as soon as had extra college students than SAU. Henderson’s enrollment numbers final 12 months noticed him drop to 2,900. SAU he was 4,400.
Graduate enrollment at Magnolia Faculty elevated by 29% within the 2021-22 educational 12 months. Areas of progress embrace Grasp of Arts in Training, Grasp of Enterprise Administration, Grasp of Laptop Science, Grasp of Instructional Administration and Supervision, and Grasp of Science in Scientific and Psychological Well being Counseling.
There may be additionally a brand new PhD in Native and Numerous Instructional Management.It’s the solely PhD in Training provided south of Little Rock. There may be additionally a brand new medical administration main provided by the Rankin Faculty of Enterprise.
Since taking on as president in 2015, Berry has specialised in creating educational applications that college students demand. His applications similar to computer-driven video games design and animation have led to a rise in worldwide college students. Final fall, he had 55 worldwide college students and his 277 worldwide college students from 39 nations.
I did a campus tour much like Berry’s a couple of years in the past.
“Are you able to consider there are over 200 college students in that program now?” Berry asks as we move the constructing. “Truly, three-quarters of his college students are enrolled within the science and engineering division.”
The college has acquired exterior grants, together with a $1 million federal grant introduced in April to implement a Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention initiative aimed toward narrowing healthcare gaps in rural areas. .
The SAU’s rural providers roots return to its creation in 1909 when Governor George W. Donaghy signed Act 100 to ascertain the Third District Agricultural College. His three different district agricultural colleges created by this act had been Arkansas State College at Jonesboro, Arkansas Tech College at Russellville, and the College of Arkansas at Monticello.
SAU stays true to those native roots in some ways. Previous the rooster coop, Berry factors out that, outdoors of the College of Arkansas, Fayetteville, the varsity provides the one poultry science diploma within the state. The college farm is flourishing and is now one of the crucial common strolling he trails on this a part of the state.
Associates and alumni have observed the progress. The college’s fundraising marketing campaign exceeded his purpose by 33%, and in 5 years he raised $29.7 million.
Donated by the descendants of former Governor Ben Rainey, the 750-acre farm shall be reworked into what is named the Conservation Campus. Berry hopes to work carefully with the Arkansas Sport and Fish Fee and its foundations to assist the farm notice its potential and profit wildlife and marine biology college students.
Berry envisions a system of nature trails, changing barns into youth hostels, and way more, making the property an area attraction. A non-public developer plans to construct a resort and he two eating places on close by university-owned land. The property additionally lends itself to the expansion of the varsity’s membership sports activities similar to fishing and lure taking pictures. At Laney Farm, he already has SAU’s state-of-the-art lure taking pictures facility.
The farm features a delicate scientific examine space the place educational area analysis is performed. School and college students acquire and examine samples in designated zones, together with hayfields, ponds, forests, and wetlands.
Berry is a historian with a deep understanding of Southern Arkansas’ previous and a imaginative and prescient for the long run.
“Faculty cities are a beacon of hope for our a part of the state,” he says. We have seen an enchancment in high quality of life drive some spectacular progress in Northwest Arkansas, we do not see that form of progress, we’re elevating the bar right here, however the identical sort of Enhancements can actually play a job in ending migration.
“For years we have now been chasing the economic improvement rabbit. It was all about constructing manufacturing crops. Today, it’s the high quality of life that drives financial improvement. We’re capable of preserve it going due to what we do at Magnolia, we’re a part of the youthful technology in Southern Arkansas.”
Berry sees it as a contemporary strategy to financial improvement that’s firmly rooted within the area’s rural previous.
“Agricultural and wildlife biology are the quickest rising applications at this college,” he says. “College students perceive that they will make good careers in these areas and keep near dwelling. Giving younger individuals a motive to remain in Southern Arkansas as an alternative of sitting round and complaining about depopulation. If we make the suitable transfer now, lots of them will keep and our job is to proceed to construct that basis.”
Senior Editor Rex Nelson’s column seems repeatedly within the Arkansas Democratic Gazette. He’s additionally the writer of his Southern Fried his weblog at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.