Tuesday marked the visit of the final provost candidate, Calvin White, Ph.D., where he discussed his plans for Arkansas State University if chosen as provost.
White is an associate dean in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas. He holds a doctorate in history from the University of Mississippi. He also oversees the Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History and the Blair Center for Southern Politics and Society.
If chosen as provost, White said he plans to increase pathways for faculty and staff development, increase research opportunities, “fulfill and exceed” A-State’s responsibility to students and help create a campus where every student will feel welcomed.
A major topic White discussed was the upcoming 2025 enrollment cliff, which is the expected year in which traditional incoming college student numbers will drop by 10-15%. To combat this, White said the university not only needs to communicate the value of higher education, but that he will work collaboratively with faculty and staff.
In addition, White would work to increase faculty research at A-State. Currently, A-State is classified as an R2 institution, which means it has high research activity. R1 is the highest classification, meaning a school in that category has the “highest research activity.”
“We’re going to have dual pathways,” White said. “That means your workload percentage needs to be 80% teaching and 20% service.”
White plans to take existing research areas in which “A-State is already excelling” such as agriculture research, the Arkansas BioSciences Institute, A-State Student Payload Opportunity and the Delta Center for Economic Development and build partnerships with state and national grant agencies.
White plans to increase the graduation rate from 53% to 65%. He said in order to raise that figure, A-State must tackle that goal methodically. He added that most students stop attending school in between their third and fourth years.
“We know where the bottleneck is,” White said. “Let’s study it, let’s put some resources behind it, some student success initiatives behind it, because we’ve got to do better.”
White concluded by speaking about his views on leadership and diversity.
“Don’t run around saying I’m lucky because I’m the Black provost. I should never hear you say that,” White said. “You better believe in the value of experiences.”
After White’s discussion, the floor was opened up to the faculty and staff in attendance for discussion.
Christine Wright, department chair of occupational therapy asked about the usage of racial and homophobic slurs on the anonymous social media app YikYak and how posts can negatively affect LGBTQ+ and students of color.
“We say we have a zero tolerance policy, which is dumb,” White said. “If we really don’t, then stop saying it.”
“Can you give us a little bit of a background, perhaps with regard to heritage studies, heritage retention, museums, playing a role in all of this with your background in African American history in the Delta?” said Michael Reinschmidt, director of the A-State museum.
White said the museum could serve as a tourist attraction and help change Jonesboro from a “town with a college to a college town.”
The full livestream can be viewed on the official A-State YouTube page. The provost selection committee will be meeting later this week to discuss the candidates, although a date has not been decided yet.
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