UA to of­fer cour­ses in Lit­tle Rock for ex­ecs

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - JAIME ADAME

Plans are in the works for a Univer­sity of Ar­kan­sas of­fice in down­town Lit­tle Rock to ex­pand the school’s of­fer­ing of cus­tom­ized busi­ness cour­ses to in­dus­try.

“These are non­credit-type pro­grams, usu­ally short in du­ra­tion,” said Brent Williams, as­so­ciate dean for ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion and out­reach at UA’s Sam M. Wal­ton Col­lege of Busi­ness.

UA might lease a space at the cor­ner of Main and 2nd streets owned by fi­nan­cial ser­vices firm Stephens Inc., Williams said. The site would be used to host small classes, but no timetable has been set for es­tab­lish­ing the out­post.

“I re­ally hope, cer­tainly this year, and the sooner the bet­ter re­ally,” Williams said.

Williams said he’s been trav­el­ing fre­quently to Lit­tle Rock for meet­ings with com­pa­nies to as­sess their needs.

“How can we take what we are good at and our net­work of peo­ple, and de­sign cour­ses that will meet those needs?” Williams said. Ac­countin­gand fi­nance- ori­ented pro­grams spe­cially tai­lored for com­pa­nies could be among the of­fer­ings, he added.

In 2014, the univer­sity be­gan de­vel­op­ing a cur­ricu­lum for North­west Ar­kan­sas-based trans­port com­pany J.B. Hunt Trans­port Ser­vices Inc., cre­at­ing cus­tom­ized cour­ses re­lat­ing to sup­ply-chain man­age­ment. The ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram for J.B. Hunt em­ploy­ees con­tin­ues, Williams said.

“We want to be able to reach out and serve the en­tire state,” Williams said.

In Lit­tle Rock, the Univer­sity of Ar­kan­sas at Lit­tle Rock al­ready of­fers a de­gree pro­gram aimed at work­ing ex­ec­u­tives.

Allen Hicks, a spokesman for UALR, said the school’s busi­ness col­lege in Jan­uary 2015 be­gan of­fer­ing a week­end pro­gram for stu­dents to earn a master’s in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion. Hicks said 70 stu­dents are en­rolled.

But UALR does not of­fer cus­tom­ized, non­de­gree pro­grams for in­dus­try, Hicks said.

“We don’t have some­thing that specif­i­cally would du­pli­cate what Fayet­teville is talk­ing about do­ing,” Hicks said.

Else­where, pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties in other states op­er­ate ex­ec­u­tive-ed­u­ca­tion out­posts re­moved from the main cam­pus. In 2012, Texas A&M Univer­sity opened an ex­ec­u­tive-ed­u­ca­tion of­fice in Hous­ton, about 100 miles from the school’s main cam­pus, a spokesman said. At the Hous­ton site, the school of­fers an ex­ec­u­tive master’s de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion as well as cus­tom­ized cour­ses for in­dus­try.

Michael Deside­rio, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ex­ec­u­tive MBA Coun­cil, a mem­ber­ship or­ga­ni­za­tion that does not in­clude UA, said schools vary in their ap­proaches to es­tab­lish­ing satel­lite sites. The Univer­sity of Michi­gan of­fers an ex­ec­u­tive MBA pro­gram in Los An­ge­les, Deside­rio said.

Open­ing a satel­lite of­fice for ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion is not un­com­mon, Deside­rio said, though the phys­i­cal de­tails vary. Some schools opt to rent space in ho­tels, for ex­am­ple.

“It’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent de­pend­ing on the school and what the school’s goals are for that area,” Deside­rio said.

Williams said UA’s Wal­ton Col­lege wants to host a speaker se­ries in Lit­tle Rock. The univer­sity has con­sid­ered rent­ing ho­tel and con­ven­tion space, “but we re­ally need, let’s call it a home base,” Williams said.

On­line classes have an im­por­tant role, Williams said, but he spoke about “blended” cour­ses that in­clude face-to­face en­gage­ment.

“I think that to re­ally do ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion and to do it well, I think you have to have some of both,” Williams said.

The Fayet­teville cam­pus and fac­ulty mem­bers also should ben­e­fit from the open­ing of a new of­fice, he said.

While some of the rev­enue will go back into ex­ec­u­tive-ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams, the “net dol­lars that we cre­ate” also will go to­ward re­search and teach­ing in aca­demic units, Williams said. The model is to “bring net new re­sources to the col­lege and the univer­sity,” he added.

Williams said cen­tral Ar­kan­sas has strong re­tail and bank­ing and that the ex­pe­ri­ence gained from hav­ing a pres­ence in cen­tral Ar­kan­sas will help the main cam­pus.

“I think we’re go­ing to ex­pose our fac­ulty to dif­fer­ent mar­kets, to other unique con­texts. And when you do that, I be­lieve you learn. I be­lieve you be­come bet­ter re­searchers; I be­lieve you be­come bet­ter teach­ers,” Williams said.

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