UA to offer courses in Little Rock for execs
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.