Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography
The University of Central Arkansas boasts a robust collegiate experience. From academic to athletics and cultural offerings, students are introduced to a world of knowledge with endless possibilities. Under the leadership of President Houston Davis, UCA is poised to help guide Conway as an economic engine for the state of Arkansas.
As the 11th president of UCA, Houston joins a prestigious institution with a legacy that spans more than a century of service. The campus occupies 357 acres with a student body that is more than 10,000 students strong. These numbers are impressive, but it’s the economic impact in the region that excites Houston. “We have always known that UCA and our quality academic programs are vital to the economy, to the future earning potential of our students and to the long-term success of the state,” he explains. The results of a recent study highlight the university’s business contributions. “From an economic perspective, UCA added $1.01 billion in income to the Arkansas economy and supported 19,506 jobs – one out of every 85 – in fiscal year 2018-2019.”
Houston believes this compelling data, coupled with campus expansion + integration, create the momentum for unprecedented fundraising opportunities. “We just completed two years of record-breaking fundraising to support student scholarships, student success initiatives, faculty, programs and infrastructure.” The university raised more than $30 million during the 2018-2019 academic year, which included a gift from the Windgate Foundation to facilitate construction of the Windgate Center for Fine & Performing Arts. “The new center will provide almost 100,000 square feet of classroom, studio, rehearsal and design spaces. It will also foster collaborative partnerships across multiple academic disciplines, fuel the state’s creative economy and draw in arts enthusiasts from across the region,” Houston elaborates.
The UCA President’s Society comprises a collective, significant impact as well. “Private funding has also supported major building initiatives such as the Windgate Center and the new 80,000-square-foot Integrated Health Sciences Building.” Scheduled to welcome students in fall of 2021, the Integrated Health Sciences Building will expand programs within the College of Health & Behavioral Sciences including the renowned nursing programs. “It will help address the nursing shortage in the state and will further solidify our role as a leading provider of health care professionals for Arkansans.”
Houston emphasizes the policies and procedures in place this semester to ensure student success + safety. “During the pandemic planning process, we left no stone unturned as we worked to ensure a safe return for our entire campus community.” Faculty and staff, with support from the Center for Teaching Excellence, are prepared to transition courses to completely online or hybrid models. “It has also pushed us to work harder and smarter. Every action we take is with student success as our guiding principle.”
Houston recognizes it’s the people – students, faculty, alumni and donors – that make the present and future bright for the University of Central Arkansas. “It is an honor to be a part of such positive change and growth. Our campus community is made up of individuals who are focused on building this community and developing relationships in Central Arkansas,” Houston attests. “Our faculty, staff and students are not just here to get degrees or to teach courses. They are invested in bettering the place where we all live, learn and work.”