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story.lead_photo.caption University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Chancellor Paul Beran, speaks Wednesday, June 7, 2017, during a ceremony at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith campus announcing two estate gifts from Raymond Gosack totaling $750,000 to the University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. - Photo by David Gottschalk

Paul Beran, top administrator since 2006 at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, will leave the university Aug. 31 for a new job in South Dakota.

Beran, 63, was in Pierre, S.D., on Friday, where he was announced as the next executive director and chief executive officer of the South Dakota Higher Education Board of Regents.

In an email to faculty and staff members sent Friday, Beran listed major events in his tenure, such as offering the school's first master's degree and the construction of "state-of-the-art" campus facilities.

"We hate to leave all our friends and colleagues behind, but because of the opportunities afforded me by the University of Arkansas System, I have the opportunity to continue to make a difference in higher education in a new place and at a new level," Beran said.

Last fall, the university announced enrollment totals of 6,619 undergraduate students and 18 graduate students, an increase from a year earlier.

The combined total is roughly 1,000 fewer students than in fall 2010, but since then the university has added to its campus with facilities including the Windgate Art and Design building, which opened in 2015 and was built with a $15.5 million grant from the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt will appoint a search committee to find the school's next chancellor. Bobbitt said an interim chancellor will be named and that he hopes a new chancellor will be hired by July 1 of next year after a national search.

Bobbitt said it will be important for the next chancellor to have an interest in and experience in economic development, noting the university's role in the Fort Smith community.

In Fort Smith, John Taylor is a financial analyst and former chairman of the university's foundation board.

"I think UAFS is going to continue to be a key driver and key catalyst in our community," said Taylor, who works for financial advisory firm Stifel.

UAFS earlier this month announced that it had been awarded about $2 million in state grants to continue leading new workforce training programs in robot automation and cyber systems. The programs involve partnerships with local industry and public high schools.

In South Dakota, Beran will earn $330,000 yearly, said Tracy Mercer, information research analyst with the South Dakota board. In Arkansas, Beran earned a yearly base salary of $224,910, according to UA System spokesman Nate Hinkel.

"I'm going to be sad to see him leave," said Rebecca Williamson, a UAFS associate professor of biology. "I think he did real good things for our university while he was here."

Williamson, leader of the university's faculty senate in the 2016-17 academic year, said he worked well with faculty members "to focus on what's best for our students."

She said UAFS "is not your traditional university," enrolling many older students who have families or work full time.

The university has been searching for a new director for its foundation after the departure this year of Mary Bane Lackie, now executive director of development at the University of Central Arkansas.

UAFS spokesman John Post said the university is working with the UA System on a plan for university leadership after Beran's departure.

"We hope to have clarification on the state of the UAFS Foundation director search as things develop," Post said in an email.

Beran is the longest-tenured chancellor or president at any Arkansas public university.

Bobbitt, the UA System president since November 2011, will now have been involved in searches for top leaders at each of the system's six university campuses.

He praised Beran and Beran's wife, Janice, adding that Beran arrived at UAFS during what might still be considered a transition period from the school's two-year college roots, when it was known as Westark Community College.

Metro on 07/28/2018

Print Headline: Chancellor at UAFS leaving for S.D. job

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