The University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College chancellor search has narrowed to three finalists: an internal candidate, a vice president for academic affairs at another Arkansas public community college, and a provost from a university in West Virginia.
"UA-Pulaski Technical College is an integral piece not only within the UA System puzzle, but also within the state's most populated county with the workforce and education needs the institution strives to meet in Arkansas," Donald R. Bobbitt, the UA System president who will ultimately recommend a candidate for the chancellor position to the UA Board of Trustees for approval, said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to getting the opportunity to meet with each of the candidates in the final phases of this search."
Finalists will each visit the college to meet with stakeholders, and each will have a public forum. More details on those visits and forums -- dates for which have yet to be finalized -- will be available online at https://uaptc.edu/chancellor-search.
• Summer DeProw, provost/vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at UA-PTC.
• Wade Derden, vice president for academic affairs at National Park College in Hot Springs.
• Ted A. Lewis, provost/vice president of academic and student affairs at Bluefield State University in West Virginia.
DeProw, who earned her doctorate in higher education from the University of Mississippi and has her bachelor's degree in accounting, master's of business administration, and specialist in Community College Education from Arkansas State University, was Business Department chair and associate professor of business at Williams Baptist University before moving back to Arkansas State, according to the UA System. She began there as director of assessment before becoming assistant vice chancellor for assessment and accreditation, then became a provost at UA-PTC.
DeProw cited in a letter to the search committee her "proven track record of supporting students, faculty, staff, community, and industry, as well as accomplishing strategic goals for all of my institutions, past and present."
She said she has articipated and led efforts to prevent industry from leaving the community and to align postsecondary education with economic development and industry needs.
"I joined this institution based on my perception that UA-PTC is dedicated to students and their successes. This community reminds me of my best days in academia, and I want to recreate that environment as your next chancellor."
Derden "is a sixth-generation Arkansan who grew up in central Arkansas and has served in education for more than two decades," according to the UA System. He first taught at Arkansas State University-Beebe on Little Rock Air Force Base and at UA-PTC; upon appointment as a full-time faculty member at the latter, Derden taught classes in history, political science, and the humanities.
Derden, who received his Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, chaired the Social Science Division before becoming National Park College's vice president. His thesis for his Master of Arts at UA-Fayetteville explored Southern masculinity and religion, according to the UA System. Derden, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Hendrix College, is "a past-president of the Arkansas Community College's Board of Directors, a Governor Asa Hutchinson-appointee to the Criminal Justice Institute Board of Advisors, and a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission."
In a letter to the search committee, Derden emphasized his dedication, experience developing partnerships, willingness to work in a team, communication skills, and understanding of the issues facing community colleges statewide and nationally.
"I do not have all the answers, but I know how to tap into my experience and work with a team to move a college in the right direction," he wrote, adding that "if we keep student success first and foremost on our minds, everything else will fall into place."
Lewis, who has a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master of Science in political science from the University of North Texas, and a Doctorate of Education (with distinction) in educational administration -- with a specialization in community college leadership -- from the University of Texas at Austin, has twice been recognized as "Administrator of the Year" at Bluefield State, a historically Black college that converted to a university this summer, according to the UA System. Previously, he was vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee.
He was founding Dean of Instruction at Lone Star College-CyFair, a professor of Political Science and department chair at Collin College in Texas, and director of Collin College's national Bellwether Award-winning learning communities program, according to the UA System. He's "conducted workshops and delivered presentations on active learning strategies, community partnerships, curriculum development, engaged scholarship, student success, and workforce education for the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the League for Innovation in the Community College, the National Council of Instructional Administrators, the National Council for Workforce Education, [and] The National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development," among others.
Lewis called his leadership style "innovative, creative, and resourceful," noting he leads "with vision, integrity, honesty, and tact."
"I am enthusiastic, visible, approachable, accessible, and compassionate. I am a personable and caring leader who has a congenial sense of humor. I value, include, and inspire employees. I regularly conduct staff meetings and administrative councils, and meet with the leaders of the college's faculty senate and staff council to discuss issues of importance to them," he wrote in his letter to the search committee. "My door is always open to students, faculty, staff, and administrators, and I regularly visit with employees in their offices and host listening sessions on each of our campuses. I am highly visible on campus and maintain an interactive relationship with employees and students by participating in campus events."
"The widespread interest that's been shown in UA-PTC during this process speaks volumes about the appeal and potential of central Arkansas and the key role the institution plays as the largest two-year college in the area," Chris Thomason, vice president of planning and development for the UA System, said in a statement. "Leading a student-centric institution that works to connect the talent, knowledge and resources needed to promote student success and economic growth in central Arkansas and the entire state is a great opportunity, and many higher education professionals locally and nationally want to be a part of that at UA-PTC."
Finalists were selected with the aid of an advisory search committee chaired by Richard Moss, dean of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at UA-PTC. The committee evaluated applicants from 17 states, according to the UA System. Interim Chancellor Ana Hunt, who did not apply for the full-time chancellor job, "will continue to serve as interim until one of the finalists is chosen and begins their work at" the college.
Hunt was appointed interim by Bobbitt in June following the retirement of then-Chancellor Margaret Ellibee, who announced in January her intent to retire effective June 30, according to the UA System.
UA-PTC, the UA System's largest two-year college, was established in 1945 as a vocational-technical school, but has evolved through the years to meet varying education needs, according to the UA System. In addition to its main campus in North Little Rock, the college has locations across Pulaski and Saline Counties.
Enrollment at UA-Pulaski Tech has decreased for three consecutive years, down to 4,223 this fall from 4,425 in 2021, 4,833 in 2020, and 5,531 in 2019.
DeProw "initiated cross-unit meetings and actions to stop the enrollment decline," which resulted in "greater social media advertising, calling campaigns to increase the application-to-admission yield rate, and additional new student orientation events," she wrote, adding that she created a group of campus representatives from financial aid, recruitment, student accounts, and institutional research "to support our newly formed Amazon Career Choice agreement" that has provided UA-PTC with more working adult students.
Derden addressed enrollment declines in his letter to the search committee, noting he led his school's Academic Affairs team "to make data-informed decisions aimed at improving students' graduation rates, on-time completions, and transfer rates." He added that National Park College "graduated 25% more students even as enrollments declined, without adding degrees or certifications that were not warranted by regional workforce demand."
Lewis and his colleagues identified workforce needs of employers and established more than 50 new transfer academic programs; career, professional, and technical education; and workforce and community education programs to support regional educational and industry needs, which he wrote made the university more attractive to students.