Chuck Welch, who has been president of the Arkansas State University System for more than a decade, will step down in January to become the president and chief executive officer of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Welch called the move "bittersweet" in a news release from the ASU System on Tuesday.
"I love the ASU System and the team we've put together, and I'm proud of our accomplishments, but this is a terrific opportunity with an organization I believe in, and I'm excited to promote the likes of AASCU member institutions like Arkansas State University and Henderson State University with this national higher-education platform," he said.
"America's regional public colleges and universities are on the front lines of transforming public higher education, driving civic engagement and contributing to thriving local communities."
"It's an honor to join AASCU at a time when regional comprehensive universities are poised to make a critical impact. They serve our country's fastest-growing demographics -- from students of color and first-generation students to adult learners and transfer students -- and create pathways to social and economic mobility," Welch, the longest-tenured higher-education president or chancellor in Arkansas, the news release added.
"I look forward to working collaboratively with the board, the AASCU staff and our dedicated members to continue the vital work of telling the story of public higher education and moving our sector forward."
The ASU System board of trustees will meet via Zoom at 1:30 p.m. today to discuss replacing Welch.
"We are deeply saddened about Dr. Welch's resignation as president of the ASU System, but we are excited for him and his family and the opportunity they have been given," trustee Christy Clark said in the news release. "Welch has provided the ASU System with exemplary leadership and has strengthened us in his tenure."
"Under his leadership, the system has grown from four to seven member institutions plus a campus in Mexico" for Arkansas State University, and Welch is responsible for appointing all current chancellors at the system's institutions while improving and maintaining fiscal stability for the system, she added.
"In short, we are better today than when Dr. Welch became president, and we are grateful for his exceptional service and dedication to the campuses we serve."
During his tenure, Welch, 50, oversaw the merger of Mid-South Community College in West Memphis (now Arkansas State University Mid-South); the opening of the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State in Jonesboro; the opening of a $100 million privately funded A-State campus in Queretaro, Mexico; the merger of College of the Ouachitas in Malvern (now Arkansas State University Three Rivers); the merger of Henderson State University in Arkadelphia; and the public-private partnership to develop the Embassy Suites Hotel and Red Wolf Convention Center on the A-State campus, according to the ASU System.
Additionally, the ASU System office was relocated to Little Rock and expanded to enhance its statewide exposure.
Welch, a native of Jonesboro, previously served as president of Henderson State, chancellor of the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope; vice chancellor for academic affairs at Arkansas State University-Beebe; and dean of university studies at University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, according to the ASU System. He also worked at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has served as an instructor of education and political science at three different colleges in Arkansas.
Welch is co-chair of the executive council of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, past president of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges and former chairman of the board of the Arkansas Association of Public Universities, according to the ASU System. He is vice chair of the American Academic Leadership Institute Board of Directors and serves on the board of directors of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.
Welch was named the second president of the ASU System in November 2010 and officially began the position in April 2011, according to the ASU System. His tenure will officially end Jan. 15, 2024, and he'll move to Washington, D.C., where the American Association of State Colleges and Universities is based.
Welch has experience with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, serving as chair of its board of directors from 2019-21, according to the ASU System.
The American Association of State Colleges and Universities is a higher-education association of 350 public colleges, universities and systems.