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ATU Board of Trustees Says Yes to Facility Upgrades

Jones Residence Hall ATUImage of Jones Residence Hall ATU
Jones Residence Hall is among the Arkansas Tech University facilities that will be renovated as a result of actions taken by the ATU Board of Trustees on Thursday, May 20.

Trustees at Arkansas Tech University approved more than $15 million in renovations to existing facilities on campuses in Russellville and Ozark during a meeting at Chambers Cafeteria West Dining Room on Thursday, May 20.

The largest project approved by the ATU Board of Trustees on Thursday was a $7 million renovation of Jones Residence Hall in Russellville.

Walter Branson, ATU interim vice president for administration and finance, wrote in a memorandum provided to trustees that the university is expediting the project because Jones Hall suffered damage as a result of record-breaking cold weather earlier this year.

"The full renovation of the facility has been planned for some time," wrote Branson. "However, the damage sustained in February 2021 necessitates immediate action to bring this residence facility back to a usable condition."

Trustees approved an internal loan from ATU's educational and general plant fund reserves to finance the Jones Hall renovation. The loan will be re-paid by ATU's residence life operations to university plant fund reserves at an interest rate of 1 percent.

In a related agenda item, the ATU Board of Trustees selected SCM Architects as the architectural firm for the renovation of Jones Hall. Work on the project is scheduled to take place during the 2021-22 academic year.

Dedicated in November 1967, Jones Hall is named for Charles Jones. She taught psychology and education courses at Arkansas Tech from 1938-71.

Trustees committed $6.5 million to heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades in various buildings on the ATU campuses in Russellville and Ozark.

The HVAC enhancements will be paid for with federal COVID-19 relief funds.

An additional $1.75 million is being dedicated to renovations at McEver Hall, which houses classrooms, laboratories and faculty offices utilized by the ATU College of Natural and Health Sciences.

McEver Hall, which opened in 1963, is named for Truman McEver. He served on the chemistry faculty at Arkansas Tech from 1930-73.

Funding for the McEver Hall renovations will come from ATU's educational and general fund.

Trustees also committed up to an additional $100,000 from the ATU roof reserve fund to complete repairs to the roof covering the student union inside the Hull Physical Education Building.

During its March 2021 meeting, the board approved spending $300,000 from remaining Hull Building student union renovation funds and up to $75,000 from the roof reserve to perform the student union roof repairs. Branson wrote a memorandum requesting up to an additional $100,000 after bids for the project came in "considerably higher than the original estimates."

The Hull Student Union opened in November 2020 inside a building named for the eighth president of Arkansas Tech, J.W. Hull. He led the institution from 1932-67.

Academic Program Deletions

The ATU Board of Trustees approved the deletion of 14 programs and options during Thursday's meeting due to viability issues and low enrollment.

Program deletions include the Master of Science degree in applied sociology, the Master of Liberal Arts degree-social studies concentration, the Bachelor of Arts degree in speech education, the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in creative writing education, the Bachelor of Science degree in information systems, the Bachelor of Science degree in nuclear physics, the Bachelor of Science degree in physical science, the Bachelor of Science degree in business education and the Associate of Science degree in Ozark and Ouachita studies.

Three options under the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree --- entrepreneurship, human resource management and marketing strategy --- were approved for deletion, as were two options under the Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture business --- feed mill management and public relations.

Each of the programs and options approved for deletion will be phased out in a manner that will allow current students to complete their course of study. All 14 programs and options will be defunct by 2023.

Additional Agenda Items

In other business on Thursday, the ATU Board of Trustees approved:

*requests by the ATU College of Engineering and Applied Sciences to offer the Master of Engineering degree in electrical engineering, the Master of Engineering degree in mechanical engineering and the Master of Science degree in information technology 100 percent online in addition to the traditional, in-person delivery method;

*2021-22 student housing rates, which represent an overall increase of 2.23 percent as compared to the 2020-21 fiscal year;

*2021-22 meal plan rates, which represent an overall increase of 4 percent as compared to the 2020-21 fiscal year;

*2021-22 fees and fines associated with ATU Division of Student Affairs areas including health and wellness, testing services, residence life and events management;

*2021-22 parking regulations for the ATU campus in Russellville;

*reverting to the previous faculty and staff tuition waiver program terms and conditions that were in place before the board approved recommended adjustments in March 2021;

*a memorandum of understanding formalizing the relationship between Arkansas Tech University and the Arkansas Tech University Foundation;

*establishment of two provisional positions to administer the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) job preparation program for Franklin, Johnson and Logan counties under the auspices of ATU-Ozark Campus;

*the annual certification of budgeted athletic revenues and expenses as required by the Arkansas Division of Higher Education;

*a revised set of financial policies and procedures prepared by the ATU Division of Administration and Finance;

*granting an easement that will allow the City of Russellville to install fiber optics serving the ATU facility at 404 N. El Paso Ave;

*a resolution expressing the willingness of Arkansas Tech University to utilize federal aid Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds to construct sidewalks adjacent to the new campus entrance project in Russellville;

*hiring an objective facilitator to assure strong communication between the ATU executive council and the university's faculty and staff;

*and the ATU fiscal year 2021-22 budget (click here for details provided in separate news release).

In personnel matters, four departments on the ATU campus in Russellville saw changes in leadership as a result of board action on Thursday.

Dr. Carl Brucker, head of the ATU Department of English and World Languages and professor of English studies, was granted a transition away from his administrative responsibilities so he can teach full-time. He will be succeeded by Dr. Emily Hoffman, associate professor of English. She will become interim department head as of July 1, 2021.

Dr. David Eshelman, professor of communication, was appointed head of the ATU Department of Communication and Journalism effective July 1, 2021. He succeeds Anthony Caton, who was previously approved for retirement as of May 31, 2021.

Dr. Aaron McArthur, associate professor of history, will serve as interim head of the ATU Department of History and Political Science as of July 1, 2021.

Dr. Jason Patton, head of the ATU Department of Physical Sciences, will step down from that role and assume full-time teaching responsibilities in his role as professor of geology effective July 1, 2021.

The ATU Board of Trustees approved the additional following new assignments:

*Dr. Blake Bedsole, associate vice president, effective July 1, 2021; Leigh Hill, human resources generalist, effective March 15, 2021; Kathleen Myers, visiting instructor of curriculum and instruction, for the 2021-22 academic year; Dr. Mandy Overbey, workforce education faculty and program chair of physical therapist assistant program at ATU-Ozark, effective May 24, 2021; Elizabeth Snyder-Sinor, Perkins Grant student success coordinator at ATU-Ozark, effective April 12, 2021; and Rebekah Snyder, workforce education faculty and program chair of practical nursing at ATU-Ozark, effective Aug. 11, 2021.

These employees' resignations were accepted by the board:

*Dr. David Blanks, head of the ATU Department of History and Political Science and professor of history, effective June 30, 2021; Dr. Jim Daughters, associate director of bands and music education coordinator, effective May 15, 2021; Derek May, workforce education faculty of computer engineering at Arkansas Tech Career Center, effective June 1, 2021; Shelby Norman, coordinator of multicultural support, effective April 22, 2021; Alan Parsons, academic advisor for Veterans Upward Bound, effective April 2, 2021; Matthew Pipkins, associate director of computer services at ATU-Ozark, effective May 6, 2021; Andrew Powell, academic counselor at Arkansas Tech Career Center, effective May 13, 2021; and Lou Ann Reeves, business manager, effective April 13, 2021.

Trustees approved requests for retirement from the following ATU employees:

*Bennie Byrd, workforce education faculty of automotive service technology at Arkansas Tech Career Center, effective June 1, 2021; Pat Chronister, assistant to the vice president for academic affairs, effective June 2, 2021; Dr. Charles Gagen, professor of fisheries science, effective May 8, 2021; Charles Lee, workforce education faculty of mathematics at ATU-Ozark, effective May 31, 2021; Ester Leonard, workforce education faculty and program chair of practical nursing at ATU-Ozark, effective May 31, 2021; Angie Medlock, workforce education faculty of business technology at ATU-Ozark, effective May 31, 2021; Nina Pope, workforce education faculty and program chair of physical therapist assistant at ATU-Ozark, effective May 31, 2021; and Brenda Shoop, assessment coordinator for the ATU-Ozark Office of Academic Affairs, effective May 31, 2021.