[MENA, Ark. | January 16, 2019] The UA Rich Mountain Board of Visitors held its first meeting of 2019 on Wednesday in the Board Room on the Mena Campus. As the first order of business, Chancellor Dr. Phillip Wilson welcomed newest board member, Michael Wood. Wilson told members that Wood had been incredibly supportive of all of the College’s efforts since the announcement of its athletic program, “We are very grateful to have him.” Wood is a Physical Therapist at Mena Regional Health System.
After reviewing the financial reports with the Board, Vice Chancellor of Administration and Athletic Director Morris Boydstun provided an update on the developing athletics program, including welcoming new Head Soccer Coach Brian Byrd.
Boydstun also shared that he and Dr. Wilson had recently attended a meeting of the Division 2 NJCAA, comprised of Oklahoma and Arkansas colleges. Boydstun noted that the UA Rich Mountain was one of very few Arkansas colleges represented, “It was observed that Arkansas attendance was light but Dr. Wilson and I believe that building these relationships within the NJCAA, staying connected and well informed is essential to us building a successful athletics program.”
The inaugural ladies Bucks cross country team is eligible to be recognized as an Academic All American Team and all qualified as individual Academic All American athletes as well.
Before introducing Coach Byrd to the Board, Boydstun noted that grade has been shot at the proposed soccer field site at Tapley Park to begin field work. The first season of Fall 2019 will be played at Bearcat stadium per an agreement negotiated with Mena Public Schools.
Byrd shared about his previous coaching experience and what led him to Mena after learning about the new soccer program. He explained that he had already signed three international players, which will bring diversity to the campus and that he, Boydstun, and Assistant Athletic Director Jerod McCormick would be attending the College of the South Showcase in Little Rock to continue the recruiting process. His contacts within the sport are vast and has been actively working those relationships in identifying student athletes that will be a good fit for UA Rich Mountain. The Board was particularly impressed with his commitment to academic performance from his athletes and that 100% of his graduate athletes at Coastal Bend went on to 4-year universities to continue playing and pursuing their education.
Vice Chancellor Chad Fielding reported to the Board that enrollment numbers are still fluid at this point so early in the semester but that administration was pleased to see numbers maintaining in three key areas of ‘Returning Students,’ ‘Transfer Students,’ and ‘First-Time Freshman.’ Community College enrollments continue to trend downward as is customary when unemployment rates are very low. When jobs are available, people prefer to be working. Dr. Wilson credited ‘case management’ and the individualized relationships that UA Rich Mountain has always maintained as its standard as the key ingredient to success in maintaining these numbers.
Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Dr. Krystal Thrailkill reported that the new Massage Therapy program began on Monday. UA Rich Mountain is the state’s first and only public college approved by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education to provide such a program, which essentially costs students one-third of the same program at a private school.
Dr. Thrailkill also reported that a new certificate, technical, and associate degree in Criminal Justice will be added in the Fall of 2019, which is a program that has been in very high demand locally. She also said that through a partnership established with the Criminal Justice Institute, progress is being made for local students to be able to earn their Bachelor’s degree locally by classes being provided through CIV.
Dr. Thrailkill also reported that the EMT Basic course was full and that discussions are underway for the possibility of adding a paramedics program.
At the conclusion of the reports, the Board elected new officers for two year terms: Al Gathright, Chair; Sue Cavner, Vice-Chair; and Linda Rowe, Secretary.