UAFS Chancellor Paul Beran: Patience, Innovation Best for Workforce's Relationship with Education

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, May. 15, 2017 12:00 am   3 min read

Paul B. Beran, chancellor at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith

Paul B. Beran has worked in education for the last 39 years.

Beran received his bachelor’s in English and political science and his master’s in English at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He completed his doctorate in higher education curriculum and instruction at Texas A&M University.

In addition to 17 years of teaching, he has been an academic dean and then a vice president for faculty and instruction at the community college level. In 2001, Beran became president at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, and in 2006, he was appointed as the second chancellor of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.

Chancellor Beran also created the Chancellor’s Coalition for the Visual Arts, which provides a public venue for the exhibition and collection of works of art.

You recently oversaw an update to the university’s master plan. What are the highlights?

Our 2017-22 Strategic Plan is dedicated to enrolling, retaining and graduating students who have been provided an innovative and holistic education that focuses on academic opportunities that support economic growth and development of the UAFS region and Arkansas. We’ll be fostering professional growth and development for our faculty and staff and aligning our resources to support these university objectives. Our extensive contract training and education with over 100 businesses and industries annually, including Fortune 500 companies, and our continued focus on career-focused university education will help us reach our vision of being a national model for workforce mobility through education and professional development while serving as the thought leader in the region.

What does UAFS do to help students get the best education at the least cost?

UAFS has stayed committed to being in the lowest 20th percentile of cost of Arkansas public universities. To make that happen, UAFS has committed itself to evaluating for elimination anything that does not support the core teaching and learning mission. For example, we have saved by vending out many services, such as custodial and grounds maintenance, at less cost than we can do them ourselves.

UAFS has grown a foundation that supports students with well over $1 million in scholarships yearly, in addition to doing our best to make sure students are connected to all the grant and scholarship dollars from other sources that they can get. We have instituted a required financial literacy class that all students must take to help them understand the relationship of current debt to future well-being.

What’s the best way for business and higher ed to work together to educate the 21st century workforce?

Listen to each other and stop blaming each other. The necessity of speed-to-market makes businesses want a workforce that can get the job done now. But preparing people to be job-ready means training for tasks, inculcating a work ethic and life skills and educating to use critical and creative thinking skills to embrace change and solve problems — so quality training and education that create long-term depth of knowledge take time.

Higher education must get better at embracing change and responding to training and education needs with fast-to-market completion strategies. Business must be willing to share with higher education not only what it needs now, but what innovations are coming and help higher education prepare for new training and education needs.

What are you proudest of having achieved at UAFS?

I am most proud of the accomplishments of the faculty, staff and administration — past and present — who, in just 15 years, have created a quality comprehensive regional university that is completely connected to the economic and quality of life needs of the greater Fort Smith region and Arkansas.



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