Arkansas State University Names Kelly Damphousse as Chancellor

Arkansas State University Names Kelly Damphousse as Chancellor
Kelly Damphousse (A-State)

Arkansas State University on Wednesday named Kelly Damphousse, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, as its new chancellor.

Damphousse, 54, starts at A-State on July 1. He was one of three finalists for the job, left open by the resignation last year of Tim Hudson. He will earn a salary of $360,000.

More: See ASU's employment offer letter to Damphousse.

ASU System President Chuck Welch said the university's search committee was unanimous in its recommendation of Damphousse, and that the administrator was highly touted by Welch's education contacts.

Welch said one person said that, "If you can get Kelly Damphousse, your search is over."

Damphousse said he wants A-State to draw more students from Arkansas and talked about troubled times for higher education that include funding and budget cuts.

"This state needs Arkansas State more than it's ever needed us before," he said.

The other finalists were Ronald Elsenbaumer, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington; and Alan Shao, dean of the School of Business at The College of Charleston in South Carolina.

Introducing Damphousse at the ASU System offices in Little Rock on Wednesday afternoon, Welch described a search process that began in the fall and included the university contacting "literally thousands" of potential candidates, leading to "hundreds of conversations" before the field was winnowed to more than 50 applicants. Damphousse and the university first came into contact in late April, Welch said.

More: See Damphousse's application.

Damphousse, joined by his wife Beth, said the couple was impressed by the university's students and innovative programs, citing the osteopathic medical school, the new hospitality management program and ASU's campus in Mexico.

"The opportunities there are boundless I think," he said of the Mexico campus. "But we can't stop there. … We have to continue to innovate. … To focus on the things that we're really good at and get better at them."

Damphousse's goals include improving graduation and retention along with recruiting more in-state students. He said informal meetings with students at Arkansas State and hearing their pride in things like the Honors College and student-faculty relationships may have convinced him to take his new job.

"You could see the pride that they had in the place. … If not for the students we might not be here today," Damphousse said.

The 21-member Chancellor Search Advisory Committee conducted a nationwide search and reviewed 52 applications. The three finalists met with the committee, faculty, staff, students and community members, who gave feedback to Welch.

Damphousse's three-year contract will go before the university's board of trustees on June 8.

In addition to his salary, which consists of state and private dollars, Damphousse will receive a privately funded, $40,000 deferred compensation payment each year beginning on July 1, 2018. According to the university's employment offer letter to Damphousse, the payments are contingent on a satisfactory job performance evaluation.

Damphousse is also eligible to receive a privately funded $100,000 "longevity incentive payment" if he remains chancellor on July 1, 2022. He'll also receive other amenities, including use of the chancellor's residence, membership at two Jonesboro country clubs, a cell phone and a university automobile.

Higher Ed in Canada vs. U.S.

A native of Canada, Damphousse was associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at OU for nine years before becoming dean in 2013. The college has an annual budget of $100 million, about 600 faculty, more than 1,500 instructional or support staff, and about 10,000 students, according to A-State.

Damphousse has a doctoral degree in sociology and a master's degree in sociology from Texas A&M University. He also has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Sam Houston State University and an associate degree in law enforcement from Lethbridge College in his native Canada.

Damphousse told reporters Wednesday that he originally wanted to join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as he explained why, at his mother’s urging, he sought a degree beyond high school and initially studied law enforcement.

Urged by a friend to pursue further education in Texas, Damphouse attended Sam Houston State, where he met Beth, a voice major, after hearing her sing at a church function. Her father, a a soil and crop science professor at Texas A&M, helped shepherd Damphousse into the school’s post-graduate sociology program.

Damphousse said a college education is more common among young people than in his native Canada. And he noted the heavy influence of collegiate sports in the U.S. as a major difference between the higher education experiences in each country.

With that in mind Demphousse said a university should strive for balance between athletics and education, but he acknowledged the branding and advertising opportunities sports present and praised the better than 3.0 average GPA of A-State’s student-athletes.

Before his career in education, Damphousse was a prison guard in Canada, and as a sociologist, he has done research on terrorism and substance abuse. He was on staff at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and returned to Sam Houston State before moving on to Oklahoma.

Damphousse has served as OU's faculty athletics representative to the Big 12 Conference and NCAA since 2012. He and his wife have served as faculty-in-residence in an OU residence hall, living with 384 freshmen every year. Students voted him "Best OU Professor" in 2015, according to A-State.

Damphousse takes over for interim chancellor Doug Whitlock, who Welch appointed following Hudson's resignation.

Before students return in the fall Damphousse said he will focus on building relationships with the ASU faculty and zeroing in on retention and graduation rates.

"It's a big challenge in front of me," he said.

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