Chancellor Summer DeProw Shares Her Plans for UA-PTC

Chancellor Summer DeProw Shares Her Plans for UA-PTC
DeProw's academic career began at Williams Baptist University of Walnut Ridge, where she was chair of the business department. (Steve Lewis)

Summer DeProw became chancellor on Jan. 1, succeeding Margaret Ellibee, who retired in June. She was previously provost and vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. Before that, she was assistant vice chancellor for assessment and accreditation at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

DeProw received her bachelor’s degree in accounting (1994), an MBA (1995) and a Specialist in Community College Teaching degree (1998) from A-State. She received a doctorate in higher education from the University of Mississippi in 2014.

What is the college doing to address the shortage of workers in the skilled trades? What else must be done?

It’s important that we increase awareness of the fact that UA-PTC offers relevant training and education that leads to lucrative, secure careers. UA-PTC has nearly every academic program that is in need at this time. If we don’t have a fully functioning academic program, the Business & Industry Center will create customized training for any business or industry. Additionally, we have made some fantastic faculty hires in several areas on campus including but not limited to surgical technology, nursing, respiratory therapy, tractor-trailer operations, drafting and design, and industrial electricity.

In fall 2022, we reconstituted our programmatic advisory councils for all of our technical science programs. In doing so we have aligned our curriculum to meet business and industry needs and developed for-credit apprenticeships so incumbent workers can attend classes. We are prepared to expand our apprenticeships and internships in the technical science programs. Come see us! 

Furthermore, we reopened our Career Institute for high school students to take HVAC/R, welding, cybersecurity and medical professional classes this spring. We are looking forward to working closely with the Academies of Little Rock as well. 

Lastly, we have several faculty members who are doing externships to learn the latest technology in diesel mechanics and advanced manufacturing. We have plans to do more in the near future. I am grateful for faculty who are willing to expand their knowledge and combine it with their superior teaching skills. 

What are the hottest fields of study at UA-PTC?

I don’t want to sound flip here but everything is hot! We are having meetings weekly where business, industry, hospitals and early education providers are asking to build a pipeline to the workplace. Our four-year university partners want more transfer students, and we have updated most of our transfer agreements. I have never seen so many opportunities for students. 

What goals do you have as chancellor?

My immediate goals include engagement and awareness. I want our community to understand the depth and breadth of the programs, services and options UA-PTC provides. I also want our community to know we are flexible and willing to listen and address their needs. I am looking forward to working with our Board of Visitors and our foundation board members too. We have some incredible people who are supporting us, and they have told me they want to be more involved. More specifically, we are engaged in the strategic planning process, and I have a great team of faculty and staff who are helping me.

This Legislature is meeting now. What kind of higher education or workforce training resources does UA-Pulaski Tech need?

UA-PTC, like all of our two-year colleges, has a vital role to play to support workforce initiatives that will enhance economic prosperity for our county, state and region. We look forward to being a frontline resource for our governmental leadership who are working to achieve common goals. I hope my colleagues and I can have the opportunity to discuss with our legislative representatives the significant expenses related to hiring qualified faculty, constructing high-tech teaching facilities, and supplying the classroom with learning resources (think diesel fuel in our commercial driver’s license program) for high-need occupations and careers. In short, nothing is cheap anymore.

Do you think the cost of attending college is too high? What’s the solution?

The cost of attending college shouldn’t be insurmountable. The very existence of the two-year college system grew from the idea of controlling costs while expanding access. UA-PTC will continue to work with our students to facilitate awarding of the many scholarships available to them. Graduating with little or no debt can and does happen at UA-PTC. Still, long-term financial security and educational attainment continue to go hand in hand. Attaining a degree or certificate in a growing field is still a ticket to a more prosperous future. There are many solutions to the cost of postsecondary education, but in the immediate future, we will continue to raise private scholarship funds, develop apprenticeships and partnerships, develop campus work opportunities, and provide financial literacy training to our students. 

Are there any college programs you would like to expand or eliminate?

We are in the midst of reconfiguring our construction program to include a wide variety of skilled workers, site superintendent education and project management, and we want to help the advanced electric technologies industry. Solar photovoltaic installation, electric vehicle charging stations and electric/hybrid vehicle repair are on our radar. Last, given the number of veterinary medicine schools announced recently, we are going to explore vet tech program options. We have no plans to eliminate any programs at this time.

Ten years ago, Pulaski Tech had 10,000 students. Now there are fewer than half as many. What do you think is the optimal enrollment?

This is true but I would be remiss if I didn’t note some of the external factors, particularly demographic shifts, that were in play 10 years ago. The Great Recession, baby boomers ensconced in the workplace and less regulation of higher ed were contributing factors to the extraordinary enrollments of that period in our history. Currently, there are two jobs for every one unemployed American, and students either choose a job over attending college or leave after one semester for a job. Optimal enrollment is where we are meeting the community and students’ needs, offering the highest quality programs in the state and region, graduating students and compensating our faculty and staff fairly while remaining financially stable. I want to grow our enrollment but not at the expense of academic quality or morale of our employees. 

What has been your most important leadership lesson?

Oh, I have several. Listen to understand. Never assume I’m the smartest person in the room. Seek consensus when solving problems. Be compassionate with employees. Always offer to help. And keep learning.