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Houston Davis Sees Shift in Skills at UCA

3 min read

Before being named the 11th president of the University of Central Arkansas in November 2016, Houston Davis was interim president of Kennesaw State University and was chief academic officer of the University System of Georgia in 2012-16. Before his role in Georgia, he was vice chancellor for academic affairs with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

He has also served as associate vice chancellor for academic affairs with the Tennessee Board of Regents and on faculty and in academic leadership at Austin Peay State University. Davis earned his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, with other degrees from the University of Memphis and Tennessee State University.

What is UCA doing to ensure that its students are career-ready when they leave school?
At UCA, we look at career readiness from a curricular as well as a student development angle. We emphasize internships, service-learning projects, undergraduate research and leadership development. Each major ensures that students have enriching out-of-class experiences because those are as important to success as in-class learning.

We also prepare students for the job search. Our Career Services Center provides career planning and employment opportunities, interview skills prep, job fairs, dress for success events and more.

Has there been a fundamental shift in the type of education that young people need to be successful in the job market?
A few decades ago, students prepared for careers in which they would stay in the same job or the same category of jobs. Today’s students may have multiple types of careers and employers, including working for themselves. That is why it is important to take an interdisciplinary approach to education, as we do at UCA.

Students learn about multiple disciplines and improve their critical thinking and adaptation skills. This better prepares them for careers full of learning opportunities, cycles of industry change and a world that is more competitive than anything prior generations experienced.

How does UCA prepare students for jobs that may not exist now but will exist years from now?
Many of today’s jobs are disappearing because of automation, future roles have yet to be imagined, and all jobs will experience change. We prepare our students for that reality.

For instance, students in all disciplines need to understand how technology is changing occupations and industries. To that end, we want entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation to be a part of in-class and out-of-class experiences. Our students gain critical thinking skills and learn to be flexible so that they can succeed in a rapidly changing workforce.

We also prepare our students for high-demand tech jobs. Our new multidisciplinary cybersecurity program is designed to produce graduates who can identify and combat cybercrime.

A recent study showed that U.S. college students owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. What’s your solution to the looming student debt crisis?
At UCA we are proud that we can offer a high-quality education with a more affordable price tag. In fact, TheLadders.com just named UCA the “Best Total Package” college in Arkansas for our test scores, cost and debt load, among other factors.

We know that a college-educated workforce is vital to Arkansas’ economy, and we want higher education to be attainable. A significant portion of our freshman population are first-generation college students. We strive to provide all the support we can to get them to graduation. That is why we offer financial planning and numerous scholarships, including needs-based programs like the Arch Ford Memorial Scholarship for full-time rising sophomores who have graduated from an Arkansas high school and are PELL grant-eligible.

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