By Maria Fields-Chism
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed his “full confidence, support, and excitement” in the future of Henderson State University in a joint news conference with Henderson chancellor Chuck Ambrose Thursday.
Praising the leadership that has “worked hard to right the ship to put Henderson State on a good path,” Hutchinson said that Ambrose “has made tough decisions. He has my support in the decisions he’s made.” The most important reason for his confidence, Hutchinson said, is Henderson’s “singular focus on student success” and on “making college education more affordable, to make it more successful, and to make it more engaged going through the lower grades all the way up to grad school.”
Asserting that Henderson “will meet the 21st-century workforce needs,” Ambrose said that through new partnerships with Arkansas State University, other two-year campuses, and New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, Henderson will “create pathways to high-demand jobs and meeting the needs of our communities.”
Based in New York, NYIT-COM is an accredited private medical school with a degree-granting campus in Jonesboro. It is one of the largest medical schools in the U.S.
According to Ambrose, Henderson is involved in “creating an I-30 learning community from Saline County to Arkadelphia, including K-12 partners, Arkansas State University-Three Rivers, Saline County Career and Technical Campus, and Henderson.”
“We will look a little different than higher education around the state,” Ambrose said, “and that’s okay.”
Joining Hutchinson and Ambrose in speaking were Johnny Key, Secretary of the Department of Education, and Shane Speights, Dean of NYIT-COM.
Key said the Department of Education has the opportunity to partner with Henderson in “reimagining what education can look like in the future,” which “is very different from what it has looked like in the past.” According to Key, students need preparation to be adaptable to the changing nature of our society and economy.
Speights, an Arkadelphia native and a Henderson graduate, said that NYIT-COM is “excited to be able to partner with Henderson State and the A-State System and to continue our already-strong collaboration with Arkansas State to be able to move this endeavor forward.”
Speights said he looks forward to partnering with Henderson to provide “unique opportunities for physicians to come from areas of the state where they are most needed” by leveraging resources that exist at New York Institute of Technology to reach students in Arkansas.
Asked by an audience member for more specific information, Hutchinson said the news conference was to “showcase Henderson State University and its importance to our economic future, our higher education in Arkansas.”