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SAU Tech Kicks Off the Fall Semester with Employee Appreciation

SAU Tech Welcomes Faculty and Staff at Employee Appreciation

man speaking to a crowd of people at an event

Dr. Jason Morrison provided the welcome to staff and faculty at SAU Tech's fall 2022 Convocation and Employee Appreciation early Wednesday morning. Each fall, the College hosts a time to recognize employees and provide in-service training. Dr. Morrison thanked the staff and faculty and offered words of encouragement to staff and faculty as they enjoyed breakfast from the College's new dining service, Great Western Dining. He stated that the College is in a good place, and he and the College's development staff are working to identify an entity to sponsor naming rights for the baseball field currently under development. 

Patrick Graham, Interim Director of Information Technology, was the first staff member to present. He shared with the staff and faculty the new roles of his staff and himself as he replaced Laura Johnson, who retired in July. Patrick shared the importance of taking care when using the College's email for personal use. He encouraged everyone to contact his department if unsure about questionable emails in the College's accounts.

Associate Vice Chancellor for the Arkansas Fire Training Academy, Andy Woody, updated the employees on the Academy and what has been happening since he was hired earlier in the year. Andy introduced himself and briefly overviewed his career before SAU Tech. Andy stated that he feels supported by the College's administration and emergency services units throughout and out of state. Andy shared his concept of how growing the AFTA responsibility would look. He thanked the College staff who have provided technical and administrative support in recent months. He stated that the AFTA is preparing to provide a retreat weekend for volunteer firefighters and developing alternative learning methods and other new ventures. Andy noted that the AFTA anticipates certifying over 20,0000 firefighters this year and is looking forward to hosting the College's staff soon at the AFTA campus. 

Associate Vice Chancellor of the Arkansas Environmental Training Academy and Director of Workforce Training, Randy Harper, shared his passion for the AFTA and the role that the AFTA has in providing environmental training in the state of Arkansas. Randy introduced his new employees and mentioned the loss of a long-time employee Laticia Rush. Rickey Cole retired in December, and Jeremy Rowe is now the assistant director for the AFTA. The AFTA trained over 3,000 students over the last year. They provide training all over the state in backflow, wastewater, water, and solid waste to employees of municipalities. Randy stated that the technology for Zoom training they implemented due to COVID-19 is now a new alternative method to deliver training. Randy shared the process that brought the Workforce Division to the AETA and how that partnership works for providing training to industries. The Workforce Division has experienced some difficulties in keeping expert trainers employed to provide training to the defense industries in the Highland Industrial Park. 

Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, Gaye Manning, shared information about the College's budget and the projects funded by grants that are going on at the campus right now. She shared how the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources grants are funding renovations on the historical dorms across the street from the campus. Gaye gave a rundown of all the grant awards and the grantors. She thanked the grant writer, the grant managers, the financial staff, and the physical plant staff. She stated that it is work outside of regular duties to complete this. Gaye shared the progress of the update to the student information system from the College's current antiquated system to the new product and the timeline of when the work will be done. The expected go-live date will be in 2023. It is a considerable undertaking but worth it as the system will allow us to provide more efficient services for our students and departments. Keeping on schedule with the training dates will be essential, so the process flows smoothly. Gaye introduced Carl Ramsay, the College's physical plant director, and asked him to share some photos and information about current projects. Carl stated that the goal is to provide a beautiful campus for students and parents as they arrive on the campus for classes. He thanked the staff and all they do and shared photos of several offices, instruction spaces, and student housing. Carl gave more details about each project and the expected completion dates and thanked his staff for their hard work. 

Dr. Morrison retook the stage and shared updates about the athletic programs and student-athletes transferring to four-year universities. He introduced Halle Posey, former cheerleader, Tech Scholar, and SAU Tech graduate, now working in the chancellor's office and for the athletic director. Dr. Morrision thanked Caine Winans for all his work on the Foundation apartments in East Camden. He talked a little about the incoming students and shared some enrollment numbers for the fall. He stated that credit production estimates are looking good and the importance of students completing their federal financial aid applications.

Vice Chancellor for Academics and Planning, Dr. Valerie Wilson, took the stage after a morning break to share information about the College's accreditation process and things going on in academics and planning. 

Dr. Wilson explained that the College's accreditation is the core of the College, and it touches every department on this campus-planning, budgeting, instruction, etc. The College's ability to maintain accreditation enables our students to obtain student loans and Pell grants. Accreditation is how SAU Tech validates the degrees and certifications it awards to students. The College first became accredited in 1980 as a two-year college with the ability to award associate degrees. During this time, the College has obtained and maintained accreditation through several different methods, all under the Higher Learning Commission. In June 2020, the College moved to what the HLC calls the standard pathway to accreditation after the HLC visiting team made the College's 10-year visit. After the visit, the College received feedback reports from the reviewers and started working on setting up a process to collect evidence using staff and faculty teams. Kimberly Coker, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications and Development, is the official writer for the College's HLC documents. Writing the HLC document is a new duty for her that started in fall 2021. In 2023, Kimberly will begin writing the Assurance Argument due to HLC in the fall of the same year. The HLC review team will visit after the document submission to give the College feedback, which will be used to update the Assurance Argument. Updates will continue until the official accreditation visit in 2029-2030.

Dr. Wilson also shared some success stories of students whose grades were dismal. With the help of our faculty and staff and encouragement, the students successfully improve their academic standing. 

Dr. Morrison shared some information about the HLC assessment process before introducing Dr. Edward Rice, Vice Chancellor for Student Services. Dr. Rice thanked everyone and shared information about students moving into student housing starting today with student-athletes. He stated that SAU Tech is one of the best places he has ever worked during his career in higher education. He said there has never been a time when his departments have asked for assistance that the staff and faculty have not responded by doing everything they could to help. He shared the student services mission, goals, and objectives, which include creating the best experience for the College's students. The financial aid audit review was successful, and he thanked the Director, Connie Riley, and the staff for their hard work. 

Dr. Rice has taken on the role of the chair for the Emergency Response Team and shared that training for an active shooter event and emergency evacuation scenarios are upcoming. He shared information about the College's new food service with the new food service - Great Western Dining. The food is good, and it is affordable. The student services department has also updated the laundry services for housing students to alleviate some of the issues and complaints from students. The College expects to have around 200 students in campus housing for fall 2022.

Dr. Rice also shared the success of the College's career fair last spring and thanked the event team. Marcus Copeland is now the Director of Student Success and Academic Engagement, heading up the services provided by the Rocket Success Center. He said he is proud of what the recruitment and admission staff have accomplished this year despite losing a recruiter last year. He discussed some upgrades that have taken place this summer and thanked the staff involved in making the improvements. Dr. Rice updated the College audience on all the student services departments and thanked the employees for their hard work. He discussed the progress and outcomes of implementing and using the Starfish software for student support and retention services. The faculty use the system to raise alerts and to give kudos to students to help support the College's enormous population of at-risk students. 

Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Services and Registrar Jenny Sanders spoke about the new student orientation numbers and thanked the staff and faculty who helped with the summer events. She stated that the numbers from this summer's orientation (SOAR) are higher than pre-COVID. Jenny talked about the Be Pro, Be Proud truck coming to the campus to visit with high school students. She updated information about the registrar's office and the Tech Scholars. 

Courtney Haygood, Dean for Student Life and Housing shared the physical updates to student housing and commented on the hours for the dining service to be open for students. He explained how the new laundry service works and the technology involved. He stated that there is only one slot in housing open right now. Athletes move in today, and the rest of the students move in on Friday, and volunteers are needed to help students and parents. Homecoming week is scheduled from January 29, 2023, to February 4, 2023. Dean Haygood prayed before the group was dismissed for lunch. 

After lunch, the College recognized faculty, staff, and alumni chosen by faculty and staff to be recognized for their support of the College or for obtaining academic recognition. 

  • Doug Dodds, Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award 
  • Leona Brown, Concurrent Faculty Excellence Award
  • Katherine Davoren, Outstanding Alumni Award
  • Robyn Binns Meadows, Professional Staff Excellence Award
  • Frances Bowen, Support Staff Excellence Award
  • Clarence Roland Walters, Faculty Excellence Award 
  • Rocket Pride Award-Going the Extra Mile - Troy Alphin

Departmental Rocket Pride Shout Out Awards

  • Ronnodo Grant
  • Mark Ferns
  • Vontisha Murphy
  • Karmen House
  • Courtney Haygood

Academic Certifications

  • Center for Online Learning Awards (Quality Matters Certification-Peer Reviewer) Stephanie Morrison, Divesh Acharya
  • (Certification of Course Design Quality Matter Awards) - Criminal Evidence and Procedures, Stephanie Morrison; Theater Appreciation, Sara Landaverde; Principals of Accounting I, Phyliss Hutson; Composition I, Rebecca Hughes; Introduction to management, Jodi Eppientte; World History I, Philip Allison; Quantitative Analysis, Dr. Terry Hutson; College Algebra, Sandi Daniel; General Chemistry, Andreea Stowe; General Psychology, Dr. Velvet Easter; History of Arkansas, Robert Gunnels; Programming I, Divesh Acharya; Introduction to Education and Field Experience, Amy Diehl; Math for Healthcare Professionals, Shelley Young.

Service Awards- Five Years

  • Ralph "Creek" Cochran, Physical Plant 
  • Paula Evans, Career Academy
  • Justin Freeland, Career Academy
  • Ronnodo Grant, AFTA
  • Macon Patton, Physical Plant 
  • Debra Riggs, Student Services
  • Dr. Jason Morrison, Chancellor

Service Awards-10 Years

  • Stephen Clark, AFTA
  • Lottie Johnson, Physical Plant
  • Becky Mchaffey, Business Office
  • Kathy Wright, Adult Ed

Service Awards-15 years

  • Tammy Allen, Physical Plant
  • Rita Givens, Academics, and Planning
  • Lisa Holland, Business Office
  • LaClaire Williams, Academics, and Planning

Service Awards- 20 years

  • Kaye Hudman, Career Academy
  • Keisha Robinson, Finance and Administration

Service Awards- 25 Years

  • Robert Gunnels, Academics, and Planning

Service Awards- 30 years

  • Dr. Terry Hutson, Faculty, 
  • Dale Tommey, Finance & Administration

Retiree Award

  • Laura Johnson