Steve Keith

Southern Arkansas University Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Keith prepares to convene Friday's meeting at the Reynolds Center.

Poultry production is a $3 billion industry in the state, and Southern Arkansas University is hatching a plan to get back into it.

SAU, true to its beginning as one of four state agricultural high schools, will restore poultry studies to the curriculum, “probably in a larger way than it was before,” President Dr. Trey Berry told the Board of Trustees on Friday.

A “state of the art” chicken house will be built near the Louisiana & North West Railroad, just northwest of the Agriculture Building. It will be fronted by a new building that will blend in with the Georgian-style architecture on the campus. But in fact, the building will be a chicken slaughterhouse or, more euphemistically, a “chicken processing facility.”

“We’re going to teach the students the entire run of the poultry industry, from hatching all the way through processing,” Berry said.

Berry hopes to name major financial partners for the poultry studies program by the first of the year.

“We’re excited about this possibility for our agri students, but also for this region of the country. There’s nothing like this in our region,” Berry said.

Prospects for offering the university’s first doctoral program are good, Berry told trustees. SAU’s proposal to create the first “doctor of education” program at any state university south of Little Rock has received its first reading before the Higher Education Coordination Board.

The next step will be to bring in consultants next spring who will determine SAU’s readiness to offer a doctoral program. If everything falls into place, SAU may start offering a doctorate in education leadership by fall 2019.

The university’s freshman class has the highest average ACT score – 21.8 – in SAU history. “The academic credentials of our freshman class, not just the numbers, are going up.”

SAU also has a record number of sophomores, a record number of students living on campus, and a record number of students in the Honors Program.

Applications for the fall 2018 semester, the number of tours being given to prospective students, and the number of students accepting admission are up “significantly,” Berry said.

SAU and campuses around the nation are affected by a downturn in international student enrollment, Berry said. SAU is combatting that trend by creating “international” student ambassadors – current SAU students who are working to recruit new students from their homelands.

“We are trying to diversity the countries we recruit from,” Berry said.

Berry said the university’s endowment now tops $36 million. In 2010, the total value of the endowment was about 20 million.

SAU has generated a record $5.5 million through fundraising in 2017, Berry said. “We’re excited about what this means for the future,” he said.

Demolition of the tennis courts will start January 2. The courts will be rebuilt and a tennis coach and team will be recruited. The new courts should be ready by the fall semester, Berry said. The courts will be available for use by the general public, he said.

Dr. David Lanoue, vice president of Academic Affairs, told trustees about plans for the master’s degree in public administration (MPA), and a bachelor of science degree in public health.

The MPA program will be made available online, Lanoue said.

“A lot of the people we are trying to attract are people who are already in careers and who are trying to move up in public service,” he said. “They need a program that responds to the time they are available.”

The BS in public health is designed for future first responders, health care administrators and educators, restaurant inspectors, and anyone else who wants a career in the health care industry not directly related to patient care.

Trustees agreed to seek approval for both programs through the Department of Higher Education.

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