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UA Fayetteville chancellor search narrowed to final four – Arkansas Online

The University of Arkansas System has narrowed the search for the next chancellor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville — the system’s flagship and state’s largest university — to four finalists, all of whom emphasized the importance of the university’s land-grant institution status as part of their applications.
“The search committee really embraced the significance of this role from the start, and we’re proud and excited to introduce these candidates to campus in the coming weeks,” said Kim Needy, chairperson of the search committee and dean of the university’s College of Engineering. “The high-quality pool of applicants yielded four finalists that are all proven leaders with a diverse range of specialties we feel could all benefit the University of Arkansas in different ways.”
“I want to especially thank [Needy] and our search committee members for their hard work and dedication to this process, which has yielded a strong result heading into these campus visits,” University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt stated in a news release from the University of Arkansas System. “We look forward to getting to know the finalists more in the coming weeks.”
Finalists are: interim Chancellor Charles F. Robinson, who is the first Black person to be chancellor of the University of Arkansas even in an interim capacity; Jay T. Akridge, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Purdue University; Daniel A. Reed, presidential professor of computational science at the University of Utah; and Cynthia Y. Young, founding dean of the College of Sciences at Clemson University, who would be the first female chancellor of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville if selected.
Finalists will each visit campus for two days of meetings with students, faculty, staff and university stakeholders, and each candidate will participate in a public forum on campus that will also be livestreamed and recorded for broad access to the campus community, according to the University of Arkansas System. Robinson’s public forum is scheduled for Sept. 12, Akridge’s for Sept. 14, Reed’s for Sept. 16, and Young’s for Sept. 19.
“We look forward to observing each of them in a campus setting and evaluating feedback as they share their vision for the future of our institution,” Needy said.
[UA APPLICATIONS: Read the candidates’ letters and resumes » arkansasonline.com/93ualetters/]
“I couldn’t be more pleased that these four distinguished individuals have accepted our invitation to visit the University of Arkansas as finalists in the search for our next chancellor,” Bobbitt said in the statement from the University of Arkansas System. “A national leadership search presents an opportunity to test the reputational quality of an institution, and the quality and diversity of our four finalists show that the U of A is very well regarded on the national stage.”
More detailed information on each finalist, as well as dates, times and additional details regarding each candidate’s public forum, are posted on the chancellor search website at: https://chancellor.uark.edu/chancellor-search/.
Robinson was provost and executive vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at the university before being named interim chancellor in August 2021 after acting Chancellor Bill Kincaid — who was named to that role after former Chancellor Joe Steinmetz officially resigned June 18, 2021 — returned to his role on campus as senior managing associate general counsel, according to the University of Arkansas System.
Robinson, who has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Houston, a master’s degree in history from Rice University, and a doctorate in history from the University of Houston, began his career at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 1999 as an assistant professor of history.
He’s also been chairman of the African and African American Studies Program and vice provost for diversity. During his time as vice chancellor for student affairs, Robinson led a major restructuring of the Division of Student Affairs, positioning it to focus more on student success initiatives, according to the University of Arkansas System. He also led institutional efforts regarding diversity recruitment and retention of students and faculty while developing new academic initiatives and development goals.
Under his leadership, the university constructed Adohi Hall, a $79 million campus project that is the only residence hall in the United States to use cross-laminated timber, according to the University of Arkansas System. His research and teaching focuses on Southern History and race relations, African American studies, sexuality in history and civil rights, among other topics, and he’s earned a number of awards for his teaching, including the Fulbright College Master Teacher Award, Arkansas Student Alumni Board Teacher of the Year, and an induction into the university’s Teaching Academy.
“As I have had the great honor of serving as interim chancellor for the University of Arkansas, my belief in the power and potential of this institution has repeatedly been confirmed by the outstanding students, faculty, and staff who learn, teach and serve here; they represent a passionate and ingenious community whose knowledge and creativity have the capacity to genuinely make the state and the world a better place,” Robinson stated in his letter of application to the search committee.
“As I contemplate the responsibilities of a chancellor at an institution like the U of A, the land-grant mission to teach, discover, and serve is paramount in my thinking. The role of a chancellor is expressly to support and inspire the academic community, to identify opportunities for growth and change, and to marshal coalitions of talented people to solve pressing problems in ways that help others. I am convinced that the future success of the University of Arkansas depends on our willingness to embrace, believe in, and recommit to our land-grant mission, working together in bold and courageous ways to carry on the work that began here in 1871.”
That includes accessibility for Arkansans, stated Robinson, who this year directed another $1 million to scholarships for students from Arkansas. “Moving forward, we must build on tried-and-true techniques to attract more Arkansas students, such as expanding our presence in local communities through more college readiness training and other enhanced programming. We must also make it possible for students from small, rural Arkansas communities to visit our campus early in their high school years.”
Akridge leads the academic enterprise of Purdue with a total budget of approximately $1.8 billion, student enrollment of more than 50,000, 2,700 faculty members, and 8,000 staff. As provost, he has led the university’s enrollment growth initiative, expanding undergraduate enrollment from 31,000 in 2017 to nearly 38,000 in 2022, according to the University of Arkansas System.
He was Purdue’s dean of agriculture for more than eight years. Akridge has a bachelor’s in agriculture and business administration from Murray State University, and his master’s and doctorate in agriculture economics are from Purdue.
Like Robinson, Akridge also emphasized the flagship, land-grant status of the UA in his letter to the search committee, noting Purdue is likewise a flagship, land-grant university.
“I believe deeply in the land-grant model and the fundamental role land-grant institutions can play in developing human talent, driving economic development, and ultimately enhancing the lives and livelihoods of the people in our communities, states, nation, and world,” Akridge stated. “Providing an education that prepares students for whatever path they choose remains the first and most important of the three land-grant mission areas. Today, that means providing access to prepared students and then providing the support qualified students need to graduate on time — before moving successfully on to the next step in their careers.”
“Doing all we can to ensure the success of admitted students is one of our most fundamental responsibilities; retention rates, graduation rates, and time to degree are essential metrics of success,” Akridge added. “We must identify barriers to improvement and unpack systematic differences in these metrics, getting at root causes for the differences, an issue that demands multiple approaches, respecting the many possible reasons any individual student may have for not completing.”
“For me, a flagship land-grant university such as the University of Arkansas cannot be truly excellent unless it recruits and retains the best possible faculty, staff, and students regardless of any demographic or other characteristic,” Akridge continued. That means fostering a sense of belonging, as “without a strong sense of belonging, we are highly unlikely to retain underrepresented faculty, staff, and students.”
Reed has been Utah’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and he helped launch the For Utah scholarship — which diversified the student body and broadened access for first generation students — and spearheaded the 1U4U cross-campus research initiative, according to the University of Arkansas System.
Previously, Reed was the university chairman in computational science and bioinformatics and professor of computer science, electrical and computer engineering, and medicine at the University of Iowa, where he was vice president for research and economic development.
Reed is also the former corporate vice president for technology policy and extreme computing for Microsoft, according to the University of Arkansas System. He earned a bachelor’s in computer science at Missouri University of Science and Technology and a master’s and Ph.D. in computer science at Purdue University.
Reed was raised in the Arkansas Ozarks, his extended family still resides in the area, and “Arkansas will always be my home,” he wrote to the search committee. “I know the state’s people and culture well,” and he sees “extraordinary opportunities” at the university.
“The bedrock of the land-grant mission, that education reaches far beyond the classroom and assists all of the state’s citizens via deep, collaborative partnerships, must always be the defining ethos of an educated democracy,” Reed stated. “Renewed and invigorated in response to ever changing societal needs, it is part of the transgenerational trust, a birthright passed on to the next.”
“The genius of the U.S. higher educational system is its sense of community, diversity, and empowerment. It brings together people with widely varying backgrounds, perspectives, and interests. In that cauldron of intellectual exploration, it imbues each person with a sense of wonder, as well as the knowledge and skills to be a productive member of society,” Reed added. “It is why I believe so strongly that we must ensure the door of opportunity is both welcoming and open wide. Talent thrives when given the chance; everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue his or her dreams, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.”
Young led the effort to create Clemson’s strategic road map, SCIForward, and worked to increase student success and elevate Clemson’s status as an R1 institution — colleges, including the University of Arkansas, that meet benchmarks in research activity and expenditures as measured by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education — through increased faculty productivity and doubled external research funding, according to the University of Arkansas System.
Previously, Young spent 20 years at the University of Central Florida, where she served in several leadership roles including as vice provost for faculty excellence and UCF Global, associate dean for the College of Sciences, and co-founder of the UCF EXCEL student retention program.
The University of Arkansas “is a special research university, one that continues to stay rooted in its vital land grant mission of helping to lift the lives and livelihoods of its state citizens while embracing and leading transformational change in search of better tomorrows,” Young wrote in her letter to the search committee. “It is a university focused on local relevance while also achieving national and global impact, and I am impressed by the curiosity, character, creativity, and shared humanity of the Razorback spirit.”
“I have spent my career in higher education at two public, R1, student-centric universities, each with excellence spanning the arts, humanities, engineering, sciences, professional programs, and intercollegiate athletics. The size and complexity of these billion-dollar enterprises have provided me the opportunity for collective impact and scale, both of which are in my DNA,” added Young, who earned her bachelor’s in education from the University of North Carolina and a master’s in mathematical science from UCF before completing a master’s in electrical engineering and Ph.D. in applied mathematics at the University of Washington.
“I believe in the power of partnership which has been instrumental throughout my career at both UCF and Clemson, and I would bring that spirit of collaboration to help advance the U of A.”

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