A New School Year Marks a Fresh Beginning for UAM

Will Whiting
Managing Editor

   When R. David Ray received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University over 40 years ago, he never dreamed he would one day serve as the dean of an academic unit on a university campus, much less as a university’s chief academic officer. While he knew he planned to enter the education field, he thought he would spend his years behind a podium instructing students in a classroom.

Photo by Will Whiting
Vice Chancellor David Ray
   After completing work on a master’s degree at Texas Tech, Ray was offered the position of director of Forensics and Debate at the University of Arkansas – Monticello, where he began his teaching career and built the foundation for one of the nation’s most successful debate and forensics teams. After serving in the classroom for more than 20 years, UAM realized Ray’s dedication to education, and he made the switch from writing on the blackboards to spending more time in an office when he was appointed dean of the School of Arts and Humanities. After 10 years of serving students at UAM in that position, the unthinkable happened: Chancellor Jack Lassiter appointed Ray as vice chancellor for Academic Affairs on July 6.

   “I am extremely excited about the opportunity to work in this position,” Ray said. “We have some of the best faculty anywhere, and I am so pleased to be able to work with the faculty in all academic areas on campus.”

   As UAM's chief academic officer, Ray is responsible for overseeing all academic issues on campus, including working to develop new programs and strengthening existing programs. While it will require a lot of work with faculty and staff, Ray said the UAM student body is just as important to him.

   “The students will always be my No. 1 priority,” Ray said. “This is a teaching institution, and we have to provide our students with quality programs.”

   Since accepting his new position, Ray has acquainted himself with all of the academic units on campus. In addition, he said he has had the privilege to work one-on-one with new and existing faculty.

   “I am extremely pleased with the breadth of the backgrounds of our entire faculty,” Ray said. “Our new faculty is exciting and young, and is eager to become involved on campus.”

   Ray said he is confident that UAM’s programs are some of the best in the nation.

   “It is amazing the work that all of our academic departments are doing on campus,” Ray said. “We have some programs that can only be found at one institution in our state, and that is UAM. That is pretty impressive.”

   While the work the departments are doing is exciting, Ray has developed a list of personal goals which include a variety of academic issues. One issue is the possibility of creating a program similar to the former Honor’s Program, designed specifically for students who excel academically.

   “Even though we don’t have an Honor’s program, we do offer honor’s classes in several academic units,” Ray said. “However, the honor’s program concept is definitely something I want to look into. It may be a hope for our future.”

   Ray also plans to work hard to add more night classes to the UAM schedule. He said he believes making more night classes available would provide an option to students limited by time constraints, but still wishing to enhance their educational opportunities.

   While his list of goals may be extensive, Ray said he believes this is one of the strongest times in the history of the school. He cites the recent acquisition of both College of Technology campuses in McGehee and Crossett as providing the university with a great chance to better the entire population of Southeast Arkansas.

   “I don’t think I have ever seen a more exciting time for this university in the 35 years I’ve been here,” Ray said. “We can now give everyone an educational opportunity from technical courses to limited master’s degrees and everything in between.”

    Receiving the appointment of vice chancellor was exciting, but it did not come without a disappointment.

   “My only disappointment in my appointment to this position is that I am not in the classroom anymore,” Ray said. “I will miss instructing students in the classroom, but it simply was just not possible to do both.”

   Even though Ray will not be assigning speech topics or preparing examinations, one thing that will not change for this nationally recognized educator is the one thing UAM realized a long time ago: his dedication to education and commitment to making sure students are put first.

    “My favorite thing about education is the joy it brings me to see a student achieve,” Ray said. “They are the reason we are here.”

   In addition to his new position, Ray also serves as Graduate Dean and will remain for university purposes as an associate professor of Speech Communications in the event he is needed to instruct again.

   When the prized educator is not working to better UAM academically, he said he enjoys spending time with his wife Loyce, who also is a UAM employee, or visiting his family. Ray is the proud father of two children, Heather Worley of Burlington, Wis., and Hunter Ray of Hot Springs Village, Ark.

   In addition to spending time with his family, Ray also enjoys golfing, producing art and tinkering with motorcycles. However, he said education is where his heart is and he believes UAM is at its prime.

   “I have always said UAM is one of the best kept secrets in the state,” Ray said. “I think we are only going to get stronger, and I look forward to helping strengthen our university in my new position.”

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