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Cornerstone Coalition Discusses the Future

Danielle Kloap
Around Campus Editor

Photo by Eric Bell
Chancellor - Jack Lassiter speaks with the Cornerstone Coalition.  The Coalition held a meeting Sept. 12 on campus.

   The Southeast Arkansas Cornerstone Coalition, Inc. held a board meeting in the John F. Gibson University Center Capitol Room Sept. 12.

    The SACC exists to promote economic development in Ashley, Bradley, Chicot, Desha, Drew and Lincoln counties.  The board of directors consists of five volunteers from the six cornerstone counties. According to their Web site, their objectives include:

  • job creation and income generation;
  • human resource development;
  • reversal of out-migration trends;
  • improved infrastructure, including telecommunications;
  • entrepreneurial development;
  • technology development and application; and
  • voter registration.

    “This is important because the SACC is an extension of service to the community,” Drew County board member Hugh Heflin said.

    After SACC President Kenny Gober welcomed everyone, Chancellor Jack Lassiter gave a campus update. 

    Lassiter talked about the journalism program’s success.

    “UAM’s excellent publications are entirely student produced,” Lassiter said.  “They are a part of the journalism program run by Dr. Ron Sitton.”

    The university set another enrollment record this year with 3,190 students.  Lassiter talked about the UAM Foundation helping students attend school by awarding 824 scholarships this year.   Lassiter explained why UAM should not be judged solely on graduation and retention statistics. 

    “UAM can’t change students in just four to six years,” Lassiter said.  “If you look at statistics of graduation and retention rates, UAM will be close to the bottom, but we’ll keep our door open.  If you want a degree, you can get one.”

    After bragging about how well the faculty takes care of the students he talked about a new program at UAM.  The New York Times delivers 400 newspapers to campus everyday for a discounted price to encourage readership among the students. 

    “The faculty now has another tool for the classroom,” Lassiter said.  “Some students have never traveled north of Pine Bluff, so this is an eye-opening experience.”

    Lassiter discussed progress made with the Master Plan.  He jokingly explained that the orange fences around campus were not for cattle but part of the renovation process for the last step in Phase I of the Master Plan.

    Plans for Phase I include renovation of Wells and Sorrels Halls, while preserving historical aspects. The committee will address central heat and air, expanding classroom and office space, adding a walkway between Sorrels and Wells and adding elevators to meet American Disabilities Association standards during this renovation. 

    Lassiter ended the update by talking about the finished Weevil Pond and said he hopes to break ground in late November on the football and band practice facility by the north end zone of the football field.   

   SACC members discussed the Jatropha plant and how this 4 foot high, bush-like plant will affect the economy in Arkansas.

Photo by Eric Bell

SACC President - Kenny Gober led the Coalition meeting. The meeting included discussion on the Jatropha plant, the Cornerstone Strategic Plan and other issues important to Southeast Arkansas.

    The Jatropha plant would be in direct competition with bio diesel because it grows 10 times more per acre than corn.  Jatropha produces five barrels of fuel per acre.  The seeds of the Jatropha plan can be crushed to make oil to use in bio diesel engines. Right now it grows in Brazil.  Jatropha grows in waste lands, needs very little water and no fertilizer, which ensures that it will come to the United States at some point. 

    The SACC then discussed the Cornerstone Strategic Plan.  Through data collection conducted by two UAM students they decided to start surveying businesses about what kind of employees they need, starting Sept. 17.  The SACC will pair local businesses with UAM graduates based on the business survey.  They hope to keep UAM graduates in the South Arkansas area to help build the economy. 

    Nita McDaniel gave a report on the SACC Leadership Institution Program.  She said the program is gaining respect across the state and more people are asking how to get involved.   

   “The whole point of the program is to grow and improve,” McDaniel said.

     After McDaniel finished the report Gober said that the Leadership Institution program will help build leadership in the area and should be proud because it’s the first and only regional leadership program in Arkansas.

    In old business, SACC decided to buy two bricks for the Weevil Walk at Weevil Pond since the whole name would not fit on one brick. 

    In new business, Fred Denton, chair of the officer nomination committee, read the slate of officers for 2008 and the board unanimously voted for them.  The 2008 Executive Board comprises President John Lipton, Vice President of Infrastructure Mike Smith, Vice President of Programs Pat Mangum, Secretary Bettye Gragg and Treasurer Dave Dickson. 

    In announcements, the members were asked to keep a very close focus on politics in the new political year.  Money will be taken out of Medicare and Medicaid budgets.  Each county will be impacted because Medicare and Medicaid provide 60 percent of healthcare costs.

    Gober adjourned the meeting with a challenge to all members.

    “Go back to your communities and see how these cuts will affect your community,” Gober said.  “Act according to that and see how Cornerstone can help.”


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ŠThe Voice 2007
01/13/2008 03:14:52 PM —