Students, faculty and staff, business leaders and community members gathered together for the unveiling of the Arkansas Coding Academy initiative on Tuesday at the University of Central Arkansas.

Metova, a professional services company focused on mobile applications, partnered with UCA to bring the academy to the campus.

The academy is part of UCA’s Division of Outreach and Community Engagement.

President Tom Courtway said UCA, as well as other colleges and universities, do a great job in the classroom but the Outreach and Community Engagement Office is also a "big piece of that puzzle," and one thing that is important is reaching out to communities to help citizens that already have a degree or want to do something else.

"That’s what the coding academy is all about," he said and added board members Brad Lacy and Bunny Adcock were instrumental in spearheading the initiative.

Lacy, who is also the President of the Conway Chamber of Commerce, said through discussions with local business leaders, a need for several hundred programmers or information technology specialists would arise in the next several years and through the coding academy, Conway could provide a place for people to learn and develop a skill set that would help them obtain a job.

"I think that’s something to celebrate today," Lacy said. "I’m proud of our institution for stepping in and filling a need that we have in this local market."

Kent Watson, a Metova representative, said businesses are in need of technical talent.

"The Arkansas Coding Academy is here to develop the next generation of in demand and skilled coders," Watson said. "The [academy] is critical to building tomorrow’s technology work force."

After graduating from UCA and working for The Iron Yard, a coding school in Little Rock, Director Mary Dunlap said she was excited to get back on campus.

"I am over the moon that I get to come back," she said.

Dunlap said she is fortunate because gets to work directly with community partners as well as students.

"The Arkansas Coding Academy provides our students with the unique opportunity to learn tactical skills that are relevant in today’s work place while being complimentary to every degree of our program but especially [what this university] can offer," she said. "I’m continuously humbled by the opportunity to get to know our students and to get to see them grow while they spend time in class as well as watch them learn, create friendships with their classmates and generally support them during their educational journey."

As of Tuesday, she said nine students have been admitted into the program, 15 per class. There are two classes, one full-time that will start Aug. 22 and one part-time Sept. 5. The full-time class will meet Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for 12 weeks. The part-time class will meet after hours at night for four days a week.

Zach Little is one of those nine students.

Little said he is really interested in gaining specific skills that will allow him to be more valuable in the workforce, but also the partnerships between the local businesses and UCA.

"I’m getting excited," Little said. "I think it’s going to be a challenge."

Dunlap said the course costs $6,000, which includes a MacBook Air. Financial help is available through the Arkansas Department Workforce Services.

Open house set

An open house will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. July 26 at UCA Downtown.

Anyone interested in the coding program can visit to submit an application.

(Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at