Board of trustees at the University of Central Arkansas voted to give UCA President Houston Davis the authorization to amend or terminate Donaghey Hall retail leases if deemed necessary and to convert the vacant spaces to university-related purposes during its regular meeting Friday.
“The number one hope is that I really see a great opportunity for us to pivot those spaces toward serving our students whether that be food service expansion, enrollment services, services that are geared toward recruitment and retention of students or thinking about where our outreach efforts are,” Davis said. “Those are the three areas … I think they’re great opportunities for us to be able to use that space.”
Donaghey Hall businesses Mosaique Bistro and Grill closed in December 2017, Blue Sail Coffee and Uncle T’s Deli-Market closed in January and Trek Bicycle Store will close later this month.
Marble Slab Creamery/Great American Cookies will continue to stay open.
According to the resolution, the university was in discussion with Hank Kelley with Flake and Kelley Commercial in December regarding the existing retail tenants and the future use of the space.
“Mr. Kelley recommended, in part, that the university evaluate how much of the space can be utilized for university-related functions,” the resolution reads.
Davis also said they are looking at recent surveys students have filled out, going back to the drawing board, to see what students really want. He said it’s important for the university to use the information it has.
“I think anytime we stay true to our mission and stay centered on anything that we do and how does it serve students, it’s hard to go wrong,” Davis said. “That’s why I’m very optimistic about what we’re considering for that space for the future.”
Spokesman Christina Madsen said the university is sad to see the businesses go.
“Once they decided to close, those business owners, it was an opportunity for us to say ‘what might fit better here for our mission and for our students?’” she said.
Davis sent out an email to faculty, staff and students Jan. 30 regarding the situation.
“It is important to note that the top three floors — residential housing — are performing as originally planned and the overall project is performing against revenue targets,” he wrote. “It is also helpful that finishes made to the open first-floor space should be able to be re-used with minor modifications for university-related uses. This will aid in pivoting back toward university functions.”
In other news, the board also approved six personnel contracts including one for new head football coach Nathan Brown for $200,000 — he received $74,701 as an assistant coach — and one for Michael Lloyd, named interim chief information officer for one year at $198,000.
Davis said the university did an external peer review with other chief information officer’s from other campuses to take a “hard look” at the current structure of UCA’s Information Systems and Technology Division.
That review, he said, led to a decision to bring in Lloyd, who started Jan. 8, to take a further, more in-depth look at the issues that were raised during that peer review and help the university prioritize what needed to be done.
Davis said those issues included concerns for core IT services that weren’t being delivered flawlessly and dissatisfaction with network reliability and responsiveness.
Lloyd said his first month has consisted of meeting with different people in that division and different stakeholder groups across the campus to identify what needed to be done first. He presented his findings — low customer satisfaction, weak relationships with stakeholders and collaboration, group is operating below basic service provider, team morale is low with friction across teams, no resource management strategy and lack of information sharing and training — to the board Friday.
He said goal one is to provide an excellent customer experience for students, faculty and staff; goal two was to enable UCA’s strategic growth and retrenchment initiatives by future-proofing technology and IT capabilities; and goal four was to create highly collaborative trust-based relationships with divisions, colleges and departments to promote innovation in learning.
“What I’m very pleased with is the job that Mike is doing and the response of the IST divines to that,” Davis said. “They are really rallying around the opportunity to think critically about what they do and how they do it and I think the rest of the campus is responding positively to that as well.”
During the meeting, the board:
• Recognized board member Elizabeth Farris for her time as chair and successes under her term.
• Approved contracts with Fidelity Information Services and HealthCheck 360º.
• Acknowledged Bear CLAWS recipient and UCA student Hayley Harp from Texarkana, Texas, for her success as a Purple Society Inductee and President’s Leadership Fellow, a member of the Student Government Association and her work as the Big Event director.