For 100 years, the University of Central Arkansas Division of Outreach and Community Engagement has been helping to enrich the lives of others.
Conway and the UCA campus gathered together to celebrate the anniversary during a ceremony in Brewer-Hegeman Conference Center on Friday.
During the event, a video was shown acknowledging the division’s great history.
Created in 1919 as the extension department of the Arkansas State Normal School — UCA’s formal title — the idea behind its establishment came from a professor on campus who made the recommendation to then-president B. W. Torreyson to allow students to take classes through the school without being on campus.
“A college without walls,” the narrator said.
According to the video, at the time most who participated were teachers at schools in rural areas. During that time, very few teachers held degrees but by taking classes through the extension, could enhance their accreditation.
“Outreach and Community Engagement is a big tent,” the video stated. “In the last three years we’ve added three new programs [for all ages]. There’s something for everyone.”
Associate Vice President Shaneil Ealy spoke with guests about the support the department has received and the importance of that, thanking UCA Chief of Staff Kelley Erstine and president Houston Davis, the university board of trustees and everyone else who had backed the division through the years.
“Outreach would not exist without the support of our administration,” she said. “Thank you for recognizing our value on campus and in the community.”
Ealy said in 1919 the division was formed to meet the university’s extension program and public-service goal.
“One hundred years later, we continue that tradition of service and community engagement,” she said. “Our mission is to connect the campus with the community through innovative and collaborative programs and services. You guys are here today because outreach has obviously impacted you in some ways.”
Ealy dove into the many programs offered including the Arkansas Coding Academy, business outreach, community development, community education, culinary classes, online programs, professional development, service learning, volunteer work and the Women’s Leadership Network.
The associate vice president noted another, conference services, and asked the group to raise their hands if they’ve ever been assisted through Brewer-Hegeman, McCastlain Hall on campus or UCA Downtown.
“That should be all of us,” she said, laughing. “Making sure you’re all still here.”
Lastly, Ealy called attention to one more group that she said they could not operate without.
“If you’ve ever got a bill from outreach or received a payment from outreach then you have worked with our finance and facilities,” she said, laughing.
The room, with many raised hands, also found Ealy’s mention humorous.
During the event, Mayor Bart Castleberry also read a proclamation on behalf of the city making April 12 UCA Outreach and Community Engagement Day.
“Our work is meaningful and our staff are truly engaged. We recognize our responsibility to the community and to the university,” Ealy said. “Outreach is transforming lives through education and we have so many stories to share.”
She told one about a full-time math teacher who had decided to enroll in the coding academy. Ealy said the woman went from a $30,000 yearly teacher salary to around $70,000 in her new technology role.
“Let’s talk about transforming lives,” Ealy said, the room erupting in applause.
She said they have the opportunity to help influence the trajectory of someone’s life evidenced through the account.
Ealy said she’s been with the division for 15 out of the 100 years, though “some days it seems a little longer.”
“So many great leaders have set in my seat and paved the way for me,” she admitted. “What’s next for outreach ... I can say for certain that we will continue to listen, we will meet the diversities of our university and our community through comprehensive learning and civic engagement opportunities.”
According to its website, the division is someone’s “one stop shop” for continuing their education and other needs including conference and event-planning services.
“The Division of Outreach and Community Engagement at UCA is the best place to start when you want to explore a passion, learn something new or expand your knowledge without seeking a degree,” the website reads. “Our quality lifelong learning programs are designed with the diverse learner in mind.”
For more information, visit uca.edu/outreach/100 or call 501-450-3118.