Talon flies when you’re having fun.
Can you believe it’s been two years since University of Arkansas Grantham began the most significant evolution in its 72-year history? In August 2021, the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas System voted to acquire the then-privately owned, for-profit institution, and bring it under the umbrella of the premier public higher education system in Arkansas.
In the two years since, UA Grantham has undergone a complete transition — from clearing regulatory and accreditation hurdles to falling into compliance with state laws and policy that govern public institutions in Arkansas. While it’s been quite the journey, it’s also been a golden reminder to not stray far from the touchstone that’s guided Grantham through its long history of evolution — the students.
“The last two years have been intense, but I believe we’re now in a position to move forward with great momentum and the support of an entire system in ways that have never before been possible,” said Lindsay Bridgeman, the UA Grantham chancellor who gave an update on the transition to UA Trustees during its annual retreat in August. “We start every employee meeting — with more than 200 people in there — by asking someone to recite our mission so we can really drive home the importance of what it is that we do. We’re here to change lives, and that remains the driving force of why we get out of bed and go to work each day.”
It all started with a unanimous nod from UA trustees in August 2021 for the UA System to acquire Grantham University. The acquisition came at a time of much disruption in the higher education landscape as some public universities were making strategic moves to grow their online resources in an effort to serve an increasingly diverse student population. After exploring many options, the board of The Level Playing Field Corp. (LPF), which owned Grantham University, determined it is in the best interest of the university and its constituents to transfer substantially all the assets and certain discrete liabilities of Grantham University to the UA Board of Trustees in the deal. This meant the institution would become an official member of the UA System, and work to begin its transition from a private, for-profit institution to a public nonprofit began immediately.
Online in Arkansas
The UA System had entered the 100% online space in 2015 with the launch of eVersity, becoming the first institution of its kind in Arkansas to offer fully online degrees to an audience mostly comprised of working, adult learners who had some college and no degree.
The eVersity effort was started from scratch, and while it became wildly successful in building and offering award-winning online coursework, it found the effort and resources it took to compete nationally with other online institutions for students was a challenge. With Grantham came a renowned institution that had already created a name and reputation for itself, and also offered a wider variety of degree and graduate programs. And so following the acquisition of Grantham, the plan was to begin transitioning eVersity employees and students into a larger, stronger effort that became UA Grantham.
“The thing that I’m really most happy about is the integration of eVersity employees and students,” said Michael Moore, the founding chief academic and operating officer at eVersity and vice president of academic affairs for the UA System. “With UA Grantham now in the fold of the UA System as its only 100% online institution, both entities are much stronger and — most importantly — students ultimately benefit the most.”
Over the last two years, the transition process proved to ignite a renewed spirit of collaboration, innovation and student service within UA Grantham.
“We’re not only continuing to improve, but we’re also constantly finding ways to be more efficient in operations, student success initiatives and in areas across the board,” Bridgeman said. “We’re all moving forward as the same high-quality institution we’ve always been, but we’re now being powered by this new engine that’s driving us toward greater heights. The future is bright for us internally and for our students … it’s an exciting time to be a part of the UA Grantham tradition.”
In addition to clearing all state and federal accreditation and regulatory milestones, UA Grantham also has reinvigorated its new branding, made its web presence more visible and user-friendly, and is building employer relations with its new identity. Internally, its approximately 170 full-time staff, faculty and administrative employees, along with approximately 240 part-time faculty are in the final stages of transitioning to the UA System.
“I feel really good about where we are and where we’re going to go,” added Bridgeman.