Kelly Damphousse became the 13th chancellor of Arkansas State University in July 2017. A native of Canada, he holds an associate’s degree in Law Enforcement, a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a Ph.D. in Sociology, all from Texas A&M University. His personal experience as a first-generation college student has created in him a passion for young people who are making the sometimes-difficult transition into college.
What are the top demands for students as it relates to community experiences?
When we recruit students to Arkansas State University, we are also recruiting them to Jonesboro. While students are certainly interested in what is happening on campus, both academically and socially, they are also interested in what is happening in the city. Some places are “college towns” and others are “towns with a college in them.” Students look for social and cultural activities that are relevant to their interests. They are also looking for towns that recognize the importance of the university and appreciate what the university does for the town. They love local and unique—places they cannot find back home—as well as places where they can just hang out either to socialize or to do their school work.
What role does a university play in city planning? How has ASU worked with the city of Jonesboro?
The “town and gown” relationship is vital and the college and the community have a shared responsibility for fostering it. It is so important that campus leadership understands that as the city goes, so goes the university. A thriving university brings welcome revenue, culture, jobs and a sense of well-being that is the envy of communities without a local college. When the relationship between colleges and the community becomes a struggle, both entities suffer. Unfortunately, there are some communities where the relationship between the city and the university is adversarial. The key to creating a strong town and gown relationship is clear communication and active participation and collaboration.
With the growth of ASU, what has been the biggest challenge both on-campus and off-campus in accommodating that growth?
The largest growth of A-State has been in our online programming, and our biggest challenge remains getting more students to come to our Jonesboro campus and then to graduate from here in 4-6 years. One of the challenges we face is the flattening, and soon to be declining, number of college-going high school graduates. There are fewer students going to college across the country and within the state, which means all colleges are battling for a shrinking pool of students. We believe that we have a beautiful campus and outstanding academic opportunities for our students. The challenge is making prospective students aware of what we have and then convincing them that college really is worth it.
What does the future hold for ASU?
I came to A-State in 2017 because I believed then that the future of A-State had huge potential. I believe that even more now than I did two years ago. The strength of our university lies in its people. We have incredibly gifted faculty and staff members, many of whom are A-State alumni or who have a connection to Northeast Arkansas. As a result, they understand the challenges that our students face and they are incredibly invested in student success. In addition to all that, we are located in a lovely city filled with friends and alumni who are passionate about investing in our campus and our students. I am very bullish about the future of A-State, Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas. We serve a noble mission here, changing the lives of the young men and women in Arkansas and the upper Delta, and I cannot wait to see what happens here next.