A look at Dr. Drale’s first year as chancellor at UALR

Article published in The Forum Student Newspaper.

Christina Drale, Ph.D. was named chancellor back in September of 2019. Since then, a lot has progressed for UA Little Rock.

Dr. Drale’s first year as chancellor was like no other, but she and the university persevered with the positive encouragement she received from students and staff. With a pandemic in the midst, it was anything but a smooth ride for Drale forcing her to conquer many challenges.

“It was not a typical year by any stretch of the imagination with all the various challenges that we had all at once,” Drale said. “I would say my first year was very, very challenging. The hardest thing with COVID-19 was the perpetual uncertainty. Retrenchment was difficult and it was hard, and dealing with budget challenges is very hard, but nothing was harder than COVID.”

Dr. Drale brings with her about 35 years of experience in this position where she has cultivated so much knowledge and wisdom. Prior to UA Little Rock, Dr. Drale spent almost 20 years at Missouri State where she held various leadership positions. She’s been at UA Little Rock since 2006 and is beloved by many. 

Dr. Ann B. Bain, the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, really admires everything that Dr. Drale has done for UA-Little Rock. 

“I accepted my position as Provost because of the confidence I had in Chancellor Drale,” she said. “I have worked with her for many years and I admire her leadership, respect her as a colleague, and value her as a friend. She has proven herself to be a leader who cares about our institution, our faculty, our students and our staff.”

Because of UA Little Rock’s outstanding online programs, its online infrastructure was already in place, so when it was faced with obstacles due to COVID-19, Dr. Drale and staff knew that the transition would still be hard work but relied on how established their online presence was already.

That facilitated the transition when COVID-19 arose and the institution had to move classes online. It was one of many of Dr. Drale’s accomplishments this year. Among others were the institutional accreditation visit, a 25 million dollar donation to the university, a strategic plan to increase enrollment, a response to the social justice movement, addressing the budget and many others.  

“One of our really significant accomplishments was our institutional accreditation process that culminated in a site visit last February,” Drale said. “We ended up with a review from our accreditors that [were] basically straight A’s. There was no follow-up. We got a clean slate on all subcategories of all five criteria.” 

As one of the most centralized universities in Arkansas, UA Little Rock serves a diverse community. It is a non-traditional school that is versatile and agile in ensuring that any person that wants to attend can. Regardless of what background a student has, UA Little Rock is prepared to serve them which makes a large donation so deserving. 

“The real shot in the arm was landing a 25 million dollar donation for the university from an anonymous donor,” Drale said. “That was tremendous and very much appreciated.”  

After this not-so-ordinary year, Dr. Drale looks ahead to what she can accomplish at UA Little Rock. She is very optimistic about its future and the potential the university holds. 

“I would like to get to a completely balanced and stable budget within two years,” she said. “I think we are at target to do that. We are implementing our enrollment management plan and my goal is, by next fall, to get that increase in new students. The third goal is to continue fundraising and to bring in more large gifts.” 

Looking back through this first year as chancellor, Dr. Drale really relied on her team and staff to conquer each obstacle as it emerged. 

“We had a lot to do, but we did it,” she said. “I’m very proud of the work the university has done over the year”

UA Little Rock students and staff couldn’t be prouder to have Dr. Drale in charge and the hope is that with the hard work and dedication from the university leadership and staff, this institution thrives together. 

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