Siloam Springs, Ark (March 21, 2001) - A steady increase in adult student enrollment has been the impetus behind the upcoming move of John Brown University’s Fort Smith Center from the Phoenix Village Mall to its new home at 1401 South Waldron. Following an ambitious fund-raising program that began in October 2000 and ended in March 2001, more than $500,000 was generated from local individuals and businesses. The proceeds have been used to purchase a permanent facility for the JBU Fort Smith Center.
Carl Friddle, partner and original owner of the 20,000 square foot building 2 blocks north of the intersection of Rogers and Waldron, worked with the University to make the purchase of this prime commercial site possible. “It’s important to me that men and women in the city have access to quality education,” Friddle says. “For people who are eager to complete their degrees, there aren’t too many opportunities for the caliber of education one receives from JBU. I’m delighted we could make this transaction possible. The entire community will benefit from the services made available through the new center. I’m glad JBU has established a permanent, quality facility in Fort Smith.”
The Fort Smith Center averages about 110 advance students from all across western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. Dr. Richard Ellis, Dean of Adult and Continuing Education at JBU says, “Students come from quite a distance to attend classes at the JBU Fort Smith Center. We’ve had a number from Carl Albert State College in Poteau, OK. Many students drive in from Greenwood, Alma, Sallisaw, Mena, even as far away as Clarksville. The location of the new center will be more convenient for these folks as well.”
One student, Randy Swaim, says he’s found his second university experience at the Fort Smith Center to be much more beneficial than the first. “I went right out of high school and was concerned only with the fraternity,” this Vice President of Logistics for Recovery Logistics, Inc. in Fort Smith says. “Now, I’m much more disciplined and focused,” Swaim says. “The material I’m learning now is helping me run a business more effectively. I’m receiving an extraordinary education,” the 28-year JBU student says.
Gaye Smith, a JBU student who will graduate this April with a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management, says a great many of her fellow students were working on their degrees with the assistance of their employers. “The great thing about our classes is that almost every time we meet we learn something practical that can be used the next day on the job,” she says. “When we go to work the next day, the companies that are helping pay for our education are benefiting.” Smith plans to remain with Acme Bricks after graduation.
The new JBU Fort Smith Center’s central location and convenience to I-540 will provide commuting students easy access to classes as well as ample parking in a well-lit, high-traffic area. The JBU staff will occupy the offices in April and evening classes will begin in the new center at the end of May. Martha Pendleton, Fort Smith Center Site Director, says, “I’ve been very surprised at the overwhelming response demonstrated by the members of the Fort Smith community."
"The outpouring of financial support has been so encouraging. It says that the community sees what we are doing and they want us to continue giving employees in business and industry a chance for advancement.” Pendleton continues, “There’s not another resource like the Fort Smith Center in the entire area. We’re the only nontraditional way for adult learners to earn an undergraduate degree. I’m thrilled the community has recognized the impact we’re making and has taken an active role in making our impact even more pronounced in Fort Smith and surrounding areas.”
Dr. Ellis says, “JBU Fort Smith students are adults from most of the major employers in the area. Since our first class began at St. Edward Medical Center in 1994, we have enrolled employees from Baldor, ABF, Beverly Enterprises, Whirlpool, OK Foods, Owens-Corning, Superior Federal, UPS, AOG, Thomas Mueller, Southwestern Bell, Westark, the police and fire departments, the military and lots of smaller employers as well. Despite this, our presence in the city is still not well known. This new facility will make us more accessible to students and increase public awareness.”
In May, when the first classes begin in the new building, students will find brand new construction with internet connectivity, video projectors, variable lighting and comfortable furniture for students and faculty. Ellis says of the new Fort Smith Center, “(It) will enhance our ability to provide a superior level education to more business professionals in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. I’m very excited about this investment JBU is making in Fort Smith. We all are.”
Pendleton believes new degree opportunities will attract even more adult students to the Fort Smith Center. In addition to the original Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management program, the new Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems has been added to the curriculum. The Business Information Systems program will help men and women develop and hone their technical skills and be better prepared to fill critically needed positions in the IT field.
John McFarland, President of Baldor, one of Fort Smith’s largest industries, says his company has benefited tremendously from the educational opportunities made available to his employees. John McFarland, President and Chief Executive Officer of Baldor Electric Company, one of Fort Smith’s largest industries says, “Baldor has many bright and hard-working individuals who want to advance themselves and take advantage of educational opportunities in our community, such as those available at John Brown University. The education they receive from John Brown’s Fort Smith program is helping our employees do a better job for our customers, shareholders, and helps to make our community stronger. We are glad to see the University expanding in Fort Smith.”
Classes are structured to fit working professionals’ schedules, with weekly classes held in the evening. By attending a four-hour class once a week and completing out of class assignments, students can anticipate earning a bachelor degree in as little as a year and a half.
John Brown University is a private university with an enrollment of more than 1,500 students from 46 states and 30 countries. JBU is a member of the Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.