The Williams Baptist University Board of Trustees conducted its regular fall meeting on the university campus on Friday. It marked the first gathering of the full board on campus since December 2019.

The full board was unable to gather for its April 2020 meeting due to shelter in place directives and limitations for group gatherings issued last spring by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The board’s executive committee met on behalf of the full board and conducted the April meeting via conference call.

“It was wonderful to welcome students back to our campus in August after a five-month absence, due to the pandemic, and it was wonderful to welcome our trustees back to campus Friday,” said WBU President Dr. Stan Norman. “We have a great board, and it was exciting to share good news about Williams.”

The board applauded the report on the university’s enrollment for the fall semester. WBU’s on-campus enrollment is 580 this semester, an increase of more than 12 percent since last year and 27 percent over the past two years.

Counting graduate and off-campus sites, overall enrollment is 619, an increase of 12 percent since last fall.

“Our enrollment management team led a very successful, campus-wide effort that resulted in the largest freshman class in the modern history of Williams. Decisions made by this board over the past two years laid the foundation for that success, so it was gratifying to share the good news with them,” Norman said.

The president also reported on the successful launch of Williams Works. Students selected for the Williams Works initiative work 16 hours per week through fall and spring semesters to cover their tuition and fees, with the chance to work through the summer to cover room and board. WBU welcomed the first 44 students into the initiative this fall.

The board approved Norman’s recommendation for cost of tuition to remain the same for the 2021-22 school year.

“In these unsettled times, we feel it is prudent to keep tuition costs as they are for another year,” Norman said. “We want to help our students and their families receive an outstanding, Christ-centered education that is also affordable. We believe no increase for tuition next year is the best way to achieve this goal.”

The board voted to increase room and board charges by five percent to address rising infrastructure costs. Other actions approved by the board were: adoption of an investment plan to manage the university’s endowment; approval of additional members for the Foundations for the Future board; and approval of the recommendation from the nominating committee for the next year’s board officers and committee chairs.

The board received an update on various summer projects and improvements to campus facilities. The stage in Manley Chapel was expanded to provide a larger practice and performing venue for the growing concert band program.

A contribution from the university’s food service vendor, Fresh Ideas, provided resources to purchase new kitchen equipment, expand the pizza station and enlarge the student dining area of the Mabee-Gwinup Cafeteria.

And the Spirit Store was relocated to a remodeled area adjacent to the campus post office. The relocated Spirit Store allowed for the creation of a student lounge next to the campus grill.

Also at the meeting, Dr. Sonny Tucker, executive director for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, gave a brief report on the support and appreciation of the ABSC for WBU. Dr. Tucker shared that Arkansas Baptists across the state are excited for the recent enrollment growth. He also commended the university for the newly launched Williams Works program as a way to keep a Christ-centered education affordable for Arkansas Baptists.

Bobby Thomas, president and CEO of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation, gave an update on the performance and financial health of the university’s endowment. The board also heard a report on the school’s overall financial health from the university’s auditor, Lisa Stephens.

Dave Russell of Jonesboro will remain board chair for the upcoming year. In addition, the board elected James Miller of Melbourne to serve as vice chair and Jody Smotherman of Batesville as board secretary.

Three board members were recognized for completion of their terms of service: Rev. Theodis Brown of Hot Springs; John Hill of Jonesboro; and Dr. David Moore of Little Rock.

The WBU board is composed of 24 members, appointed by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. The board has three regularly scheduled meetings each year, in April, September and December.

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