UWA president speaks to Demopolis Rotary Club Wednesday

tucker“The University of West Alabama is your university. This is our area. This is our market. We want to serve students. We want to serve business and industry. We want to serve you.”

Dr. Ken Tucker, just three weeks into his job as the 12th president of UWA, returned home to the Demopolis Rotary Club Wednesday to give an overview of how far the university has come and how far he plans to take it.

It was “old home week” for Tucker, a former president of the club, who joked with members as he gave a rapid-fire presentation on his university’s progress.

He touted the new degree programs recently started in finance and marketing and in collaboration with the Alabama Fire College. Additionally, the school is the only four-year institution in the state to also offer associate degree programs.

“The MBA program I could not be prouder of,” he continued. It began in the fall of 2013 after years of effort. “Right now I have over 50 people in the MBA program.”

He initially saw two markets for the MBA, one local and one international. “I knew there was a lot of pent-up demand. Most of the ones we have now are lawyers, they’re doctors, they’re mid-level managers, they’re executives and people who want to move up in their organization.”

He pointed to the several certificates offered for technical training and the close association the school has set up with area businesses to offer internships and hands-on experience for its students.

He bragged about the low student-faculty ratio. “We’re very family-oriented. We care about our students. Our faculty go out of their way to meet with students,” he said.

“Most of our students are still first generation college students,” he continued. “They don’t have a lot of financial and educational support.”

As a result, he went on, “We do more hand-holding than you’ll find at Alabama and Auburn and larger major research institutions.”

But Tucker also said UWA, like many universities, is struggling to keep enrollment. The school now has some 4,000 students, half on campus and half on-line. It was among the vanguard to offer on-line courses, but other universities have stepped into the pool offering on-line educational opportunities at a lower cost. UWA is looking to restructure its program to be more cost-competitive.

Tucker said his main goals are more recruitment and enrollment as well as retention of the students until they graduate.

He also is working to expand the international aspect of UWA. Several years ago Tucker set up a program with Chinese universities to bring students to UWA to complete their degrees in business. Other students from Europe, Canada and South America have come for sports programs as well as educational opportunities.

Tucker has brought in a new international programs director, but in the meantime he has made arrangements with universities in several European countries and is working to set up programs in eastern Europe and in southeast Asia.

“We are trying to diversify the international component,” he said, but he promised that the school never will have more than 10 to 15 percent international students.