Whether or not he remains president until 2016 as he hopes, Dr. Richard D. Holland will leave The University of West Alabama with a legacy of progress. Having served in the office of President since 2002, Dr. Holland’s 12-year tenure ushered in an era of prosperity that saw this growing university make prominent and essential strides that led to The Chronicle of Higher Education recognizing it as one of the fastest growing institutions from 2000-2010.
Under Dr. Holland, UWA added over 39 new facilities to both its campus and community. The university acquired Kelly Hester Land Hall, a familiar building to student journalists, in 2008, established The Black Belt Museum and Garden in 2009, and completed construction on Gilbert Hall, a highly modern freshmen dormitory, in 2012. Credit for numerous popular student hangouts including the Fitness Center, the University Cinema and Java City also goes to Holland, who oversaw their openings in 2009 and 2010 respectively. It was during Holland’s term as President when UWA installed the SGA Bronze Tiger, a statue that has gone on to become one of the most prominent and beloved landmarks by students on campus since its 2009 erection.
The University of West Alabama has taken key steps to ensure that it has remained an actively growing institution of higher education over the past twelve years. The 2012 construction of Gilbert Hall coincided with the opening of the Student Clinic with Anderson Medical Center in town. As a result of this, university students are now provided access to an affordable physician located directly across from campus. The university’s College of Business earned the prestigious Alabama Quality Award in recognition of its outstanding teaching and partnerships throughout the business and industrial world. Additionally, the college was recognized as a Military Friendly School by Victory Media in 2014, ranking it in the top 15% of all colleges, universities and trade schools nationwide.
President Holland has ensured that UWA’s students are afforded a college experience comparable to the experience offered by larger universities. The university completed construction on the Cross Country Clubhouse in 2008, and the Foust Hall Band Room in 2009. Facilities like these have helped UWA maintain its appeal in an increasingly competitive market. The results of these efforts are evidenced by a steady increase in undergraduate enrollment from 2008-2012.
In addition to opening new facilities, UWA has seen significant academic growth thanks to Dr. Holland’s leadership. The university has added 33 new Academic Programs from 2009-2013. Along with numerous highly specialized education programs, UWA also introduced the Integrated Marketing and Communications undergraduate degree, a cutting edge modernization of the traditional journalism program, in 2012.
The Julia Tutwiler Library has enjoyed significant improvements during Dr. Holland’s term as President, keeping its facilities comparable to those one would find at any major university. In 2009, it upgraded to the Voyager Integrated Library System. In 2012 the library purchased the EBSCO Discovery System which allowed for concurrent searches of catalog and database resources. By 2013, the library was able to boast access to more than 140 databases, which themselves provide for access to more than 63,000 academic journals, magazines and newspapers.
The university’s online education program has also earned acclaim. UWA was the first institution of higher learning in the nation to earn the Integrity Excellence Certification in recognition of the quality of its online courses. The online program has also received recognition from the U.S. News and World Report, which honored it with the American’s Best Graduate School, Largest Online Graduate Programs Award in 2009. With these credentials, it stands as little surprise to observe that the university’s online enrollment has enjoyed an increase in numbers during the 2008-2012 period.
In 2009 the university established the Campbell Environmental Education Center. This paved the way to UWA becoming the first institution in Alabama to partner with the Institute of Sustainability, a green certification program designed to further the university’s efforts to promote environmental awareness. UWA’s environmentally conscience leadership also led to the U.S. Green Building Council awarding a Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification to the university for the 2011 Hoover Addition Project. UWA also became the first campus in Alabama to be named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.
Dr. Holland has helped UWA expand its culture with the establishment of the Office of International Programs in 2008. This has proven to be a success with over 176 international students currently enrolled in classes. The university proudly hosted visiting Chinese professors in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and, through its involvement with the Fullbright Scholar Lecture series, has granted both faculty and students with the opportunity to see over 18 speakers from different parts of the world.
In order to help stand out amongst its peers, UWA takes a hands-on approach to help ensure the future of its graduates. This approach is realized through a multitude of career services that were adopted under Dr. Holland’s watch. In 2008, the university hosted its first Majors to Careers event which saw faculty from each college share detailed information about degree programs and their occupational potential. In 2010 the university joined the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation in order to extend its business contacts. This helped kick-start the Majors to Careers program’s evolution into a full-blown Career Expo. The Career Expo has since proven to be a rousing success, attracting over four-hundred student participants in 2011. In 2012, the number of employers at the expo increased by a staggering 65%.
The University of West Alabama has greatly benefited thanks to the eye towards the future that its leaders have maintained. President Holland can proudly walk the campus surrounded by examples of his accomplishments and know that, largely thanks to his service, UWA’s future is assured.