Mrs Doctor ThinkingEngineer has a PhD of Chemical Engineering from the University of Arkansas. It is a shining achievement, a jewel in her crown that she was able to go back 20 years after a BS in Biology and get a PhD in a very nearly unrelated field. Because of the requirements of the time (they have since changed), she had to take very nearly every undergraduate engineering course before she started the graduate work. We figured at one time that she needed 6 additional hours (all in Freshman courses) to get a BSChE to go with the MSChE and the PhD ChE. My admiration for her in this achievement knows no bounds. There is no way I could have done what she did.

The “from the University of Arkansas” is a bit more problematic. The UofA is a land grant school, and as such, I have certain expectations of them. I should say that I graduated from a land grant school (along with Mrs Dr ThinkingEngineer), the University of Missouri at Columbia. The UofA makes Columbia look like Harvard. The single most important thing with the UofA is Athletics, Football and Basketball. Basketball has taken second seat lately, while neither of the teams is great, Football makes money even when it isn’t doing well. What I expect of a land grant school is that the tuition and fees are reasonable, that they have relatively small classes and the labs are stocked with equipment that works.

What you get at the University of Football at Arkansas is Thermodynamics classes with over 80 students in them taught by a first time graduate student instructor. What you get at the University of Football at Arkansas is an Engineering School that just BARELY scrapped by its ABET accreditation, so close that the seniors put the near failure of the school into their senior skit that year. What you get at the University of Football at Arkansas is a Chemical Engineering Department without a permanent Dean, for YEARS, because none of the candidates who were offered the job would accept. What you get at the University of Football at Arkansas is a Chemical Engineering Department that isn’t allowed to replace retiring professors, despite the fact enrollment is high and tuition is at an all time high. Where is all that money going??? What you get at the University of Football at Arkansas is laboratories that are stocked with broken equipment. I had to get Mrs Dr ThinkingEngineer numerous pieces of Lab Equipment, simply because waiting for the school to replace the equipment would have cost her additional YEARS of time.  Yet the fees (in addition to the tuition) at the University of Football at Arkansas just keep going up.

Having graduate Engineering programs should enhance the entire state of Arkansas. However, when the Engineering programs are being starved of money, when they lag behind on the most basic quantifiable areas, is it no wonder that the graduates tend to move out of state instead of staying to help Arkansas? What you get at the University of Football at Arkansas is very little help with post doctoral work, or with help starting a business. The Genesis Center, the new company incubator is currently merely providing state sponsored space to several companies that no longer fit the term “startup”. If you can’t afford your own space after 3 years, you need to get out (or at least be forced to show an upward trajectory). If you get bought out by a larger firm, you should have 30 days to pack your bags.

What you get at the University of Football at Arkansas is a 120M bond issue for a nearly 200M project to put 3000 more seats in a stadium that is rarely sold out. Those are 3000 “high value seats”, that the university is spending more money on for use about 14 times a year than they do on students. Former Senator Pryor made a blazing statement against the expansion, as did five former members of the Board of Trustees (including Springdale’s own John H Tyson). I salute these men of courage and principle, coming out against a football proposal in Arkansas is like standing in front of a Tidal Wave with a 3″ umbrella out of a beach drink. People say that it will be paid back by Athletic Funds, but they always say that, yet the fees keep going up. If the Athletic Department is such a moneymaking proposition, why do they have a budget from the University? Is the best thing that we can say about the University of Arkansas is “Thank God for Mississippi”?

I don’t know what the solution is. Obviously, college athletics rules the roost (or hog pen as the case may be). What I do know is that the University of Arkansas has lost sight of it’s mission. What I do know is that to get through the PhD program, we had to contribute much more than I expected to get the lab space up to a level where the work (that was expected for graduation) could be performed. What I do know is that I recommend to anyone who can afford it to go to a better Engineering School than the UofA. But, Mrs Dr ThinkingEngineer has her degree. While we might have some additional dealings with the University, there is one group that can stop with their mailings.

It will be a cold day in HELL when I donate any more money to the University of Football at Arkansas.