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UA to retain post on economic efforts; professor’s position made permanent

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FAYETTEVILLE -- A University of Arkansas, Fayetteville law professor will continue in a role she took on last year to boost what the school does to drive the economy, the university announced Wednesday.

Stacy Leeds is the university's first-ever vice chancellor for economic development, a position now made permanent. Leeds had worked on an interim basis since being appointed to the role in August by Chancellor Joe Steinmetz.

Leeds, 46, will be "responsible for assessing, increasing and communicating the university's economic and social impacts," according to UA's announcement Wednesday.

She served as dean for the UA School of Law from 2011 until July 1 and will remain a professor.

Economic-development efforts involve "working as a conduit that connects the outside world with our faculty, staff and students, and vice versa," Leeds said in an email.

Having "a truly statewide focus" is a key goal, she said.

"We want to be a central player expanding economic opportunity by leveraging the university's strengths," Leeds said. This will involve "fostering new partnerships with other entities in the state including industry partners, nonprofits, communities, and other institutions," she added.

In 2015, UA's Center for Business and Economic Research published a report stating the university contributed $1.2 billion to the state's economy in fiscal 2014.

The study examined direct spending, such as payroll, as well as what are known as indirect and induced effects, such as the hiring done by an educational supply company providing services to the university. Another indirect effect is spending by visitors, like those attending UA sporting events.

She said she will spend a quarter of her time in her faculty role and will teach in the spring semester.

Leeds earns a yearly salary of $309,389, which took effect July 1, UA spokesman Steve Voorhies said. At the time she took on the interim economic-development role last year, Leeds was earning $303,323.

Her oversight responsibilities include the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, an off-campus site with facilities for research that also hosts a business incubator, as well as the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which helps students interested in startup companies.

A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Leeds will also be responsible for a new initiative called the Tribal Governance and Economic Empowerment Consortium. Leeds, among other duties, also will oversee the World Trade Center Arkansas, started in 2007 as a "hub of international engagement," according to its website.

Eva Klein, president of higher-education strategic consulting firm Eva Klein & Associates, said it was once rare for campuses to have an administrator devoted to economic engagement and development.

"In the last decade or decade and a half, it has gone from very rare to very common," Klein said, especially at land-grant research universities.

Klein co-wrote a 2015 report about strategies for how higher education can engage with economic development. The report was published by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the University Economic Development Association.

"We're in a really big sea change in higher education, from being sort of behind the wall -- the ivory tower -- to becoming much more active in trying to actually solve problems in communities," Klein said.

Leeds earned a master's in business administration from the University of Tennessee, as well as law degrees from the University of Wisconsin and University of Tulsa. She received her bachelor's degree from Washington University in St. Louis.

Klein, who said she was involved in helping UA establish the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, described campus economic development and engagement leaders as often coming from research backgrounds.

But economic development involves more than successfully commercializing technology, Klein said. It should include efforts at broader community engagement, like working with local schools, she said.

Klein said that when it comes to selecting campus economic-development leaders, "there is no one correct prescription for the background of the person." She said that "it's much more a matter of interest and understanding and temperament and commitment."

Leeds will report to Steinmetz as part of the university's executive committee. UA has 26 campus administrative officers, including 12 deans, according to its 2018-19 academic catalog. Searches are ongoing to fill the vacant positions of vice provost for planning and vice provost for research and innovation.

Metro on 07/12/2018

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