Since Arkansas Tech University was founded in 1909, the university has experienced academic growth, infrastructure development and changing times. From different names to residence hall building, take a peek into how much the university has changed over the years.
In the beginning
ATU was known as the Second District Agricultural School and essentially focused on the teaching of agriculture. The institution was initially considered a secondary school, which is the equivalent to today’s high schools.
The Second District Agricultural School opened its doors for classes to 186 students in the fall of 1910, and by the 1913-14 academic year, enrollment had increased to 350 students, but the institution’s early years proved to be difficult ones.
Funding issues and declining enrollment, particularly during the years of American involvement in World War I, had plagued the school. The institution rebounded in the postwar years under the energetic leadership of former university president Hugh Critz.
The original purpose of the school was to offer classes leading to a high school degree, but the school eventually took on the first two years of college instruction and additional college courses were introduced to ATU in 1922.
Fast forward to the 1924–25 school year, the Second District Agricultural School was providing instruction to students from the rank of high school freshmen to college seniors. The school’s name was changed to Arkansas Polytechnic College by the General Assembly in 1925 to reflect this change in purpose. At that time, the course work leading to a high school diploma was phased out and in 1931, Tech formally only offered courses leading to a college degree.
Heck yeah, Tech yeah
The school took on its current name of Arkansas Tech University on July 9, 1976.
On Oct. 23, 2013, Jerry the Bulldog was adopted as Arkansas Tech’s campus ambassador after a 76-year absence from the school.
From 1997-2015, enrollment at Arkansas Tech has increased by 183 percent. The Fall of 2015 marks the 17th consecutive year that Arkansas Tech has established a new institutional record for largest enrollment at 12,009 students, also officially making ATU the 3rd largest institution of higher learning in the state of Arkansas for the past 2 consecutive years.
Arkansas Tech has invested $180 million in upgrades to its infrastructure since 1995 and the university added more than 40 new academic programs of study under the leadership of Robert C. Brown, who served as president of Arkansas Tech from 1993-2014.
In April 2014, Dr. Robin E. Bowen was unanimously selected by the university trustees to succeed Dr. Brown.
When Dr. Bowen took office on July 1, 2014, she became the first woman to lead a four-year, public Arkansas university.
Queen B’s Reign
Since Dr. Bowen took over leadership of ATU in 2014, the university has implemented several campus developments.
Some of these major developments include improved online admission, increased full-time faculty, restructured scholarship renewal requirements and more.
The school has nearly doubled in size since it was opened, and enrollment numbers are at a steady increase year-to-year.
Dr. Michael Keisler, professor of mathematics at ATU and employee of the university since 1975, has witnessed some of ATU’s key changes. The introduction of simple tools drastically changed certain dynamics.
“I started having students bring in calculators, even though they were ridiculously expensive at the time, and that totally revised the way we had taught in a lot of ways,” he said. “The administration had no control over this, the students were the ones bringing them in. They had realized that they could just plug numbers in to get an answer and it eliminated them having to look it up in the textbooks. The advent of calculators was just revolutionary and changed the way we taught in a lot of ways.”
Keisler said while the physical development and increasing enrollment have altered, this has not been the university’s greatest change.
“The appearance of technology will always be considered, to me, the greatest change the college has made,” Keisler said. “Of course, they’ve built more buildings and added more students, but things like the computers and the technology, these changes will always come and go.”
One thing Keisler said hasn’t changed is the opportunity for all that Tech provides.
“Tech has always had the unique ability to be more accessible for students,” Keisler said. “The demographics and background don’t matter, and I think that’s important.”
Keisler also attributes a majority of the campus’ success to the diverse populations on campus.
“I have had the distinction of being here a long time.” Keisler said. “I had known a man named Claud Padgett and he told me once that the character of Arkansas Tech was a college staffed with people from all over the country. It was a very cosmopolitan place and they were conscious of that.
“I think the increased number of international students that ATU has elevates the conversation among students and I hope that continues. When coming to college, probably the most important thing you could do is expand your horizons and meeting people with other backgrounds and all those things helps with that. We can see more and put more life into perspective.”