Joseph Steinmetz, the sixth chancellor at the University of Arkansas, will resign Friday after serving in the position for more than five years. Steinmetz noted Thursday his surprising decision to step down in a letter to faculty, staff and students.
UA System President Donald Bobbitt will visit with constituents on campus and external university supporters before announcing plans for Steinmetz’s replacement, he said.
“In my annual commencement address, I sometimes tell graduates that the key to a purposeful and enriching life is to find a career that creates deeply meaningful work and not to settle for anything less,” he wrote. “For the past 38 years, higher education has been not only my vocation but my absolute commitment. My wife Sandy is the reason I get up in the morning, but the promise of teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement has kept me returning to the office day after day, year after year — steadfast in my belief of the power of higher education to improve lives. I still strongly believe in the mission of higher education, yet given the many challenges found trying to manage a university in today’s polarized society, I need to do what’s best for my family. And I feel ready to make way for others.”
He highlighted his accomplishments, including achieving a first-year student retention rate of 84.7%, a six-year graduation rate of 68.5% and a 3.75 average GPA for new freshmen in the entering 2020 class. He also noted awarding 6,894 credentials in 2020 and that the Student Success Center is expected to open later this year.
“Heading into the fall, we expect a record-sized freshman class and our largest student body enrollment to date,” he said.
The UA exceeded its billion-dollar fundraising campaign goal by raising $1.44 billion when the drive ended in June 2020. The UA received a $120 million gift to endow the School of Art and a $194.7 million gift to promote research and commercialization. The Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I3R) is expected to increase the UA’s research and innovation capacity and distinguish the UA by creating a flexible, collaborative framework designed to contribute to the integration of research across five clusters of innovation, he added. The planned $100 million research building, which is being paid for by the gift, is in design and expected to break ground this fall.
“In short, there is much to look forward to in the months and years ahead,” Steinmetz said. “I’d like to thank President Bobbitt and the Board of Trustees. We have the most supportive system and trustees, and I’m grateful for their constant support of the mission of the University of Arkansas as well as my leadership. But as important, I’d like to thank not only my leadership team, but the entire University of Arkansas community of faculty, staff, students and alumni for their passion for this great institution and their desire to make the university a better place.”
The announcement came shortly after the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas went into executive session at 2 p.m. Thursday for more than one hour but took no action. Asked why the board went into executive session, Nate Hinkel, director of communications for the UA System, said “for the purpose of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of public officers or employees for the various campuses of the University of Arkansas System.”
Steinmetz became the chancellor on Jan. 1, 2016, after serving as The Ohio State University’s chief academic officer since July 1, 2013. As executive vice president and provost there, he oversaw the administration, coordination and development of all academic functions of the university.
Prior to Ohio State, Steinmetz was dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas and was also a university distinguished professor. He served for 19 years at Indiana University, where he was executive associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and chair of the Department of Psychology. At Indiana he was also a distinguished professor of psychological and brain sciences. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Central Michigan University and his doctorate at Ohio University.