Soon after the Campaign for the 21st Century concluded, the word circulating through campus and the state was that the University of Arkansas was being transformed. One could sense it. There was a confidence and pride about the future for the institution on the hill.

Fast forward to today and we have clear signs that the transformation is in full bloom. Last week, the official enrollment figures were released. Enrollment has risen to a record 21,406 students. It is the largest numerical increase (1,557) since the G.I. Bill stimulated enrollment in 1946 and the highest percentage increase (7.8) over the previous year since 1975. Clearly, the University is an institution of choice and not a “safety net.”

Part of the popularity is the quality as perceived by the annual U.S. News and World Report consumer survey which ranked the University in the first tier of national rankings, the only Arkansas school to ranked in that category. We improved our score in several categories including freshman retention rate, graduation rate, and alumni giving rate.

On the college level, the Sam M. Walton College of Business ranked 42 overall and 24 among public business schools. Engineering was ranked 98, the first time the college was ranked in the top 100.

The Princeton Review, another guide to higher education, ranked the University in its Best 373 Colleges listing.  It also ranked us as one of the top 50 “Best Value Public Institutions.” High scores in “quality of life” and “green” ratings were received.  Supporting statements included, “The facilities are exceptional…The Sam M. Walton College of Business…(is) one of the strongest assets…Engineering majors can participate in cutting edge research…Agricultural programs are strong and diverse…The honors college is wonderful…and 25 percent of all Arkansas students study abroad.

Private gift support by alumni, friends, corporations and foundations increased by 17 percent to $86.7 million, a strong sign that the Campaign was not a flash in the pan. Out right gifts numbered 73,299 from 41,650 benefactors, both record highs for the institution. And this in a year that still faced economic questions. Again, the transformation continues.

One interesting side note about enrollment is the 17 percent increase in minority enrollment which brought total minority enrollment to 15.5 percent of the student body. In 2009, Chancellor G. David Gearhart set a goal of 16 percent minority enrollment by 2015.

As we anticipate a successful football season, it is good to reflect on a Top 3 national ranking attained by The Arkansas Traveler which was selected as one of three national finalists in the Best All-Around Non-Daily Student Newspaper category by the Society of Professional Journalists for its Mark of Excellence Awards. The staff will be recognized at the National Journalism Conference in Las Vegas in October.

Be proud of your alma mater. It is transforming and so is the value of your degree.