Global Campus ‘Connector’ Values Interaction with Professional Organizations

Global Campus Professional and Workforce Development staff, from left, Mark Berkowick, Katie Ricardo, Kaleb Futch and LaShanda Owens show off the certificate for ranking No. 17 in the nation for enrollment in SHRM Learning System courses.

Global Campus Professional and Workforce Development staff, from left, Mark Berkowick, Katie Ricardo, Kaleb Futch and LaShanda Owens show off the certificate for ranking No. 17 in the nation for enrollment in SHRM Learning System courses.

November 15, 2023

Tara Dryer spoke last year to the National Electrical Contractors Association in Austin, Texas, about how industries can create effective and efficient worker training programs. It was just one example of many speaking engagements and “connector” activities Dryer and her Professional and Workforce Development team take on to build relationships and partnerships promoting economic development through job training.

This is the fourth of four stories in a series celebrating National Distance Learning Week. These stories show how Global Campus lives up to its commitment to its core values – excellence, people, innovation, empowerment, access and reach – and to the University of Arkansas mission. You can also read more about student success and online programs offered by academic colleges at the U of A on our websites as well as job training programs Professional and Workforce Development offers.

National Distance Learning Week ran from Nov. 6-10 and is sponsored by the United States Distance Learning Association. This year’s annual celebration with free virtual webinars focused on how artificial intelligence is affecting distance education.


Workforce Development

The Global Campus supports delivery of not-for-credit programs that focus on workforce training and professional development, in addition to the work it does to serve for-credit academic programs offered online by the University of Arkansas. Dryer and her team’s work requires active engagement with partners in industry, education and agencies that provide such services as employment counseling.

“My role is to assist with anything that is related to workforce development,” said Dryer, who is senior managing director of Professional and Workforce Development. “I tell people what I love about my job is being a connector. If I am not the one to help you, I can probably find someone to help you, whether that be as a speaker or providing other assistance. I talk about partnerships, trends and what’s happening in workforce development. I’m not just talking about our programming. It’s about us moving the needle in the larger discussion of workforce development.”

Dryer is frequently invited to speak to groups and individuals about workforce development. Her objective is to seek out partnerships and relationships with industry as well as to educate business and industry leaders about the benefits of workforce training. She also accepts invitations to speak to groups on the U of A campus in Fayetteville.

“The work builds on itself,” she said. “The more we know about potential opportunities, the more we can help others. We want to be at the table when these conversations are being had. I can talk about industry on levels from entry positions to the C-suite, short-term training, stackable credentials and how to integrate noncredit training programs with for-credit academic programs.”



Under Dryer’s leadership, the Global Campus Professional and Workforce Development team in the Collaborative in Bentonville nurtures relationships with these partners that lead to U of A training programs to help reduce skills gaps in Northwest Arkansas and across the state. These programs help professionals advance in their careers, stay up to date in their fields and move from one career to another. The division has been awarded numerous state and federal grants to fund workforce training through the Global Campus.

Team members collaborated, participated, and volunteered on over 30 panels, podcasts, webinars, councils, committees and boards, and presented at local and national conferences across the United States helping to bridge the gap between industry, workforce and local community.

Mark Berkowick, assistant director of workforce readiness, has established many information technology industry relationships, including a partnership with Arkansas Center for Data Sciences to build and promote IT apprenticeships to bridge the gap between employers and IT career-seekers.

Berkowick serves on the planning committee for the NWA Tech Summit, the region’s premier annual technology conference. He also serves on the Arkansas Aviation Council and has helped to foster a good relationship between workforce development and the aviation industry. Through a partnership with Rich Ham, associate director for the M.S. in Operations Management and the M.S. in Engineering Management online graduate programs, the workforce development team offers a six-week drone pilot training course. With the company Droneup, the team will offer another drone course helping pilots advance or start their careers in the drone industry.

Katie Ricardo, workforce program coordinator, has built relationships with industry experts to offer a webinar series on professional development, giving the online learning community access to free information and skills training. She also accepted the 2023 SHRM enrollment award from the Society of Human Resource Management and Holmes Corp. on the team’s behalf.

Berkowick and Ricardo attended the LERN Leadership Conference last spring to connect with other continuing education and workforce development professionals at a national level. They learned how to better engage with professional organizations and university leaders to promote the goals of workforce development at the U of A.

LaShanda Owens, manager of the PWD team, graduated last year from the Community Development Institute, a three-year leadership program put on by the University of Central Arkansas to empower people to improve their communities. Dryer is currently enrolled in one of the largest year-one classes in the history of the program.

Mandy Eppley, senior instructional designer, has presented at several workforce conferences. She also co-presented with Dryer at the UPCEA annual conference in 2022 about the Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project D.O.E. Grant to the University of Arkansas. She co-presented again on “Reimagine workforce online career training as you know it” with Dryer and a former employee at the Arkansas Association of Colleges and Employers winter conference in 2022.

Eppley and Dryer co-presented at the Better Online Learning Together (BOLT) conference put on by the Global Campus in October 2022. They talked about “Collaborating with Professional Workforce and Development.”

Dryer was also a panelist for Build Bentonville and the St. Louis Federal Reserve Roundtable on Work Force Development. She spoke to Bentonville IGNITE faculty during an in-service day at the high school. And, she was chosen to participate in the UARK Leaders program.

Dryer also made presentations to the Arkansas State Workforce Development Board, the NWA Workforce Summit, the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District’s Leadership Team gathering, the Arkansas Association of Colleges and Employers virtual and annual conferences, Onward Ozarks, Rogers Chamber at Large Industry Council, and five Industry Forums through the NWA Council.

She received the STAR award from the Arkansas Association of Colleges and Employers.

The entire team, including e-learning designers, has helped host several events by networking with attendees and helping to set up virtual meetings and event options. The team helped welcome attendees who came to hear the U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs speak at a suicide prevention training at their facility in Bentonville. They also helped welcome relocated Tyson Foods workers at an expo earlier this year.

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