Global Campus Leaders Give, Receive Expertise at Higher Education Professional Conferences

Jamie Loftin, left, U of A assistant vice provost for distance education administration, and Cheryl Murphy, vice provost for distance education, are heavily involved in professional organizations.

Jamie Loftin, left, U of A assistant vice provost for distance education administration, and Cheryl Murphy, vice provost for distance education, are heavily involved in professional organizations.

November 15, 2023

Leaders of the University of Arkansas Global Campus share their knowledge and expertise when they meet their colleagues at other institutions at professional conferences because, in the process, they said, they bring back valuable insight. Their contributions and service to professional organizations assist the Global Campus mission of supporting the delivery of online degree programs and workforce training at the U of A, they said.

This is the second 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 U of A mission. You can also read more about student success and online programs offered by academic colleges at the U of A on our websites.

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.


Value of Collaboration

Jamie Loftin, U of A assistant vice provost for distance education administration, said people in the field of higher education view competition a little differently than those in for-profit corporations.

“Higher education is such a collaborative industry,” Loftin said. “You wouldn’t necessarily share practices in the corporate world, but we showcase what works to our peers. We don’t consider ourselves competitors. It’s an opportunity to share best practices. There is a great network of people at all these universities who reach out to each other. We talk about how we are handling various processes and what we are doing that works.”

Loftin has been involved in the Southern Association of College and University Business Officers, a regional division of a national leadership, professional development and advocacy organization based in Washington, since shortly after she began working in higher education in 2007. She serves on the association’s Board of Directors, chairing the SACUBO Professional Development Committee, and she handles social media for the organization.

“I really wanted to help shape the agenda and make sure we continue our high standards for business officers,” Loftin said. “SACUBO is known for high-quality programming. For my accounting and HR responsibilities, I need continuing professional education hours to stay licensed. Going to these conferences is how I get most of those certification hours.”

Loftin and others on the Global Campus leadership team believe they have a responsibility to learn from others while also sharing their own expertise to advance higher education as well as the University of Arkansas.

Loftin represents research universities on the SACUBO board. The U of A is the only university in Arkansas classified by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education as having very high research activity. Also a member of the SACUBO Women’s Leadership Forum Planning Committee, Loftin was a panelist for the “Taking the Next Step” discussion at the forum in Charlotte, North Carolina, in March.


Leadership Roles

Cheryl Murphy became head of Global Campus in 2019 when she was named vice provost for distance education. More specifically, she serves as chief academic officer of the Global Campus. But her service to advance higher education dates back to her days as a professor and faculty coordinator in the educational technology graduate program in the College of Education and Health Professions and covers a range of areas, most notably her commitment to the Higher Learning Commission.

For 16 years now, Murphy has served as a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission, a regional accreditation agency responsible for higher education institutions in 19 states, including Arkansas. In recent years, she has taken on the role of a team chair for the peer reviewers, who are responsible for ensuring institutions comply with the commission’s criteria for accreditation and other requirements, as well as helping institutions advance within the context of their mission, according to the commission’s website.

“As leaders and innovators in our field, we have an obligation to share our knowledge and expertise for the greater good, and at Global Campus we happily embrace this responsibility,” Murphy said. “I find it rewarding to work with other institutions, helping them advance toward their goals. Over the years, these experiences have helped me grow as a teacher and administrator. I have learned about new and innovative practices I bring back to see how they may benefit U of A students.”

The Higher Learning Commission is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Institutional accreditation validates the quality of an institution’s academic programs at all degree levels, whether delivered on site or online. The goal of accreditation is to ensure that institutions of higher education meet acceptable levels of quality, according to the U.S. Department of Education website. Accreditation affects colleges and universities in other ways, too. For example, in order for students to receive federal student aid from the U.S. Department of Education for postsecondary study, the institution must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency.

Murphy also serves as a member of the Institutional Actions Council for the Higher Learning Commission.


Cost-Benefit Analysis

Loftin knows her way around financial affairs, having previously served as assistant dean for finance and administration in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the U of A before taking on her current role as chief financial officer for Global Campus. She sees involvement in professional associations as a win-win. Attendees come to SACUBO from areas such as finance, procurement and accounting, and they represent both central administration and units such as academic colleges.

Strong partnerships and sponsorships with businesses keep the conferences affordable, Loftin said, as well as bringing in vendors who can show institutions how their services and products can be used successfully. The organization also provides educational content that is relevant for business officers, she said, and all speakers are volunteers except for two professional speakers paid to deliver keynote addresses.

“Everyone else there is a volunteer,” Loftin said. “It’s almost magical how the program comes together. We provide content that is very relevant to what a lot of us are going through. It’s really valuable to me as an employee of the University of Arkansas.”

Support of leadership back home makes it possible for her to serve on the SACUBO board of directors, Loftin said.

“We have some regular meetings during the workday, but I spend a lot of time after hours and on weekdays on this because my work fills my workday,” she said. “The leadership at the University of Arkansas has always been very supportive. It is important that our institution is represented.

“Like most things, the more you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it,” she continued. “It’s a great way to give back. I am grateful to the university for giving me the time and support to do this. I think it has benefited us.”

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