26 SCHOOLS in ARKANSAS
Arkansas, the Natural State, has been a curious place since the first days of exploration in the New World. The land of Arkansas was explored and used for trade by the Spanish and the French during the 18th century, and the territory changed hands from time to time, but there was little interest in settling the region until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. It was the Spanish and French who began calling it “Arkansas,” mangling the name the Illinois tribe gave the Quapaw people; by the end of the 19th century, state legislators would have to officially decide how to say the impossible name, and residents still debate what to call themselves (Arkansans or Arkansawyers?). However, once the land became American, the desire for good cotton-growing soil and the age-old American drive west made Arkansas a destination, though its incorporation in 1836 as a slave state would cost greatly in the long run; the devastation of the Civil War, and the long history of Jim Crow, set Arkansas back for many years.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Arkansas was almost completely dependent on agriculture, and the state is still one of the most productive farm states, though only a small percentage of Arkansans still live on farms. Beginning around the turn of the 21st century, Arkansas began a concerted campaign to become one of the most business-friendly states in the union, attracting and retaining a number of Fortune 500 companies, including Wal-Mart, the world’s single largest retailer. Arkansas’s race into global industry has created an increased demand for higher education, from natural resources and engineering to law and medicine, and Arkansas’s network of colleges and universities has exhibited a boom in recent years.
From its flagship public research universities – the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University – to its small liberal arts colleges, Arkansas’s higher education system is dedicated to preparing Arkansas’s professionals, workers, and leaders. Arkansas’s heritage as an agricultural center gives it the perfect foundation for leadership in areas like bioengineering and food processing, fields that have become increasingly important in the 21st century. Growing manufacturing, technology, and tourism industries have made business, management, and law crucial, with the University of Arkansas’s Walton College of Business reaching national attention. Small liberal arts institutions like the University of the Ozarks, Hendrix College, and the public Henderson State University are transforming classical liberal arts programs into leadership for today and the future, ensuring Arkansas’s place in the new American century.