Laurence B. Alexander, J.D., Ph.D.
9th Chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Dr. Laurence B. Alexander, a nationally recognized scholar and academic leader, is in his ninth year as Chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a public land-grant research HBCU in an urban setting. After a national search in 2013, Alexander was selected to serve as Chancellor by University of Arkansas System President Donald R. Bobbitt and approved by the Board of Trustees.
Alexander brings more than three decades of combined professional and academic experience as a transformational university leader, administrator, distinguished professor, First Amendment scholar, attorney and journalist. He has promoted excellence across the university through innovation, entrepreneurship, and student-centered approaches and outcomes. Under his leadership, the university has grown in enrollment, achieved remarkable increases in retention and graduation rates, launched several new marketable academic programs, completed reaffirmation of university accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, reached higher levels of research investment and grant funding, acquired funding for new construction and renovation of capital projects, increased levels of community and statewide engagement, and success in major-gift fundraising and development, including the two largest donations in the university’s history. In that time, UAPB has grown in prominence and national visibility by rising to a Top-20 public HBCU ranking in U.S. News and World Report and to the 11th ranked public university in the Washington Monthly ranking of bachelor’s institutions, which is based on contributions to social mobility, research, and providing opportunities for public service.
This year, Alexander launched a new university strategic planning process. The blueprint for the university’s recent accomplishments was a visionary, collaborative, and inclusive Growing the Pride: 2015-2020 Strategic Plan, which emphasized five priorities: Growing enrollment and fostering student success at the undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. level; optimizing efficiency; upgrading and expanding facilities; diversifying and increasing revenue streams and preparing for a capital campaign; and enhancing the university’s reputation and national visibility. Based on the priorities and values of the strategic plan, Alexander led the university in completing a Campus Master Plan that helped reposition UAPB for large-scale resource development and greater investment in academic programs, faculty development, experiential learning, and a capital program.
In 2022, Alexander was appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as Chair of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD), an advisory committee to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that was established to ensure that USAID brings the assets of U.S. universities to bear on development challenges in agriculture and food security and supports their representation in USAID programming. His appointment as BIFAD Chair marks the first time the board is chaired by a leader of an 1890 public land grant university, acknowledging the valuable contributions of HBCUs and presenting opportunity to further strengthen USAID’s partnerships with HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The Board supports USAID’s global commitments in agriculture and food systems through initiatives such as the revised U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy and U.S. Government Global Food Security Research Strategy; responding to climate change; expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion; and strengthening local systems.
Alexander’s academic leadership has received additional recognition as an Arkansas Business Journal Influencer in Education in 2017. He was also selected for inclusion in the inaugural publication of the 200 Most Influential Leaders by Arkansas Business Publishing Group in 2018, and he was recognized nationally as one of the HBCU Campaign Fund’s 10 Most Dominant HBCU Leaders in 2019.
A native of New Orleans, Alexander earned a bachelor's degree from the University of New Orleans, a master's degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Florida, a Juris Doctor from Tulane University, and he earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Florida State University. His dissertation, Public Forum Doctrine in Higher Education: Student Rights and Institutional Prerogatives, received the national Joseph C. Beckham Dissertation of the Year Award from the Education Law Association.
Prior to joining UAPB, Alexander had a distinguished 22-year career as a professor and administrator at the University of Florida, the state’s 50,000-plus student land-grant flagship research institution, which is ranked 5th among the USNWR top national public universities and is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the prestigious organization of leading research universities. While at UF, Alexander served as a Distinguished Teaching Scholar, Provost Administrative Fellow in the Office of Academic Affairs, Director of the Office of Graduate Minority Programs, Associate Dean of the 12,000-student Graduate School, and Chair of the Department of Journalism. In addition, he was a Fellow in the Southeastern Conference Academic Leadership Development Program (SEC-ALDP), and later he participated in the Harvard University Seminar for New Presidents and the Harvard University Institute in Aligning Strategic Priorities with Financial Resources in Higher Education.
As one of more than 3,000 faculty members at UF, Alexander earned most of the university’s highest honors for outstanding teaching, research and service. He was selected as the 12th UF Distinguished Alumni Professor, one of only 18 faculty selected for this honor in the history of the university. Alexander also was selected in the first cohort of six faculty members from across the university to be inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, and he was awarded the university title of Distinguished Teaching Scholar. He was named a UF Research Foundation Professor, a university honor awarded to select tenured faculty members who have a distinguished current record of research and a strong research agenda that is likely to lead to continuing distinction in the professor’s field. In addition, Alexander received the Florida Blue Key Distinguished Faculty Award, and he has received awards for outstanding teaching, research and service in the UF College of Journalism and Communications, including twice receiving the Teacher of the Year Award. His prestigious national honors and awards include the Florida Education Fund President's Award, the National Freedom Forum Journalism Teacher of the Year Award, and the Baskett Mosse Award, a prize given by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) and the accrediting council to recognize an outstanding faculty member in the field of journalism or mass communication.
Alexander joined the UF faculty in 1991 as an assistant professor and rose through the ranks to become a tenured full professor in the UF College of Journalism and Communications. During his tenure, he taught more than 10,000 students in a variety of learning environments at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional school levels. He served as a chair or member of dozens of doctoral and master’s supervisory committees and secured more than $10 million as principal or co-principal investigator for grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and as the university’s applicant for the Florida Education Fund for Ph.D. student preparation and support, contributing significantly to the university’s diversity, equity, and inclusion. He is the co-author of Student Free Speech in Public Higher Education, a book published by the Education Law Association, and he is author or co-author of numerous publications in scholarly and professional journals, including articles in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Yale Law & Policy Review, Communications and the Law, Free Speech Yearbook, Notre Dame Journal of Legislation, Loyola Entertainment Law Review, Tulane Maritime Law Journal, UCLA National Black Law Journal, Newspaper Research Journal, Visual Communication Quarterly, Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, The Western Journal of Black Studies, and many other refereed publications and research papers.
He has engaged in state and local community service through several appointments, including Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Arkansas Census 2020 Complete-Count Committee, the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, the Board of Directors of Jefferson Regional Medical Center, the Board of the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County, Arkansas, the Jefferson County Industrial Foundation Board, the Board of Directors of Fifty for the Future of Pine Bluff, Inc., the Board of Directors of Pine Bluff Downtown Development, Inc., and he is working with the Go Forward Pine Bluff Leadership Task Force and the City of Pine Bluff on revitalization, entrepreneurship, and business development through the UAPB Economic Research and Development Center.
Alexander has had extensive engagement and experience with Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletic programs and alumni relations. Under his leadership, UAPB maintains a robust Division I athletics program with 280 student athletes across 14 teams. He serves as Vice Chair of the NCAA Division I Presidential Forum, which is comprised of one president or chancellor from each of the Division I conferences, and he serves as Chair of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Council of Presidents and Chancellors. As the UF Distinguished Alumni Professor, Alexander received an ambassadorial role for the university as a member of the Board of Directors of the University Athletic Association, a non-profit corporation that is responsible for maintaining the Florida Gators intercollegiate sports program of the university, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the UF National Alumni Association, working closely with the Office of Alumni Affairs as part of its Distinguished Lecture Series and making presentations to various audiences, including Gator Clubs, Back-to-College Alumni Weekend gatherings, alumni reunions, UF Foundation Board meetings, and the Florida Frontiers Lecture Series.
Alexander is active in state and national professional organizations, including the Executive Council of the Presidents Council of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Council of University Presidents, and the APLU Council of 1890 Institutions, a member of the Board of Directors of ARE-ON Arkansas Research Education Optical Network, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Research Alliance, a public-private partnership of the state’s research university chancellors and business leaders committed to creating opportunities in the areas of research, commercialization and job creation. As a member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), he has served as a mentor in the association’s Millennium Leadership Initiative Institute. A member of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Alexander has held several AEJMC leadership positions as a member of the Board of Directors, Chair of the Professional Freedom and Responsibility Committee, Chair of the Task Force on Development and as a member of the Finance Committee, the Publications Committee, and served in key divisional leadership roles, and on accreditation teams. While at UF, Alexander was also elected to three terms on the Faculty Senate, and he served as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Independent Florida Alligator student newspaper.
Prior to joining the faculty at UF, Alexander was a member of the faculty of the University of New Orleans and Temple University He also worked in the journalism profession at The Houma (La.) Courier, the New Orleans Times-Picayune and The Philadelphia Inquirer. He is licensed to practice law in the state of Louisiana, and he is a current member of the Louisiana State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, and the Education Law Association. He also is a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.