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Arkansas Policy Program Releases New Report on Governance in Little Rock

CONWAY, Ark. (May 28, 2015) –Hendrix College students and faculty will provide nonpartisan, original analyses on key public policy issues in Arkansas through a new undergraduate think tank.    

The Arkansas Policy Program (APP) was developed by Hendrix politics professor Dr. Jay Barth with the support of the Bill and Connie Bowen Odyssey Professorship, which builds upon Barth’s ongoing public policy and public opinion research and advocacy work related to Arkansas. 

APP released its first report, “Governance in Little Rock, Arkansas: At-Large and District Elections and the Impact on Representation,” which examines the role of the city’s distinct form of government on representation in the city of Little Rock. 

“Governance in Little Rock, Arkansas: At-Large and District Elections and the Impact on Representation,” funded by the Allred Research Fund at Hendrix, represents the first comprehensive analysis of the mechanics and impact of the distinctive city election system in Arkansas’s largest city. It provides an overview of the history of the unique structure of the city’s government that blends at-large and ward representation; an analysis of patterns of election of members of the City Board with a focus on geography, race, and gender; an examination of the competitiveness of elections in the city, with an eye to difference between ward and at-large races; and a look at the comparative cost of elections for at-large and ward seats. The consistent result from this analysis is that the shift to an entirely ward election system would advance a system of representation that is more fully reflective of those who have traditionally been on the outside looking in and create more vibrant, competitive, and less expensive elections in the city. Outside the scope of this study, normative arguments are made that at-large representation promotes decision-making for the good of the city as a whole while ward representation promotes provincialism.

The report was co-written by three Hendrix faculty members and a recently graduated student. 

Dr. Kiril Kolev, assistant professor of politics and international relations, and Dr. Barth, M.E. and Ima Graves Peace distinguished professor of politics, were the lead authors on the work.  

Highlighting the involvement of undergraduate students in the work of APP, international relations major Lora Adams ’15 provided work on much of the history and data included in the report. It also includes mapping work provided by Hendrix anthropology professor Dr. Brett Hill.

The report can be read here.

APP will release additional reports in the future, each with APP students taking the lead on working with an advocacy group or foundation on a separate report to be released publicly and published electronically.       

“Developing an Odyssey Professorship focused on this theme was obvious because such policy-related projects have become a central component of my ongoing professional development in recent years with Hendrix students often heavily involved in that work,” said Barth.  Under Barth’s direction, Hendrix students and recent alumni have worked as research collaborators on projects such as “Making Arkansas a Land of Opportunity for All: Understanding the Cradle to Prison Pipeline” and “Ripe for Reform: Arkansas as a Model for Social Change,” which examined the tradition of pragmatic progressive reforms in the state.        

“The students who have worked on these projects gained insights into particular areas of public policy and gained awareness of how their own skills can be employed to serve the public,” Barth said. 

Hendrix students apply to become part of the APP team for a given academic year. They are funded for their summer research work and are also engaged in research projects and public opinion work across the year.

To receive a free PDF file of “Governance in Little Rock, Arkansas: At-Large and District Elections and the Impact on Representation” or get more information on APP, email Barth can be reached for comment at 501.944.9453

About Hendrix

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. This year, Hendrix was named the country’s #1 “Up and Coming” liberal arts college and #8 in the nation for “Best Undergraduate Teaching” by U.S. News and World Report.  Hendrix is featured in the 2015 Fiske Guide to Colleges, Forbes magazine's list of America's Top Colleges, the 2014 Princeton Review’s The Best 378 Colleges, and the latest edition of Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit