Alumni Gift Creates High-Definition Video Conferencing Facility

An obsolete computing research laboratory in the College of Engineering has been transformed into the Bill and Margaret Harrison Family Video Conferencing Facility thanks to a contribution from alumni William and Margaret Harrison of Little Rock.

The gift, which honors the Harrison family, allowed the department of industrial engineering to renovate and significantly upgrade the space in the Bell Engineering Center.

“We appreciate the generosity of the Harrison family and admire their legacy in the College of Engineering,” said former interim Dean Terry Martin. “Their gift will significantly increase the technological capabilities offered to our students and enhance learning opportunities.”

The space has been upgraded aesthetically by installing new carpeting and all new furnishings, but the paramount feature in the facility is the state-of-the-art software and equipment. The Bill and Margaret Harrison Family Video Conferencing Facility is equipped with the LifeSize 220 Express, described as the most full-featured video conferencing system available.

The system allows remote video and audio communication between up to eight parties concurrently, and users can share content, control cameras, change layouts and add participants with ease. It includes an application for smart phones, tablets and computers and has the ability to record meetings and stream viewing.

Thanks to this new technology, the department will be able to enhance students’ learning experiences and expand research collaborations while reducing travel expenses. It has already proven to be useful to students, as three senior industrial engineering design teams used the new facility to work remotely with personnel from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences this spring. Using this advanced technology, the teams held their weekly meetings and delivered project presentations to sponsors in Little Rock while receiving instant feedback throughout the semester. Kim Needy, head of the industrial engineering department, said that faculty members have already used the video conferencing facility to collaborate with researchers from around the world.

“The Harrison gift made to the industrial engineering department has come at a critical time, as the department launches into new ventures with collaborators from across the globe,” Needy said. “This gift has allowed us to develop a high-definition video conferencing facility that supports both our teaching and research missions.”

 Bill Harrison, a 1966 industrial engineering graduate, is chairman and CEO of Harrison Energy Partners. He was elected as a member of the Arkansas Academy of Industrial Engineering in 1991 and was named a distinguished alumnus of the College of Engineering in 2011. His wife, Margaret, is a 1966 graduate from the College of Education and Health Professions and holds a Bachelor of Science in Education.

Industrial engineering is somewhat of a family affair for the Harrisons. Bill’s late brother, Crofford, received his industrial engineering degree in 1969, and two of Bill and Margaret’s four children graduated from the department of industrial engineering at the university — Angela Harrison Kuli (1992) and Drew Harrison (2000). Angela followed in her father’s footsteps and was inducted into the Arkansas Academy of Industrial Engineering in 2010. Bill and Margaret’s daughters, Holly Harrison Cooper (B.A. 1995) and Katherine Harrison Sockwell (B.S.B.A. 1988), are also graduates of the university.

The Harrisons are life members of the Arkansas Alumni Association and have been inducted into the Towers of Old Main, a recognition society for the university’s most generous benefactors. “This gift celebrates what the university has meant to our family,” Bill Harrison said. “I am proud that our four children are the fourth generation to graduate from the university.”

Release date: 7/1/2013