Lion Pride: Recognizing our successes, planning for our future

In terms of the Fall 2017 semester, we are now – as the saying goes – in the thick of it. We’re a month into classes, Fall Break isn’t far away, and finals and the holidays won’t be far behind. (Only 14 weeks until Christmas, for those keeping track.)

I’ve heard countless success stories from across our campus these past few weeks. Stories of what our students are accomplishing both inside and outside the classroom, as well as your own achievements. I couldn’t be more proud, and I hope you are, as well.

We had the chance last Friday to thank the donors who helped make the critical renovations to Reynolds Hall possible. And, it was a smashing success, thanks to some flowers and liquid nitrogen provided by Dr. James Donelson.

I’m also proud to say that Missouri Southern has been recognized for our Great Game of Education efforts. During the recent Gathering of the Games Conference in Dallas, Texas, we were awarded the 2017 Pioneer Award – which goes to a company or organization that is the first in their field to implement and practice the open-book methodology. This recognition was made possible by all of your efforts, and it’s been wonderful to see these guiding principles successfully utilized by our campus.

The Development Office thanked Reynolds Hall donors.

STRATEGIC PLANNING – STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT SESSIONS

We’ve reached an important juncture here at Missouri Southern. With our previous Strategic Plan having been successfully fulfilled, it’s time to move forward by re-examining our mission, vision and values. One of the insights gained by the team that attended the Gathering of Games Conference is the need to identify an organization’s specific “noble cause.” Re-examining our mission, vision, and values should help us zero in on our noble cause.

The key word in that last sentence is the word “our.”

It’s our mission that we want to identify and spell out for the future of Missouri Southern. It’s our collective vision and our values as an institution that will show us the way forward.

That means your contribution to this process – your thoughts, your feelings and your voices – are critical to our success.

Our GGOE Committee received the Great Game’s Pioneer Award.

This week and next, we will host a series of Stakeholder Engagement Sessions for you to offer input into this vital work. The sessions will be offered in two phases, so please plan to attend one Phase 1 session and one Phase 2 session.

Tuesday, Sept. 19 (Phase 1):  1 – 2:45 p.m.; or 3 – 4:45 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 21 (Phase 1):  8:30 – 10 a.m.; or 10:15 – 11:45 a.m.
Monday, Sept. 25 (Phase 2):  8:30 – 10 a.m.; or 10:15 – 11:45 a.m.
Thursday, Sept. 28 (Phase 2):  1 – 2:45 p.m.; or 3 – 4:45 p.m.

Each of the sessions will take place in the quiet room on the fourth floor of Spiva Library, overlooking the Oval. This location will provide an intimate setting for all of us to sit down and talk. We want to hear what you think when you consider Missouri Southern’s mission, vision and values. We will take the information gathered in these sessions back to the Board of Governors to compare and contrast with the thoughts and ideas they compiled at their annual retreat earlier this summer. With broad campus and community input, they should be able to come up with a concise and descriptive Mission Statement that will be embraced by all.

As I said, we are in the thick of things at the moment. If you can’t attend the sessions, please make time to share your thoughts with us online. You can do so by going here.

Again, I can’t stress enough the crucial role all of you will play during this process. I thank you in advance for your time and your invaluable input.

THIRD THURSDAY

Missouri Southern will host Third Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 21. We hope you’ll join us in downtown Joplin because this event is always such an awesome display of what makes Missouri Southern great.

Dozens of our academic departments, programs and student organizations will have booths, there will be performances by our talented music students, our athletes will be on hand to greet fans and – if you’re not enticed already – live cooking demonstrations by Jay Jung, owner of Jin’s Korean Grill in Springfield. There will also be an impressive historical replica of our original Mansion Walls as a nod to our 50th anniversary on this campus. (Stay tuned for more about our 50th Anniversary Campus Rededication Ceremony, set for Oct. 27.)

It’s a chance for the community at large to become better acquainted with us and to get a taste of what makes Missouri Southern so special. I hope to see you there.

As always, your service and contributions to this university and the region are critical in making our students successful, our economy vibrant, and our community culturally enriched and civically engaged. Please know that your efforts are recognized and appreciated.

It’s always a great day to be a Lion.

Alan

A few updates as the Spring 2017 semester draws to a close

As Finals Week draws to a close and we prepare to celebrate our graduates during Saturday’s commencement ceremonies, I want to thank each and every one of you for your hard work.

The results of that work can be seen in the students’ eyes as they cross the stage to receive their diploma and begin life’s next chapter. It’s a milestone for each of them, and a direct result of the contributions you make to this university.

As we wrap up the spring semester, I wanted to keep you in the loop on a few items of importance.

Budget update

As you are aware, higher education in the State of Missouri suffered deep budget cuts midway through the 2017 year and will endure even deeper reductions in funding in Fiscal Year 2018. Accordingly, we had to make some very tough decisions to make our budget come anywhere close to balancing. In fact, we adopted an $800,000 deficit budget for FY2018.

Sadly, the FY2018 budget could not accommodate any across-the-board pay increases and that’s a situation that I truly regret. But, we do have approval from the Board of Governors to re-evaluate our financial status at mid-year to see if we can make adjustments at that time.

The board also agreed to measure our “end of year” operating results (June 30, 2017), and see if we can possibly have a mid-year dispersal of the amount above our “forecast,” because we are currently on trend to end the year with improved operating cash (our critical number for the Great Game of Education).

However, the budget cuts for FY2018 will start to erode this cash balance rapidly after July 1 unless we are able to increase enrollment and retention and/or keep the Satellite Dental School money in the budget. Either way, the Board of Governors will re-examine our cash position at mid-year and keep the GGOE promise to redistribute the amount of improved operating cash established at the end of FY2017 if at all possible. This distribution could take the form of increased departmental budgets and/or stipends to university employees.

The obvious difficulty with state appropriations is the FY2018 decrease in core funding of 6.6% on top of the 4.0% cut of FY2017. And, the inability to make up the lost revenue with tuition increases without facing the possible consequence of being penalized 5 percent of our existing state appropriation. But, we will need to seriously look at a significant tuition increase next year even if we are forced to accept the 5 percent penalty, because the penalty is a “one-time charge” and the tuition increase would be permanent.

A last word about the budget: Currently the proposed budget that the governor has on his desk contains $2 million for MSSU to continue work on the Dental School partnership with UMKC (they have $1 million in the budget for the same purpose). However, this entry is again listed as a “new decision item” and on a separate budget line rather than being included in our base budget.

If the governor signs the budget in its current form we will still need to be very careful in how the money is spent or allocated until it can be included in our base budget next year (which is the plan of House Budget Chair Scott Fitzpatrick).

Insurance

As the university prepares for the 2018 Plan Year, there have been ongoing discussions by the Insurance Committee about reintroducing a health savings account option for employees.

A health savings account (HSA) can be used to pay for medical and prescription expenses in conjunction with a qualified high deductible health plan. Contributions into the account are made on a pre-tax basis through payroll deductions, and dollars in the account are tax free when used for qualified medical/prescription distributions.

The plan is to provide employees with HSA education classes prior to open enrollment so informed decisions can be made. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

In other news, the partially self-insured group plan that went into effect on Jan. 1 is going very well. Paying for each out-of-pocket claim as they are incurred rather than paying a fixed premium to the insurance carrier has already resulted in significant savings for the university.

Retirements 

It was my pleasure to attend Thursday’s retirement reception as we thanked faculty and staff members for their years of service at Missouri Southern. 

Retirees included Janette Van De Mark, Jackie Coose, Richard Compton, Dale Fletcher, Dr. Francis Bartholet, Dr. Deborah Brown, Stephen Schiavo, Stephen Jordan, Helen Regnier, Carolyn Carter, Jerry Robertson, Sheila Damer, Joyce Courtney and Rod Surber.

Those entering Phased Retirement are Dr. Jack Oakes, Dr. Scott Cragin, Chrys Corcoran, Christine Eller, Dr. Richard Miller, Debra Snodgrass, Stephen Smith, Dr. Pedro Talavera-Ibarra, Dr. Robert McDermid and Dr. Paul Teverow.

Altogether, they have given a combined 530 years of employment to Missouri Southern!

I want to offer special thanks to our two retiring deans – Deb Brown and Richard Miller. Their leadership and invaluable contributions to the School of Education and School of Arts & Sciences have benefitted countless students over the years.

Commencement

As mentioned above, our 68th graduating class will participate in spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13, in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Students from the School of Business, School of Education, and those receiving general studies and applied science degrees will attend the 9:30 a.m. ceremony. A 1 p.m. ceremony will honor those graduating from the School of Arts & Sciences and the School of Health Sciences.

I hope that you can join us as we celebrate all of our graduates.

Don’t forget – we begin our summer schedule on Monday, May 15. Our work week will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Plans are underway for the welcome back meeting to kick off the fall semester. It’s tentatively planned for Friday, Aug. 18, so be watching for more details.

I hope you have a safe, enjoyable and relaxing summer!

Budget Update for our Campus Community

As we head into the final stretch of the Spring 2017 semester (can you believe commencement is just a month away?), I want to take a few minutes to speak to you about some matters of importance to all of us here at Missouri Southern.

I know the budget situation remains at the forefront of our attention, so I’ll address that in detail.

Budget update

As you know, Missouri Southern – as with other higher-education institutions throughout the state – has had to face difficult budget cuts as our new Governor works to balance the budget.

For the 2016-17 academic year, the university will suffer withholdings of $1.7 million from our core budget and eliminated funding for the UMKC Dental School satellite facility on our campus. For the 2017-18 academic year, the Governor has recommended an additional core budget reduction of $2.2 million. If the Governor’s recommended budget is approved, the 2017-18 appropriation will fall below the amount we received in 2007-08 and result in state support falling to an all-time low of less than 30% of total university revenues.

We are working with our friends in Jefferson City to limit the core budget cuts and to restore funding for the Dental School partnership with UMKC. But, we won’t know the final outcome until the House and Senate meet in conference to hammer out the final budget that will be sent to the Governor. It is almost a certainty that we will be operating with fewer state dollars than we received this year.

Accordingly, I have been required to make some very difficult decisions regarding next year’s university budget. The first difficult decision was to admit that we will need to recommend the Board of Governors adopt a deficit budget of about -$800,000 for the 2017-18 year. I hate deficit budgets, but to cut deeper than what will be recommended would move us beyond painful and toward permanently damaging the campus.

I also believe that announcing cuts should be done “all at once” rather than “dribbling it out” over time and causing endless anxiety for everyone. So, here’s the sad and disturbing news.

The primary goal of this budget cutting exercise was to “protect the classroom” to the greatest degree possible as our fundamental purpose is to be a Baccalaureate and Master’s degree granting institution. As a result, the other areas of campus received the bulk of the reductions – Athletics, Advancement/URM, Business Affairs, and Student Affairs. The Academic programs that were impacted had been previously identified as needing adjustments.

Regarding personnel, we are sadly going to lose 13 full-time positions (either through terminations or failing to fill existing vacancies). NOTE: All affected employees have been notified and we regret they are leaving us but sincerely thank each of them for their service.

Among the posts that will go unfilled are the Dean of Students and the Associate Athletic Director positions. But, we wish Dr. Ron Mitchell all the best as he re-enters the P-12 world as the new Superintendent for the East Newton School District; and, we also wish Rachel Burleson all the success in the world as she takes on the Athletic Director role at Franklin Pierce University. We will leave the Assistant Dean of Business and Dental Hygiene Clinic Coordinator positions unfilled at this time also.

Regarding programs and activities, the following will be discontinued:

  • Legislative Internship Program
  • Southern Gold Dance Team
  • Vivid – student-produced publication
  • Fire Academy
  • Dental Hygiene satellite programs in Sikeston and Rolla
  • Paralegal Certificate Program

Additionally, each operational unit has been asked to trim travel budgets, equipment purchases, and all other areas that can possibly be restricted at this time. And, to their great credit, all areas have made the necessary adjustments to adapt to these trying times.

When we look beyond this year of drastic budget cuts, what should we be focused on as we start looking forward to the 2017-18 academic year?

First, we must face the reality that we have become an “enrollment- and tuition-driven” institution. The State of Missouri has convinced me that we may never see the type of support that state universities historically enjoyed. This reality places an even heavier emphasis on the important work all of you are doing with the Great Game of Education, because it has caused everyone to recognize that enrollment and retention will be the best and perhaps only way to improve the “critical number” going forward. Frankly, the progress we have made via the Great Game helped us stave off even deeper budget cuts this year, and I am confident it will lead us to much healthier budgets in the future.

Second, we must commit ourselves to preparing the campus, community and State Capitol for the fact that we need a significant tuition increase to meet the needs of our growing student body. Currently, our tuition is $20 per credit hour below Missouri Western (our sister institution). We need to pursue a tuition increase somewhere in that neighborhood to give our students the best educational experience possible. Fortunately, we have a campus-wide group working on different tuition models that will make the increase more manageable for students, acceptable to the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE), and valuable to Missouri Southern as a whole. Some of the options they are considering include “blocked tuition” (4 years at the same tuition level), “plateaued tuition” (charging for 12 hours but extra hours are free), “differential tuition” (regular tuition for General Education classes but higher tuition for specialty courses like Nursing, Teacher Education, and/or the Arts, etc.) or some combination of the above.

Third, we all need to keep an eye on the new generation of “program review” that will be conducted in the coming months by MDHE. It appears the singular focus will be on “completers” – defined as graduates of major fields of study. Since this is a historical recount of the record, there is little we can do other than argue that some disciplinary majors with low graduate totals should be combined with similar majors (Modern Languages, Social Sciences, etc.). Perhaps there are other ideas, so please feel free to share.

Upcoming events

Be sure to mark your calendars for several upcoming events.

The Southern Symphony Orchestra, the Missouri Southern Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers will team together for a performance of Mozart’s “Requiem” at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at Central Christian Center. The combined talents of these student groups – under the direction of Dr. David Sharlow and Dr. Jeff Macomber – is tremendous. You won’t want to miss it.

The 38th annual Spring Picnic is planned for Friday, April 28. There’s a Western theme for the event, which will feature music from Jordy Searcy, who appeared on Season 7 of “The Voice.”

And of course, commencement ceremonies are set for Saturday, May 13 in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center (Business and Education at 9:30 am; Arts & Sciences and Health Sciences at 1:00 pm). Being able to congratulate our students as they cross the stage and begin the next chapter in their lives is a tremendous honor. It’s the culmination of everything they’ve worked toward here at Missouri Southern. I hope you can join us.

As we shift gears once again in the sprint toward Finals Week, hold your heads high. I’m proud to serve this wonderful institution and to be part of the Missouri Southern family.

I hope you feel the same.

Remaining steadfast in our mission

Dear colleagues,

With the spring semester well underway (Spring Break is just a few weeks away!), there’s a lot to talk about. Perhaps nothing is of more concern to the university than the current budget situation, so it’s the best place to start.

Budget update

As you know, the governor announced in January cuts to higher education as he worked to balance the budget.

For fiscal year 2017 (which ends June 30), Missouri Southern will lose $1.7 million. In working to adjust to these cuts, we have asked units in every division to refrain from spending 100 percent of their budgets in an effort to help us absorb the impact.

Earlier this month, the governor rolled out another round of cuts that will take effect in fiscal year 2018 – an additional budget reduction of $2.2 million for our university.

State funding has decreased to an all-time low of 31 percent of Missouri Southern’s operating budget, and these anticipated cuts for the new fiscal year make it difficult to avoid a tuition increase that is higher than what otherwise might have been required.

Universities across the state are in discussions for a unified approach to these cuts, and we hope to soon bring a proposal to the Board of Governors. We will keep you informed as these plans progress.

As a result of the budget cuts, we’ve had to put on hold our collaboration with UMKC to bring a dental school to Joplin (which also means the Psychology Department will stay where it is for the time being). However, the project remains a priority for both schools, and we will continue toward securing state funding to make it happen.

While these cuts are difficult for all of us, we remain steadfast in our mission here at Missouri Southern – and that is to continue to provide an outstanding university experience for our students. I thank each and every one of you for your contributions and commitment to making that mission a reality.

Yours to Lose 

Dr. Richard Schooler speaks to prospective students about the Yours to Lose program.

When the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences opens the doors of its new Joplin medical school campus this fall, it will also mark the official start of an exciting and exclusive partnership with Missouri Southern.

We recently hosted visits by groups of students from across the country who are candidates for the first Yours to Lose Advanced Medical School Acceptance Program cohort. These students had an opportunity to participate in interviews; tour the campus, area hospitals, and the new KCU location; and to learn more about the exciting program that will gain them early admittance into medical school.

I want to thank Dr. Richard Schooler, dean of Health Sciences; Donna Johnson, associate professor of biology and environmental health; Derek Skaggs, director of admissions; and Dr. James Donelson, associate professor of chemistry, for all of their hard work in preparation for these visits. And, hats off to the team from KCU, which also spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the meetings.

It’s an exciting program, and one that will help cement this region’s importance as a medical hub.

New roles, new faces

You may have seen the recent announcement that Julie Wengert has accepted the position of Dean of Student Success and Support.

In this new role, she will help coordinate our efforts to promote student retention, success and degree completion. Retention is a major focus for the University Council, and we look forward to working with Julie to accomplish these goals.

I also want to take a moment to welcome several new faces to campus.

Michelle Wood recently joined the staff of the Office of Development as Director of Leadership Annual Giving. A 1992 graduate of Missouri Southern, she’s a former director of Barceda Families and director of talent acquisition for Leggett & Platt Inc. Michelle will work to engage friends and alumni and seek annual support for departments and scholarships.

Chelsea Conley has also joined the Development team as Director of Donor Relations. The former director of Art Feeds Carthage, she is in charge of the overall stewardship plan to further engage current supporters of Missouri Southern.

She is replacing Dr. Delores Honey, who is retiring after more than 30 years of service to the university. Please take an opportunity to thank Delores for her commitment to MSSU and all she has done over the years.

Finally, we also welcome Brett Meeker back to campus as Director of Concurrent Enrollment. A 2000 graduate who spent more than 12 years working for the Missouri Public Defender system, Brett will be overseeing the dual-credit program, which allows high-school students to earn credit for taking university-level courses.

Student athletes

I also want to take a moment to recognize several of our outstanding student athletes.

Emily Presley

Vincent Kiprop recently broke his own 3k record by more than 13 seconds during a meet at Pittsburg, and for the second straight year has been named the national Men’s Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Bryan Burns also broke his own shot put record, finishing first with a distance of 59-04.75. That’s nine inches over his previous record and finds him ranked second in the nation.

Both were recently named MIAA Track and Field Athletes of the Week.

Women’s pole vaulter Emily Presley was recently named MIAA Women’s Field Athlete of the Week. During the recent Pitt State competition, she won with a vault of 14-00.00. That tops the Division II by more than 10 inches and the MIAA by more than 13.

Congratulations to these three students. The commitment and dedication to their sports is outstanding.

Child Development Center

Finally, mark your calendars for March 28. The Child Development Center will open the doors of their new facility across the street, offering tours and the unveiling of a brand new name: Lion Cub Academy.

The 14,000-square-foot building – we’ve known it as the Joplin Regional Center – is currently in the exciting final stages of its renovation. The expansion is a great opportunity not only for the families who are being served, but for our own students as they get hands-on training in the field of early childhood education.

***

I know I thanked you earlier for all that you do here to ensure the success of Missouri Southern and our students, but it bears repeating. Your service is appreciated more than I can say.

Be proud to call yourselves Lions!

‘Tis the season: A few items to review before holiday break

Dear Colleagues,

The holidays are a time of love, joy and hope.

The images of this time of year are indelible: Children sharing their wish list with Santa, students heading back home for the holidays, football games and parades on television, holiday foods and, of course, opening presents.

Here at Southern, we welcomed in the season at the annual “Southern Lights” celebration earlier this month with the lighting of the tree on campus, fueled with cocoa, cider and cookies.

Our Music Department helped usher in the season with the annual “Swingin’ Holiday Show” from the Missouri Southern Jazz Orchestra and, just last week, “A Seasonal Choral Flourish,” two wonderful evenings of vocal music, set the stage for a warm and joyous season of celebration. There have been plenty of other observances as well.

It’s always a pleasure to see our faculty, staff and students coming together at this time of year.

Before we dismiss for the holiday break, I’d like to review a few items of importance to our campus.

Haley joins Board of Governors 

Carlos Haley

Carlos Haley of Joplin has joined the Missouri Southern Board of Governors.

Carlos serves as Chief Compliance Officer for Freeman Health System, earned his MBA in finance, and he is an alumnus of MSSU! His education, talent and experience will make him a great asset to our university.

I want to express my thanks to Keith C. Hankins of Stockton for his years of service on the board. We were fortunate to have Keith lend us the benefit of his wealth of knowledge, insight and judgment. I can’t thank him enough for his efforts and wish him all the best in the future.

Joplin Tomorrow gift

A non-profit corporation formed in the aftermath of the 2011 Joplin tornado, Joplin Tomorrow was established by former U.S. Sen. John Danforth to provide low-interest loans for business recovery.

Nearly $1.6 million was raised by donors from across the country, enabling dozens of businesses to rebuild and expand. Having completed their mission, Joplin Tomorrow recently voted to transfer the remaining $700,000 in assets to the Missouri Southern Foundation. The funds will be used to provide scholarships for future medical students enrolled in the “Yours to Lose – Advanced Medical School Acceptance Program.”

Dr. Brad Hodson is joined by the Joplin Tomorrow board during the announcement of the gift.

The exclusive partnership forged with the Kansas City University School of Medicine and Biosciences will allow up to 25 students per year to be accepted by the KCU medical school at the same time they are admitted into our pre-med program. After earning their bachelor’s in biology, which can be accomplished in a very rigorous three-year program, they’ll begin their first year of medical school at KCU’s new Joplin campus.

This generous gift from Joplin Tomorrow is an investment in our students, our campus and in our community. These future physicians will play a role in the region’s continued economic vitality, and we are grateful to Joplin Tomorrow for their support.

UMKC tour

A portion of the León Health Sciences building will soon undergo renovation for use by the School of Dentistry at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). A few weeks ago, UMKC brought a group of 22 individuals to campus for in-depth discussions about how to best operationalize the program. The eclectic group from UMKC included faculty, IT staff, architectural and engineering specialists and the dean of the School of Dentistry. They enjoyed getting a firsthand look at their future space on campus and left very encouraged at the arrangements that are unfolding between our organizations.

We are currently discussing the wording of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two schools, which will solidify our partnership and commitment to hosting UMKC’s dentistry program here. We are also in discussions with that university to develop a program similar to “Yours to Lose,” which would give our pre-dentistry students a streamlined path into UMKC’s dental program.

We expect that, at capacity, a total of 60 students will participate in the four-year DDS program, which includes clinical partnerships with area dentists. UMKC is tentatively set to enroll its first cohort of 15 students on our campus in the fall of 2018.

Legislative visits

We recently hosted two groups of Missouri legislators on our campus to share with them our needs and goals for the coming year. These groups included both current legislators and a larger group of newly elected legislators participating in the state-sponsored “Freshman Tour.”

We took the opportunity with both groups to lay out our legislative priorities for the upcoming year. Those priorities include more core funding, new appropriations for renovations to Taylor Performing Arts Center, and the acquisition of the Joplin Regional Center. We will go into more detail on these and other priorities at the spring “All-Employee Welcome Back” meeting January 13, 2017. Wow, I can’t believe I just wrote the number 2017 as a date!

We believe it’s very important that legislators from all over the state get to know us and fully understand our position as a growing educational powerhouse in the region.

Funding

Anyone who works here knows that funding is a major focus.

Public institutions of higher learning in Missouri are primarily funded two ways: through appropriations from the state, and from tuition and fees.

This fall we had a record enrollment of just over 6,200 students, about the same number as at Truman State University. However, we received $23,683, 485 from the state of Missouri.  Truman State received $41,816, 820 – a major difference!

At the same time, our average yearly tuition and fees, as calculated by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE), comes in at $5,877 (only Harris-Stowe is lower at $5,820). So, the result is that our combined “tuition/fees and state appropriations per FTE student” is $11,070 – putting us at the bottom of the chart (a whopping $844 PER STUDENT less than Missouri Western, which holds the next-to-last slot). We do not belong at the bottom of any chart, much less this one, because our students deserve better!

The obvious answer seems to be to increase tuition. However, Missouri law forbids publicly-funded universities from exceeding the percentage change of the consumer price index. We can increase tuition but, if we do we face a substantial monetary fine (unless we get a waiver from the Coordinating Board for Higher Education).

In view of our great progress in recent years, it may be time to re-think our policy of staying within funding limits which, we feel, are disproportionate when compared to other universities in the state.

This is a subject our Board of Governors will discuss and debate in coming months.

Commencement 

Dr. Conrad Gubera

Commencement is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. Our speaker this semester will be Dr. Conrad Gubera, one of Missouri Southern’s legendary professors.

(I know how good he is because he was one of my teachers when I was attending school here way back in the 1970s.)

I wish our graduates all the best as they move on to graduate schools, careers and family responsibilities. They are, now and forever, MSSU Lions!

I wish you a very peaceful and happy holiday break. Lori and I hope you will enjoy your time off and return in January filled with renewed vigor.

We look forward to a great 2017.

Honoring the work of our legislators – and founders

Dear colleagues,

It’s been an exciting few weeks here at Missouri Southern! Before sharing with you some items of interest, I’d like to take a quick moment to revisit a topic that will certainly need to be addressed at some point… tuition.

Tuition

As we’ve often discussed, the desire of everyone at Missouri Southern is to be a high-quality, affordable option for students. But, consider the following chart that shows MSSU “tuition and required fees” lag all of our cohort institutions (Harris-Stowe is slightly lower, but they enjoy a great deal more in state appropriations per student than we receive). Our sister institution, Missouri Western, charges $20 per credit hour more than we do and they have higher fees.

btl_chart

At some point, we will need to increase tuition to be more in-line with our cohorts – or we run the risk of failing to have sufficient resources to provide the high-quality educational experience our students deserve. Accordingly, we are brainstorming a variety of options to get out of this box and to avoid the penalties of SB389 that could cost us 5% of state appropriations. Stay tuned.

‘15 to Finish’

The Missouri Department of Higher Education has launched the “15 to Finish” initiative, and I had the opportunity to attend the statewide kickoff earlier this month at Missouri State University along with Dr. Carson, Dr. Creamer, Dr. Nicoletti, and Darren Fullerton.

The program encourages students to take at least 15 credit hours per semester in order to receive their bachelor’s degree in four years or an associate’s degree in two. When students take too long to complete their degree, they’re less likely to finish at all, which can cost themselves and the state more money.

The benefits of completing a degree on time are numerous, and I hope our students see that value as this messaging takes hold.

On a related note, Zora Mulligan was recently appointed commissioner of higher education. I have known Zora for a long time and applaud the board’s decision. We’ll be watching with interest to see how new initiatives such as “15 to Finish” take shape and make our students more successful.

Webster Medallion ceremony

Please mark your calendars for Tuesday, Nov. 15, as we welcome Sen. Ron Richard to campus to receive the inaugural Webster Medallion – an annual recognition for the work our legislators do on behalf of our university and the community in general.

ronrichard

The award is named for the late Sen. Richard Webster, an influential legislator who helped guide us on the path to becoming a full-fledged university. Webster Hall, which houses our communication and social science programs, was named for him when it was opened in 1992.

We have invited Ron Richard’s Senate colleagues to be on hand for the ceremony, and we’re happy to be able to properly thank him for his support of Missouri Southern.

In the spring, we will be reviving the Annie Baxter Award.

Named for Annie Baxter – who became the first woman elected to public office when she became Jasper County Clerk in 1890 – the award goes to female public servants in recognition of their accomplishments. We’re excited to bring this award back.

More details about the Webster Medallion ceremony will be announced soon.

Nixon Hall

The Board of Governors recently voted unanimously to name the upcoming addition to Reynolds Hall for Go2016-05-11_MSSU Reynolds Boards_15-253.inddv. Jay Nixon. We deeply appreciate the governor’s efforts to garner bipartisan support for the project, as well as his service to Joplin following the tornado.

The new building will be located on the south side of Reynolds Hall and connect to it via a sky-bridge. It will provide additional classrooms, offices, and study spaces, bolstering our ability to meet the needs of students interested in high-demand STEM fields. A ground breaking date in early December is being contemplated by the Governor’s office. More information will be passed along as the date and time firms up.

Japanese Ambassador

We were very happy to welcome Kenichiró Sasae, Japanese Ambassador to the United States, to campus earlier this month as part of his Midwest tour of the country. The visit was arranged by Congressman Billy Long.

The economic, cultural, educational and strategic relationship between Japan and the United States is extremely important. It was a great honor to host the Ambassador and his wife at a luncheon in the North End Zone Facility and have him meet with our terrific group of Missouri Southern students from Japan.

Buchanan Mansion

The Lucius P. Buchanan mansion was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places, and I want to offer thanks on behalf of the campus to Brad Belk, director of the Joplin Museum Complex and a member of the Alumni Association board, for his efforts to make this happen. Brad’s 16-month effort to oversee the application process and guide it through the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office, then through the federal process, took a great deal of time and energy on his part.

The mansion, built in 1926, is an iconic building on this campus (plans for the transformation from a junior college to a four-year institution were made within its walls), and we’re thrilled to have distinction bestowed on the facility. Stop by the original entrance on the south side or at the entrance to the Alumni Association to view the plaques issued by the National Register.

Great Britain Semester

We have enjoyed a wonderful variety of programs offered as part of the themed semester this fall – including music, a play, films and presentations by guests and members of our own faculty.

You won’t want to miss two upcoming events that will wrap up this semester’s events. The Southern Symphony Orchestra will perform music from Great Britain during a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4. They’ll be joined by Erik Peterson, a member of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

Charles Finch – author of “The Last Enchantments” – will visit campus on Nov. 16-17 to discuss and sign copies of his novel, and speak about the city of Oxford and creative writing about travel.

Great Game of Education

Thank you to everyone who completed the introductory training for the Great Game of Education. We’ve already passed the first two reward benchmarks, and everyone on campus has received a Lantern pin and food credit from Fresh Ideas. When we hit 80%, everyone will receive a T-shirt. We are currently at 70% and climbing!

I’d like to thank Scott Cragin and all the members of the Culture Committee and subcommittees for their efforts to roll this program out across campus. Giving everyone a better understanding of the university’s finances and their own role in creating the critical number helps us to chart a positive path forward.

If you haven’t heard, Scott has been invited to speak about GGOE during next summer’s EduTECH International Congress & Expo in Sydney, Australia. He will be speaking on how we have implemented this groundbreaking financial initiative – a first of its kind in higher education. We’ve also had inquiries from other universities about how they can also get involved.

If you haven’t already started the training, log in to Blackboard – it’s not too late to get in the game!

As always, I want to thank all of you for the important role you play on this campus. Your continued service to our students and Missouri Southern is truly appreciated.

Alan

 

Let’s all be servant leaders and get involved

Dear colleagues –

I hope everyone is off to a great start this semester. It’s always an exciting time as students return to class and things kick into high gear.

My purpose in writing to you today is to stress two things that have been on my mind of late – the idea of serving others and the importance of campus involvement.

Teamwork couple climbing helping hand

We can all be servant leaders

You have heard me talk before about the concept of servant leadership. It’s a challenge to the traditional ideas of what it means to be a leader in that anyone – in any position – can lead by helping others “be their best selves” (see link below).

For me, these are not mere words. Rather, it’s a philosophy that I firmly embrace and do my best to follow, because each of you play a vital role in our mission and I want you to be as happy, fulfilled and effective as possible in that role. It’s a model that encourages selflessness, persistence, respect and empowerment, and I can already see it taking root on our campus.

In the higher-education setting, servant leadership requires that we not only need to care about getting students into the system, but also dedicate ourselves to guiding them successfully through the system. By helping our students achieve their goals, each of us can serve as an example of what it means to be a servant leader.

If you were not at the recent Faculty/Staff Welcome, or did not receive an information packet, you can find out more about the importance and role of servant leaders by clicking here.

Dr. Jean Hobbs
Dr. Jean Hobbs

Three members of our Lion family were recently honored for demonstrating these ideals both in and out of the classroom.

During the Faculty/Staff Welcome, we honored Dr. Jean Hobbs, professor of kinesiology, and Dr. Joy Dworkin, professor of English, as Outstanding Teachers. Hobbs was also announced as Outstanding Advisor.

Nominations for these awards come from our students, who take the time to share how these individuals have made a positive impact on their lives.

And, earlier this month, Dr. Jennifer Dennis, associate professor of biology and environmental health, was selected by the Joplin Regional Business Journal as one of this year’s “Fifteen Under 40” honorees.

Congratulations to all three for the outstanding work they do to serve our students!

Get involved

“Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn.”

It’s a quote attributed to either Benjamin Franklin or Chinese philosopher Xun Kuang … Google has yet to settle the argument. Either way, it’s one that I hope you’ll take to heart.

This is an exciting time here at Missouri Southern. Enrollment is up, we’re expanding our education offerings and building projects continue. Signs of growth abound.

We want all of you to become deeply involved with what is happening all around us, to help take charge and shape the legacy of this university for generations to come.

Whether it’s serving on a committee, advising a student group, volunteering at an event or even sitting in the stands to cheer on our student athletes, you will feel more a part of the campus community … an active participant as we continue to move forward. It’s a chance to connect with colleagues and students, learn more about an institution that continues to make a tremendous difference for the region, and an opportunity to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves.

Let’s all commit to being servant leaders, to become more involved, and to be Lions through and through.

Get in the game

The Great Game of Education is perhaps the ideal way to get involved and I’d like to encourage everyone on campus to take part. The first campuswide mini-game has also been rolled out. Just log in to Blackboard to get started.

A big thanks to Dr. Scott Cragin and the members of the GGOE Culture Committee and subcommittees for the work they have put into launching this initiative. (And let’s not forget the dulcet tones of Dr. Brad Hodson covering Willie Nelson!) By working together, we can help ensure that this university continues moving in a positive direction, both academically and financially.

Self-insurance

As you may have already heard, last month the Board of Governors approved a recommendation from the Insurance Committee to move from “premium based” health insurance with Aetna to a partially self-insured group plan with Cigna.

Under this plan, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, Missouri Southern will establish an account to pay out claims, which Cigna will manage for us. We will also carry a separate “umbrella” policy – also known as a stop loss insurance policy – which will be triggered when employee claims reach a certain threshold.

Paying for each out-of-pocket claim as they are incurred rather than paying a fixed premium to the insurance carrier will save the university and employees a significant amount of money. And, it will help stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for everyone in our system.

Kevin Greim
Kevin Greim

Welcome, Kevin Greim

He’s had a while to settle into the position, but I’d like to welcome Kevin Greim back to campus as our new Associate Vice President for Development.

Kevin is a familiar face to many of you, as he previously worked here as Associate Athletics Director-External Operations and later as Development Officer-Major Gifts, from 1999-2012. The voice is familiar as well, as he offered play-by-play for the Lions on the radio.

In his new role, his focus is on the day-to-day operations of the Missouri Southern Foundation, the Office of Development and the Alumni Association.

We should also recognize those members of campus who have recently stepped into new leadership roles:

  • Chris Moos, interim dean of the School of Business
  • Rick Schooler, dean of the School of Health Sciences
  • Alex Gandy, director of Career Services
  • John Hogue, assessment coordinator for the Office of Institutional Effectiveness

Enrollment

While definitive enrollment figures will not be released until Sept. 16 (the 20th day of classes), it is safe to say that we will see a substantial increase over last year’s numbers. At a time when many of our friends across the state and nation are seeing enrollment trending downward, this is cause for celebration.

Moving in!
Moving in!

Increases like we are seeing do not happen by accident. It takes a team effort to move enrollment totals in a positive direction and we have clearly benefited from pushing forward with the number of visits to area schools by our admissions counselors, the willingness of Academic Affairs to open more classes, the growing effectiveness of our student retention efforts, a clear and robust marketing plan, and working to meet the needs of students wishing to reside on campus. We are grateful to each of you!

Nothing creates energy like growth, and this campus is thriving. Thank you for all you do for our students, day after day and semester after semester. You should all take great pride in the work you are doing because you are changing lives for the better… helping students “be their best selves!”

Back to School Welcome scheduled, and other summer updates

Dear Fellow Lions,

First, let me thank all of you for your support and well-wishes during this difficult time for both me and the Marble family.

It’s never easy, losing someone so close to your heart. Your cards, condolences and kind words have helped to lift us up. Again, thank you so much.

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer. The high temperatures are going hand-in-hand with how things are heating up on our campus. There’s a lot going on – make no mistake, it’s a new day at Missouri Southern.

If you take a look around us, the news hasn’t been sunny for schools on the other side of the state lines. Budget difficulties have led to staffing cuts and increased tuition.

I’m happy to report, however, that this year, all of our requests from the state Legislature were funded. Money has been appropriated for important projects such as the Reynolds Hall renovation and expansion as well as our partnership with the University of Missouri-Kansas City to bring a dental program to our campus. The Fiscal 2017 budget approved by the Board of Governors includes a 2.25 percent across-the-board salary increase for all university employees. And, as we continue to greet new students enrolling for the fall semester, all signs are pointing to an increase in the number of new freshman over last year and strong enrollment overall.

All of this can be credited to the “forward thinking” mindset that we have embraced, as well as the willingness on the part of the Governor and the Legislature to work together to support higher education throughout the state in general, and Missouri Southern in particular.

AN INVESTMENT IN OUR CAMPUS

During his visit to campus earlier this month, Gov. Jay Nixon signed two bills that will provide funding for continued growth on our campus. House Bill 17 includes $6.7 million toward the work underway in Reynolds Hall, while House Bill 18 provides $9.3 million in additional capital improvement funding for a desperately needed expansion.

In his remarks, the governor termed it “an investment in Missouri Southern” that will pay dividends for many years to come.

Very well-stated.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed two bills providing money for Reynolds Hall.
Gov. Jay Nixon signed two bills providing money for Reynolds Hall.

The improvements to Reynolds will mean more classroom space, modern laboratories and new equipment. One of the oldest buildings on campus will soon sport a contemporary look along with the ability to meet the learning needs of our students.

House Bill 3, which was also agreed upon by the Governor and Legislature, means we can partner with the University of Missouri-Kansas City to bring a dental school to Missouri Southern. The bill provided $2 million in “core funding” to make that happen.

Missouri Southern has taken possession of about 2/3 of the Joplin Regional Center, located west of the Mills Anderson Criminal Justice Center. The Child Development Center will be relocated to that building – which, with improvements, will offer roughly double the current space and provide better facilities for pre-school students. Also, Brad Erwin of Paragon Architecture, is conducting a series of meetings with faculty and staff members of the Psychology Department to design the “renovation and new construction” needed for their transition back to the Gene Taylor building. As we have said all along, we intend for each unit to benefit from improved facilities as moves are made, so be prepared to be wowed when you see the new Psychology building and renovated space.

NEW HEALTH SCIENCES DEAN

Dr. Richard Schooler joined the Lion family earlier this month when he was named the new dean of the School of Health Sciences. He’ll be overseeing programs such as nursing, radiology, respiratory care, emergency services, and emerging programs of the future.

A longtime OB/GYN physician in Joplin, he was later named medical director and director of medical education for Freeman Health System.

Dr. Richard Schooler
Dr. Richard Schooler

In 2006, he became the hospital’s chief medical officer and in 2013 the executive vice president.

As we seek to capitalize on and enhance Joplin’s status as a health-care hub – Dr. Schooler brings a wealth of medical knowledge to the table, as well as invaluable management experience in the field of health care. As we continue our already outstanding efforts to serve as the leader in health-care education for the region, we look forward to the many contributions he can make toward those efforts.

THE GREAT GAME OF EDUCATION

We’re drawing ever closer to the campus-wide rollout of the Great Game of Education.

The open-book management principles outlined by businessman Jack Stack have never before been instituted in the higher-education field. As Dr. Scott Cragin has said, we are “pioneers” in this endeavor – one that will provide a clear line of sight in terms of how departments and individuals can impact the university’s financial status.

The GGOE Culture Committee has formed subcommittees that are focusing on training, mini-games and the rollout to campus. Each academic department will have its own operating statement, which will then fold into the university’s scoreboard. Dr. Paula Carson is working with the Culture Committee to identify a specific area that each department on campus will measure.

The Financial Training Team is working to “train the trainers.” Team members will make the rounds on campus to offer financial training and information everyone will need to know to get in the game.

Creating a culture of financial transparency will allow us all to see “the big picture” and clearly define our own roles within it.

The rollout committee is working on some fun ways to introduce the Great Game of Education to the entire campus, which brings me to …

THE INAUGURAL “BACK TO SCHOOL WELCOME”

In the past, these welcome-back sessions have been offered separately to members of the faculty and staff.

This year, we’ll bring everyone together for the Fall 2016 Back to School Welcome. It will be held at 8:30 am, Friday, Aug. 19, in Taylor Performing Arts Center. Having everyone together helps foster the sense of community on our campus as we present information of value to all.

Each member of the President’s Cabinet will offer a brief and informative update about their division. There will also be a rollout presentation for the Great Game.

The entire campus is invited to attend this meeting. Offices that must remain open at that time should plan to utilize a skeleton crew. Should you not be able to attend, make plans to attend the Spring 2017 session, as this is a meeting we will offer at the start of each semester.

NOTE: Faculty members please disregard the earlier notice that you should report to campus on Thursday – that was a miscommunication on my part. I’m sorry for the confusion. We will all meet only on Friday.

It’s an exciting time here at Missouri Southern, and I’m eager to continue this journey with you as we become the most open, forward thinking, and innovative university possible.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Alan

New renovation funding announced, and more good news to share

Good afternoon fellow Lions,

With Finals Week upon us and the Spring semester coming to a close, I’d like to update you on a few items of interest for our campus community.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

This has been a very good legislative year for us, as all of our priorities were approved in part or in full.

State Budget

  • We received access to the Regional Center Building across Newman Road that will facilitate a doubling of the size of our current Child Development Center (CDC) and allow them to vacate the Taylor Ed/Psych building.
  • HB3 included a $2 million new decision item for our base budget to pay for the relocation of the CDC and to move the Psychology Department to the Taylor Ed/Psych building, along with funding the needed expansion to accommodate their growing programs (HB3 has been signed by the Governor).
  • Also, I wanted the campus to be the first to know that HB18 is out of Conference and has cleared both Chambers of the General Assembly and is on the Governor’s desk waiting to be signed later today. It includes $9.3 million for “planning, design, renovation and construction of Reynolds Hall.” Added to last year’s $8.22 million, this gives us more than $17 million to renovate and expand Reynolds. A sorely needed project if ever one existed.

These are fiscal lifelines for us at a time when we really need the assistance, so please make sure to thank our local legislative delegation, and the Governor, if and when opportunities arise.

“Campus Carry” Legislation

The latest version of the concealed carry on campus legislation appears to limit weapons to permit-holding faculty and staff only. If this is the case, then I think we have cleared a major hurdle by keeping guns out of students’ hands in our residence halls. If this legislation passes, it could still be vetoed and it’s anyone’s guess whether or not enough override votes exist to make the law take effect.

“15 to Finish Act”

We were successful in removing the “banded tuition” requirement of SB997 that would limit colleges and universities to only charging tuition for the first 12 credit hours and allowing up to 17 hours to be taken for the base price. However, the bill contains several other aspects that clearly point toward a 120-hour baccalaureate degree, required programs of study, identified supplemental instruction plans and other items that could easily be viewed as encroachments on Academic Freedom.

COMPETITION WINNERS

It’s always a pleasure to celebrate our students’ success as they put their knowledge to the test. Recently, we’ve had students recognized for accomplishments that are of special note.

Statewide Math Competition

A team from Missouri Southern achieved a perfect score and tied with competition powerhouse Washington University during the 21st annual Missouri Collegiate Mathematics Competition last month in St. Joseph.

Andrew Stokes, Sam Heil and Keith Geller.
Andrew Stokes, Sam Heil and Keith Geller.

It was the first perfect score and the first tie for first place in the competition’s history. The team of Andrew Stokes, Keith Geller and Sam Heil (a dual-credit student from Joplin) defeated their counterparts from William Jewell College, St. Louis University, Truman State University and Missouri Academy.

The winning schools, led by Missouri Southern, included:

  • 1st Place (Tie): Missouri Southern State University
  • 1st Place (Tie): Washington University in St. Louis
  • 3rd Place: Missouri Academy
  • 4th Place: Washington University in St. Louis
  • 5th Place: Truman State University
  • 6th Place: Truman State University
  • 7th Place: Saint Louis University
  • 8th Place: William Jewell College

Other participants: College of the Ozarks, Drury University, Mineral Area College, Missouri Academy, Missouri Science & Technology, Missouri State University, Missouri Western State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Park University, Saint Louis Community College, St. Louis University, Southeast Missouri State University, Truman State University, University of Central Missouri, University of Missouri-Columbia, Westminster College, and William Jewell College.

As Dr. Rich Laird said, “This tie is sort of like our football team beating the Chiefs.” What an incredible accomplishment!

NASBITE 

As the winning team, the students were presented with a check for $1,000 by Tom Lix, founder of Cleveland Whiskey.
Students were presented with a check by Tom Lix, founder of Cleveland Whiskey.

Just as impressive was the win by students from the Plaster School of Business during the recent NASBITE International Student Case Competition in Newport, Rhode Island.

This was only the second year for the contest hosted by the National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators, and it was held as part of the group’s international conference.

The team of Holly Loncarich, Josh Foster, Cynthia Salas, Aliza Fahle and Viktoryia Johnson made their pitch for the Ohio-based Cleveland Whiskey company to expand into the Asian market, including recommendations on branding, pricing and distribution.

The Missouri Southern team was selected as one of the top three teams (along with the University of Northern Iowa and Youngstown State University). After making their presentation to company officials, they were selected as the winners of the competition for the second straight year.

Congratulations to Dr. Chris Moos for putting together another winning team!

JIM FRAZIER JOINS HALL OF FAME 

Next month, former Athletics Director and football coach Jim Frazier will be inducted into the MIAA Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Kansas City.

Coach Frazier left a lasting legacy at Missouri Southern, not only as our winningest football coach who led his team to the NAIA title in 1972, but as a champion for the continued success of our athletics program. He helped with the development and improvement of several campus facilities, including Young Gymnasium, the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center, Fred G. Hughes Stadium, and the recently opened on-campus baseball stadium – Warren Turner Field. During his tenure as Athletics Director, we won 23 conference championships and one NCAA Division II national championship.

The Hall of Fame honor is well-deserved, and I want to extend my congratulations and thanks to Jim for his years of service to Missouri Southern. If you’re interested in attending the ceremony on June 1, you can make a reservation at http://www.themiaa.com/sb_output.aspx?form=4.

SELF-INSURANCE PROPOSAL

While we continue to look for answers to escalating health insurance costs, an interesting discussion on self-insurance is underway. Last month, the MSSU Board of Governors heard a proposal on the topic and approved the engagement of Gallagher & Associates to serve as consultants for the Insurance Committee as they wrestle with the various considerations that must be contemplated.

Currently, no recommendations have been forwarded by the Insurance Committee, but they are working hard to find solutions to our health insurance challenges.

PHASED RETIREMENT

One of the most promising new programs we’ve seen of late has been the new Phased Retirement option for employees who are eligible for retirement but are interested in half-time each week.

Under the new plan, retirees keep their full health benefits and remain working for 20 hours a week up to three years while drawing their retirement income. This is a great new option for employees who want move gradually into retirement. And, it allows the University to give new faculty members the opportunity to work side by side with our valued veterans.

At yesterday’s annual Retiree Reception, we honored them as well as those choosing full retirement for their many years of faithful service to the institution. This is a promising program and one we plan to continue.

GREAT GAME OF EDUCATION GGOE_Combo

Significant steps are being made toward the rollout of the Great Game of Education for the entire campus – an effort led by Scott Cragin and Jeff Gibson.

The Culture Committee has been formed as a representative body to review training materials. At the same time, the Financial Training Team has begun meeting and learning to understand the top-level scoreboard and how to educate our campus community on how their departments and offices affect those numbers.

Gibson, our director of budget and operations and co-coordinator of the Great Game at Missouri Southern, said that the goal is to begin offering financial training to the campus by September.

Keep your eye out for more information on this innovative program, which will serve as a framework to bolster the University’s financial future.

ITS FRIDAY

The third of our ITS Friday presentations was held last week, with Dr. Conrad Gubera reflecting on his 50 years at Missouri Southern. Over the past few months, we’ve heard from several great faculty members – Dr. David McKee, who gave a presentation about a particle camera project undertaken by several of his students, as well as Dr. Joy Dworkin, who presented “Other Voices: My Trip to Israel-Palestine with Interfaith Peace-Builders.”

The “Ideas That Stick” events are designed to give faculty, staff and administrators a chance to get together, share ideas, learn something new, and generally enjoy a collegial afternoon with their colleagues. And by that measure, it has been a tremendous success.

I want to thank Conrad, David and Joy for their wonderful presentations, and I look forward to the ITS Friday program flourishing in the coming semesters.

COMMENCEMENT

Don’t forget that our 2016 Spring Commencement ceremonies will be held on Saturday, May 14. There will be two ceremonies: The School of Arts & Sciences and School of Health Sciences will be at 9:30 a.m., and the School of Business and School of Education at 1 p.m.

Watching our students complete the journey they’ve undertaken at Missouri Southern is one of the most gratifying experiences we as educators can have. I hope you’ll make plans to join in the ceremony and celebration.

I want to offer my thanks to each of you for your efforts in and out of the classroom this semester. The work you do day in and day out is what drives this institution forward, and your efforts are greatly appreciated.

Have a safe and relaxing summer!

Alan

Legislative priorities, ‘Yours to Lose’ and other recent developments

Dear colleagues,

We’re already a few weeks into the spring semester. Classes are off to a great start and there are many positive things happening around campus and behind the scenes as we work to make Missouri Southern the regional destination of choice for higher education.

Reynolds Hall Annex

As you may have noticed, there’s a new building addition to our campus this semester in the nearly 13,000-square-foot Reynolds Annex, located on the southwest side of campus behind the Physical Plant. IMG_9821

The mobile classrooms were previously used by Joplin High School following the May 22, 2011, tornado. Last year, we purchased the units from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to use as a transition space as we begin the much-needed renovation of Reynolds Hall. Crews assembled the units into a very modern, convenient, and functional classroom and laboratory complex. The Annex also includes space for faculty offices (some are admittedly a bit small, so we certainly appreciate faculty accommodation of the inconveniences during the Reynolds renovation).

The Annex was completed over Christmas break, and I want to thank all those whose efforts made it possible for us to have the facility ready by the first day of the semester. Hopefully by this time next year, the third floor of Reynolds will be ready to use, and the Annex can continue to be utilized as we move on to other construction priorities.

Legislative Priorities

Those of you who attended the recent faculty kickoff meeting received a rundown of our current legislative priorities.

As you recall, our first is an increase in our base appropriations. We originally adopted the Coordinating Board recommendation of a 5-percent increase in our base operating funds plus a 2-percent increase for STEM programs. However, the Governor’s budget recommendation was for a 6% increase (with 1% tacitly expected to be directed to STEM programs). Accordingly, we are supporting the Governor’s recommendation, but as you also probably know the appropriation increase would come with the understanding that we would not raise tuition next year. But, this year our tuition increase would be limited to a paltry .007 due to very low inflation last year (that works out to only $47 per year for a full-time student). So, accepting the Governor’s recommendation and foregoing a tuition increase makes a lot of sense.

Our second priority is securing $3 million in base funding to bring a dental school to campus in cooperation with UMKC. Gov. Nixon has requested these funds from the General Assembly, which would allow us to begin renovations and make the necessary transitions regarding the Child Development Center, Taylor Education/Psychology building, and Julio S. León Health Sciences Center.

We have made a couple of trips to Jefferson City during the past two weeks and as a result our legislative delegation, along with the Governor’s Office, helped us secure 12,000 square feet of the Joplin Regional Center for the relocation of the Child Development Center. Additionally, Darren Fullerton and I were in a meeting that involved both the House and Senate leadership and representatives from the Governor’s Office where our $3 million for the dental school expansion was “positively and constructively” discussed.

Last, Dr. Brad Hodson and I testified before the House Appropriations Committee for Higher Education earlier this week and our dental school proposal was well received (along with our other priorities). The only comment was from the Committee Chair, asking if we would help advise other interested parties in starting a similar program in Southeast Missouri at some point in the future. We of course agreed.

The third priority is seeking $10 million to construct an addition to Reynolds Hall. With Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences opening a Joplin medical school campus in 2017, we’re anticipating an influx of pre-med students. Expanding Reynolds Hall would allow us to increase capacity and meet the needs of those students who are bound for medical school. Frankly, this one will be a tough lift with all the other needs around the state. And, we knew in the beginning that we are actually out of sync with the standard capital request timing, which is in the first regular session of the General Assembly (last year). However, we still believe it is important to put our needs in front of the people making the decisions… even if it happens to be next year.

Firearms on Campus

I also want to address the bills that have been proposed in the state legislature that would allow firearms to be carried on campus.

Along with other university presidents, I believe we should oppose these efforts. In my view the Board of Governors should have the authority to ban weapons on campus, if they so desire, and the proposal, in my opinion, would be an over-reach of state government.

My primary concern is one of campus safety. Firearms have been restricted from campus through Missouri Southern’s more than 75-year history. There has not been, to my knowledge, a single firearm-related injury in that time. But if students, visitors and others are allowed to carry on campus, I don’t know that we would be able to say that in the future.

‘Yours to Lose’

We recently formalized an agreement with our partners at Kansas City University that will benefit Missouri Southern students who plan to continue on to the new medical school. 23806824486_aa5971510e_z

The “Your to Lose – Advanced Medical School Acceptance Program” will allow up to 25 Missouri Southern students to be admitted to the med school at the same time they are accepted here at Missouri Southern. Dr. Paula Carson is working to implement some innovative curricular ideas that will prepare our students for the rigorous program that awaits them.

It’s an exclusive partnership that benefits both universities, and high schools in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma have already been tabbed as partner schools. It’s an exciting program that the lawmakers serving on the House Appropriations committee found fascinating. They are very supportive of public/private partnerships because it leverages state dollars and private investment for maximum impact.

NCAA Conference

Earlier this month, I traveled with Athletic Director Jared Bruggeman to the 2016 NCAA Convention in San Antonio. This is a required conference each year for university presidents, and it provides valuable information to consider in our athletics operations.

The major conversation at the conference centered on the well-being of our student-athletes, specifically in the realms of mental health and cardiac care. The NCAA is focusing on research and documentation of student-athlete health in both of these areas.

At Missouri Southern, we are already ahead of the curve in a number of ways. Our strength and conditioning coaches are required to have specific certifications that help them better train and protect the health of our students. We also perform physicals in order to screen for pre-existing heart conditions – a big focus area for the NCAA.

Board of Governors

I’d like to take a moment to welcome Anita Oplotnik to the Board of Governors. She was recently appointed by Gov. Nixon to serve a term ending Aug. 30, 2021.

It marks something of a homecoming for Anita, who graduated from Missouri Southern with her bachelor’s in business administration. In 2001, she was inducted into our Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Last month, she was named to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame’s Filbert Five – which honors former high school, college and professional basketball players. She is currently an investment manager for Morgan-Stanley Wealth Management.

We’re pleased to have her back among the Lion family to serve in a leadership capacity for our university.

Joplin Business Expo IMG_3019

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who helped staff our booth during the recent Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.

The theme this year was “Champions of Business,” and we certainly lived up to it. The scoreboard hanging above a faux basketball floor, popcorn, Bookstore gear and more helped to earn Missouri Southern – for the second year in a row – the People’s Choice Award.

Events such as these are an important outreach tool. They allow us to connect with alumni, students and parents who are helping their children decide where they want to continue their education. Making these personal connections and leaving visitors with a positive view of Missouri Southern is the goal, and this year was a slam dunk!

**

Thank you for all that you do each day on behalf of our students!