Changes abound as Fall 2015 semester gets underway

Dear Colleagues,

As classes shift into high gear and the Spain Semester gets underway, I would like to share the following items of interest with you.

Dr. Brad Hodson speaks during the fall faculty meeting.
Dr. Brad Hodson speaks during the fall faculty meeting.

Fall meetings

The university has traditionally held a meeting with faculty on the Friday prior to the resumption of classes each fall. This year, for the first time, we had a similar meeting with members of the Missouri Southern staff with great results.

Now, some have asked, why not have one meeting and invite both faculty and staff?  We are taking the suggestion under consideration. Look for more on this as the academic year progresses.

Academic changes

Dr. Paula Carson hit the ground running this fall and is helping to implement a number of modifications in the academic areas intended to keep us competitive in attracting new students and successful in retaining them.

During last week’s Dean’s Retreat, topics of discussion ranged from growing programs in a cost-effective way to the creation of innovative new programs and courses of study that can be developed from existing classes. Other topics included the advantages of offering advanced certificate programs, and forming faculty committees in accordance with the new handbook. One of the latter will likely include the creation of a graduate council that will examine the basic foundations of what we need to do to guide, monitor, and/or expand our graduate program portfolio here at Missouri Southern.

Also on the horizon are the much-needed renovations to Reynolds Hall. Architectural renderings have been completed that showcase the style and learning outcomes we hope to achieve. The STEM-related coursework offered in Reynolds is in high demand and this project is critically important step in our effort to meet student needs.

Health insurance

The Insurance Committee has wrapped up the difficult work of trying to find the best health insurance alternative for us next year and the official announcement will be issued shortly. However, a couple of important points should be noted. First, the committee battled gallantly to get our premium increases restricted to a much lower rate than originally quoted, but they are still high by any measure. Second, it appears that the long desired “domestic partner” coverage will be added a zero cost (even though we were told originally that it could cost as much as 30% more).

In all, the wrangling that the Insurance Committee was forced to endure has caused us to take a serious look at self insurance over the next year. So, stay tuned.

Federal “higher education scorecard”

A couple of days ago, the Obama Administration unveiled their most recent version of the “scorecard” for higher education institutions. It is intended to be a tool for students and parents to utilize as they contemplate they compare colleges and universities across the country.

The comparative data continue to be limited to first-time, full-time students so comparisons obviously favor universities with large, full-time populations. However, it is important to note that even though it is assumed that most families will find the information to be of dubious value when selecting a school to attend, the more ominous possibility is that the scorecard is somehow used in the future to determine “who, where and how” federal financial aid is dispersed. The U.S. Department of Education has already expressed interest in making organization-level determinations regarding eligibility rather than continuing with the time tested practice of accepting institutions with Regional Accreditation. This is not currently a front burner issue but it’s worth watching. And, the information contained in the scorecard is interesting… if questionable on some counts.

You can view the scorecard at this link.

Tobacco-free campus

One of the items on the agenda for the Board of Governors meeting next week is a first reading of the new tobacco free campus policy. The policy encourages a non-threatening approach to enforcement during the introductory stages, but then will implement various sanction for multiple offenders in the future. And, please remember this policy also bans “vapor” along with tobacco.

Economic Impact Study

An economic impact study was recently commissioned to better understand and communicate the financial impact of Missouri Southern on Joplin and the surrounding area.

Impact DataSource (IDS) of Austin, TX conducted the study and provided a detailed report that will be discussed at the Board of Governors meeting on Sept. 18. IDS is a highly respected research firm and has conducted similar studies for Texas A&M, Ohio State, Texas Christian and a various other universities. Among the many findings, IDS reports that Missouri Southern had a total economic impact on Jasper County of approximately $200 million in 2013-14. The full report will be made available at the Board of Governors meeting and we will make the online version available to All-Employees at that time also. You will be amazed at the results.

ITS Friday

Ideas That Stick! Yes, we are still planning to develop a brief “TED talk” type afternoon forum for faculty and staff where we can share refreshments, friendship and the  joy of learning something new together. The details are still being worked out, but we hope to have the initial event in October. We are certainly open to suggestions regarding “time, place and themes,” so please feel free to contact me with your recommendations.

Medical school

This spring, officials at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCU) revealed their commitment to open a medical school in Joplin.  They will be located in the building used by Mercy Health System prior to moving to the new facility on I-44.

The Missouri Southern Foundation approved a $250,000 gift toward the establishment of the school and to further our collaborative work with the KCU faculty on programs and research that will benefit students from both institutions.

This is the first new medical school to open in Missouri in over 40 years and it will enroll 150 students per year beginning in 2017. The development of the medical school is a win-win for both KCU and Missouri Southern!

Board of Governors 

Alison Hershewe
Alison Hershewe

I’m happy to announce that Alison Hershewe of Joplin is the newest member of the Missouri Southern Board of Governors.  She is a Missouri Southern alum, an outstanding attorney (licensed to practice law in several states), and she has a long history of active involvement in the community.

Most recently, she has worked to secure funds to build new homes, plant trees and provide low-cost or no-cost loans to businesses attempting to build or rebuild following the 2011 tornado. She also recently served as president of the Jasper County Bar Association.  She will be a great asset to the Board of Governors in particular and Missouri Southern in general.

At the same time, terms on the Board have expired for Dr. Sherry Buchanan of Joplin (who served two terms as chair) and Lynn Ewing of Nevada. We are very grateful for their years of dedicated service and wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

Dental school

The University of Missouri System’s Board of Curators annual budget request included $1.5 million in fiscal year 2017 to study the feasibility of the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) dental school opening a satellite operation on the Missouri Southern campus. In conjunction with the UMKC request, we will pursue funding for Missouri Southern to cover our initial costs to accommodate the program and to provide ongoing funding for future years. Both funding request would have to be approved by the legislature and signed by the governor. This is far from a “done deal” but we are watching the situation with great interest and even if the dental school does find financial backing, the first class would not enroll until 2018.

Top Legislative priorities

As a reminder, we always try to keep our legislative priorities simple, straightforward and easy to remember by lawmakers.

  1. In support of the Coordinating Board recommendation, we are pushing for a 5 percent increase in base operating funds and a 2 percent increase for our STEM programs.
  2. We are also proposing a separate $3 million addition to our “base funding” for the UMKC Dental School partnership (with $500,000 of that total considered as “annual rent payment” for UMKC subsequent to program start up).

Later this fall we will be meeting with state legislators about how we can turn these plans into realities in the next legislative session. If we get all or most of what we want, it should be a very good year.

As always, thank you for your continued service to Missouri Southern and our students. With so much growth across campus and great opportunities on the horizon, it’s a great time to be a Lion!