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!

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

From the audit report to Veterans Week, there’s plenty of good news to share

Dear colleagues,

It’s difficult to believe the semester is moving along so fast. This time of year – as soon as the leaves begin to turn – it seems the holidays arrive almost before you know it.

I wanted to take a few moments to share some good news about several items of interest. 

Audit report excellent

I would like to congratulate Rob Yust, Linda Eis, Becca Diskin, and everyone else involved for the most recent annual audit of our finances. An audit that one auditor called “squeaky clean!”

The CPA firm of Baird, Kurtz & Dobson (BKD) reported we had zero problems. They gave us, once again, an unmodified opinion on our financial statements … the highest and best report we can get. Throughout the year, we distributed more than $39 million in financial aid and BKD failed to find a single mistake in the student files. We also received excellent comments in the report regarding the handling of disbursements on all of our new building projects. Kudos to all for a great job! 

End Zone Facility open house 

If you haven't toured the North End Zone Facility yet, make plans to visit soon!
If you haven’t already, come check out the North End Zone Facility!

On Oct. 16, we held an open house for our new North End Zone Facility. This provided an opportunity for the Board of Governors and their guests to tour the latest building addition to the campus. Later in the day, the public was invited to tour the facility.

We feel it is very important for the community at large to know they are a part of Southern and we are a part of the community. We’re very proud to be strengthening the bonds we share with the entire region.

Tours for faculty and staff were offered a few weeks ago, but if you have not had a chance to visit the facility, please stop by soon to look it over.  

Infrastructure improvement

Our faculty and staff have proven to be an invaluable resource as we plan for infrastructure projects at Missouri Southern. Most recently, they gave us the benefit of their insights regarding the renovation of Reynolds Hall.

If we hear from you first, we stand a much better chance of improving the overall project and optimizing the teaching and learning experience. We appreciate the time you devote to these projects and the thoughtful input you offer.

Legislative priorities

On Nov. 2, area legislators are scheduled to visit Missouri Southern for our annual Legislative brunch. We always enjoy welcoming them, providing a tour of campus, and making sure they leave with a clear understanding of our needs.

Current priorities:

Increase in Base Appropriations

When the Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE) met in September, the group voted to request a 5% core increase plus a 2% increase for STEM programs for colleges and universities in next year’s budget. Subsequently, Governor Nixon declared his intention to include a 6% core increase in his proposed budget for next year (but he made it clear that he expected tuition to be frozen at this year’s rate).

We hope the legislature will approve an increase in the 6 to 7% range without a mandatory tuition freeze. But, if our sorely needed tuition increase is thwarted by a mandated freeze, we may need to see if the students would be willing to vote an increase for themselves (we believe this would not be covered by any freeze mandate due to the student vote). We will make sure legislators know our opinion and we will keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

$3 million in base funding to accommodate the UMKC Dental program

We hope to solidify support from both the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office for a joint use agreement with the Joplin Regional Center (located just west of the Criminal Justice Building). The vacant space in this building can be put to great use by Missouri Southern and there’s little reason to have it remain unoccupied. A long-term lease agreement will be needed to justify any renovation expenses that might be needed (costs to be covered by the $3 million in base funding described above).

$10 million for an addition to Reynolds Hall (this year’s budget or a future year) 

The current renovation of Reynolds Hall will certainly make it more functional, but it will not make it larger. And, we are already crowded before we take into consideration the expected surge in pre-med and pre-dental students as a result of KCU moving to town and the UMKC Dental program coming to campus. As Governor Nixon put it, Joplin is becoming a “health and health education” hub … and we need to prepare for the challenges that come with the opportunities. 

ITS Friday

ITS Friday will take place Friday, Nov. 13, in the Mills Anderson Auditorium. “ITS” is an acronym for “Ideas that Stick.” It will be a great chance for faculty, staff and administrators to get together, have a bit of food and drink (wine and cheese), share some ideas, and generally enjoy the collegial atmosphere of the university setting.

I hope the ITS Friday meetings will help enrich the “academic air” on campus and lead to new connections, new ideas and new synergies. I encourage everyone to attend, because it promises to be a fun and invigorating afternoon. 

Phased retirement

By now, nearly all of you have heard about plans for phased retirement, which is a proposed program to help “non-Medicare eligible” individuals ease into retirement by working part-time without forfeiting their health insurance benefits. Participation in the program would be voluntary and would require agreement by both the faculty/staff person and the university department involved. Applications would be considered on a case by case basis.

We’re still in the process of ironing out the details and making completely sure the plan would not violate MOSERS regulations or the numerous requirements of the Affordable Care Act (we do not want to mess up someone’s retirement or run afoul of a federal law). Additionally, the Faculty Senate Welfare Committee and the Staff Senate Executive Committee have submitted a detailed list of questions … many can be answered easily, but some will require additional legal advice. We continue to diligently work on the plan, but we want to get it right and that will probably require written approval from MOSERS and our legal counsel. 

Bachelor of Social Work degree

A total of 17 students are working toward their bachelor’s degree in social work from Missouri Southern. Announced in the spring of 2015, the degree program is coming at a time when social workers are in very high demand.

“It’s very much a growing field. Most people think of social work as child welfare, but that’s just one piece … there’s a vast field of work outside of that,” says Dr. Renee White, social work department chair.

We’re pleased to be able to include social work in our inventory of degree offerings.  

Show Me Gold/Teacher Education successshow-me-gold2

We’ve heard some very good news about two of our programs recently. The Show-Me-Gold program has commissioned its first officer through the program. He is 2nd Lt.  Josh Turner – a senior business finance major.

Capt. Chase Phillips, professor of military science, says four more officer candidates are expected to be commissioned next summer, and 12 more the year after that.

In Teacher Education, we recently learned that our stellar program has the seventh highest overall pass rate in the state (ahead of 31 others). We also had the third-largest number of students passing the exam among the top seven programs.

Dr. Deborah Brown, interim dean of the School of Education, points out there are some very heavy hitters in that top 10, including Truman State and Washington University.

Celebrating veterans 

Missouri Southern will celebrate Veterans Week Nov. 5-13.

The third annual Run with the Heroes 5K is set for Nov. 8 and has been opened up to faculty and staff at no cost. All you have to do is register. You can check out their Facebook page for more information.

Of course, be sure to remember the contributions of those who served in the military and join us for a Veterans Day ceremony at noon Wednesday, Nov. 11. We are officially a military friendly campus and participation in the ceremony, 5k run and other activities would help let everyone know how much we appreciate the sacrifices made by veterans, active duty personnel and their families.

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As we approach the holiday season, please know that your service to Missouri Southern is truly valued and that you make an enormous difference in the lives of our students.

Thank you for all that you do.

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.

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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!

A commitment to being ‘the best of the best’

Dear Colleagues,

It is hard to believe a whole year has passed since I joined the Southern team as permanent President. This past year has brought many challenges and rewards, and I am confident Missouri Southern will continue to excel in all areas.

As another fiscal year draws to an end, the Board of Governors held their final meeting for FY15 on Thursday, June 4. The agenda for the board meeting covered a variety of topics including the budget for FY2016, which begins July 1. Even though the Board approved another deficit budget for FY16, the positive news is the budget has improved by more than 46% from the deficit budget adopted for FY15. I believe this improvement can be largely attributed to the hard work and creative innovations of the campus community. Everyone has worked together to help resolve continued budgetary challenges.

To show our appreciation to our employees, despite another difficult budget year, the administration asked the Board of Governors to approve a 1% salary increase effective July 1 for employees who were employed prior to April 1 (with a $300 minimum for full-time employees and a $150 minimum for part-time employees). I am delighted to report this salary increase was unanimously approved. This modest increase is certainly less than you deserve, but it’s a start and we intend to make greater progress toward better salaries as our financial condition improves.

Campus improvements continue

Crews recently removed the old football turf in preparation for the upgrade at the stadium.
Crews recently removed the old football turf in preparation for the upgrade at the stadium.

To recap last year, many accomplishments were made including embarking on the Great Game of Education, which will bring many new opportunities and involve all employees in improving the campus environment in a number of ways (including financial).

But, during the year just completed we finished construction of MSSU’s own baseball stadium (with donated funds), and enjoyed watching that team earn a conference championship and earn an NCAA tournament berth. The Athletics Fieldhouse, as well as the installation of new turf in the football stadium, will be complete and ready for the season opener this fall (these projects were made possible by private donations and a legacy appropriation acquired by Senator Nodler several years ago). We are also nearing completion of our new Residence Halls and a FEMA safe room that were financed through a combination of FEMA grant funds and bond proceeds. The bonds will be repaid by students living in the new complex, which by the way sold out on the very first day rooms became available!

In addition, Governor Nixon recently signed House Bills 17, 18 and 19, which are bonding and reappropriation bills for capital improvement projects. House Bill 17 contains $1.5 million for planning, design, renovation and construction of science laboratories in Reynolds Hall. The university must match these funds 50/50 with private contributions in order to draw down the state funds and we are already in fund raising mode for this project with several donations in the bank. House Bill 19 contains an additional $5.2 million for repair and renovations of Reynolds Hall and will dramatically improve our science labs and classroom facilities (these funds do not require a local match).

Welcome, Paula Carson / Thank you, Pat Lipira!

Paula Carson
Paula Carson

The Provost Search Committee devoted numerous hours to the business of identifying great candidates for the position being vacated by Dr. Lipira as she enters retirement.

And, as you know, Dr. Paula Carson accepted our invitation to join the Lion family. She will officially begin her new duties on July 1, but she has already been on campus several times and is completely engaged via email, text messaging, and occasional phone calls. While we look forward to welcoming Dr. Carson to the MSSU family, I also encourage you to take time to express appreciation to Dr. Pat Lipira for the great job she has done over the past few years as the Vice President for Academic Affairs. Pat brought stability, trust and a dynamic sense of humor to a post that sorely needed it.

Program prioritization and Faculty Handbook

The Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)/Program Prioritization report was delivered to the Board of Governors on June 4th and will be discussed in detail at the August meeting. As CQI implies, this will be an ongoing effort but the report illustrates the great strides that have already been made and indicates the stage is firmly set for further improvements going forward. Dr. Crystal Lemmons deserves most of the credit for pulling this report together and we are very grateful for the time she spent in Hearnes Hall (on this and many other projects). The CQI report can be viewed at this link.

Perhaps most importantly, the faculty overwhelming adopted a new Faculty Handbook that raises the bar for our organization and will help lead us toward becoming the dynamic university we are destined to become. This effort was led by a tireless band of warriors who donated countless hours to the tedious and intricate work of the Faculty Handbook Committee. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. However, the greatest praise came from the Board of Governors as they approved the new Handbook with nothing but compliments and gratitude.

I believe the future is extremely bright for Missouri Southern and I am more committed than ever to making this institution the “best of the best” as we move forward together.  I am very grateful to have joined the Missouri Southern team during this extraordinary time in the history of the University, and I look forward to many exciting times ahead.

Please have a safe, joyful and relaxing summer.

Alan

 

Springing into Summer

As the spring semester draws to a close, I wanted to take a few moments to update you regarding issues that are important to the Lion family.

KCU Medical School 

Like me, you’ve probably followed with great interest the announcement that the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCU) will open a Joplin campus in August 2017. The campus will be located in Mercy’s former component hospital and will enroll 150 students per year.

KCUMB will open in 2017 in Mercy's former component hospital.
KCU will open in 2017 in Mercy’s former component hospital.

The arrival of KCU will undoubtedly put added pressure on our science programs and the already overcrowded Reynolds Hall. But, I think we should view this as a long-term positive for us because Missouri Southern is already well known for an exceptionally high caliber pre-med program, and the arrival of a new medical school will only strengthen our reputation and help attract ultra high-performing students.

An analysis by the National Community Development Services Inc., on behalf of the Joplin Medical School Alliance, estimates that Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State will enroll a projected 700 additional students in the pre-med fields. So, we not only need the $5.2 million in Maintenance and Repair funding currently being debated in the Missouri General Assembly… we also need to be contemplating a targeted capital campaign for the expansion of Reynolds Hall. Stay tuned!

Legislative Update 

As you recall, the Governor’s budget recommendation back in January called for a very small 1.3% increase for higher education next year, the House of Representatives recommended 1.9%, and the Senate passed a 3% increase. However, the Conference Committee reverted back to the original 1.3%.

To make matters worse for MSSU, we were only granted credit for meeting 4 out of 5 performance funding measures. The measure we were penalized for missing concerned financial accountability and keeping tuition below the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The confounding part of the calculation used by the Department is that they somewhat randomly use data from the 2011-12 academic years. And, this happens to be the year when the Department granted a waiver for the additional tuition increase due to the devastating tornado.

To make the situation even less defensible, the idea of performance funding had not been addressed in 2011-12, so calculating a future penalty could not be contemplated. Nonetheless, after months of futile protest the Department concluded that our increase will be limited to 0.95% next year as a result of meeting only 4 out of 5 performance funding measures.

This disappointing increase will make budgeting very tricky going forward, but it does make a strong argument for a significant tuition increase to replace lost state funding (even if a waiver is denied and we are forced to pay the one-time penalty of 5% of our appropriation). Again, stay tuned!

Reynolds Hall (legislative update #2)

As of this writing, HB19 is rapidly moving through the Senate and appears to be on its way to the Governor’s desk for signing (of course, there could still be unforeseen circumstances arise that serve to torpedo the bill).

However, the pleasant surprise is that not only does HB19 contain the $5.2 million we requested for maintenance and repair, it also contains the $1.5 million we requested in “50/50 money” (which would require a $1.5 million local match from private donations). So, in total we could end up with $8.2 million for the renovation of Reynolds Hall! And, we are very confident the matching dollars can be raised from our very supportive donor base.

Keep your fingers crossed that this one makes it through the legislative process unscathed and is signed into law by the Governor.

Great Game of Education 

We continue to move forward with the Great Game of Education and the desire to creatively use open-book management here at Missouri Southern. GGOE_Combo

The Design Team recently held its final meeting to work on putting together a University Council (UC). The UC will essentially be our “top-level” huddle that will represent the campus for this initiative.

I’ll be working with the President’s Council to help establish the UC and plan our first Great Game huddle for the fall.

We’re also continuing to send representatives from campus to train with our Great Game of Business friends in Springfield. Because we’ve had people step forward, we’ll soon be able to begin offering “train the trainer” workshops here on campus, so that those who have already become acquainted with the Great Game concepts can talk to others about MiniGames, the scoreboard, critical number, etc.

Jeff Gibson and Scott Cragin continue to work on the top level university scoreboard – which will allow all of our employees to go line-by-line to see the revenue and expense components that affect Operating Cash (our critical number).

We’re on the ground floor of the Great Game of Education and all of us have a voice and vested interest in Missouri Southern’s future. It will take all of us to implement it effectively and reach a more sustainable future, so be ready to “get in the game.”

You can find updates and more information about the Great Game of Education at www.mssu.edu/offices/president/ggoe/.

Faculty Handbook 

The proposed update to the faculty handbook recently passed a vote of the faculty and I want to thank everyone who made the commitment to address these much-needed revisions by serving on the Oversight Committee: Grace Ayton, Lorinda Hackett, Brian Nichols, Scott Wells, Wendy McGrane, Joy Dworkin, Michael Garoutte, Crystal Lemmons and Al Cade.

This was a huge undertaking and those mentioned above deserve credit for making it happen.

The revised handbook will go to the Board of Governors for consideration during their next meeting, scheduled for June 4.

Money Matters 

In my last column, I mentioned that we need to begin considering a substantial tuition increase for 2016-17.

One of the areas that has been impacted by the restricted state appropriations and limited tuition increases has been our ability to offer salary increases to our valued employees. A tuition increase would allow us to do more in this area, in addition to being better able to serve our student body.

Please know that you and your contributions to Missouri Southern are extremely valuable and that the administration is working tirelessly to find solutions that help our university in the long term and ensure that your contributions are rewarded.

ITS Friday 

Finally, I recently mentioned the desire to create a monthly event showcasing a presentation by a different member of the faculty – an idea that came from a conversation with the Faculty Senate’s executive committee. But, it was never intended to be an exclusive event … faculty and staff members are all welcome. So, if I offended anyone with the previous title I sincerely apologize.

The “TED Talk”-style events will be open to all university employees, and will be an opportunity for social interaction and intellectual stimulation. We’re moving forward with plans to launch “ITS Friday” for the fall semester, and I hope you all will join us.

Yes, it is pronounced “It’s Friday,” but the apostrophe is purposely omitted because the letters ITS represent an acronym … but you have to attend the first meeting next fall to see what the letters stand for.

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As always, thank you for all that you do on behalf of our students and the University. I hope everyone has a wonderful summer break!

A few words before spring break

As we head into spring break, I wanted to take a moment remind you of how much I appreciate your hard work and to say a few words regarding some important developments on campus.

Remembering Dr. Al Cade cade3

Al was a great mentor and friend to his students and colleagues over the years, and a true inspiration to our Lion family. He was a significant force in the development of the initial graduate degrees in the School of Education – he guided the university’s Master of Science in Education-Curriculum & Instruction degree through the approval process, as well as the new Master of Science in Education-School Administration degree, which has received provisional approval from the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

The imprint he left behind will be a lasting one, both professionally and personally. Therefore, I am very pleased to announce that Al will be honored as Missouri Southern’s recipient of the 2015 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. We believe this is a most fitting recognition for the great Dr. Al Cade.

Football turf donation

A formal announcement will be made soon, but I want to thank Mercy Hospital Joplin for a sponsorship that will result in new turf for the football field at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.

The design for the new turf at the football stadium.
The design for the new turf at the football stadium.

 

The sponsorship will result in new, state-of-the-art turf, for which a design has already been approved. As Athletic Director Jared Bruggeman said recently, the new addition to the field – as well as the new end-zone field house currently under construction – will be a great thing for our student-athletes, the university and community as a whole.

Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs

The final candidate for the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs position – Dr. Paula Phillips Carson – will visit campus this week. A forum for faculty and staff members will be offered at 3:15 p.m. Friday, March 13, in Corley Auditorium.

If you weren’t able to attend the recent forums for finalists Dr. Howard Smith, Dr. Lisa Boyd Cobb and Dr. Joseph Bessie, they were recorded and can be viewed via the following link:

https://intranet.mssu.edu/provost/default.aspx?RootFolder=%2Fprovost%2FProvost%2FVideos

We have four great candidates for the position, and you are encouraged to attend the all-faculty meeting set for 3 p.m. Monday, March 23, in Phelps Theater to weigh in on the search.

Tuition

As we continue to move forward toward a sustainable financial future, a significant tuition increase is an issue that must remain on the table.

While we are fully mindful of the need to contain the cost of higher education for our students, we must also remain fully mindful of keeping the doors open. Accordingly, we need to start thinking in terms of a fairly substantial tuition increase for 2016-17 (probably in the 12% range). This idea was introduced earlier at the All Faculty meeting in January and it has been briefly addressed by the Board of Governors, but over the next year we need to make it a front-burner issue because it is apparent that we cannot rely on stable state appropriations nor can we expect that particular revenue source to return to historic and/or adequate levels.

For several years now we have suffered from restricted state appropriations coupled with the crippling effect of tuition cap legislation that limits tuition increases to CPI (with a tiny adjustment for those of us under the state tuition average). The result has been the constant and compounding erosion of our ability to gather the funds needed to adequately serve our deserving student body. Currently, we have the lowest combined “tuition and state appropriations per FTE” of any public university in Missouri. This condition must change.

Legislative Activity

It appears things are continuing to move in a positive direction for the $5.2 million in “maintenance and repair” funding that will help us make some critical improvements to Reynolds Hall. The proposed legislation is steadily working its way through the General Assembly and Governor Nixon endorsed our project during his visit to campus last fall. This desperately needed renovation is long overdue, and we’re looking forward to launching the project as soon as possible.

I’m also including a link to an informative letter from Kyna Iman – Missouri Southern’s representative for governmental affairs in Jefferson City. She offers regular legislative updates for the university.

You can read the letter by clicking here.

Faculty Fridays

Finally, I’d like to share an idea that emerged after speaking with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee recently.

Taking place on the afternoon of perhaps one Friday per month, Faculty Friday would feature a standing opportunity for our faculty members to gather for a “TED Talk”-style presentation. Each month, a different member of the faculty would provide a brief presentation about a topic of interest in a specific area of expertise… followed by a question and answer session… and a time to socialize while enjoying some wine and cheese.

The Faculty Friday idea is conceived as a time of intellectual stimulation, social interaction and general decompression. I’ll share more with you about this as we move forward with the idea and as always I would appreciate your ideas and feedback.

Thank you for all that you do. Enjoy your spring break!

Welcome back!

I’d like to take a moment to welcome everyone back for the Spring 2015 semester. We are off to a great start, and I want to take this opportunity to review a few items of interest to the campus community.

Personnel announcements

The search is continuing for a new Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs. Telephone interviews with select candidates started this week and will conclude next week. We plan to use the telephone interviews and reference checking process to develop a list of five (5) candidates to invite to campus for face-to-face interviews with the search committee, meetings with the Dean’s Council, faculty forums, etc. The search is on schedule and we expect to name someone to the position by mid-March. I’d like to offer a note of gratitude to the members of our great search committee who are working very diligently to identify the best candidates for the job. A special thank you goes to committee co-chair, Dr. Michael Garoutte, for the extra effort he has given to this important work.

New HR Director Evan Jewsbury
New HR Director Evan Jewsbury

We have successfully completed the search for our new Human Resources Director. Evan Jewsbury will be joining us from NEO A&M College on Feb. 16. A graduate of Missouri Southern, he brings a strong background in HR to the table. We look forward to having him rejoin the Lion family.

I’d also like to congratulate JoAnn Graffam, who has been named Senior Director of Donor Engagement for the Wichita State University Foundation. JoAnn notified us in October that she would be leaving her position as Director of the Missouri Southern Foundation, which gave MSSU and the Missouri Southern Foundation Board (which pays half of the salary for the position) time to explore options for her replacement. We’re grateful for her professionalism and service to Missouri Southern and wish her all the best at Wichita State.

Accordingly, we have identified an extraordinarily well-qualified candidate for her replacement and we plan to fill the position very soon. I also want to give a huge tip of the hat to Dr. John Tiede for stepping in and doing a great job as Interim Vice President for Development and Foundation Director.

Finally, I’d like to again congratulate Dr. Wendy McGrane, who will begin her duties as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs on July 1. We’re very pleased she accepted the position and look forward to working closely with her going forward.

Graduate programs

To guide and support our new graduate programs, a Graduate Council has been formed and is being chaired by Dr. Tia Strait. The council is busy working to create clear and forward-looking policies, and our first graduate catalog is being assembled.

The university added two new graduate programs in 2014 – a Master of Science in Education-Curriculum and Instruction, and a Master of Accountancy. We’re actively pursuing the approval of additional programs, including a Master of Management degree.

Great Game of Education

Work continues on adapting the Great Game of Business for a first-of-its-kind application in a university setting.

A “critical number workshop” was held on Jan. 13, and the team is forwarding its recommendation to the Financial Stability Committee.

Also, seven members of our faculty and staff attended Great Game workshops in Springfield earlier this month. The workshops were filmed by members of the University Relations & Marketing staff.

The Design Team will meet again at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 29. We are looking forward to rolling out the program as a framework for strengthening Missouri Southern’s financial future in an open, transparent, and effective manner.

Legislative matters 

Gov. Jay Nixon
Gov. Jay Nixon

As you may have seen in the news, Gov. Jay Nixon delivered his State of the State address Wednesday evening in Jefferson City.

His budget calls for a small increase in appropriations for Missouri Southern, but we will still be hampered by the tuition restrictions imposed by SB389. As you know, this statute links tuition increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and we have been notified that the official CPI calculation comes in at 0.8%. Using this small CPI figure, we calculate that we will only be able to recommend no more than $1.79/credit hour increase to the Board of Governors.

However, during the Governor’s address, he referenced efforts to upgrade university facilities and equipment needed to prepare students for high-tech jobs. During his visit last fall, Governor Nixon announced that he will request more than $5.2 million in funding to help with much-needed renovations to Reynolds Hall. We are very hopeful this funding will work its way through the legislative process and be signed into law as soon as possible. It’s a project that is long overdue and will greatly improve the programs that help prepare our students studying biology, environmental health, chemical and physical science, and mathematics.

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As always, I want to thank each of you for the terrific work you do on behalf of our students.

I hope you are as proud as I am to call yourself a Lion!

Closing out the Fall 2014 semester

Four-year degrees

The importance of motivating students to not only graduate but graduate on time is addressed in a recent report by Complete College America. “Four-Year Myth” addresses ways that colleges and universities can help students and their families control the rising costs of higher education and student loan debt by providing them with a direct route to graduation. fourmyth

I encourage you to read through the report (http://completecollege.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/4-Year-Myth.pdf) and consider the suggestions offered for creating a path for reducing the cost of higher education and graduating more students … and helping them graduate on time.

Great Game progress

The Great Game of Education continues to take shape under the thoughtful guidance of Dr. Scott Cragin and Jeff Gibson. We had about 60 members of our campus community volunteer to serve on the design team, working to adapt the open-book management system for use here at Missouri Southern.

While it’s still a work in progress, a number of Great Game resources are available on SharePoint (https://intranet.mssu.edu/sites/TheGreatGameOfEducation/SitePages/Home.aspx). Check it out, and stay tuned for more information as this exciting initiative comes together.

Title IX training

You should have received an email recently informing you that Missouri Southern will offer mandatory webinar training for all staff members to stay in compliance with the federal requirements for Title IX.

The webinar will be offered from 9 to 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 18. If you haven’t registered, follow this link: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/756256222.

Specialized Title IX training for faculty members will be offered during the all-faculty meeting on January 9th.

Reynolds Hall renovations 

Dr. Crystal Lemmons gives Gov. Nixon a tour of areas in Reynolds Hall in need of renovation.
Dr. Crystal Lemmons gives Gov. Nixon a tour of areas in Reynolds Hall in need of renovation.

Thank you to everyone who attended Gov. Nixon’s announcement that he’s going to request more than $5.2 million in funding for renovations to Reynolds Hall.

It’s one of the oldest buildings on campus and the lab areas used by students are showing the many years of wear and tear. We’re pleased that the governor’s request has bipartisan support, including our local legislators, and hope that the state legislature moves quickly so we can get started on this critical project.

On a related note, Missouri Southern hosted approximately 50 of Missouri’s freshmen legislators from around the state earlier this week. Their statewide tour visited campus for lunch in Connor Ballroom and we were joined by our friends at Crowder College to speak with them about what each institution has to offer – independently and collaboratively.

Celebrating students

I would also like to take a moment to congratulate our students, who have had a great fall semester.

The men’s and women’s cross country teams made it to the 2014 NCAA Division II National Cross Country meet in Louisville, Ky., and our basketball teams are off to a strong start to the season. Our instrumental, choral and theater students have given the campus and local community some phenomenal performances recently.

The Southern Jazz Orchestra helped heat things up with their Swinging’ Holiday Show
The Southern Jazz Orchestra helped heat things up with their Swinging’ Holiday Show.

We’re also very proud of our Mock Trial team and the success they have had this fall. They’ll be competing in the Mid-Missouri Tournament next month as well as an event right here on campus before heading to the regional competition in February.

The items listed above  just scratch the surface of the numerous student accomplishments cataloged this fall and we are proud of each one!

Board presentations

I also wanted to give you a head’s up about a couple presentations planned for upcoming Board of Governors meetings.

During January’s meeting, Scott Snell – Director of Distance Learning – will speak about the exciting growth and development of online, ITV, blended formats and other delivery systems. The technological advances of the past couple of decades have combined to make distance education a vital component of today’s higher education platform.

The following month, the board will hear about our prairie preservation plan during a presentation by Dr. “Kip” Heth, Rob Yust and Randy Hasse, from the Missouri Department of Conservation. It’s important that we move to permanently protect a portion of the prairie land, because it is a unique asset to the university and one that we should preserve for future generations.

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Finally, I want to thank you for your service to our students and our University! Please have a safe and joyful holiday break.

Staying Connected

We live in a world that places a high value on staying “connected.”

Technology makes it easier every single day for us to connect with our friends, with our family and with those who share similar views and interests.

I want to use this new “Between the Lions” correspondence as a means to stay connected with you – whether you’re a member of our faculty and staff, a student, or a community supporter. It’s a way to keep you updated regarding issues and events that could have an impact on our campus – from building updates and accomplishments we want to celebrate, to fiscal matters and legislative initiatives, to the latest trends, issues and research in higher education.

Here are a few brief items I’d like to share with you in this initial issue:

Newly elected legislators will be on campus for a visit in early December as they travel around the state. In our brief time with them, we will make our best case for why we need their support at Missouri Southern. Since they won’t have time for a stop at Crowder College, we’ve invited representatives from Crowder to join us for the visit as well.

Maintenance and repair capital funding requests to the state continue to be a priority for us. We have prepared and submitted a $5.2 million request for renovations to Reynolds Hall – funds we would use to update laboratories and infrastructure in this critical but aging building. We’re also applying for a $1.5 million matching grant from the state that would be used for the same purpose. The grant requires a $1.5 million match in private donations, but I am confident we can raise the money (we have already started contacting prospective donors).

In the Missouri General Assembly the pre-filing of bills will start in December, and we will carefully monitor the ebb and flow of proposed legislation relating to higher education and other issues you may find of interest (retirement system changes, insurance modifications, K-12 issues, etc.).

As a reminder, Noel-Levitz will be on campus this Friday to offer morning and afternoon meetings designed to explain and discuss the work they accomplished, their recommendations, and current results. They will also present an abbreviated version of the report at the Board of Governors meeting this Friday at 1 p.m. Please make plans to attend one of these sessions.

Representatives from the Great Game of Business visited Missouri Southern recently to discuss how the plan can work for education.
Representatives from the Great Game of Business recently visited Missouri Southern.

I also want to keep our campus community updated as we begin to implement “The Great Game of Education” at Missouri Southern. Through open-book management practices, everyone will have a voice and a vested interest in our future. As an institute of higher education, we are pioneers in this area and we will carefully craft a system to fit our unique needs. This is a great opportunity, and I’m excited at how it is coming together. I look forward to hearing from you about this initiative.

I plan to offer periodic “Between the Lions” updates for you. My goal is to build and maintain the relationships that are so vital to the success of Missouri Southern State University. The word “connection” implies that communication should flow both ways, so I encourage your questions and comments. Feel free to email me at marble-a@mssu.edu or call my office at 417-625-9501.

These updates will be archived at http://president.mssu.edu for everyone to view.

Let’s stay connected!