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.

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

 

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!