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!

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!