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.

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!