Remaining steadfast in our mission

Dear colleagues,

With the spring semester well underway (Spring Break is just a few weeks away!), there’s a lot to talk about. Perhaps nothing is of more concern to the university than the current budget situation, so it’s the best place to start.

Budget update

As you know, the governor announced in January cuts to higher education as he worked to balance the budget.

For fiscal year 2017 (which ends June 30), Missouri Southern will lose $1.7 million. In working to adjust to these cuts, we have asked units in every division to refrain from spending 100 percent of their budgets in an effort to help us absorb the impact.

Earlier this month, the governor rolled out another round of cuts that will take effect in fiscal year 2018 – an additional budget reduction of $2.2 million for our university.

State funding has decreased to an all-time low of 31 percent of Missouri Southern’s operating budget, and these anticipated cuts for the new fiscal year make it difficult to avoid a tuition increase that is higher than what otherwise might have been required.

Universities across the state are in discussions for a unified approach to these cuts, and we hope to soon bring a proposal to the Board of Governors. We will keep you informed as these plans progress.

As a result of the budget cuts, we’ve had to put on hold our collaboration with UMKC to bring a dental school to Joplin (which also means the Psychology Department will stay where it is for the time being). However, the project remains a priority for both schools, and we will continue toward securing state funding to make it happen.

While these cuts are difficult for all of us, we remain steadfast in our mission here at Missouri Southern – and that is to continue to provide an outstanding university experience for our students. I thank each and every one of you for your contributions and commitment to making that mission a reality.

Yours to Lose 

Dr. Richard Schooler speaks to prospective students about the Yours to Lose program.

When the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences opens the doors of its new Joplin medical school campus this fall, it will also mark the official start of an exciting and exclusive partnership with Missouri Southern.

We recently hosted visits by groups of students from across the country who are candidates for the first Yours to Lose Advanced Medical School Acceptance Program cohort. These students had an opportunity to participate in interviews; tour the campus, area hospitals, and the new KCU location; and to learn more about the exciting program that will gain them early admittance into medical school.

I want to thank Dr. Richard Schooler, dean of Health Sciences; Donna Johnson, associate professor of biology and environmental health; Derek Skaggs, director of admissions; and Dr. James Donelson, associate professor of chemistry, for all of their hard work in preparation for these visits. And, hats off to the team from KCU, which also spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the meetings.

It’s an exciting program, and one that will help cement this region’s importance as a medical hub.

New roles, new faces

You may have seen the recent announcement that Julie Wengert has accepted the position of Dean of Student Success and Support.

In this new role, she will help coordinate our efforts to promote student retention, success and degree completion. Retention is a major focus for the University Council, and we look forward to working with Julie to accomplish these goals.

I also want to take a moment to welcome several new faces to campus.

Michelle Wood recently joined the staff of the Office of Development as Director of Leadership Annual Giving. A 1992 graduate of Missouri Southern, she’s a former director of Barceda Families and director of talent acquisition for Leggett & Platt Inc. Michelle will work to engage friends and alumni and seek annual support for departments and scholarships.

Chelsea Conley has also joined the Development team as Director of Donor Relations. The former director of Art Feeds Carthage, she is in charge of the overall stewardship plan to further engage current supporters of Missouri Southern.

She is replacing Dr. Delores Honey, who is retiring after more than 30 years of service to the university. Please take an opportunity to thank Delores for her commitment to MSSU and all she has done over the years.

Finally, we also welcome Brett Meeker back to campus as Director of Concurrent Enrollment. A 2000 graduate who spent more than 12 years working for the Missouri Public Defender system, Brett will be overseeing the dual-credit program, which allows high-school students to earn credit for taking university-level courses.

Student athletes

I also want to take a moment to recognize several of our outstanding student athletes.

Emily Presley

Vincent Kiprop recently broke his own 3k record by more than 13 seconds during a meet at Pittsburg, and for the second straight year has been named the national Men’s Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Bryan Burns also broke his own shot put record, finishing first with a distance of 59-04.75. That’s nine inches over his previous record and finds him ranked second in the nation.

Both were recently named MIAA Track and Field Athletes of the Week.

Women’s pole vaulter Emily Presley was recently named MIAA Women’s Field Athlete of the Week. During the recent Pitt State competition, she won with a vault of 14-00.00. That tops the Division II by more than 10 inches and the MIAA by more than 13.

Congratulations to these three students. The commitment and dedication to their sports is outstanding.

Child Development Center

Finally, mark your calendars for March 28. The Child Development Center will open the doors of their new facility across the street, offering tours and the unveiling of a brand new name: Lion Cub Academy.

The 14,000-square-foot building – we’ve known it as the Joplin Regional Center – is currently in the exciting final stages of its renovation. The expansion is a great opportunity not only for the families who are being served, but for our own students as they get hands-on training in the field of early childhood education.

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I know I thanked you earlier for all that you do here to ensure the success of Missouri Southern and our students, but it bears repeating. Your service is appreciated more than I can say.

Be proud to call yourselves Lions!