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.