Back to School Welcome scheduled, and other summer updates

Dear Fellow Lions,

First, let me thank all of you for your support and well-wishes during this difficult time for both me and the Marble family.

It’s never easy, losing someone so close to your heart. Your cards, condolences and kind words have helped to lift us up. Again, thank you so much.

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer. The high temperatures are going hand-in-hand with how things are heating up on our campus. There’s a lot going on – make no mistake, it’s a new day at Missouri Southern.

If you take a look around us, the news hasn’t been sunny for schools on the other side of the state lines. Budget difficulties have led to staffing cuts and increased tuition.

I’m happy to report, however, that this year, all of our requests from the state Legislature were funded. Money has been appropriated for important projects such as the Reynolds Hall renovation and expansion as well as our partnership with the University of Missouri-Kansas City to bring a dental program to our campus. The Fiscal 2017 budget approved by the Board of Governors includes a 2.25 percent across-the-board salary increase for all university employees. And, as we continue to greet new students enrolling for the fall semester, all signs are pointing to an increase in the number of new freshman over last year and strong enrollment overall.

All of this can be credited to the “forward thinking” mindset that we have embraced, as well as the willingness on the part of the Governor and the Legislature to work together to support higher education throughout the state in general, and Missouri Southern in particular.

AN INVESTMENT IN OUR CAMPUS

During his visit to campus earlier this month, Gov. Jay Nixon signed two bills that will provide funding for continued growth on our campus. House Bill 17 includes $6.7 million toward the work underway in Reynolds Hall, while House Bill 18 provides $9.3 million in additional capital improvement funding for a desperately needed expansion.

In his remarks, the governor termed it “an investment in Missouri Southern” that will pay dividends for many years to come.

Very well-stated.

Gov. Jay Nixon signed two bills providing money for Reynolds Hall.
Gov. Jay Nixon signed two bills providing money for Reynolds Hall.

The improvements to Reynolds will mean more classroom space, modern laboratories and new equipment. One of the oldest buildings on campus will soon sport a contemporary look along with the ability to meet the learning needs of our students.

House Bill 3, which was also agreed upon by the Governor and Legislature, means we can partner with the University of Missouri-Kansas City to bring a dental school to Missouri Southern. The bill provided $2 million in “core funding” to make that happen.

Missouri Southern has taken possession of about 2/3 of the Joplin Regional Center, located west of the Mills Anderson Criminal Justice Center. The Child Development Center will be relocated to that building – which, with improvements, will offer roughly double the current space and provide better facilities for pre-school students. Also, Brad Erwin of Paragon Architecture, is conducting a series of meetings with faculty and staff members of the Psychology Department to design the “renovation and new construction” needed for their transition back to the Gene Taylor building. As we have said all along, we intend for each unit to benefit from improved facilities as moves are made, so be prepared to be wowed when you see the new Psychology building and renovated space.

NEW HEALTH SCIENCES DEAN

Dr. Richard Schooler joined the Lion family earlier this month when he was named the new dean of the School of Health Sciences. He’ll be overseeing programs such as nursing, radiology, respiratory care, emergency services, and emerging programs of the future.

A longtime OB/GYN physician in Joplin, he was later named medical director and director of medical education for Freeman Health System.

Dr. Richard Schooler
Dr. Richard Schooler

In 2006, he became the hospital’s chief medical officer and in 2013 the executive vice president.

As we seek to capitalize on and enhance Joplin’s status as a health-care hub – Dr. Schooler brings a wealth of medical knowledge to the table, as well as invaluable management experience in the field of health care. As we continue our already outstanding efforts to serve as the leader in health-care education for the region, we look forward to the many contributions he can make toward those efforts.

THE GREAT GAME OF EDUCATION

We’re drawing ever closer to the campus-wide rollout of the Great Game of Education.

The open-book management principles outlined by businessman Jack Stack have never before been instituted in the higher-education field. As Dr. Scott Cragin has said, we are “pioneers” in this endeavor – one that will provide a clear line of sight in terms of how departments and individuals can impact the university’s financial status.

The GGOE Culture Committee has formed subcommittees that are focusing on training, mini-games and the rollout to campus. Each academic department will have its own operating statement, which will then fold into the university’s scoreboard. Dr. Paula Carson is working with the Culture Committee to identify a specific area that each department on campus will measure.

The Financial Training Team is working to “train the trainers.” Team members will make the rounds on campus to offer financial training and information everyone will need to know to get in the game.

Creating a culture of financial transparency will allow us all to see “the big picture” and clearly define our own roles within it.

The rollout committee is working on some fun ways to introduce the Great Game of Education to the entire campus, which brings me to …

THE INAUGURAL “BACK TO SCHOOL WELCOME”

In the past, these welcome-back sessions have been offered separately to members of the faculty and staff.

This year, we’ll bring everyone together for the Fall 2016 Back to School Welcome. It will be held at 8:30 am, Friday, Aug. 19, in Taylor Performing Arts Center. Having everyone together helps foster the sense of community on our campus as we present information of value to all.

Each member of the President’s Cabinet will offer a brief and informative update about their division. There will also be a rollout presentation for the Great Game.

The entire campus is invited to attend this meeting. Offices that must remain open at that time should plan to utilize a skeleton crew. Should you not be able to attend, make plans to attend the Spring 2017 session, as this is a meeting we will offer at the start of each semester.

NOTE: Faculty members please disregard the earlier notice that you should report to campus on Thursday – that was a miscommunication on my part. I’m sorry for the confusion. We will all meet only on Friday.

It’s an exciting time here at Missouri Southern, and I’m eager to continue this journey with you as we become the most open, forward thinking, and innovative university possible.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Alan

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.

**

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.