Spring semester off to a rewarding start

This has been a hectic but very rewarding start to the new semester.

We’ve cut the ribbon on Nixon Hall, learned that Dr. AmyKaye Cole will be honored with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, hosted the Higher Learning Commission site visit team, updated our recently elected members of the General Assembly on our priority issues, and spent 30 minutes or so in private conversation with Governor Parson and Senator Blunt, who were on campus for a meeting of the Hawthorn Foundation. And, of course, we’ve enjoyed watching our athletic teams compete successfully in the conference and region.

 

Strategic Plan

As you are all aware, the Strategic Plan we worked on last year and implemented this spring focuses the efforts of the entire campus on “Stage 2” of the Great Game by identifying the retention portion of sub-goal 1a as a campus-wide objective.

While the metric for sub-goal 1a is “fall-to-fall” retention, I am delighted to report an intermediate milestone was recently achieved. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness reports that our “fall-to-spring” retention of First Time/Full Time/Baccalaureate Seeking (FTFTBS) students reached what appears to be an all-time high this spring. The report states, “The final census read is 86.2%. The last cohort we retained at 86% was the 2008 cohort. Great news!”

 

Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

In my experience, our recent HLC site visit was exceptional and very impressive. While obviously finding some issues (state funding questions, heavy faculty loads, etc.), the team summary thoughts during the exit interview were very positive. And, they also noted that they were pleased when the open sessions revealed that the issues they were going to comment on are already well understood by the campus community and are being worked on currently. We expect a positive recommendation letter from the site visit team, which will be advanced to the Institutional Actions Council for review, with the final accreditation recommendation arriving in six to eight weeks.

Everyone on campus should be very proud of the work we have put in to make this visit a positive experience for the team, but a special tip of the hat must go to Dr. Carson and Dr. McGrane for the enormous amount of work they put into this effort.

 

Paid Parental Leave

I recently learned that MSSU may be the first public university in Missouri to implement paid parental leave for the benefit of new parents and their children (biological, adopted or foster children). Even if we are not the first, we are among the first, and we should be very proud that we support the bonding that is necessary for healthy adjustment as children enter a family. Frankly, this employee benefit is not a “cost item.” Rather, it is an “investment” in our greatest asset … our people!

 

Legislative

As we held our annual meeting with local members of the General Assembly, it was obvious we have an eager and supportive delegation. Even with several new faces at the table, it was clear that we will have a strong voice in Jefferson City again this year. It’s too early in the session to address any potential legislation, but we can confirm that Southwest Missouri will again be well represented.

 

Sports Wagering

As some of you know from my recent report to the Board of Governors, in May of last year the Supreme Court struck down the 25 year old federal law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) that mostly outlawed sports betting anywhere outside of Nevada. Known as the “Murphy decision,” the hurdles have now been cleared for wagering on all types of sporting events … and virtually all elements of sporting events.

No distinctions are made between professional, amateur, or even youth events … sports betting is legal at all levels and basically for every type of activity on the court, field, track, course or diamond. To add another layer of intrigue, tech-savvy individuals can make wagers on their handheld devices and have money transferred to online bookies directly from their bank accounts. Four states have already written laws to tax the sports wagering activity and several others are lined up to follow suit. So, this appears to be one of the new frontiers of sports that currently has very few boundaries.

Accordingly, we need to be extra vigilant about reminding students of the dangers of gambling addiction. And, as with any other addiction, if a student or colleague self identifies as having a problem, please promptly refer them to the Counseling Center for help and/or referral to other service providers.

 

Lori’s Surgery

It appears that Lori’s DBS surgery will occur as scheduled in Feb. 20. We would both like to thank each of you for the words of encouragement, cards, notes, and yes … many ear rings that have bolstered her confidence and touched her in such a deep and meaningful way.

I’m convinced there is no greater group of people on earth than the faculty and staff of Missouri Southern State University!

It’s a Great Day to be a Lion!

A message of Thanksgiving to my Lion family

The original and continuing purpose of “Between the Lions” is to bring the most important information to the campus community on a periodic basis (not weekly or monthly because that becomes too predictable, uninteresting and often lightly read).

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Accordingly, this issue is dedicated to perhaps the most important information I can share with you … how much you are appreciated! So, here at Thanksgiving, I offer the poem below as a simple but sincere way of saying thank you for all you do for Missouri Southern and the students we serve.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox is best known for one of her other poems containing the line: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep and you weep alone.” But, this less popular poem about thankfulness hits at the core of the message I want to send. Simply, I am thankful for each of you every day, but I fail to tell you often enough.

So, during this Thanksgiving season please know how much I appreciate each one of you!

“Thanksgiving”


 Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1850 – 1919

We walk on starry fields of white

And do not see the daisies;

For blessings common in our sight

We rarely offer praises.

We sigh for some supreme delight

To crown our lives with splendor,

And quite ignore our daily store

Of pleasures sweet and tender.

*

Our cares are bold and push their way

Upon our thought and feeling.

They hand about us all the day,

Our time from pleasure stealing.

So unobtrusive many a joy

We pass by and forget it,

But worry strives to own our lives,

And conquers if we let it.

*

There’s not a day in all the year

But holds some hidden pleasure,

And looking back, joys oft appear

To brim the past’s wide measure.

But blessings are like friends, I hold,

Who love and labor near us.

We ought to raise our notes of praise

While living hearts can hear us.

*

Full many a blessing wears the guise

Of worry or of trouble;

Far-seeing is the soul, and wise,

Who knows the mask is double.

But he who has the faith and strength

To thank his God for sorrow

Has found a joy without alloy

To gladden every morrow.

*

We ought to make the moments notes

Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;

The hours and days a silent phrase

Of music we are living.

And so the theme should swell and grow

As weeks and months pass o’er us,

And rise sublime at this good time,

A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

Generosity, Service a Hallmark of Fall Semester

It doesn’t seem like there was much separating the end of summer weather and the start of fall this year. 

Sunny skies and warm temperatures gave way to cooler weather almost as soon as our annual Homecoming festivities came to an end. Suddenly, it was time to break out the warm clothes and start watching the leaves on the Oval change color.

With Fall Break now behind us and the holiday season on the horizon, I wanted to take a few moments to update you on some important developments.

  • Because our budget picture is much more favorable than we had anticipated earlier this year, we’ll once again be able to offer another Lion’s Share distribution to our full- and part-time employees. Full-time employees will receive a net check of $750, and part-time employees will receive $375 (we’re covering the taxes this time, so you will receive the full amount). As announced during the most recent Board of Governors meeting, this is thanks in no small part to your efforts via the Great Game of Education. We all have a stake in the financial future of this university, and I’m pleased that everyone’s role in impacting the university’s critical number will again be recognized.

 

  • When you get an opportunity, please help me welcome Mark Elliott, who was recently appointed to the university’s Board of Governors. Mark, who graduated from Carl Junction High School and attended Missouri Southern and Drake University, served in the Missouri House of Representatives from 1986 until retirement in 1994.

 

  • Next month, we will honor Gary Nodler as the recipient of the Richard M. Webster Medallion. The award goes to an elected official who has made significant contributions to the public good and has demonstrated political leadership. Gary served in the Missouri Senate from 2003-11. Not only is he an alum, but he has been a great friend to this institution over the years. More details about the upcoming ceremony will be shared soon.

 

  • Yesterday, we welcomed Missouri Governor Mike Parson to MSSU. Governor Parson’s primary reason for visiting was to promote Proposition D – a measure for an increase to Missouri’s gas tax, which will provide much-needed repairs to the state’s transportation infrastructure. (The issue will be on the November ballot.) After the press conference, Gov. Parson and his team stayed with us on campus, enjoying lunch and meaningful conversation about many issues. It was a pleasure having him here, and we look forward to his next visit as well as our collaborative work in the coming year. The university will have a chance to speak to other area legislators during our upcoming annual Legislative Brunch here on campus. It will be a chance to share our story with them and our plans to continue moving the university forward as they start their new session.

 

  • I’m excited to announce that plans are also in the works for a new campus residence hall. We’ve commissioned architectural renderings for the construction, which would be located near the FEMA shelter. The need is certainly there – The Quads, our most recent residence hall addition, fill up almost immediately upon opening. I will keep campus in the loop as we proceed with this project.

 

  • I’m very proud of the efforts of three of our faculty members – Dr. Renee White, Dr. Andrea Cullers and Dr. Megan Bever – as well as a number of our students to launch the new Lion Co-op. Seeing a need on campus to lend a hand to those struggling with the issue of food insecurity, they created a co-op that will be housed in the FEMA shelter. Food and personal items will be provided for students in need. Dr. White has said the support shown thus far has been “remarkable,” and it’s encouraging to see so many on our campus embrace an idea that fills such a vital need.

 

  • Scholarships are another way in which the university and members of the community can serve our students who have a financial need. We recently awarded 31 students the Debra and David Humphreys Excellence Award. The scholarship was established in 2017 following a $1 million gift from the Humphreys family. The funds awarded will cover at least 50 percent of their tuition for the school year. The 2018 recipients are: Alexia Andro, Allyson Armstrong, Valerie Boswell, Caitlin Brock, Jesse Brumit, Melody Cunningham, Chelsey Curran, Emily Dagnan, Garrett Dunn, Alec Fehring, Austin Gripka, Matthew Gruenberg, Adam Haddock, Cayley Hardison, Cade Hensley, Emily Hoover, Willow Jones, Layne Karhoff, Natalee Lown, Allyson Marlett, Jordan McGonigal, James Nguyen, Joshua Painter, Andre Parrett, Rachael Polen, Taylor Pryor, Natasha Rowe, Eliza Tidball, Kennedy Tool, Alen Viray and Wade Yance. Congratulations to our Humphreys Scholars! We give our deepest thanks, once again, for the family’s commitment to helping area students continue their education.

 

  • If you need assistance selecting plans for 2019 medical, dental, vision, flex and dependent-care insurance, you’ll want to attend one of the Open Enrollment Assistance sessions being offered this month by Human Resources.

          Cigna Open Enrollment (medical, dental, vision, flex and dependent care elections)

Wednesday, Oct. 24: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Justice Center Rm 149

Thursday, Oct. 25: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Webster Hall Rm 307

Wednesday, Oct. 31: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Spiva Library Rm 418

           The Standard Supplemental Enrollment (voluntary life, short-term disability, accident, critical illness, and hospital indemnity insurance offerings)

Wednesday, Oct. 24: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Justice Center Rm 114

Thursday, Oct. 25: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Webster Hall Rm 357

Wednesday, October 31: 10AM-2PM – Spiva Library Rm 413a

The insurance committee is currently working to find a middle option for those who have not found the existing plans at either end of the cost spectrum sufficient. Their work will hopefully result in a third option that our employees will find helpful.

  • Finally, you won’t want to miss out on Southern Summit, set for Nov. 7-8. Employees are encouraged to attend the event, which will include educational sessions, “town hall” meetings and a keynote lunch. To reserve a seat, be sure to complete the online Summit Sign-Up

Once again, I extend my thanks to each and every one of you for your service to our students and campus community. Missouri Southern is such a positive force in the region and we could not be successful without your hard work and dedication.

Enjoy the fall weather!

Taking strategic steps as we look to the future

Spring is here, and with it comes the sprint towards commencement. It’s amazing how time flies!

Nearly 1,200 students from around the region toured Missouri Southern during the fourth annual Sophomore Day.

One of my favorite sights is to see our campus teeming with high-school students who are here for special events such as History Day, the Technology Student Association competition, Science Fair, Sophomore Day, and the many other exciting activities that bring potential students to campus. These events offer them an opportunity to see what Missouri Southern is all about – and hopefully provide us a chance to create the next generation of Lions.

It’s also been a great semester for our students. Our Mock Trial team recently closed out their season, taking home an award at each competition. It’s a young team, but Dr. Nicholas Nicoletti says the talent showcased this year gives him high hopes for their future.

I also want to congratulate junior Oliver Smith and sophomore Seth Marshall, who both did fantastic at the recent National Trumpet Competition in Denton, Texas.

And let’s not forget our men’s basketball team, which earned a spot in the 2018 NCAA Division II Basketball Tournament. The spring sports programs are all showing remarkable competitiveness and we know they will accomplish great things this year.


Legislative updates

House Bill 3 (HB3) is where higher education funding is annually located in the state budget. It has been whipsawed back and forth in several versions over the weeks. Currently, HB3 would restore $68 million of the proposed $92 million the Governor’s recommended budget removed from higher education, but only if colleges and universities agreed not to raise tuition more than 1%. As you are probably aware, we were the lone holdout opposing “the deal,” simply because we are at the bottom of the funding chart with regard to both tuition and state appropriations per FTE (full-time equivalent student), and a mere 1% increase would do little to correct our unsustainable revenue challenges.

Representatives from two- and four-year institutions recently spoke during a legislative hearing in Jefferson City.

Accordingly, we were able to convince COPHE and House Budget Chair Scott Fitzpatrick to “carve us out” of the deal so we could vote “yes” to give COPHE a unanimous and unified voice.

We have great confidence in the Senate and are hopeful they will restore some or all of the suggested cuts… and leave each institution to decide whether or not to raise tuition by 2.1% as allowed by law (SB389) or to even raise tuition beyond the statutory limit and request a waiver of the penalty (up to 5% of the current year appropriation). Frankly, we need to increase well beyond 2.1% to make up lost ground.


Possible tuition increase

We’re hopeful that legislators will be able to restore some of the proposed cuts, because we certainly do not want to balance the university’s budget on the backs of our students. However, we have to prepare for the eventuality that a significant tuition increase will be needed.

To help offset the cuts and withholdings we have endured over the past several years, and to address the rising costs of MOSERs and other uncontrollable expenses (utilities, software, health insurance, etc.) a larger-than-normal tuition increase will be required. So, we are keeping all options open.

We are in the process of developing several proposals to present to the Board of Governors as the budget picture clears up in Jefferson City, and I expect a firm tuition recommendation will be made at the April Board of Governors meeting.


Strategic Plan

Last fall, we offered a series of Stakeholder Engagement Sessions and online surveys designed to help us chart a path forward for Missouri Southern.

The results of those sessions (and feedback from the surveys) are fueling our current efforts to revise our mission, vision and values. The Board of Governors met again last month in a special work session to discuss those findings and to continue drafting new mission, vision, and values statements.

Your participation in this process provided invaluable insight and guidance for the board as they attempt to synthesize the information into a new Strategic Plan. They are currently working through the input you provided to ultimately come up with 5 or 6 campus-wide goals that will direct our work over the next few years.

I have included a “draft” copy of their work so far, and would certainly be interested in your thoughts as we move forward with the process. Thank you again for all you do for Missouri Southern and the students we serve.

It’s a Great Day to be a Lion!

A few words of thanks and important updates

Dear colleagues,

With Fall Break behind us and the rush of the holiday season (and not to mention finals) ahead, I want to pause for a moment to share a few words of thanks and some important information.

Great Game of Education

When we launched the Great Game of Education here at Missouri Southern, it was with the goal of giving everyone on campus a vested interest in our financial well-being.

The GGOE Culture Committee designed a series of financial training sessions to help all employees understand the principles of the Great Game, and to create for each person an invaluable “line of sight” to see how their individual roles impact our critical number … operating cash.

The open-book management principles you embraced helped us to make significant improvements to our critical number. I’m pleased to announce that everyone will be rewarded for those efforts. The Board of Governors has approved a one-time distribution to all employees working at the university when the end of the year “critical number” was calculated on June 30, 2017.

Providing a “stake in the outcome” is a fundamental principle of GGOE. With that in mind, the board asked the GGOE Culture Committee to recommend what amount of the approximately $800,000 improvement in the critical number should be distributed to employees as their stake in the outcome. The culture committee recommended distributing 50% of the increase to employees and that the university retain the other 50% to battle the 2018 budget deficit.

The board approved the committee’s recommendation. Accordingly, full-time employees working at Missouri Southern on June 30 will receive $750, and part-time employees (also employed with the university on that date) will receive $375. Congratulations everyone!

But as we celebrate, don’t forget that the game goes on.

Along with every other higher education institution in the state, these are challenging times for Missouri Southern. We’ve weathered serious cuts to our budget, and must be prepared for more. As such, we have to redouble our commitment to creating a healthy financial future for this university.

I want to thank Dr. Cragin and all of the Culture Committee and subcommittee members for their dedication, as well as to all of you who have made an effort to “get in the game.” Let’s keep the momentum going!

Strategic planning

I also want to extend my thanks to all of you who attended the recent Stakeholder Engagement Sessions in order to help us evaluate the university’s future.

About 150 people attended the face-to-face sessions, and countless others participated online. The resulting 1,200 or so comments and suggestions will now be analyzed for similarities and presented to the Board of Governors in November.

However, if you wish to continue in the effort to sharpen our Mission, Vision, and Values along with engaging in SWOT Analysis, Environmental Scan, and Aspirational Thinking exercises, please follow the links below to a Survey Monkey version of the documents.

Missionhttps://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MSSUMissionWords

Visionhttps://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MSSUVision

Valueshttps://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MSSUValues

SWOT Analysishttps://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MSSUSWOT

Environmental Scanhttps://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MSSUEnvScan

Aspirational Thinking https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MSSUAspirations

 

New Performance Funding Model

I also want to offer a brief update on new performance funding measures that are on the horizon.

A statewide task force has been assigned to review the current performance funding model. The task force began meeting over the summer and continued their work into the fall, and recently made their final recommendations to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. It is anticipated that the draft will pass with few, if any, changes. The new model will include six measures focused on: Student Success (2); Efficiency (2); Affordability (1); and Job Placement (1).

The items are not firmly in place yet, but early examination indicates that we should have very little problem achieving the Student Success elements because the two measures are focused on “completions per Full Time Equivalent (FTE) enrollment” and “Licensure Exam pass rates.” We should do well each year on both of these metrics.

The first Efficiency measure will monitor the “change in operating salaries per student FTE compared to Median Household Income (MHI).” It is anticipated that MHI will be statewide… not local. The “per student FTE” verbiage is very important to note, because FTE enrollment could mean the difference in passing or failing this item. And, it will be a “bright line” item where the university “change” will either be above or below the MHI “change.” This item should cause us to redouble our efforts to retain students.

The second efficiency measure examines our core expenditures as a percent of total expenditures compared to our peer group (identified by MDHE). To succeed on this measure requires being in the top 1/3 of the peer group or making annual progress toward that level.

We will keep you updated as we learn more about what these new measures will mean for us here at Missouri Southern.

50 Years at Mission Hills

At 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, we will celebrate an important milestone for our university – our 50th anniversary here at the former Mission Hills estate.

The special ceremony comes 50 years (nearly to the day) that Gov. Warren Hearnes dedicated this campus, calling the new, four-year institution “a catalyst for progress.”

All employees, students and friends of the university are invited to gather with us where Gov. Hearnes once stood, in front of Hearnes Hall, to look back at the events that brought us here and to look toward the future as we rededicate this campus. We will be joined by some of the descendants of the school’s founding fathers, while Sen. Ron Richard will present a proclamation in honor of the occasion. Refreshments will be served on the Oval after the ceremony.

From its beginnings as Joplin Junior College 80 years ago, Missouri Southern has grown into a major education, athletic and cultural hub for the region, and each of you has played a role in our success.

I hope you’ll be able to join us as we celebrate this historic occasion.

Thanks for all you do for your continued service to our students and our university. Here’s to the next 50 years!

 

Alan

Lion Pride: Recognizing our successes, planning for our future

In terms of the Fall 2017 semester, we are now – as the saying goes – in the thick of it. We’re a month into classes, Fall Break isn’t far away, and finals and the holidays won’t be far behind. (Only 14 weeks until Christmas, for those keeping track.)

I’ve heard countless success stories from across our campus these past few weeks. Stories of what our students are accomplishing both inside and outside the classroom, as well as your own achievements. I couldn’t be more proud, and I hope you are, as well.

We had the chance last Friday to thank the donors who helped make the critical renovations to Reynolds Hall possible. And, it was a smashing success, thanks to some flowers and liquid nitrogen provided by Dr. James Donelson.

I’m also proud to say that Missouri Southern has been recognized for our Great Game of Education efforts. During the recent Gathering of the Games Conference in Dallas, Texas, we were awarded the 2017 Pioneer Award – which goes to a company or organization that is the first in their field to implement and practice the open-book methodology. This recognition was made possible by all of your efforts, and it’s been wonderful to see these guiding principles successfully utilized by our campus.

The Development Office thanked Reynolds Hall donors.

STRATEGIC PLANNING – STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT SESSIONS

We’ve reached an important juncture here at Missouri Southern. With our previous Strategic Plan having been successfully fulfilled, it’s time to move forward by re-examining our mission, vision and values. One of the insights gained by the team that attended the Gathering of Games Conference is the need to identify an organization’s specific “noble cause.” Re-examining our mission, vision, and values should help us zero in on our noble cause.

The key word in that last sentence is the word “our.”

It’s our mission that we want to identify and spell out for the future of Missouri Southern. It’s our collective vision and our values as an institution that will show us the way forward.

That means your contribution to this process – your thoughts, your feelings and your voices – are critical to our success.

Our GGOE Committee received the Great Game’s Pioneer Award.

This week and next, we will host a series of Stakeholder Engagement Sessions for you to offer input into this vital work. The sessions will be offered in two phases, so please plan to attend one Phase 1 session and one Phase 2 session.

Tuesday, Sept. 19 (Phase 1):  1 – 2:45 p.m.; or 3 – 4:45 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 21 (Phase 1):  8:30 – 10 a.m.; or 10:15 – 11:45 a.m.
Monday, Sept. 25 (Phase 2):  8:30 – 10 a.m.; or 10:15 – 11:45 a.m.
Thursday, Sept. 28 (Phase 2):  1 – 2:45 p.m.; or 3 – 4:45 p.m.

Each of the sessions will take place in the quiet room on the fourth floor of Spiva Library, overlooking the Oval. This location will provide an intimate setting for all of us to sit down and talk. We want to hear what you think when you consider Missouri Southern’s mission, vision and values. We will take the information gathered in these sessions back to the Board of Governors to compare and contrast with the thoughts and ideas they compiled at their annual retreat earlier this summer. With broad campus and community input, they should be able to come up with a concise and descriptive Mission Statement that will be embraced by all.

As I said, we are in the thick of things at the moment. If you can’t attend the sessions, please make time to share your thoughts with us online. You can do so by going here.

Again, I can’t stress enough the crucial role all of you will play during this process. I thank you in advance for your time and your invaluable input.

THIRD THURSDAY

Missouri Southern will host Third Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 21. We hope you’ll join us in downtown Joplin because this event is always such an awesome display of what makes Missouri Southern great.

Dozens of our academic departments, programs and student organizations will have booths, there will be performances by our talented music students, our athletes will be on hand to greet fans and – if you’re not enticed already – live cooking demonstrations by Jay Jung, owner of Jin’s Korean Grill in Springfield. There will also be an impressive historical replica of our original Mansion Walls as a nod to our 50th anniversary on this campus. (Stay tuned for more about our 50th Anniversary Campus Rededication Ceremony, set for Oct. 27.)

It’s a chance for the community at large to become better acquainted with us and to get a taste of what makes Missouri Southern so special. I hope to see you there.

As always, your service and contributions to this university and the region are critical in making our students successful, our economy vibrant, and our community culturally enriched and civically engaged. Please know that your efforts are recognized and appreciated.

It’s always a great day to be a Lion.

Alan

A few updates as the Spring 2017 semester draws to a close

As Finals Week draws to a close and we prepare to celebrate our graduates during Saturday’s commencement ceremonies, I want to thank each and every one of you for your hard work.

The results of that work can be seen in the students’ eyes as they cross the stage to receive their diploma and begin life’s next chapter. It’s a milestone for each of them, and a direct result of the contributions you make to this university.

As we wrap up the spring semester, I wanted to keep you in the loop on a few items of importance.

Budget update

As you are aware, higher education in the State of Missouri suffered deep budget cuts midway through the 2017 year and will endure even deeper reductions in funding in Fiscal Year 2018. Accordingly, we had to make some very tough decisions to make our budget come anywhere close to balancing. In fact, we adopted an $800,000 deficit budget for FY2018.

Sadly, the FY2018 budget could not accommodate any across-the-board pay increases and that’s a situation that I truly regret. But, we do have approval from the Board of Governors to re-evaluate our financial status at mid-year to see if we can make adjustments at that time.

The board also agreed to measure our “end of year” operating results (June 30, 2017), and see if we can possibly have a mid-year dispersal of the amount above our “forecast,” because we are currently on trend to end the year with improved operating cash (our critical number for the Great Game of Education).

However, the budget cuts for FY2018 will start to erode this cash balance rapidly after July 1 unless we are able to increase enrollment and retention and/or keep the Satellite Dental School money in the budget. Either way, the Board of Governors will re-examine our cash position at mid-year and keep the GGOE promise to redistribute the amount of improved operating cash established at the end of FY2017 if at all possible. This distribution could take the form of increased departmental budgets and/or stipends to university employees.

The obvious difficulty with state appropriations is the FY2018 decrease in core funding of 6.6% on top of the 4.0% cut of FY2017. And, the inability to make up the lost revenue with tuition increases without facing the possible consequence of being penalized 5 percent of our existing state appropriation. But, we will need to seriously look at a significant tuition increase next year even if we are forced to accept the 5 percent penalty, because the penalty is a “one-time charge” and the tuition increase would be permanent.

A last word about the budget: Currently the proposed budget that the governor has on his desk contains $2 million for MSSU to continue work on the Dental School partnership with UMKC (they have $1 million in the budget for the same purpose). However, this entry is again listed as a “new decision item” and on a separate budget line rather than being included in our base budget.

If the governor signs the budget in its current form we will still need to be very careful in how the money is spent or allocated until it can be included in our base budget next year (which is the plan of House Budget Chair Scott Fitzpatrick).

Insurance

As the university prepares for the 2018 Plan Year, there have been ongoing discussions by the Insurance Committee about reintroducing a health savings account option for employees.

A health savings account (HSA) can be used to pay for medical and prescription expenses in conjunction with a qualified high deductible health plan. Contributions into the account are made on a pre-tax basis through payroll deductions, and dollars in the account are tax free when used for qualified medical/prescription distributions.

The plan is to provide employees with HSA education classes prior to open enrollment so informed decisions can be made. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

In other news, the partially self-insured group plan that went into effect on Jan. 1 is going very well. Paying for each out-of-pocket claim as they are incurred rather than paying a fixed premium to the insurance carrier has already resulted in significant savings for the university.

Retirements 

It was my pleasure to attend Thursday’s retirement reception as we thanked faculty and staff members for their years of service at Missouri Southern. 

Retirees included Janette Van De Mark, Jackie Coose, Richard Compton, Dale Fletcher, Dr. Francis Bartholet, Dr. Deborah Brown, Stephen Schiavo, Stephen Jordan, Helen Regnier, Carolyn Carter, Jerry Robertson, Sheila Damer, Joyce Courtney and Rod Surber.

Those entering Phased Retirement are Dr. Jack Oakes, Dr. Scott Cragin, Chrys Corcoran, Christine Eller, Dr. Richard Miller, Debra Snodgrass, Stephen Smith, Dr. Pedro Talavera-Ibarra, Dr. Robert McDermid and Dr. Paul Teverow.

Altogether, they have given a combined 530 years of employment to Missouri Southern!

I want to offer special thanks to our two retiring deans – Deb Brown and Richard Miller. Their leadership and invaluable contributions to the School of Education and School of Arts & Sciences have benefitted countless students over the years.

Commencement

As mentioned above, our 68th graduating class will participate in spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13, in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

Students from the School of Business, School of Education, and those receiving general studies and applied science degrees will attend the 9:30 a.m. ceremony. A 1 p.m. ceremony will honor those graduating from the School of Arts & Sciences and the School of Health Sciences.

I hope that you can join us as we celebrate all of our graduates.

Don’t forget – we begin our summer schedule on Monday, May 15. Our work week will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Plans are underway for the welcome back meeting to kick off the fall semester. It’s tentatively planned for Friday, Aug. 18, so be watching for more details.

I hope you have a safe, enjoyable and relaxing summer!

Budget Update for our Campus Community

As we head into the final stretch of the Spring 2017 semester (can you believe commencement is just a month away?), I want to take a few minutes to speak to you about some matters of importance to all of us here at Missouri Southern.

I know the budget situation remains at the forefront of our attention, so I’ll address that in detail.

Budget update

As you know, Missouri Southern – as with other higher-education institutions throughout the state – has had to face difficult budget cuts as our new Governor works to balance the budget.

For the 2016-17 academic year, the university will suffer withholdings of $1.7 million from our core budget and eliminated funding for the UMKC Dental School satellite facility on our campus. For the 2017-18 academic year, the Governor has recommended an additional core budget reduction of $2.2 million. If the Governor’s recommended budget is approved, the 2017-18 appropriation will fall below the amount we received in 2007-08 and result in state support falling to an all-time low of less than 30% of total university revenues.

We are working with our friends in Jefferson City to limit the core budget cuts and to restore funding for the Dental School partnership with UMKC. But, we won’t know the final outcome until the House and Senate meet in conference to hammer out the final budget that will be sent to the Governor. It is almost a certainty that we will be operating with fewer state dollars than we received this year.

Accordingly, I have been required to make some very difficult decisions regarding next year’s university budget. The first difficult decision was to admit that we will need to recommend the Board of Governors adopt a deficit budget of about -$800,000 for the 2017-18 year. I hate deficit budgets, but to cut deeper than what will be recommended would move us beyond painful and toward permanently damaging the campus.

I also believe that announcing cuts should be done “all at once” rather than “dribbling it out” over time and causing endless anxiety for everyone. So, here’s the sad and disturbing news.

The primary goal of this budget cutting exercise was to “protect the classroom” to the greatest degree possible as our fundamental purpose is to be a Baccalaureate and Master’s degree granting institution. As a result, the other areas of campus received the bulk of the reductions – Athletics, Advancement/URM, Business Affairs, and Student Affairs. The Academic programs that were impacted had been previously identified as needing adjustments.

Regarding personnel, we are sadly going to lose 13 full-time positions (either through terminations or failing to fill existing vacancies). NOTE: All affected employees have been notified and we regret they are leaving us but sincerely thank each of them for their service.

Among the posts that will go unfilled are the Dean of Students and the Associate Athletic Director positions. But, we wish Dr. Ron Mitchell all the best as he re-enters the P-12 world as the new Superintendent for the East Newton School District; and, we also wish Rachel Burleson all the success in the world as she takes on the Athletic Director role at Franklin Pierce University. We will leave the Assistant Dean of Business and Dental Hygiene Clinic Coordinator positions unfilled at this time also.

Regarding programs and activities, the following will be discontinued:

  • Legislative Internship Program
  • Southern Gold Dance Team
  • Vivid – student-produced publication
  • Fire Academy
  • Dental Hygiene satellite programs in Sikeston and Rolla
  • Paralegal Certificate Program

Additionally, each operational unit has been asked to trim travel budgets, equipment purchases, and all other areas that can possibly be restricted at this time. And, to their great credit, all areas have made the necessary adjustments to adapt to these trying times.

When we look beyond this year of drastic budget cuts, what should we be focused on as we start looking forward to the 2017-18 academic year?

First, we must face the reality that we have become an “enrollment- and tuition-driven” institution. The State of Missouri has convinced me that we may never see the type of support that state universities historically enjoyed. This reality places an even heavier emphasis on the important work all of you are doing with the Great Game of Education, because it has caused everyone to recognize that enrollment and retention will be the best and perhaps only way to improve the “critical number” going forward. Frankly, the progress we have made via the Great Game helped us stave off even deeper budget cuts this year, and I am confident it will lead us to much healthier budgets in the future.

Second, we must commit ourselves to preparing the campus, community and State Capitol for the fact that we need a significant tuition increase to meet the needs of our growing student body. Currently, our tuition is $20 per credit hour below Missouri Western (our sister institution). We need to pursue a tuition increase somewhere in that neighborhood to give our students the best educational experience possible. Fortunately, we have a campus-wide group working on different tuition models that will make the increase more manageable for students, acceptable to the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE), and valuable to Missouri Southern as a whole. Some of the options they are considering include “blocked tuition” (4 years at the same tuition level), “plateaued tuition” (charging for 12 hours but extra hours are free), “differential tuition” (regular tuition for General Education classes but higher tuition for specialty courses like Nursing, Teacher Education, and/or the Arts, etc.) or some combination of the above.

Third, we all need to keep an eye on the new generation of “program review” that will be conducted in the coming months by MDHE. It appears the singular focus will be on “completers” – defined as graduates of major fields of study. Since this is a historical recount of the record, there is little we can do other than argue that some disciplinary majors with low graduate totals should be combined with similar majors (Modern Languages, Social Sciences, etc.). Perhaps there are other ideas, so please feel free to share.

Upcoming events

Be sure to mark your calendars for several upcoming events.

The Southern Symphony Orchestra, the Missouri Southern Concert Chorale and Chamber Singers will team together for a performance of Mozart’s “Requiem” at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at Central Christian Center. The combined talents of these student groups – under the direction of Dr. David Sharlow and Dr. Jeff Macomber – is tremendous. You won’t want to miss it.

The 38th annual Spring Picnic is planned for Friday, April 28. There’s a Western theme for the event, which will feature music from Jordy Searcy, who appeared on Season 7 of “The Voice.”

And of course, commencement ceremonies are set for Saturday, May 13 in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center (Business and Education at 9:30 am; Arts & Sciences and Health Sciences at 1:00 pm). Being able to congratulate our students as they cross the stage and begin the next chapter in their lives is a tremendous honor. It’s the culmination of everything they’ve worked toward here at Missouri Southern. I hope you can join us.

As we shift gears once again in the sprint toward Finals Week, hold your heads high. I’m proud to serve this wonderful institution and to be part of the Missouri Southern family.

I hope you feel the same.

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.

***

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!

‘Tis the season: A few items to review before holiday break

Dear Colleagues,

The holidays are a time of love, joy and hope.

The images of this time of year are indelible: Children sharing their wish list with Santa, students heading back home for the holidays, football games and parades on television, holiday foods and, of course, opening presents.

Here at Southern, we welcomed in the season at the annual “Southern Lights” celebration earlier this month with the lighting of the tree on campus, fueled with cocoa, cider and cookies.

Our Music Department helped usher in the season with the annual “Swingin’ Holiday Show” from the Missouri Southern Jazz Orchestra and, just last week, “A Seasonal Choral Flourish,” two wonderful evenings of vocal music, set the stage for a warm and joyous season of celebration. There have been plenty of other observances as well.

It’s always a pleasure to see our faculty, staff and students coming together at this time of year.

Before we dismiss for the holiday break, I’d like to review a few items of importance to our campus.

Haley joins Board of Governors 

Carlos Haley

Carlos Haley of Joplin has joined the Missouri Southern Board of Governors.

Carlos serves as Chief Compliance Officer for Freeman Health System, earned his MBA in finance, and he is an alumnus of MSSU! His education, talent and experience will make him a great asset to our university.

I want to express my thanks to Keith C. Hankins of Stockton for his years of service on the board. We were fortunate to have Keith lend us the benefit of his wealth of knowledge, insight and judgment. I can’t thank him enough for his efforts and wish him all the best in the future.

Joplin Tomorrow gift

A non-profit corporation formed in the aftermath of the 2011 Joplin tornado, Joplin Tomorrow was established by former U.S. Sen. John Danforth to provide low-interest loans for business recovery.

Nearly $1.6 million was raised by donors from across the country, enabling dozens of businesses to rebuild and expand. Having completed their mission, Joplin Tomorrow recently voted to transfer the remaining $700,000 in assets to the Missouri Southern Foundation. The funds will be used to provide scholarships for future medical students enrolled in the “Yours to Lose – Advanced Medical School Acceptance Program.”

Dr. Brad Hodson is joined by the Joplin Tomorrow board during the announcement of the gift.

The exclusive partnership forged with the Kansas City University School of Medicine and Biosciences will allow up to 25 students per year to be accepted by the KCU medical school at the same time they are admitted into our pre-med program. After earning their bachelor’s in biology, which can be accomplished in a very rigorous three-year program, they’ll begin their first year of medical school at KCU’s new Joplin campus.

This generous gift from Joplin Tomorrow is an investment in our students, our campus and in our community. These future physicians will play a role in the region’s continued economic vitality, and we are grateful to Joplin Tomorrow for their support.

UMKC tour

A portion of the León Health Sciences building will soon undergo renovation for use by the School of Dentistry at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). A few weeks ago, UMKC brought a group of 22 individuals to campus for in-depth discussions about how to best operationalize the program. The eclectic group from UMKC included faculty, IT staff, architectural and engineering specialists and the dean of the School of Dentistry. They enjoyed getting a firsthand look at their future space on campus and left very encouraged at the arrangements that are unfolding between our organizations.

We are currently discussing the wording of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two schools, which will solidify our partnership and commitment to hosting UMKC’s dentistry program here. We are also in discussions with that university to develop a program similar to “Yours to Lose,” which would give our pre-dentistry students a streamlined path into UMKC’s dental program.

We expect that, at capacity, a total of 60 students will participate in the four-year DDS program, which includes clinical partnerships with area dentists. UMKC is tentatively set to enroll its first cohort of 15 students on our campus in the fall of 2018.

Legislative visits

We recently hosted two groups of Missouri legislators on our campus to share with them our needs and goals for the coming year. These groups included both current legislators and a larger group of newly elected legislators participating in the state-sponsored “Freshman Tour.”

We took the opportunity with both groups to lay out our legislative priorities for the upcoming year. Those priorities include more core funding, new appropriations for renovations to Taylor Performing Arts Center, and the acquisition of the Joplin Regional Center. We will go into more detail on these and other priorities at the spring “All-Employee Welcome Back” meeting January 13, 2017. Wow, I can’t believe I just wrote the number 2017 as a date!

We believe it’s very important that legislators from all over the state get to know us and fully understand our position as a growing educational powerhouse in the region.

Funding

Anyone who works here knows that funding is a major focus.

Public institutions of higher learning in Missouri are primarily funded two ways: through appropriations from the state, and from tuition and fees.

This fall we had a record enrollment of just over 6,200 students, about the same number as at Truman State University. However, we received $23,683, 485 from the state of Missouri.  Truman State received $41,816, 820 – a major difference!

At the same time, our average yearly tuition and fees, as calculated by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE), comes in at $5,877 (only Harris-Stowe is lower at $5,820). So, the result is that our combined “tuition/fees and state appropriations per FTE student” is $11,070 – putting us at the bottom of the chart (a whopping $844 PER STUDENT less than Missouri Western, which holds the next-to-last slot). We do not belong at the bottom of any chart, much less this one, because our students deserve better!

The obvious answer seems to be to increase tuition. However, Missouri law forbids publicly-funded universities from exceeding the percentage change of the consumer price index. We can increase tuition but, if we do we face a substantial monetary fine (unless we get a waiver from the Coordinating Board for Higher Education).

In view of our great progress in recent years, it may be time to re-think our policy of staying within funding limits which, we feel, are disproportionate when compared to other universities in the state.

This is a subject our Board of Governors will discuss and debate in coming months.

Commencement 

Dr. Conrad Gubera

Commencement is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. Our speaker this semester will be Dr. Conrad Gubera, one of Missouri Southern’s legendary professors.

(I know how good he is because he was one of my teachers when I was attending school here way back in the 1970s.)

I wish our graduates all the best as they move on to graduate schools, careers and family responsibilities. They are, now and forever, MSSU Lions!

I wish you a very peaceful and happy holiday break. Lori and I hope you will enjoy your time off and return in January filled with renewed vigor.

We look forward to a great 2017.