2019 State of the University Address

President Clif Smart

Good afternoon and thanks for joining us for the annual state of the university address.

During our time today, there will be several ways for interaction

At the conclusion of Frank's presentation, we will both take questions.

  • First from anyone who sends in a question through social media or by card to Suzanne Shaw who will ask the question.
  • Second, directly from anyone in the audience.

The questions can be on any topic—whether we talked about it or not.

I want to begin by saying that last year was a tremendous year.

The two top accomplishments were a ten million dollar ongoing increase in state funding for our system and a record number of graduates, 5,490. Both are achievements we can all be proud of.

It is frankly unheard of that one university could get this kind of bump in appropriations when others did not and is a testament to the planning, strategies and work of our government relations team led by Ryan DeBoef over the past three years.

Other good things happened last year as well. We highlight some in this brand new video entitled "What's New at MSU."

Let me follow up on some of the things you just saw.

  1. Graduate enrollment set an enrollment record for the third year in a row and there is potential for further growth as we add programs and existing programs expand.

    We also turned international enrollment around. Let me focus on this for a minute as it will have relevance later.

    There are fewer international students studying in the USA Today than there were 3 years ago as a result of the increased difficulty in obtaining visas, the trade tension with China, a perceived unwelcoming climate, the fear of gun violence and increased competition from Canada, UK and other English-speaking countries.

    We could have said the decline was inevitable. We didn’t. Instead, our team led by Jim Baker changed strategies. We sought new partners, developed different models, leveraged our existing relationships, and worked harder and bent the curve back up. It’s a tremendous achievement and should be the model for us domestically as well. Good work Jim. Rachelle Darabi was critical on the academic side. Well done Rachelle.

    We also Increased dual enrollment. This came about as a result of a new strategy of offering free classes in Springfield to those on free and reduced lunch. We will expand this approach in January state-wide. We believe this will both allow us into new schools and help us recruit these students to the university when they graduate. It also helps level the playing field some for these more at risk students as we work to make college for accessible.
  2. After missing a year of cost of living increases, we were able to do two raises this year, one in Jan/Feb and the other in July/August. This slide shows how much money went into compensation increases last year. Almost ten million dollars.
  3. We added new academic programs, including mechanical engineering which has 36 new students and began the Bear Power Program with 8 students. All have returned for their second semester with a second cohort beginning in January. We also became an All Steinway school and named our second college thanks to an amazingly generous gift from the McQueary family.
  4. We increased the diversity of our faculty and staff to 14.5 percent and we once again met our target of 20 percent of new hires being from diverse backgrounds.
  5. We made significant facilities investments, including the renovation of Hill Hall, Plaster Center (Phase 1), Woods House, and the Center for Academic Success and Transition at Meyer Library and we Began construction of a new residence hall and the Ozarks Education Center at Bull Shoals.
  6. We improved safety on campus and were named one of the safest 100 universities in the country. We continued to improve our IT infrastructure in as well.
  7. We maintained our affordability by raising in-state undergraduate tuition by less than inflation while holding the cost of internet and dual credit courses flat.
  8. Our graduate outcome rate remained steady for the second year in a row with approximately 90% of our graduating seniors either employed or in graduate school within six months of their graduation.
  9. We received more than $52 million of external support with over $32 million of grants and sponsored contracts (a record) and over $20 million in private contributions through the Foundation, (the first time in our history we have had back to back $20 million years).
  10. We had success in athletics on and off the field, highlighted by the Lady Bears sweet sixteen appearance. While that resulted in Coach Kellie Harper leaving for Tennessee, it allowed us to hire our first female African-American head coach in Coach Mox who is off to a great start.

These were all group efforts, so thank you to everyone who played a role in improving our university as we continue to move onward and upward. Frank will highlight other academic achievements and expand on some of the ones I have mentioned shortly.

On the negative side, We did not set an eight consecutive enrollment record (we had grown more than 14% during the last 8 years, becoming the fastest growing university in Missouri while The state saw an 11% overall decrease in enrollment in our two and four year institutions).

We had anticipated this decrease given the large number of graduates, the decrease in Missouri high school graduates, the decrease in community college students who transfer to us in significant numbers, and the decrease in non traditional students given the low unemployment rate.

The drop in first time new to college students of about 400 is particularly troubling.

While the enrollment drop was not a surprise, I was disappointed we were unable to increase our first to second year retention rate despite several initiatives to do so.

Because our enrollment dropped and our retention rate held steady, enrollment (recruitment and retention) will be our major focus of our action plan for next year.

We must and can be successful. A drop of 800 undergraduate students a year from now, which is predicted given another large graduating class, will result is a loss of between $5-6 million of revenue and further cuts to operating budgets.

Short term recruitment initiatives are already underway.

We must more aggressively work on retention given what we have tried in the past has not moved the needle the last three years.

My hope is we will have a proactive advisement program in place in each college by the end of the year.

At the same time we are working on short term measures, We are creating a Strategic Enrollment Management Plan to outline long term strategies.

That effort is being led by Rob Hornberger with campus-wide involvement. Here is the structure we have created with the help of consultants and we need all hands on deck. I hope many of you will volunteer to be on task forces yet to be formed as we have the ability to influence the results.

There was an important article in the Chronicle last week entitled “Where did all the students go?” Let me quote from Jon Boeckenstedt who is vice provost for enrollment management at Oregon State University. He said:

“We are facing a crisis in enrollment, not just an enrollment challenge. it requires the attention of every member of every university community coming together to think less about our own self-interest and more about the common good of our institutions and society. Big public universities and well-endowed private colleges with powerful brands are safe for the near future — or so it seemed until a few recent announcements that make even the most optimistic of us wonder. The big question: Can we begin to get back in shape, or will our collective complacency finally do us in?”

There will be winners and losers in the enrollment game. The winners will be those who are willing to change strategies and processes, eliminate obstacles, directly engage with at risk students and think of the good of the whole University first. We cannot be complacent. Our International Team has proven it can be done. I believe we all can do this too.

Other important initiatives and projects are underway.

  1. Maintain the number of degrees and certificates awarded at the goal established by the Board of Governors (5,200).
  2. Complete the JVIC expansion financing plan and begin construction.
  3. Develop and promote interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary educational and research opportunities, including opportunities to integrate certificate and other academic programs with the university’s economic development assets and activities in IDEA Commons.
  4. Grow our professional doctorate programs and expand existing high demand graduate programs.
  5. Evaluate the results of the climate study and revise the university’s strategic diversity plan based on data collected.
  6. Launch a comprehensive campaign to raise private funds.
  7. Advocate for additional state funding for university operations and capital projects.
  8. Manage tuition and fee increases to maintain affordability while providing for the university’s operating costs.
  9. Continue to increase and maintain efficiencies and reallocate resources in university operations.

If we accomplish these goals we will have money to again Improve compensation for faculty and staff.

We live in challenging times. Our country is divided along many lines. We saw that in President Trump’s appearance on campus last year. The tone and style of our national politics has changed and is unlikely to improve in the next 15 months. But things ARE better in Missouri and I am excited about the coming year.

Here are my final challenges to all of us:

First, let's be positive. Remember that we are making a difference in the lives of thousands of students. The university is thriving and our influence and profile in the state has never been higher.

Second, Let's continue to emphasize our public affairs mission of community engagement, ethical leadership and cultural competence. And let's do it with an emphasis on inclusion, civility, compassion and kindness. We just had a tremendous public affairs conference. Let’s remember what we heard and live it out, even in challenging times.

Every employee and every student, no matter their political or religious views, should feel a part of the Missouri State University family.

Finally, Let’s all work together to stabilize enrollment, focusing on what is best for the university overall.

Frank will now report on some of the academic achievements of the past year and comment further on various academic initiatives underway.

Frank Einhellig: Provost

Raising the profile: evidences and challenges

My remarks have two major themes. They tied together by the concept that that we are in an ongoing process of raising the profile of Missouri State University. I will focus on several examples of successes that raise our profile, and then transition to some challenges and a few of the actions we are taking to confront those challenges. Raising our profile has a direct connection to enrollment.

MSU: A doctoral/professional university

One evidence of raising our profile is that last spring the Carnegie System of classifications of institutions moved MSU from Masters’ Large to Doctoral Professional.

Professional Doctorate degrees have a practice-based emphasis. MSU was designated in classification because we currently have four such degrees and graduated 132 students in those programs last year. We are currently in the process building on our very successful master’s in Defense and Strategic Studies by adding a professional doctorate in this field.

Only 30 public universities received the Doctoral Professional designation, along with a significant field of private institutions. (Total: 152) I envision a future with MSU as the leader in our state in offering professional doctorates.

Professional doctorate committee

Last April I appointed a broad-based faculty committee to evaluate our possibilities for developing additional doctorates in the next decade. Their charge is to evaluate need, potential collaborators, and a timeline for planning purposes.

Excellence in Assessment

Another recent university-level recognition is that MSU was 1 of 7 institutions (27 total since EIS inception) designated this year to receive an “Excellence in Assessment” award that is backed by several national organizations. They include the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Assoc. of American Colleges and Universities, Assoc of Public and Land-grant Universities, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, and VSA.

The selection team recognized MSU for significant processes for relationship building and trust, great practices in public affairs and general educations assessment workshops, and good work in communication and use of meaningful assessment results.

Accomplishments of students: Faculty and staff magnify the university image

I am going to highlight just a few of the many academic accomplishments stand out in giving recognition to the university.

Debate Bears

MSU has a long and storied history of excellent debate teams. Two years ago, the MSU team took second place in the nationals, but last spring their collective results made them the winners of the NFA National Sweeps Championship in LD Debate. Team members are from several different majors across our curriculum. The history of the program shows students graduate at a 97% rate.

Winning business teams 2019

Similarly, MSU had winning teams in 2019 in national competition in cybersecurity and financial analysis research challenge competition. There are individual and team student successes in these efforts, but the high-profile outcomes go beyond the individuals. Faculty mentoring is a major part of team success. Winning academic teams like these, and other national competition visibilities raise the profile of MSU.

Media, journalism and film

The MJF department is building a significant tradition of film and screening ratings at the top of a variety of competitions. They had an incredible run of wins in national and state awards last year, including a College Emmy nomination for the “Show-Me Chefs” production. For the year, the MJF faculty and their student generated almost 70 awards or recognitions in film screenings.

High marks in teacher education

Students graduating from MSU’s teacher educations programs make us proud. As shown in the graph on the right, MSU first-year teachers are rated by their principals considerably better (91%) in their effectiveness in achieving student learning compared when compared to the average for all first-year students (84%).

DESE (Dept of Elem and Secondary Education) rating of the many MSU certification programs ranks MSU tied for the highest number of top-tier programs.

1 in every 8 Missouri K-12 teachers came through MSU programs. Dean Hough and the College of Education faculty are making a focused effort to get these teachers with a tie to MSU to prominently display a bear or MSU banner in their classroom. Their goal is, “A Bear in Every Building.”

MSU and Southwest University (China) collaborate

Over the past two decades MSU has developed a solid reputation with several of the best universities in China. Hence, we have global arrangements that enrich the educational work we all do. The picture shows a large group of students and faculty from SW University in China who came to MSU through the work of the International Leadership and Training Center. This was their last night after a month on our campus. These students become ambassadors who tell the story of MSU.

With Dr. Baker’s leadership and cooperation from academic units, this fall we initiated a dual-degree plant science program with 120 students at SW University starting their course work in China. One of their courses is being taught by a Communication faculty member from MSU.

Success of biology graduates

The rating system of College Factual placed MSU’s biology in the top 15% of biology programs.

The academic strength of a university is frequently evidenced as student graduate from MSU and transition on into a PhD or professional program.

17 biology graduates of the past year have entered PhD programs. Interestingly they are each in a different doctoral university. Another 16 biology majors moved on to professional programs noted on the slide, some of those entered professional programs here at MSU.

As you will note, 3 biology majors going to medical school. In the the broader view across the university we know from the pre-medical committee at least 24 MSU students entered medical schools. The largest fraction of those this year were from the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Virtual reality world

A final example of the distinguished work of MSU students is that a dozen museum studies minor students utilized the latest in technology to create a virtual reality immersion story of 16th century structures of Guatemala. You can see this is our library.

They also designed and curated a Maya art and culture exhibit which MSU helped sponsor for display in Guatemala. It has now been viewed by over 25,000 people. These are things that magnify our image and in the long run enhance the opportunities from graduates of this institution.

Mind’s Eye

Building on evidences of the University capacity for quality research and creative works is a part of the profile. Eight years ago, we began publishing Mind’s Eye to showcase research. Almost 100 MSU faculty and a number of their students have been featured in Mind’s Eye over these 8 years. This year the Mind’s Eye cover story features the creative work of Lisa Brescia, assistant professor of theatre and dance who has recently utilized her talents acting in a hit Broadway show.

Near the end of the video my attention was caught by Lisa’s statement where she tells her students to “remember, you’ve been hired for a reason.” I think that is a good segway into the second half of things I want to mention, since they focus on the reason we all are here is to help students start and complete a college education.

Recruitment and retention

The challenges to continue raising our profile relate to success we have in improving our retention and completion of students. I listed a few things that are important, and I know there are others.

Marketing is a part of this picture. Yet we know a number of things within the University are part of marketing. How we deal with dual credit students, transfer students, advising responsibilities, relevance of curriculum, and meeting expectations in mode of delivery of our instruction……Every process, person makes a difference!

Degree and certificates awarded

Clif has already noted that last year we set a record almost 5500 (5490) awards for program completion. I use the data of this slide as a reminder of the importance of the different components within the university. 72% of the awards are undergraduate, but 28% are graduate. Within those broad categories, an increasing number of certificates are being awarded. Last year 8% of our awards were certificate.

Telling our career story

We have a major challenge in recruitment and advising to convey the message to prospective and current students of how their major and degree lead to career pathways. With 97 undergraduate majors and 62 graduate degrees, that question is overwhelming for the student…and often for advisors. How do these academic terms “major” and “degree” fit into what I may do in the future?

Students want to understand what their study can lead to for a particular career expectation they have….even when they change their mind on a major.

Since often a graduate degree becomes the more definitive gateway to their career, part of the advising challenge is to acknowledge this reality. 60% of MSU graduate programs offer students the accelerated master’s pathway that saves them time and money. It is my understanding that Music, English and a few others are working toward adding their programs to those having an accelerated master’s path.


MSU has many certificate opportunities. These are value-added specializations that help a student market their capabilities. While many of these are specialized and often at the graduate level, we currently offer 4 undergraduate certificates that do not require prerequisites. Also, under development are certificates in information technology, business skills, and writing skills.

Again, there is a significant challenge in making certificates visible and understandable to students.

Goals: Leverage opportunities, grow where there is demand and minimize barriers

As previously noted, we are heavily engaged in a developing a Strategic Enrollment Management plan. As a part of that, brief statements of three major goals might be: LEVERAGE OPPORTUNTIES, GROW WHERE THERE IS DEMAND, AND MINIMIZE BARRIERS.

First-time new in college

Those three concepts are magnetified in importance because we lose too many students short of graduation.

Taking the 2012 entry class, we lost 534 not coming the second year, and another 217 not coming back for the third year, and so on. While some of those students who drop out do come back after a time out, in six years we graduated slightly less than 55%. A few more eventually returned to finish, but those numbers are small.

What actions are being taken to help the retention and recruitment challenges?

The dual-credit pathway

Expanding the dual credit opportunities is one of these. Students who start with some credit have an advantage. Clif mentioned our pilot program allowing free dual-credit class for student of need. Across the state, MSU has expanded dual-credit services and we now have classes in 133 high schools. Collectively, MSU offers 85 courses with 567 sections of courses that are taught by 354 cooperating teachers.

We ensure those classes measure up to college requirements, and we know these classes are a great help to the students. However, the university has more to learn about how to use dual credit as part of telling the story that MSU is a good future destination for their college.

Online expansion

A growing component of today’s students want access to online education. This past summer our summer school program had 62% of the credit hours from online courses. The percent of credit hours from online exceeded 20% for the year.

It is challenging to find the right balance across the different modes of instruction, but we do know that online sections are typically enrolled early. This semester we offer almost 700 online course sections, and during the last year the number of sections online was over 1600. Students frequently mix online courses as a part of a degree pathway, even though they may not be in an online degree.

MSU offers 11 undergraduate majors and 15 graduate degree that are can be completed online. Faculty in Social Work are working to complete both the BSW and MSW to have online degree paths. Similarly, the M. in Accountancy and M. Public Administration are headed for the online market.

Interdisciplinary programs

At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, interdisciplinary degree programs have had an appeal to students and these programs have been growth magnets. The BGS has rescued a number of students who had stopped out of school short of their degree.

The graph on the right represents the enrollment in two graduate programs, but the primary one is the M. of Professional Studies which allows management skill development to be coupled with a specific discipline area, like applied communication.

Proactive advising

Improving student success and persistence are tied to our capabilities in advising. Proactive advising is being expanded, which basically means more frequent and active interactions with the student. COAL and CNAS have implemented proactive advising programs. Others are working in that direction.

The Center for Academic Success and Transition, and several other units are piloting efforts on the effectiveness of texting frequently with first- and second year students.

In addition to these focused efforts, CNAS has added two professional advisor positions, COB Advising Center added a position, and CHHS has restructured.

Increase assistance for transfer students

Transfer students are a critical and vital part of the university. We must serve these students better. This is especially important to assure that CORE 42 works in the students favor. Actions in progress include work with OTC and other community colleges to map out 2 plus 2 pathways into academic majors with the goal of not losing academic credit.

The Academic Advisement Center with be expanded and retitled as the Academic Advising and Transfer Center. This Center will add another advisor and convert a part-time advisor housed at OTC to full time.

Undergraduate experiential learning

Formal programs designated as experiential learning (often referred to as active learning) reached a new high in numbers this past year. Over 500 students took advance of Study Away. Service Learning, Internships, and Undergraduate Research each involved over 7,000 students. We know students in these programs have higher retention and higher satisfaction.

However, the long-term challenge is to integrate more active learning into the routine of many regular courses.

Overcoming barriers: great actions (undergraduate)

Students success is often tied to reduce the confusion of processes and program barriers that are not serving a useful function. Some progress has been made that we hope will have a positive impact in the future.

For example, at the undergraduate level we now have 3 math pathways. The BSN (nursing) program was condensed to 4 semesters, and the completion program courses are offered in 8-week blocks. The Information Technology curriculum was realigned to better fit employer expectations.

The last one I wrote down is the enhancement of the Learning Management System, Blackboard, to improve accessibility for visually impaired.

Overcoming barriers: great actions (graduate)

At the graduate level barrier reductions include that we now have a more friendly application system, some programs have dropped the use of standardized tests for admission or scholarships, and stackable certificates are promoted.

Improving pathways

Many challenges continue. Certain programs need to review class prerequisites, times of offering, the extent of closed classes, and all of the things required to be user friendly and assure students that we are helping them in the logistics of program as well as the learning that is needed.

Good teaching is required

As I have spent time worrying about actions to help students be successful, I am always aware that the greatest thing of importance is still good teaching. Most of often that means engaging our students. Unless they are engaged in their classes, students are not likely to stay on the path from admission and enrollment to returning year after year until they graduate.

The call for student success

My concluding thoughts are that raising the university profile means we must ensure a culture of academic challenge, while also having a culture of caring, a culture of coaching, and a culture of completing students. Together, we continue this journey!