Universities are the source of most scientific advances, scholarly discoveries, creative processes, and technological innovations, which collectively are the new lifeblood for the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century. Seeking to be a more substantial force for the scholarship of discovery and the advances derived from it, Missouri State University will expand its research ambitions, investments, and achievements. The University intends to become an institution that incubates important new ideas in several fields of endeavor through the work of first-rate faculty and intellectually engaged students.
The University will develop and emphasize three interrelated strategies to accomplish the goal of incubating new ideas:
- It will follow a blueprint for its scholarly futures, involving the strategic expansion of its research efforts in areas judged to hold special promise for the institution;
- It will develop its research infrastructure especially in the areas of human resources, physical facilities, and research policies and procedures; and
- It will mature its graduate and professional programs in areas of greatest need and opportunity.
Expanding our futures
Formed in 2005, the Task Force on Missouri State University Futures was charged with assessing the current status of the University’s scholarly and educational strengths and recommending up to 12 areas of contemporary scholarship that would be priorities for investments of new and allocated resources, particularly the allocation of new faculty lines. The Task Force identified 11 research emphasis areas, all of which are highly interdisciplinary, to be considered priorities for additional University support:
- American History and Cultures
- Environment and Water Resources
- Global Perspectives with an Emphasis on Asia
- Health Promotion
- Materials Science
- Performing and Creative Arts
- Research on Human Development
- Research on Learning, Teaching, and Intervention
- Technology and Emerging Art Forms
To arrive at these recommendations, the Task Force assessed the strategies that other universities are designing for investment in research; established criteria for identifying emphasis areas; examined numerous internal documents and reports to determine areas of activity and strength; solicited faculty input through several means including open forums; and, solicited feedback from the community through a forum held at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Task Force had the difficult job of balancing a number of legitimate but competing concerns, including the balance between research and teaching. These included the issue that external funding is more readily available in some research areas than in others; the need to promote interdisciplinary research in an existing administrative structure that is not supportive of interdisciplinary research; the need to ensure that the emphasis areas are complementary to and supportive of the University’s mission in public affairs as well as the major themes promoted by the University; and the need to promote research and scholarship without diminishing the University’s strength as a teaching institution. And, of course, the background for all discussions is the continuing budget constraints faced by Missouri State University.
The 11 recommended emphasis areas are relevant to today’s environment. However, these emphasis areas are organic in nature and are subject to change. Some areas will flourish, others may not. The need to add additional emphasis areas in the future is likely. Further, activities of other committees on campus, for example the Public Health Task Force, may give rise to other emphasis areas for consideration.
Given the rapidly changing environments in which the University operates, it is essential that it adopt an organizational structure for coordination and distribution of resources in order to best develop identified research emphasis areas. In addition, it will be essential for the University to assess the impact and effectiveness of each Futures area.
This evaluation will be undertaken on a three-year cycle. Emphasis areas not meeting expectations will be eliminated for contemporary consideration as a special focus for investment. Consistent with the Task Force recommendation, a faculty committee, chaired by the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, will be appointed and be responsible for providing the on-going assessment of each area. Recommendations made by the committee will be forwarded to the Provost and President for final actions.
The University will allocate a recurring fund to support high-quality Futures initiatives. Beginning in Academic Year 2006-07, the President allocated a recurring fund of $700,000 to the Provost. These funds will be allocated by the Provost on a competitive basis in response to those proposals judged the most capable of advancing the University’s research achievements in the designated Futures areas. Subsequent presidential allocations to this fund will be considered as part of the annual Decision Package. Progress will be tracked annually with Public Scorecard measures. (See Chapter VI: Modeling Ethical and Effective Behavior for more details.)
Enhancing research infrastructure
Missouri State University understands its primary task of developing educated persons to include adding to the store of human understanding through research. Over the past decade, Missouri State has matured from primarily an undergraduate teaching institution to one more involved in graduate education. This has necessitated a greater commitment to research, not only to better serve students, but also to advantage society in general. The University recognizes its research obligations to society and is committed to encouraging and facilitating its research achievements. Herein, research is defined as:
the production and formal communication of creative scholarly works. The nature of research varies widely among different academic disciplines, but generally refers to the discovery, refinement, and synthesis of information; the application of information to the solution of problems; and artistic activity. In the context of each academic discipline, research produces creative outcomes that are formally communicated to, and vetted by, peers. Scholarship, teaching, and research are all aspects of quality education. If teaching and its related activities are defined as the learning and communication of that which was already known, research is the discovery and communication of that which was not previously known.
Research is an essential contribution by the University, and Missouri State encourages and facilitates research in both its basic and applied forms for three primary reasons:
- Research contributes to the public good – Basic and applied research are essential to the benefit of society. Although the value of applied research is often demonstrated by the significance of the problem being addressed, basic research builds the knowledge base for later, unforeseen uses. Ultimately, both endeavors have the potential to enhance the quality of life for all.
- Research encourages faculty development – The process of creating, conducting, and disseminating research ensures that faculty keep current in the issues and methods driving their respective disciplines. A significant measure of quality is evidenced through a faculty member’s sharing of research results, particularly through peer-reviewed publications and activities. Faculty who remain stimulated by their creative work will in turn motivate their students. For Missouri State University to become more competitive as a source of new knowledge, faculty research is required and must be prized.
- Research enhances the educational process – Excellence in faculty research and scholarship enhances the quality of classroom instruction. The integration of research into undergraduate and graduate teaching has become a necessity. To educate future generations, Missouri State University recognizes that research is crucial to the vitality of the University and society. Professors who are on the "cutting edge" of their disciplines are optimally able to engage students and promote academic curiosity, critical reasoning, and discipline-specific skills. Such skills not only benefit the student’s primary field of study but generalize to develop truly educated persons in all endeavors. Understanding the research process is critical, both for those students who will conduct research in their chosen careers and for those who will be educated citizens in an information-rich society.
The University has found its obligations in research broadened and deepened with the addition of a statewide public affairs mission and the development of numerous graduate programs. Consequently, Missouri State has established a number of research centers, such as the Center for Applied Science and Engineering and the Community and Social Issues Institute, to maximize its ability to conduct influential research. The recent addition of endowed professorships and chairs throughout the institution is yet another major step in the University’s broadened research mission.
Missouri State University is a community of scholars that accepts the challenge of integrating research with teaching and service in order to be proactive in our ever-changing social and technological environment. To meet this challenge, Missouri State shall assume a leadership role in the creation and transfer of knowledge.
Research and student learning
Research is a vital component of producing educated persons with life-long commitments to learning. Experiences in research prepare students to be competent producers and consumers of information throughout their lives, and they allow students to experience the intellectual delights of discovery.
The educational value of research is distinct from that of classroom education, where the professor typically serves as an authority presenting known material. In research, both the professor and the student are on the same side of the learning experience, facing the unknown together. The student’s unique perspective and enthusiasm can invigorate the faculty member as they work side-by-side.
Graduate and undergraduate students at Missouri State should engage in research activities as part of their educational development. Research training has become a necessary preparation for many careers. Hence, it is essential that faculty continue to conduct research with the support of the University as they guide students through this process. Regardless of the format for the research experience, all students are encouraged to disseminate their findings through local, regional, and/or national presentations, exhibitions and publications. To this end, the Graduate College provides funding on a competitive basis to support graduate student travel to conferences to present their research.
The faculty member who publishes or engages in artistic activity is optimally equipped to lead the student through the processes involved in the conduct and dissemination of research. Further, the more a faculty member disseminates research, the greater the exposure for the University, resulting in increased prestige and the recruitment of excellent students and faculty. In addition to its direct academic benefits, research also provides a source of financial support for students. For example, grants and other external funds can provide assistantships, travel funds, and resources for creative activity.
Culture and environment for research
How can we improve research productivity at Missouri State University? How can we encourage the integration of teaching and research? How can we maintain equitable workloads among faculty and departments while making the best use of their talents and opportunities for research? Missouri State will focus on several means to achieve these goals.
- Promote institutional and public awareness of the importance of research – The University will promote the importance and value of research in developing educated persons and serving the needs of Missouri and beyond. As the image and substance of Missouri State are in transition, a reputation enhanced by research achievement will enable the recruitment of excellent faculty and students, additional external funding, and the internationalization of the University.
- Adopt systems to assess research productivity – Presently, productivity of academic units at Missouri State is evaluated primarily in terms of student credit hours, not impact of research. Unless research productivity is assessed and recognized, units have little reason to set research goals and no formal basis to judge performance. Hence, Missouri State will develop a system to measure and track research productivity, and evidence of this assessment will be included in Public Scorecard measures, as well as in Departmental Profiles.
- Recognize research mentoring as teaching – A fair distribution of faculty effort requires a policy of crediting faculty for time spent mentoring students in research as contact hours in teaching. Recognition and reward of this type of teaching are essential for involvement of students in research at all levels and for the viability of graduate programs. Most research mentoring occurs in the context of "special courses," including those titled thesis, research, and independent study. The accounting of such courses and the equating of course hours and contact hours for calculating faculty work assignments should be reviewed and made consistent among departments. Since mentoring produces a low ratio of student credit hours to faculty hours, and an adequate credit hour production must be maintained, credit hour production will be addressed on a department level in the context of overall department productivity.
- Recognize research productivity in staffing decisions – New faculty should be provided start-up funding that is adequate to initiate their research activities. Departmental staffing and workloads start with the premise that all faculty members are allocated time, equipment, and necessary physical facilities to pursue a reasonable level of creative activity. However, workload allotted to research must be justified by demonstrated research productivity. Likewise, unit staffing decisions, over time, should be based on equitable assessments of research productivity, as well as on credit hour production. The goal must be to improve the overall performance, quality of education, and efficiency of each department at Missouri State.
- Maintain flexibility of individual workload assignments – The recommended average workload for ranked faculty at Missouri State is approximately 20 percent for research. However, the proportions of individual workload assigned to teaching, research, and service must be flexible within departments to allow for the best use of individual talents and opportunities. Some individuals may emphasize research, and others classroom teaching or service. Equitable distribution of the department workload should be the responsibility of the department head. Justification of individual loads will be facilitated by systematic reporting of individual and departmental productivity in each category.
- Support graduate programs and graduate research – Research productivity and graduate education are interdependent. Graduate students and faculty form collaborative teams that share intellectual resources, energy, and perspectives. Graduate students are an important resource, and Missouri State must compete for high-quality graduate students by offering Graduate Assistant stipends and opportunities that are comparable to those at similar graduate-level institutions.
- Expand space allocation to meet research needs – Ongoing assessment of space utilization is required to prioritize allocations and space modifications with the objective of facilitating research in areas of excellence. Decisions about the creation and reallocation of research space must be timely and transparent. The University will need to consider the extent to which some existing classrooms should be converted to research labs in order to meet the institution’s need for adequate research space. Additional research space and facilities will be made available in order to achieve University goals for higher levels of influential research achievements and external funding of projects.
- Improve library journal subscriptions – Scholarly journals are a foundation of research in many areas, and Missouri State must reverse a decade of erosion of scholarly journal subscriptions and increase the availability of on-line journals.
- Provide necessary administrative and staff support – The proliferation of research projects over the past five years and the projected future increase in sponsored research projects require a commensurate increase in resources for research infrastructure. Particular needs exist in the areas of accounting, purchasing, assistance with acquiring research grants and contracts, compliance with federal and state regulations, and technical work in direct support of research. Hence, Missouri State will take steps to increase the research support staff in the Office of Sponsored Research and Programs and the Grants and Accounting Office to enable support of externally sponsored research projects, to ensure compliance with regulations and accountability, and to facilitate continued growth in external research funding.
- Use grant "indirect" funds to support research – The funding charged on external grants as indirect costs should be directly linked to the subsequent facilitation of research and research-support functions. Potential expenditures of indirect funds include research facilities improvements, equipment purchases, support of grant-process infrastructure, hiring of research and teaching support staff, and graduate assistantships. The University will review its policy of distributing indirect costs recovered from grants and contracts initiated from departments and also from centers and institutes to assure that these funds are committed exclusively to improvements in research infrastructure and other research initiatives throughout the institution. Missouri State will continue its policy of returning grant-generated salary savings to the department when grant-funds enable reassignment of faculty time for specific projects.
- Encourage centers of excellence – Missouri State’s research capacity is not equal in all areas, and it will be necessary for the University to concentrate its resources on strategic areas that exhibit excellence or have a strong potential for excellence. In addition to funding the Futures initiative, the University will look for its best opportunities to develop new centers and institutes that address issues arising in the University community by involving cross-disciplinary methods of problem solving. Such centers provide maximal research leverage by assembling teams of faculty, staff, and students to serve as principal investigators, consultants, and advisors. Active research centers can assist faculty obtain external funding, facilitate the purchase and sharing of equipment, and provide a venue for constructive research collaboration and criticism. The University will promote this approach by ensuring that faculty contributions to centers are valued within their respective departments and by developing an infrastructure that supports interdisciplinary work.
- Appoint a Research Assessment and Advisory Committee – This Committee will recommend procedures for a university-wide system for uniform recording of data that measures Missouri State research productivity. The committee may also recommend specific measures of research productivity that should be integrated into the departmental profiles.
Maturing the graduate and professional programs
Missouri State University is committed to providing the programs and scholarship that will make it a regional center for graduate education. In recent years, Missouri State has ranked as either the third or fourth largest public provider of graduate education in Missouri. The decade of the 1990s was a time of unparalleled growth in graduate education at Missouri State. The number of graduate programs, graduate enrollment, and the graduate-student percentage of total enrollment all doubled. During the implementation of the most recent long-range plan, Missouri State has continued to increase the number of programs (from 39 in 1999 to 43 in 2004), including the addition of the doctorate in Audiology, and the number of graduate students peaked at 3,270 in 2002. Attaining and maintaining the highest possible quality of these programs is now critical if Missouri State is to remain a pre-eminent provider of graduate education.
The master’s degree is increasingly recognized as a valued and essential credential for a variety of careers. There also is market-driven student demand for master’s degree preparation in vocations such as teacher education, health care and other professions requiring licensure or managerial qualifications (for example, Physicians Assistant, Physical Therapy, Nurse Anesthesia, and Accountancy). The master’s degree programs at Missouri State vary in focus, including traditional academic master’s degrees, professional master’s degrees, and applied master’s degrees. A number of these degrees have a unique structure, are offered in special formats, or are programs not offered by any other public institutions in the state. These include: the M.S.–Physician Assistant Studies; M.S.–Defense and Strategic Studies (Washington, D.C. area-based); on-line M.S.–Professional Studies; on-line/on campus blended M.S.–Computer Information Systems; Master in Natural & Applied Sciences; and the Doctorate in Audiology.
Over the next five years, Missouri State University will make those investments in graduate education that have the best potential to increase the quality and appropriate quantity its graduate programs require.
Significant progress has been made in the past 10 years to increase access for students by delivery of graduate programs and courses using technology, but more will need to be done. Societal needs in postbaccalaureate education require innovative and flexible programming along with efficient use of University resources. To answer the many needs of graduate education, the Graduate College must have resources that are flexible and can be reallocated on an annual basis. New technology and distance education initiatives from other institutions in and outside of Missouri, plus the appearance of satellite campuses from other institutions, have created a competitive environment that could threaten Missouri State’s status as the premier graduate institution in the region.
Missouri State must take steps to remain ahead of the competition. University policies must be updated to encourage strategic course delivery, scheduling, fee structure, cooperative programs, etc. In addition, more flexibility in resource use should be developed, to include the use of funds to recruit and retain the best graduate students, and the creative use of space and equipment to maximize instructional outcomes. Finally, enhanced flexibility in, and rewards for, the dedication of faculty time to graduate education is crucial.
In addition to providing graduate students with rigorous coursework and scholarly independent work, it is important to provide practical experience in the discipline. An ideal mechanism for this is with graduate assistantships. Use of graduate assistants to assist in teaching lower-division classes can be expanded. These graduate assistants receive intensive training at both the University and departmental levels and work closely with the instructor for the class. In addition, other graduate students (with appropriate backgrounds) can be used in administrative or clinical settings, thus freeing up faculty time or reducing the need for staff or per-course instructors.
Missouri State will strive for modest growth in graduate enrollment, remaining in the range of 3,000-3,500 degree-seeking and postbaccalaureate students. Maintaining high quality programs at this level of enrollment will require recognition of the workload differences inherent in graduate education and a commitment of resources to several key initiatives, including those that strengthen our research infrastructure and that improve recruitment and retention of high-quality graduate students.
The next five years will be a time of maturing, refining, and strengthening existing programs. The desirability of adding new graduate programs must be carefully balanced against providing existing graduate programs the resources necessary to achieve or maintain excellence. The University anticipates adding a small number of selected programs that will be consistent with its mission. These new programs will be in fields where both an increasing societal demand and current University expertise can be documented, and where new funds can be identified. These may include programs at the doctoral level (either cooperatively with the University of Missouri, or on our own), such as a clinical doctorate in Physical Therapy or a Ph.D. in Geography or Materials Science. Cooperative ventures with other universities, government agencies, and private corporations will be pursued where they can improve the quality or efficiency of Missouri State’s programs.
Accelerated master’s programming and specialized graduate certificate programs will be expanded over the next five years. These programs address student demand for fast-track training and market demand for greater interdisciplinary opportunities at the graduate level. In most cases, this expansion will require modifying and/or repackaging existing Missouri State classes/programs, with only minor increases in resource requirements. However, the institution will also pursue the extension of its accelerated master’s programs to local private colleges whose undergraduate population desire enrolling in Missouri State graduate courses during their senior years.
Missouri State must continue to develop innovative programs and technology that can provide educational opportunities at a distance. Interactive-television, telecourses, interactive CD-ROM and satellite locations will be strengthened so that the University will remain at the forefront of an increasingly competitive marketplace. Curricula offered via the Internet will play an important role in maintaining Missouri State’s status as a center for graduate education.
Increased globalization of graduate programs will continue (e.g., the dual-degree Plant Science program between Missouri State and China Agricultural University in Beijing). As instructional technology continues to improve, Missouri State will assume a stronger international presence. To do so, the University must expand its presence in the international marketplace and recruit from this pool of talented students.
Support for graduate students
The University must provide additional resources for recruitment and retention of outstanding graduate students. This will be accomplished through the following:
- Creating endowed graduate student scholarship and fellowship funds
- Increasing the number of graduate assistantships awarded from all sources to 20 percent of total graduate enrollment or approximately 600 assistantships
- Increasing the minimum stipend (in 2005 dollars) to $8,000 for full-time graduate assistants
- Funding an annual increase in the base level of graduate stipends
- Increasing support for graduate student research, including travel to professional conferences at which research is presented
- Supporting graduate student achievements at the Graduate Student Interdisciplinary Forum
- Increasing the flexibility by which departments can use stipends and tuition/fee waivers to recruit and retain graduate students
Resources for graduate faculty
The rapid growth in graduate education over the last decade at Missouri State has put increasing demands on the faculty and staff. However, the lack of sufficient resources over this same time period has stretched existing budgets to the point where the quality of programs could be adversely impacted. To prevent these conditions from diluting the quality of graduate programs, recruiting and retaining high-quality graduate faculty is essential. This will be accomplished by providing necessary resources and a supportive campus atmosphere that facilitates and encourages scholarship in its myriad of forms.
This "supportive atmosphere" will include policy and administrative changes to ensure that requirements for productive scholarship are anticipated and that adequate time and resources are available for graduate faculty. Such resources will include:
- Continued expansion of internal grants
- Increased number of endowed professorships and chairs
- Additional sabbatical and international exchange opportunities
- Enhanced faculty travel with graduate students presenting at meetings
- Promotion of collaborative projects with other institutions
- Compliance with federal regulations governing research
- Increased support (e.g., reassigned time) for grant writing
- Expanded library holdings and access
Missouri State’s recent ascendancy in graduate education has been supported in part by increased state funds for specific new programs. However, supervision of graduate projects (thesis, degree papers, internships, clinical rotations, student teaching, etc.) is done in most cases as an uncompensated overload by faculty. Furthermore, the extent of this increased workload varies greatly between programs (thesis, non-thesis, clinical, etc.), so more flexibility among programs in how this workload is handled is required. Institutional recognition of this effort will be provided in order to recruit and retain outstanding graduate faculty. Support for the mentoring of graduate projects will be increased, thereby freeing more faculty resources to direct the scholarly activities of graduate students.
In order for the University to make and sustain the changes necessary to remain competitive in 21st century graduate education, an infrastructure must be implemented that: 1) promotes excellence in a wide variety of graduate programs; 2) allows for flexibility of graduate programming; and 3) recognizes differences between undergraduate and graduate education, despite their complementary nature. Important changes in graduate studies infrastructure will include:
- Increased research space and equipment
- Improved alumni tracking and satisfaction surveys for assessment purposes
- Increased percentage of graduate classes taught by full-time tenure-track graduate faculty
- Streamlining of curricular approval paths
- Separate "program review" for graduate and undergraduate programs
- Greater departmental support for graduate education (travel funds, graduate assistantships, etc.)
- Increased resources for the Graduate College
- Increased graduate research mini-grants program
- Graduate assistantships allocated to departments/colleges on a discretionary basis
- Inclusion of the Graduate Council chair on the Faculty Senate Executive Committee
- Campus adoption of the "Guidelines for the Distribution and Use of State-Supported Graduate Assistantships"