2014 State of the University Address Text

President Clif Smart and Provost Frank Einhellig
Monday, Sept. 29, 2014

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Good afternoon and thank you for coming. As we have done for the last three years now, Frank and I will divide our talk today. He will focus primarily on academic achievements and goals, and I will focus on everything else, all of which is done to support our academic mission to develop educated persons.

Our theme today is: raising the profile of the University. Almost everything we do well should raise our profile--that includes enrollment growth, improving our facilities, conducting and publishing meaningful research, partnering with others to improve our community and state and grow our economy, improving compensation for faculty and staff, conducting signature events like the Public Affairs Conference and Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame, growing our international engagement activities, etc. You get the idea.

We had a very successful year last year on most fronts, and we will discuss some of those achievements today as well as plans to build on those achievements this year and into the future.

Before I jump into that, let me update you on what has happened to our state appropriations in the last two weeks.

  • The results of the veto session were mostly favorable. Only 2 of the sales tax exemption bills became law. The governor's vetoes on the remainder of these bills were sustained. As a result, the new performance funding money (about 4 million dollars) will be released.
  • The second year of the occupational therapy money is still being withheld but we are optimistic it will be released before the end of the year and we are working hard to make that happen.
  • Our decision to hold tuition flat and move ahead with the compensation increases and other new programs has been vindicated.

With that said, let's look ahead to this year.

Planning and priorities

As most of you know, we have completed the third year of our long-range plan entitled “Fulfilling Our Promise” and are now in the fourth year. To make sure we have addressed all of the main elements of that plan, we have organized our 2014-15 goals under the six topics contained in that plan:

  • Access to success (emphasis is on student success)
  • Public affairs integration
  • Engaged inquiry
  • Partners for progress
  • Valuing and supporting people
  • Responsible stewardship

We have also added two goals not set forth in the long-range plan which deal with athletics and West Plains integration. I encourage you to review each of these goals and the specific objectives set out under each on our website.

While I am not going to speak at length on increasing compensation today, I do want to emphasize that that goal remains both a board priority and a personal priority. It is found under the Valuing and Supporting People heading in the document. We will continue to work to increase compensation when revenue increases despite many other needs.

Our board has set some additional policies and priorities for us to work on in year four of the plan, all of which will raise our profile if we are successful. I will address five of them:


Value means we will keep cost affordable while offering rigorous, high-quality programs.

Governor Nixon, our Board and I all believe college must remain affordable for working and middle-class families. It cannot just be for the affluent. And student debt cannot expand indefinitely.

So we will scrutinize all proposed tuition and fee increases and approve only those that significantly improve the programs and services we offer.

We have and will expand need-based scholarships including our first graduate scholarship program which will begin in January to expand access.

But access is important only if the education offered is truly of value.

Thus the Board has approved, and I anticipate will continue to approve, specific differential tuition increases when necessary to improve facilities, replace or upgrade equipment, fund travel or provide scholarships.

This policy will expand our reputation as the value option for Missouri students, support continued enrollment growth, and allow us to improve the quality of programs.

Student retention rates

The first to second year retention rate of our first time in college students has been right at 75% for many years. The rates of our 3 main public competitors are all above 80%. We must do better if we are to accomplish our mission of helping educate Missourians so that 60% have a higher education credential by the next decade. This is critical to the economic success of our state.

Part of the solution will come from helping students make better connections during the first several weeks of school. Thus we are retooling our orientation, family programs, and living learning communities.

Part of the solution is better connecting students to academic departments so we are evaluating how we can improve advising, connect students to departments earlier and have a better experience in GEP101.

This is a complicated issue, and we will not be able to change retention rates overnight but I believe we can make progress here if we all make it a priority.

Facilities improvement

This was the top board priority last year and is a top board priority this year as well. As a result of the passage of the B.E.A.R. Fee, we focused primarily on improving our athletic and recreation facilities last year and the change in the appearance of the campus is stunning. I have received hundreds of positive comments about the changes — many from students.

These improvements help change our profile — we had the profile of a Division II or III school even though we have played Division I sports for many years given the fact that five sports shared a stadium. Now we have the profile of a Division I school, it makes a huge difference to student recruitment and our community profile.

This year we are building two new buildings: a Welcome Center (funded completely by private money) and a new health building which will house the new occupational therapy program, nurse anesthesia and the physician’s assistant program and free up space in the professional building to expand the other health programs.

We are also completely renovating Pummill Hall, renovating the fifth floor of the Morris Center as the English Language and Foreign Language Institutes have exploded, are renovating Sunvilla which had fallen into disrepair, and are beginning the first stage of renovating and reorganizing the library.

The following year we move to expanding laboratory spaces and the renovation of Ellis and Hill Halls if revenue bonds are issued by the state which is our top legislative priority this year.

We know we need additional parking and are pursuing a couple of paths to improve the situation. More details to come on that later this semester.

Diversity of faculty and staff

The next major topic I have this morning is improving the diversity of faculty and staff. I am defining that term very broadly. It is more than ethnicity although ethnicity is an important part.

We have done very well in increasing the ethnic diversity of students. We have been recognized for creative diversity initiatives. Missouri State was just named a recipient of the 2014 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. This award is a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Despite some really good success in this area, we have made only marginal progress on improving the diversity of our faculty and staff. We have to do better. Our students are entitled to interact with faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds and with diverse life experiences and diverse ideas. The conversations, discussions and experiences will be so much richer if we can make progress on this front. It's important because of the globalization of our world. It is cultural competence.

Increasing our diversity will be an emphasis this year in all searches we conduct. This will be challenging but we will make no progress if we don't begin to intentionally work at it as a priority.

Strategic planning

Finally, I want to mention strategic planning. We are about to begin a visioning process which we have named “The Mission State Vision: Our Passion for Excellence.” Since 1995, Missouri State has taken planning seriously — that has served the University well and it has grown and developed as a result. Since then, the University has been guided by a series of four long-range plans — these documents have been developed with broad input, listed precise goals, and included accountability measures. The vast majority of the goals included in each of these plans (85 percent or more in every case) have been accomplished — an impressive record for our faculty, staff and students.

As you know, our current long-range plan runs through June 30, 2016 — that means that during next year, 2015-16, we will focus on preparing the new plan for 2016-21 — the new plan will go into effect July 1, 2016. In order to be more thoughtful in developing our new plan – and in an effort to spread the work across a couple of years rather than overwhelm all of us in a single year — we will develop the new long-range plan in phases over the next two years.

First, the work that Dean Tammy Jahnke and the steering committee have already done and will do this year with the Higher Learning Commission accreditation will benefit us greatly. When completed, the HLC self-study will provide an analysis of progress over the past 10 years since the last HLC accreditation and identify areas of improvement for the future. The HLC self-study report will be completed in May 2015 and the on-site visit will be in October 2015. We are, indeed, fortunate that the timing is such that the HLC work feeds into our new plan.

Second, as a result of a discussion our Board of Governors had at its August retreat, this year we will complete what we are calling a “strategic visioning project.” The goal of the strategic visioning project is to gain consensus on the assumptions and philosophical foundation from which the next two or three long-range plans will be developed, beginning with the plan for 2016-21. To the extent possible, we want to identify the key issues that higher education and Missouri State will face in those five years.

The steering committee for the strategic visioning project has been named, and we will have our first meeting Oct. 2. We will soon name specific topics and task forces to address each. The task force will include members from both on-campus and off. I hope you will serve if asked.

We also plan to schedule a series of guest speakers to help stretch our thinking on these topics. We will present the report at the August 2015 Board of Governors retreat for discussion.

Once finalized, the report will provide the foundation for developing the long-range plan for 2016-21 — and with the foundation established, we will be able to concentrate our work on the specific goals and tactics for the next five-year period. As is our practice, we will post the work of the strategic visioning project on the website so you can follow its progress and provide feedback. You also can find the past long-range plans, as well as the current one, on the website.

I am confident that this two-year approach will result in our long-range plan for 2016-21 being the strongest plan yet.

Massive open online courses

Let me conclude the first part of this talk with an update on our first two massive open online classes which are being offered this fall. Two years ago Frank and I convened a faculty task force to evaluate what role, if any, we should play in this new phenomena called MOOCs which the so called experts anticipated would put universities like ours out of business.

It was chaired by Dr. Arden Miller who has designed and taught online courses here for years. After working for most of a year, the committee concluded that we should develop some expertise in this model of delivering classes but that we should only focus on subjects in our wheelhouse — where we had expertise not shared by most other universities.

So last year we developed two courses:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder, Exploring Her Work and Writing Life
  • Ozarks History, Examining an American Culture

The latter class is taught by Brooks Blevins, and I am enrolled in it. Very interesting.

As of today, 8,352 people have enrolled in the two classes from literally around the world. By offering these courses, we are developing our ability to deliver this kind of class, raising the profile of our part of the state and of our university (no other public Mo university is offering something like this), and promoting a life time of learning.

These classes help us live out the public affairs mission, and we are doing so for very little cost. I publicly thank the faculty who served on this task force and came up with this strategy. Well done. It's a great example of what we can accomplish if we work together.

Introduction of Provost Frank Einhellig

Turn this over to Frank to discuss some of our academic goals and achievements, then I will return for a few final words.

When Clif and I settled on the theme focus for this presentation this year —raising the profile of the University — we did so knowing several things. First, raising the profile is a process we are engaged in right now. It is not a distant look into the future, although that is a part of how we will envision the future. Second, we recognize that just about everything we do has a chance to impact in a positive way on the perception others have of the University, whether it is buildings, or athletics or academics.

Thus, as I move forward in the things I want to highlight, I hope we can share together a realization that academic structure and functions we are daily engaged in doing are having a very positive impact on the University profile.

Springfield enrollment and fall 2014 change

I am going to start my specific remarks with a focus on enrollment, since enrollment is very strongly connected to other things we are able to do. Also, the way the University is perceived by students is in many ways reflected in the enrollment picture of the total University and of the various disciplines students will pursue.

This year we have set yet another new record in total enrollment, which was 22,385 at the fall census. This is an overall increase of 2.7% above last year at the Springfield campus, and it is good evidence that students are recognizing our academic programs and environment as the place to be in order to build their future.

At a number above 3400, we set a new record high in graduate students. Likewise, our international student number crossed 1500, which is a record and the students in under-represented groups exceed 2600.

Further, the first time new in college student number increased 4%, which gives all of us good reason to be positive about MSU enrollments for the next few years.

The enrollment statistics show that for the fall term we are up in internet course credit hours 27% above last fall. We have also increased flexibility and access for students by offering more second block classes, and those credit hours have increased by more than 40%. This increase in online and second-block classes is almost a doubling in these two things over the past 3 years.

Overall, although Missouri is our major service region, we have students from 49 of the 50 states and 88 countries around the world. I want to thank all of you — every department and every unit on campus —because it is my perception that we have all worked to show the University’s strengths to a broad audience, and the excellence of opportunities have then become evident to our prospective students.

Number of full-time faculty

One of the things Clif, I and the Executive Budget committee have been committed to is a recognition that enrollment demand translates into a requirement for more instructional time. Hence, last year when the enrollment was up, a major fraction of the new funds were targeted for faculty hiring.

I am pleased and excited to report that this fall we start the year with 19 more full-time faculty than in 2013, and three-fourths of them are in tenure-track positions. Every dean has worked with their academic departments to gauge the disciplines and areas of greatest need, and that is where faculty additions have occurred!

Programs available online

Although we cannot always link cause and the outcomes, I believe the fact that we have increased access and opportunities for students has been important in raising our profile.

For the last several years we have been expanding online classes and programs. As you can see, this fall term just over 10% (10.1) of our credit hours are coming from the online courses. The impact of online courses in the summer enrollment picture is even more dramatic, with last summer recording 40% of the credit hours from online-based course work.

New professional doctorates

Perhaps even more important, in the academic world we envision the future on a regular, ongoing basis by the changes made in our academic programming.

This year we started two professional doctorates that have been in the development stages for quite some time. Seven years ago (Nov. 2007), we began working jointly with the University of Missouri- Kansas City to collaborate in bringing their PharmD program to our campus. 30 students started that program, which is physically located in the IDEA Commons area. A strong majority of those 30 student come from a prior history attending MSU for either an undergraduate degree or a significant amount of pre-pharmacy course work (23 had MSU as the last institution attended; 4 of the others had been at MSU at one point in their career). We are working on reverse transfer arrangements for the students who had not completed their degree at MSU before entering the Doctorate of Pharmacy.

The DNAP (Doctorate of Nurse Anesthesia Practice) program is built from transitioning our highly respected master’s program to a doctorate. This is a culmination of several years of curricular work and approval processes wherein we have met every challenge. This program has over 30 internship sites arranges. It will provide certified nurse anesthetists for many areas in southwest Missouri where the need is great.

These two doctorate programs significantly raise our institutional profile.

Graduate programs starting in FY15

This year we also have added four new master’s programs and 10 graduate certificates.

The MFA in Visual Studies started with five students and offers students a special professional opportunity because of the new art and design facilities in their Brick City location.

Our new applied behavior analysis master’s in the psychology department is being developed with collaboration from the special education faculty, and we know this program will help address educational needs for those preparing to make their life’s contribution in the mental health fields.

The 10 certificate programs we have added primarily provide students a way to take a small block of focused courses and by formalizing things into certificates. These certificates will give recognition of their work in their transcript and other credentials.

New undergraduate programs in FY15

Just as in graduate programming, the vision of MSU continues to be to modify, expand and solidify undergraduate course work into the most meaningful majors and minors that provide skills for the marketplace. To that end, we start this year with a new construct in modern language majors and a new Bachelor of Applied Science in Hospitality and Restaurant Administration that is transfer friendly for students starting in several regional community colleges — particularly OTC.

Special learning experiences

During the past academic year, 450 students participated in study away opportunities, and study away had significant growth in the short-term, faculty-led experiences to other countries and cultures. Through the collective efforts of the president and the academic cost centers, scholarships were made available and will be available again this year to assist a portion of our students.

I am very pleased to report that the changes made in our honors program a year ago have been well received. The total honors-student enrollment of over 1300 is a significant increase. And the new accelerated track which allows more upper division honors work has 120 students.

Retention and graduation: ongoing challenges

However, even as we are serving a record number of students in developing their career pathways, we do have some heavy ongoing challenges we will work on this year and in years to come. Those challenges are retention and graduation rates. To that end, Kelly Wood has agreed to help as a provost fellow with this focus.

Clif has already mentioned retention of first year to a second year for first time full time new in college students being consistently near 75%. But we also lose students at other levels and thus our 6-year graduation rate is just over 55%. We have a higher graduation rate for graduate students, as you will note, and while these graduation percentages are not too bad compared to our peers in metropolitan, comprehensive universities, we want to do all we can to assure every student has the best in opportunities to complete their program.

One of the consistent observations in freshman retention is that that those students who are undecided, collectively, have a lower retention rate. It is my observation that when a student can get a taste of what they think they might want to study — even if they later change their mind — they do better. To that end, whenever possible I have asked deans and advisors to consider ways our first-year students can experience course work related to whatever ideas they have about a major.

This fall we have oriented several GEP 101 sections toward college majors, and in the coming year there will be a focused look at how we can all work together to enhance our living and learning communities.

But it is not just freshman retention that is a challenge. As this bar showing student loss illustrates, using the fall 2013 class-standing numbers, we not only lost 683 first-time students, but also another 332 that were classed as freshman, 583 sophomores, 581 juniors plus 588 senior who did not return to complete their program. The total not graduating and yet not returning the following year is a staggering 2767.

This is a concern to everyone! We know the reasons are many, and the answers will often be more complex than we can deal with, but we are going to work on the challenges.

Expanding student opportunities: credit by assessment

And now I want to move to some of the other ways we are envisioning the future. One of these is that increasingly we find divergence in our student population in terms of their background preparation. We do have students that come to campus with definite readiness in certain courses we may now require them to take.

Hence, last year a special Task Force on Online and Alternative Learning, chaired by Arden Miller, recommended we set up a pilot program to stimulate thinking about credit by assessment. This has been done!

The guidelines for a department to make application for some funding under the program are on our website. A committee chaired by Jason Jolley will be making recommendations to me for funding some well-thought-out plans for developing and administering credit by assessment processes.

Programs in the approval process

During this coming year we also will continue work in the curriculum approval process sequence that will add new program opportunities into our curriculum.

The Bachelor of General Studies is likely to have an important role in allowing us to show many students who left without a degree that they may have a reasonable pathway to degree completion.

The master’s in cybersecurity will be online and should fit a niche where we currently have no degree opportunity to offer students.

The proposed College of Education graduate degrees have significant site-based aspects that should have a receptive audience.

Instructional technology enhancements

The fact that we are in a landscape of constantly changing higher education delivery and demand is evident to all of us. Technology is increasingly permeating our profession — in how we teach, how we think, how we act and how we have student learning maximized.

Hence, during the past year, and again this year, we have been working on — and will continue to work on — a variety of classroom enhancements to aid the teaching process. This is being done through a combined effort of the provost’s office, computer services, and SCUF funding,

Those improvements include replacing and standardizing the PCs running projectors and other classroom technology, upgrading projectors and moving to the latest technology in ITV rooms.

Mediasite, the opportunity to video-tape your lecture, is not only available in the FCTL, but now it is available in your office.

Blackboard Learning Management System

This year we are in the process of making several additions to Blackboard that should be a help to all faculty, not just those teaching online. We are adding improved content management features, and engagement tools that may include a package called Collaborate.

Collaborate is in a pilot test phase now with about 20 MSU faculty and several hundred students. Depending on the recommendation from this group, we will giving consideration to adding this feature to Blackboard.

The value of faculty research

I will spend most of the remainder of my time focused on aspects of faculty responsibilities that we refer to as research.

Our Board of Governors has asked us in the next Board meeting, which is Oct. 17, to have a discussion session focused on the “value and breadth of faculty research.” We will have several faculty speaking to this topic, but in this slide I am giving you a little preview of a few points I will be making about the “value” aspect as I introduce the topic to the Board.

Specifically, the research agendas and actions of our faculty enhance the educational process and contribute directly to student learning. Further, the work of research contributes to the public good, it helps faculty development and it is an important indication of quality and the raising of the profile of the University.

Faculty research and creative works: calendar year 2013

So, what have we done recently? In calendar year 2013, I am proud to say those of you that are faculty produced 29 books, 71 book chapters, 220 journal publications and almost another 40 creative works of exhibits and performances. Great work!

A few examples of those books and CDs are shown here. The range of topics is wide, from communication to evolution. This diversity is part our strength as a comprehensive University.

Graduate student thesis

Another dimension of faculty research responsibilities is the mentoring of students in the processes of research, both undergraduate and graduate students.

This past year we had a record number — 161 — of thesis completed by our graduate students. This accomplishment is possible because of many faculty working one-on-one with thesis students, as well as other research mentoring the faculty do.

Thank you!

Research assistance and incentives

We do appreciate the research work that is going on, and over the years we developed several helps to aid you. Those points of assistance include internal grants and sabbaticals.

Most recently we have added in the recognition two very visible ways — the Professor Salary Incentive Program and the showcase publication entitled Mind’s Eye.

Based on a recommendation of the Faculty Senate and the support of the Executive Budget Committee, the PSIP program was put in place last year and these 30 long-time, productive, professors earned the Professor Salary Incentive Program awards last spring.

We will continue the PSIP program this year, although undoubtedly with a reduced number of awards as we go into the second year of the program.

I trust you have now received the second edition of Mind’s Eye. I am always impressed with the good work that we can showcase in this publication, and as I edited this edition I was once again re-energized by reading about the work of the 14 MSU faculty featured.

I hope you will congratulate your colleagues, and that we can look forward to featuring many, many more stories of what is happening at MSU!

“New” International Travel Fund

In order to continue to elevate our profile and make it possible for the work being done at MSU to be visible, the Executive Budget Committee approved a budget this year that includes an International Travel Fund. That fund will have a $75,000 base, plus an additional $25,000 from my office. We recognize the global nature of our contacts, our disciplines, and our potential impact!

eJournal of Public Affairs

In the way of showcasing the good work we are doing, particularly in community engagement research work, I want to also encourage you to take advantage of contributing your work to the MSU-sponsored eJournal of Public Affairs.

The journal now has a national reviewing and editorial board and enjoys a solid reputation. It is one way we show our academic work of the public affairs mission.

Center for Community Engagement

Earlier this month we also added another dimension to our public affairs portfolio by establishing the Center for Community Engagement.

This center will be a focal point to promote our community engagement efforts, train students in this type of work and conduct community-based research.

Higher Learning Commission accreditation — October 2015 site visit

As I prepare to return the podium to Clif, it is important that we are reminded that this year is our final year to complete our preparation for regional accreditation processes of the Higher Learning Commission in preparation for a site visit one year from now.

Every one of you should become familiar with the process, and please know we want your input on the arguments we are making that we meet the 5 criteria: mission, integrity, teaching and learning (both in quality and in assessment) and institutional resources.

Two of these chapter have been written and can be viewed on MSU website that ends in “HLC preparation.” There is a place on this website for you to make comments and suggestions. Please do.

Introduction of President Clif Smart

I will now turn the podium back to Clif for his culminating comments.

Student safety is a priority

I want to conclude today’s address by talking about campus safety. I’m sure you’ve seen that campus safety has been in the news lately. In 2012, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. The new version of the Act contains some requirements to encourage universities to increase their efforts to inform and protect students against various campus crimes. The U.S. Department of Education has also issued guidance to universities indicating best practices for preventing and investigating campus sexual assaults. Additionally, Senator McCaskill has filed a bill that, if enacted into law, would require universities to create new policies, conduct surveys and take certain actions when responding to sexual assault complaints. The fines for failing to follow these rules are potentially enormous.

The data here at Missouri State indicates that we have done extremely well at protecting our students from sexual assaults and investigating these offenses on the rare occasions when sexual assaults have occurred. We have never covered up such happenings and never will.

We should be proud of our University for taking this important issue so seriously long before it became a hot topic in the media; however, with so much public attention on campus safety, we decided to look at our operations and see if there are things we can improve upon to protect our students.

We identified a few things we can do differently to help create a safe environment for our students.

First, the Board has approved a new policy to address sexual assaults. It is titled “Title IX Policy on Sexual Assault, Stalking and Other Forms of Sexual Misconduct, and it is part of the Policy Library if you want to review it. As part of the new Title IX policy, we created a list of campus security authorities under the Clery Act. You can find this list on the University’s safety and transportation webpage. You can also follow a link in the Title IX policy to this list. Campus security authorities are University employees who are required by law to report all allegations or evidence of sexual misconduct and certain other criminal behavior to University employees who can investigate the situation and take appropriate actions. Many of our faculty and staff are campus security authorities. We sent out an email to our designated campus security authorities in August. This email included basic information about what a campus security authority is and what they are legally obligated to do.

Second, we have provided training to our campus security authorities who are part of the academic leadership council and to those who are part of the student affairs staff team. Starting Oct. 1, we will provide all of our other campus security authorities with online training further explaining their obligations.

Third, we have started using an online training module called Haven for our students. As you may know, starting this fall, all of our new students are required to participate in this training. The training focuses on preventing and responding to sexual assault. Students may be in the best position to prevent sexual assaults. We want to be sure they have all of the resources they need to protect themselves and their peers from all forms of violence and harassment.

The safety of our students must always be a priority for all of us. Our students and their families trust us to create a safe environment for them to study and learn. It is important that we not let them down. What that means for every person in the University community is that when we believe that a student has been or may be the victim of a sexual assault or may be in a dangerous situation, we all need to be willing to respond. We should notify our supervisors and the office for equity and compliance. We should contact campus safety, and we should intervene when it is safe to do so.

Thank you for being here today and Frank and I will take questions on any subject, even parking.