Q & A

Q & A

Q & A

Tell us a little bit about the recently completed team visit from the Higher Learning Commission.

Well I’m very pleased, I think we got a good report. In terms of our overall reaffirmation, we are reaffirmed for 10 years and you can’t get any better than that. We had positive responses for a number of initiatives we have.

At the same time, the committee recognizes – and I think rightly so – that we are not as strong in strategic planning and in governance issues as they would like and as I think the HLC would like.

So we are going to have a focus visit in three years and I am fine with that. We are going to be for ready for that visit.

How does strategic planning fit into our overall plan?

We already have a strategic planning committee and we are going to work on that. We will have a five-year plan, and I hope we will have that in place sometime in the fall. It will be faculty, it will be staff, it will be students and it will be the community. We’ll have broad representation on that and out of that will come a strategic plan for five years. By the time they come in three years, we will begin thinking about our next strategic plan for the next five years.

Part of what will happen in the strategic plan will be working out governance issues. One of the things I have been continually amazed at since I have been here are that there don’t seem to be too many processes involved in how we make decisions. I have talked to people, and said “Well, how did you come to that decision?” and they will kind of look away and shrug their shoulders and say “I don’t know.” So it has not been clear to me how we have corporately worked in terms of decision making.

At the unit level, we are going to want the units to come up and say what do we want to do and that has to fit in terms of the overall strategic plan. Whereas previously, I think, units have operated in a way that there have been instances where it has been this is what’s best in terms of our unit regardless of how it fits in for Southern. I think we all need to think very clearly about how we all work together as a team.

Where do you see Missouri Southern in 10 years?

I don’t know. And I say that legitimately. I think the strategic planning process is going to help us figure that out.

I would hope we will be a larger university in terms of students. And I say that for a couple of reasons. One, I think we need to support this area and make sure that we have more graduates because that helps everybody here. We need to have more jobs for people.

The more student money we have coming in, that means we can have more money for budgets and salary increases. That’s just an economic reality.

The other thing we will have is more successful athletic programs than we have had in the past. We need the kind of facilities that help our coaches recruit and become successful.

Whatever happens in terms of growth, we’ll have to look at the whole structure.

We’ll have to say what about more residence halls what about more faculty what about more staff? I mean, we’ll have to figure out how to do all that so we will have the type of university we can be proud of.

This isn’t the best economic climate. How will we fund the athletic facilities you envision? (He had mentioned improvements to Hughes Stadium and an on-campus baseball facility, in particular)

I think part of that will have to be done with private funds. I really don’t see the state pouring huge amounts of money into capital projects. My understanding is we had a dry spell for a long time, so this MOHELA money is really a big deal.

The Missouri General Assembly is considering appropriations. Missouri Southern has historically been near the bottom in terms of funding per full-time equivalent student. Again, with the economic climate as it is, what do you see ahead?

I think that the adjustments are going to happen. I think the downturn in the economy has been helpful in terms of more students coming back to school. It could be that we will see more students in the fall because all of a sudden maybe they don’t have a job and say, “I don’t have a job anyway, maybe I should go back and get some of the skills I will need.”

What I do see is that the legislature is not so much concerned about the 2009 (budget) but about the 2010 (budget).

If they put in money for continuing projects now, they are concerned that they will come back later and then have to cut that. I think that is wise, because if we think we have money for a project and then we don’t have it, that creates havoc.

What might be the answer?

I think we have to start thinking very critically about private donations. We have got to think about how we are going to garner funds from people who will support us, because we cannot look forward to continued or increased government support. We may get some of that. I just don’t see that historically. It has been kind of a roller coaster.

With how Missouri has structured how we can raise tuition – attaching it to the CPI – that has limited what we can do. And it has kind of locked everyone in wherever they are. The pecking order has almost been stabilized or set in concrete with this law. And that means that we have to figure out other ways to get money.

What are some of the major challenges facing Missouri Southern?

One of the challenges is that I am bringing a different notion about how the University should operate. I am not saying it is a better notion. I am saying that it is a different notion.

And that means people who have had a long tenure – we had a president here for 25 years – and a culture has built up. That means that is a long-term process. You don’t change cultures immediately.

There are going to be early adopters that look at the new culture as good. Maybe they can put forward some ideas that maybe didn’t get traction before. There are going to be others saying let’s wait and see. It sounds good, but let’s see if this is something we can really buy into.

College professors tend to be very conservative in terms of pedagogy. These are places where we put on medieval gowns to graduate. So we harken back to this lengthy history in terms of pedagogy and that sometimes means it is very difficult to make changes.