Sister institutions seek name change

Sen. Gary Nodler (R. Jasper)

Sen. Gary Nodler (R. Jasper)

Greg Salzer

JEFFERSON CITY – Two years after Missouri Southern gains university status and a new name, Southern is posed to undergo another name change.

A bill presented to the Senate Education Committee would officially drop Joplin off Southern’s name.

Sponsor Sen. Charlie Shields (R-Buchanan and Platte) is sponsoring SB-19 to rename Southern and grant Missouri Western State College university status.

Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Jasper), education committee chair, acknowledged Southern’s recent name change, but said the proposed change reflects potential for expansion beyond the city of Joplin.

“There is a probability that a property will come into the possession of Missouri Southern in Carthage,” Nodler said.

Last year, Shields also brought the name change for MWSC to the Senate as SB-755.

The bill was placed on the informal calendar for perfection after amendments were added. The regular session adjourned before the bill could be addressed.

Opposition to the name change from Northwestern Missouri State University has been largely overcome, Shields said.

“This is an issue that’s incredibly important for Missouri Western,” Shields said, “in terms of our ability to attract quality faculty, attract quality students and attract resources to drive the basic research mission that we believe is so important for Missouri Western State College.”

The admissions standards will not change, and graduate degrees will be offered only with approval from Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

“When you say attract quality staff, that’s kind of an indication that you don’t have that already and,” said Sen. Rita Heard Days (D-St. Louis), education committee member, “I do think they have quality staff.”

Shields clarified his earlier testimony by adding, “Attract additional quality faculty.”

Dr. James Scalon, president of MWSC, was on hand to offer testimony in support of the bill.

Scalon said MWSC seeks university status to be more important to the economic and cultural development of their area.

Currently, MWSC has an economic impact of $150 million on surrounding communities and looks to work with others to expand local industry especially in areas of applied industrial science, he said.

“As a university, we will be well situated to work as a mutual partner with other universities in Missouri and beyond the borders of the state,” Scalon said.

“Our interest is in applied research,” he said. “The University of Missouri’s interest is in basic research.”

Among the observers in the standing room only committee room was MWSC student, Jenny Soptic, senior government and policy affairs major.

Sopic is in her second week of internship at the Missouri Department of Tourism.

She said the name change would be a positive step and believes MWSC currently meets the same criteria as neighboring universities.