Another dean resigns

Dean of Graduate Studies and Lifelong Learning Jo Kroll submitted her resignation Tuesday, effective immediately.

AJ Anglin, vice president of Academic Affairs, sent a release to faculty and staff members that afternoon informing them of the decision. He said he was caught off guard by the resignation.

“I’ve worked with Jo, and I was quite surprised that it happened,” Anglin said. “Beyond that, I really haven’t … I haven’t seen her, I haven’t talked with her. She didn’t give me any indication in the letter, just saying ‘I am resigning effective immediately.’”

Anglin said that the two had a meeting scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but the meeting never happened.

When he returned to his office from a previous commitment, he found Kroll’s resignation letter.

As dean of Graduate Studies and Lifelong Learning, Kroll wore many hats, including heading up the University’s online education programs. In recent months, Kroll had overseen many changes to the programs and had begun preparing for more.

With her departure, Anglin said he will have to take on some of her responsibilities.

While other schools like Northwest Missouri State University have suspended searches for open dean positions, Anglin insists Missouri Southern won’t follow their lead.

“Finding her replacement is absolutely imperative,” he said.

This marks the second resignation by a dean in two weeks as Glenn Coltharp submitted his resignation last week to take the job of vice president of Academic Affairs at Crowder College in Neosho.

The difference between Coltharp’s situation and Jo Kroll’s resignation is that Coltharp’s move was expected.

He’d been open with administrators about wanting to move into a chief academic adviser position.

Such high profile resignations in a short period of time could make faculty, staff, and students feel like the sky is falling, but Anglin insists there’s nothing to worry about.

“That [having three open dean positions] would be most unusual,” Anglin said. “Except for Jo, they all have explanations. Jo’s just decided to tender her resignation, but the other two are just things that happen.”

The position of dean of the School of Business was filled on Wednesday.

At the time of her departure, Kroll had been preparing for a major shift in the way the University handles online education.

A plan had been prepared that called for Southern to branch out to areas beyond Joplin in search of students to take online courses.

Some of those plans were met with resistance from various faculty members, largely due to the way policies were dictated to them.

In an interview conducted in December, Kroll discussed some of her job requirements as they relate to online education.

“My job, and I didn’t know this when I hired on, my job has been to put all of the things in place that are necessary to create that really sound learning environment, meet the accreditation rules that we have to live by and the US Department of Education’s laws, that are federal laws, that we have to live by, as well as providing the student with that environment that is best to meet their learning styles and their needs and what they need out of that environment to be successful,” she said.

Also in December, business professor Scott Cragin talked about some of the issues faculty members had with the proposed changes, saying that Kroll never directly answered questions about those accreditation rules and federal laws.

He said that the plan was presented to the Board of Governors originally and accepted by the board, but that the faculty wasn’t given any input in the development process of the programs.

“The problem is that we’ve gotten different answers to the same questions,” he said.

“What she’s put together has evolved in and of itself because of input I guess she’s received, because there was never any input to begin with.”

Cragin said that a new piece of the plan also called for online classes to require two specifically formatted discussion questions per week, something he said took away the professors’ right to teach classes as they please.

“Dictating pedagogy [teaching methods] is not the way to endear yourself to faculty,” he said. “The faculty do have academic freedom.”

When the plan was originally brought before the Board of Governors, it was overwhelmingly approved,  though Anglin admits that the plan will be looked at with tighter scrutiny now that Kroll is gone.

“The job, when you present to the Board of Governors or any group, is to get a broad overview and where you see it needs to be,” he said.

“And you can get excited about that. When you don’t have the same person who has that vision here to make it happen on a day-to-day basis as you move down through the month or the year or the years, you’ve got to step back and say, ‘We need to make sure we know what we’re doing because we’re going to be the ones doing it,’ and it’s the best thing.”