Kroll begins duties as newest dean

Students interested in earning a graduate degree from Missouri Southern could soon have more options.  

The University is moving forward with the creation of its own graduate program, an idea that could reach fruition in as little as two years.

That’s the word from Dr. Jo Kroll, Southern’s new dean of graduate studies and lifelong learning, who began last month.

“I’ve been charged with expanding the current graduate program and increasing enrollment in graduate studies we have on campus now and eventually building our own program where we’re not partnering,” Kroll said this week.

For now, Southern students interested in continuing their education have a few options. The University partners with five schools around the state to offer eight graduate degrees, ranging from a master of arts in teaching at Missouri State University to criminal justice at Southeast Missouri State University and others.

State approval must still be sought before Southern offers its own graduate program, independent of another university.

“We want to have all the infrastructure in place and the best student services that we possibly can have, so with putting all those things in place it just takes a little time to get there and then we can go forward and ask the state for approval,” Kroll said. “When we go we want to make sure we can show we’re ready for it.”

“We’ve been working toward that for years and now I think we’re in a position where we can show there is a good base here for the need of having graduate programs and we’re ready to do our own,” she added.

The graduate studies portion of Kroll’s position, which is new for Southern, will include evaluating current graduate programs and their enrollments, as well as needs of the student population and prospective students in the area, region and state.

The lifelong learning component of Kroll’s job will include improving and increasing enrollment in everything from Internet courses and DVD courses to interactive two-way video courses between Southern and other sites.

“There will be quite a bit of expansion with online programs because it’s driven by the non-traditional student needs and again, we’ll continue with those programs where there’s a need for them and where we have the highest population and can increase enrollments,” Kroll said.

“In today’s economic situation, online meets the needs of those potential students who work and have responsibilities and families and need to continue their education but just don’t have the time to drive to a campus,” she added.

Kroll, who earned a doctorate in education management from the University of West Florida, said she has been involved in higher education for nearly 25 years. After working in the Texas A&M and University of Arizona systems, Kroll said she became interested in the trend of for-profit education.

“I was very curious as to why businesses like Goldman Sachs and huge corporations were wanting to get into higher education so I decided the best way to learn was to be on the inside,” she said, which led her to take a position on the East coast with Education Management Corporation.

After two years, Kroll said she was recruited to come back to the Texas A&M system and work for the George Bush school of government and public service, building graduate programs online and executive programs on campus.

“There are a lot of good things about what the for-profits do,” she said, “and that’s primarily focused on student services.”

Southern must find ways of increasing enrollment without raising tuition and without losing quality in student services, Kroll said.

“Provide excellent student services really with more effective and more efficient processes and ways of doing business.”