Message from Chancellor Shirley Lawler to Faculty and Staff
Greetings from Kellett Hall,
I hope everyone has had a great start to the fall semester. It is so good to see the parking lots full and students coming and going to classes. We have had a very smooth beginning to the new academic year, and our first week concluded with a nice Convocation ceremony with 219 students signing the book of Grizzlies. Jennifer Moore, news director and content coordinator for KSMU, delivered a very motivational message for the students and gave the group some words of wisdom from her own college experiences. Much thanks to all the faculty and staff members that came out to support the students. The year seems to be off to a good start!
We had a great day on Friday, August 23, when Missouri Governor Mike Parson, Missouri Higher Education Commissioner Zora Mulligan, and MSU President Clif Smart visited our campus to introduce the new Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant to the community. We were delighted they chose Missouri State-West Plains for the rollout of this innovative new tuition incentive program for students who are in need of completing a certificate or degree in order to pursue a high-demand occupation. They discussed the new program in front of a packed house in Hass-Darr Hall, and then visited with many of our community members. What a surprise for our Student Ambassadors, who were attending training that day in Hass-Darr Hall, when Governor Parson and President Smart walked into their classroom to visit with them, shake hands, and take pictures. Our governor truly has a heart for students and is very supportive of higher education. Stay tuned for more information about the Fast Track program—it could be a real game changer for those in this region who want to complete a college degree. Several of our academic programs are already approved for this new financial aid program.
Everyone has worked extremely hard to stabilize our enrollment; however, at the current time we are down 5% in total credit hours from this same date last year. From all the indicators across the state (fewer high school graduates and nearly full employment), we knew we might see a decline in headcount so we were braced for the decline, and we have budgeted accordingly. The boost we received from the state legislators this past year will help us maintain our current level of services. We understand that all two-year institutions and most four-year colleges are experiencing a decline in enrollment this year. We have several strategies in place to increase our enrollment, which I will share with you in more detail at the upcoming faculty and staff senate meetings. If you have suggestions regarding recruitment and retention, please do not hesitate to send them our way.
You can see that many projects on campus have been completed this summer including the Amphitheater, the police substation, and we now have a coffee shop in Hass-Darr Hall. It is great to see students, faculty, staff and community members sitting in Hass-Darr Hall and utilizing the building as a gathering place—it feels like a true student union. We have many events planned for the building during the coming academic year.
Speaking of events, please mark your calendar for the following important dates…
- Sept. 6: The first training session, We Belong will begin at 8 a.m. in Melton 112. The training should end around 8:45 a.m., and then we will go to the amphitheater for a Campus Gathering at our newest venue. I wanted our faculty and staff to be the first group to “experience” the amphitheater. We will have donuts and enjoy the atmosphere of the amphitheater while we talk about ways to utilize the outdoor venue in the upcoming year.
- Sept. 10: Join us for the Grizzly Booster Club Annual Picnic at 5 p.m. in the West Plains Civic Center Exhibit Hall as we kick off the new athletic season. Everyone is invited to join us at the free picnic to celebrate the beginning of the season. At 6:30 p.m., the Lady Grizzlies will take the court for their first home game of the season. Admission to the game is also free.
- Sept. 19: The State of the University Address starts at 3 p.m. in Melton 112 followed by a reception in Melton 116. I look forward to having President Clif Smart on campus for this event.
- Sept. 19: If you haven’t already, please sign up online for the Faculty and Staff Family Picnic as soon as possible so we can plan for how much food to order. Everything for the meal is being provided, so bring your family and drop in between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Richards House to enjoy the festivities. Since the State of the University Address is on the same day, President Clif Smart will be able to join us at this event.
- Sept. 19-22: The theme for the 12th annual Ozarks Studies Symposium is “The Ozarks in Reality and Imagination.” The event celebrates various aspects of Ozarks culture and history through a variety of presentations and performances. Admission to the symposium is free.
Always remember, what you do each day for students does make a difference.