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From the Office of the President

July 11, 2011

Dear Colleagues:

Here are some updates on activities over the past couple of months. As always, please feel free to email me with questions or comments at: president@umsystem.edu.

Stephen J. Owens
Interim President

UM’s unique statewide role evident during spring disasters

In the wake of the devastation caused by spring tornadoes and floods across the state, our unique service mission as a land-grant university was “front and center.” We are all proud, humbled and appreciative of all those across our system who have reached out to our fellow citizens during these disasters. I made a point to recognize our people and their efforts during my remarks at the June Board of Curators meeting.

The care and compassion of our people for their fellow Missourians was extraordinary–from MOREnet’s provision of on-the-ground official state communications…to goods collected, services provided and monies donated by our faculty, staff and students…to the Delta Research Center that assisted flood victims…and to MU Extension specialists who continue to provide on-site assistance as well as ongoing training and education to communities, on topics such as ensuring a safe food and water supply; repairing and rebuilding homes, farm structures and small businesses; insurance issues; budgeting; replacing lost documents; and dealing with stress. To learn a bit more about our relief efforts, please visit: http://umurl.us/wIT.

Budget Reductions Determined

We concluded the fiscal year with tough budget news for 2012. On June 10, the governor announced a total reduction of 8.1 percent ($34 million) in state operating support for the university’s budget. This included an additional 1.1 percent ($4.37 million) cut that we had not anticipated. The university already had identified $53.2 million in cuts, efficiencies and reallocations in order to balance our 2012 budget.

The additional 1.1 percent cut produced new challenges and resulted in a number of tough choices that we discussed with the board of curators and campus chancellors. In the end, we decided to avoid painful reductions that would have undermined our university’s commitment to students, faculty and staff, as well as the youth of our state.

Instead, we cut in half our commitment to the Enterprise Investment Program, a key component of our research and economic development mission. This program cut will cover about half of the latest cut in state support. While the university will be able to fulfill its commitment for the first round of pending investments in early-stage companies, the cut will adversely affect future funding of collaborative ventures among the university, entrepreneurs and businesses. The other half of the governor’s additional 1.1 percent reduction will be allocated on a pro rata basis to each of the campuses, Extension and System Administration.

Presidential Search Update

Board of Curators Chair Warren Erdman recently announced that the curators are reviewing a pool of about 140 university system presidential candidates and that the search process is going well. Chairman Erdman tells me that the board is pleased with the number, quality and diversity of the people represented in the pool. He is optimistic about the search timeline and says the involvement of stakeholders from across the state has been robust. For updated information throughout the presidential search process, please visit: http://www.umsystem.edu/ps/.

UM Retirement Plan

The UM Board of Curators last month voted to change the UM retirement plan for new employees hired after September 2012. After intensive study over the past two years, the board’s decision clears the way for university administrators to work with the Retirement and Staff Benefits Committee to develop an alternative retirement program for new employees that includes a combination of both defined benefit and defined contribution features.

As promised, the current UM defined benefit plan for existing employees will not change by this action. Detailed reports and independent actuarial analyses have confirmed that the current plan will not be harmed by closing the plan to new employees next year.

Our goal is to bring a recommended plan design to the board of curators at its upcoming October meeting in Kansas City.

S&T Chancellor Search

We have started the search for the next Missouri University of Science and Technology chancellor. At the recent board meeting, curators passed a resolution that praised the significant achievements of Chancellor John F. Carney III. We will soon appoint an interim chancellor following Chancellor Carney’s retirement in August.

New Curator Joins Board

We welcomed Craig A. Van Matre of Columbia as our newest appointed curator at the recent June board meeting. He joined our two most recent members, David L. Steward, of St. Louis, and Donald L. Cupps, of Cassville.

Discovery Ridge Research Park Expansion

We recently announced an innovative expansion plan for Discovery Ridge Research Park in Columbia—at no expense to the university. The board of curators approved terms of a development with CarrBaierCrandall Real Estate Group to begin initial work on the first of a three-phase, $45 million project to construct and market an 80,000-square-foot, cutting-edge research facility.

The multi-tenant building will include lab and office space for businesses focusing on human health, veterinary medicine, nutrition, bioengineering, biology, environmental sciences and engineering.

As part of the system’s strategic economic development program, the research park has the potential to add new jobs to Missouri, build the local infrastructure and promote intellectual and business collaborations among our campuses. To learn more, please visit: http://umurl.us/sdk.

Shared Services/ Operational Excellence Initiatives

This month we began implementing changes to our travel policies, accompanied by the roll-out of a new automated Travel and Expense module over the next six months. These changes will result in reduced administrative voucher preparation time, expedited reimbursements and significant savings across our system.

In addition to the cost savings and streamlined administrative processes, this initiative will free up time currently spent by administrative staff in processing travel expense paperwork to perform other activities. By capturing travel data in an electronic system, we will be able to better analyze travel information across the system and improve every department’s ability to better manage overall travel expenses. To learn more, please visit: http://umurl.us/MRlO.

eLearning Update

A year ago the university system awarded almost a half-million dollars in grants to more than 100 faculty who wished to develop new online courses. Since then, work on nearly 130 new online courses has been started, with about one-third of them available to students this fall.

On Aug. 15, a luncheon will be held where faculty will introduce their new courses and share with colleagues what they’ve learned along the way—sharing lessons learned, teaching techniques and tips.

If you’re interested in attending the luncheon, or if you would like to learn more about our eLearning advances, please call Jana Moore at 573-882-6398 or email moorejan@umsystem.edu. The luncheon speaker will be UMKC’s Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, Wayne Vaught, who will talk about a “5:1 return" on the online course investment in his area.

First class of diverse small business owners

As part of our efforts to grow small businesses across the state, two years ago we launched an Advocacy-Mentoring Program for firms owned by women and minorities. The first graduating class of these organizations and their mentors were honored recently when four businesses completed the program and five new firms took their place. This program's goals include increasing the number of competitive women- and minority-owned firms that do business with the university. The UM System has increased procurement, architecture, engineering and construction awards to women- and minority-owned businesses to more than 9 percent, or about $42.5 million. For more information, please visit: http://umurl.us/FAepy.

Advancing Missouri Undergraduate Education

Outstanding undergraduate education is central to the UM System’s teaching mission. During the most recent curators meeting, chancellors from each of our four campuses highlighted programs that advance undergraduate education, including programs that engage students in cutting-edge research, build leadership skills, and develop students personally through mentorships, internships and study abroad programs. To learn more about how our four campuses are advancing quality undergraduate education, and achieving important advances for our state in many dimensions, please visit: http://umurl.us/Vi3.

Advancing Missouri: A message from Interim President Steve Owens