The university’s Interim-chancellor Dr. Christopher Maples, highlighted some of the challenges Missouri S&T faces during this year’s State of the University address, held on Monday, Oct. 2 in Leach Theatre; but also strongly emphasized the strengths of the university and the students, faculty and staff who make Missouri S&T the institution it is today.

Dr. Maples began by giving what he described as “the context of some of the challenges we face.”

“We have had a lot of realignment,” he said. “Part of that realignment has been centered around some of the budget cuts that the system has gone through as a collective whole. When you look at the system as a whole, we’ve gotten roughly a 9 percent budget cut.”

In response to that budget cut, Dr. Maples said the university is looking for ways to emphasize what they already do well and build on the things they need to do better.

“We’ve been challenged…to increase our research,” Dr. Maples said. “[And] to increase our graduate student output, in increase the service that we do in connection to communities.”

Dr. Maples said one of the university’s current initiatives is to connect graduate students with the research performed by the school under a single office, headed by a Vice-chancellor of Research and Dean of Graduate Studies.

“That search is just now starting,” Dr. Maples said. “This is a great opportunity to be able to take those two offices and join them together, and do something in terms of both the graduate education and data generation…with the research that comes from that.”

The university was forced to make some cuts in response to the 9 percent decrease, according to Dr. Maples, but did their best to make as few as possible.

“We had to do a few layoffs,” said Dr. Maples. “We did fewer than most. We eliminated a number of vacant positions and did the best we could to not eliminate actual staff positions.”

Dr. Maples then spoke about the value of the education Missouri S&T students receive on campus.

“We do well, we rank well, we have a good reputation,” he said. “We are a great value for the education our students get and I’m really proud of that. I’m proud of the work our faculty  and staff (does) in order for our students to have a great value.”

Dr. Maples added, “There’s an awful lot of concern about the cost of a college education, and there should be.”
“But I will tell you at the end of the day, what students value, what their parents value and what we all value is that we get what we invest in, and then some. We get a great return on our investment as students.”

Dr. Maples shared some rankings, where Missouri S&T was highly placed in several different categories by entities such as USA Today, Forbes and the Princeton Review.

He then added “It sort of doesn’t matter,” in reference to the rankings.

“What it all says is our students are doing well when they’re here, they’re prepared to do well when they leave, and they’re being gainfully employed and able to pick a lot of trajectories in their lives,” he said.

Dr. Maples said what matters to the university is the difference between education and training, and the way Missouri S&T is educating their students to take what they learn and improve on it as technology and society changes in the future.

“They are going to lead those changes,” he said. “They’re going to be part of those changes and imagine a better future and go forward. Education is what we need and education is what we do.”

“There’s work for us to do here in terms of being a welcoming environment and in terms of making this a place where more people really want to stay,” he said. “We all want to learn more about how we make this a better place for everybody and how we support people in ways they feel like they are acknowledged, valued and supported. We can each one of us do that every day.”

According to the information Dr. Maples presented during his address, 20 percent of the campus population observed exclusionary conduct within the past year, while 18 percent personally experienced it. According to the presentation, 69 percent of faculty and 54 percent of staff respondents to the climate survey seriously considered leaving Missouri S&T.

Dr. Maples added there are several strengths the campus has in terms of the campus climate, such as a “reasonably high comfort level,” and “a very high satisfaction with quality of advising.”

According to the presentation, 83 percent of students and faculty were comfortable with the classroom-specific climate when responding to the climate survey.

Moving forward in all aspects of the university, Dr. Maples said, “There are things we have to work with, I happen to view these as opportunities,” and brought up the 9 percent budget decrease again.

“There are likely more decreases coming. I’m not sure what we’re going to be able to do about that other than look at how we do business and focus on the things we do best,” he said, and added, the university will be looking at new opportunities to invest in, finding places where they can succeed and be different than other universities.

“We’re small enough to be nimble, we’re small enough to have some creativity and have that creativity percolate in different places. And yet, we’re large enough that we can really do something cool and different…I truly believe we have the opportunity to do some of that by investing wisely and encouraging interdisciplinary approaches in what we do.”

Dr. Maples said they are continuing with the current tuition cap, and the university will continue to live with increased competition for excellent students, faculty and staff—especially in regards to under-represented groups.

“We’re going to have to find ways to make this not just a good place to be in terms of financial support, but a great place to be in terms of the outcomes and the value added,” he said. “Nobody ever said it would be easy. There are times teamwork is tough…but we’re committed to the education of our students.”