Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins became the seventeenth president of Southeast Missouri State University on July 1, 1999 after serving as the University’s Vice President of Finance and Administration from 1991 to 1993, and Executive Vice President from 1993 until his appointment as president. He previously held several positions in higher education administration at Kent State University in Ohio.
During his tenure at Southeast, academic programs have been enhanced including the establishment of the College of Science, Technology, and Agriculture and the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts which opened in fall 2007 on the new River Campus. A comprehensive review of all academic and non-academic programs has been accomplished to maintain quality and minimize student fee increases in the face of significant state appropriation reductions. Southeast continues to be recognized nationally for many of its outstanding accredited academic programs by such prestigious publications as U.S. News Best Colleges and Princeton Review.
Enrollment has increased significantly since a 20-year-low in 1994 when approximately 7,900 students attended Southeast. Total enrollment for fall 2014 was 12,087 marking the 20th straight year of enrollment growth and the 14th year of record- breaking enrollment. The goal of making Southeast Missouri State University enrollment equal to the diversity of the state of Missouri has been accomplished with a historic record African American enrollment (more than 1,000) and international students (1,100). The progress made in this area is remarkable, considering the University only had 315 African American students enrolled at Southeast in 1996, and international student enrollment was once as low as 176 in 2005.
Additionally, access to higher education has increased dramatically during President Dobbins’ tenure with record enrollments in the University’s 25-county service region due to the establishment of new regional campuses in Sikeston and Kennett serving place-bound students in and near those rural communities. Dual credit provides affordable credit courses to more than 1,000 high school students and has grown dramatically over the past several years with 48 high schools participating. Finally, the Southeast Online degree programs continue to be very popular with students with more than 1,000 students taking 100 percent of their courses online. Online courses are now generating more than 22,000 credit hours a semester, more than many major public research institutions.
While serving as president, Dr. Dobbins was instrumental in developing an innovative post-professorial merit program which provides base salary increases and professional development funds. With this program, faculty become eligible to apply for post-professorial merit five years after attaining the rank of full professor and every five years thereafter. Those awarded this distinction meet the same criteria of sustained service, teaching and scholarship as that required for promotion to full professor, following the same process of peer and administrative review.
Dr. Dobbins also initiated a partnership with The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a bipartisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center’s 220 full-time staff and large network of affiliated scholars conduct research and analysis and help develop national policy initiatives that look to the future and anticipate change. Southeast was one of the first and is now the only institution nationally selected to partner in student seminars with CSIS and the University annually sends 35 students to participate in the week-long spring break seminar.
During Dr. Dobbins’ presidency more than $400 million in capital construction and building improvement projects have enhanced the University. The Seabaugh Polytechnic Building and the $58 million River Campus were constructed. In 2005, the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was opened, followed by the dedication of the state-of-the-art David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center in 2009, and the University’s Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment in 2010. Southeast is known throughout the Midwest for its modern and student-friendly residence halls. Vandiver Hall was completed in 2002; Merick Hall in 2009; and LaFerla Hall was dedicated in the fall of 2013. More than $90 million in capital renovation projects were completed in 2013, including the renovation of the historic 108-year-old Academic Hall, and the remodeling and upgrades to the Magill science complex. Additionally, the University opened the River Campus Center, a new academic and residence hall center, at the River Campus in fall 2014.
Dr. Dobbins has served a two-year term as president of the Missouri Council on Public Higher Education (COPHE), the organization for presidents and chancellors of Missouri’s public colleges and universities, and is the senior member of the organization. He was appointed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon as a commissioner for the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) which covers a nine-state region of the Midwest. MHEC is one of four interstate compacts in the nation devoted to advancing cooperation and resource sharing in higher education.
In 2007, he was selected to serve a three-year term on the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Board of Directors, an organization which represents over 420 U.S. public college and university presidents and more than 3.7 million students or 56 percent of the enrollment at all public four-year institutions. He was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the organization in 2008, chaired the organization in 2010-2011, and again served on the AASCU Board in 2013. For the past ten years, he has served as one of five faculty members for the week-long AASCU New Presidents’ Academy providing instruction to more than 200 new presidents and chancellors. He currently chairs the Finance Committee of the American Academic Leadership Institute and the AASCU Financial Review Committee He previously served three years as president of the Ohio Valley Conference and is currently a member of the Conference finance committee. He has been elected to the St. Louis Regional Chamber Board of Directors and is a member of the Hawthorne Foundation.
In addition, he is the vice president for membership on the executive board of the Greater St. Louis Council, Boy Scouts of America, and was elected by local council associates to serve on the National Council, Boy Scouts of America. In 2010, he was awarded the Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a Boy Scout volunteer by a council.
He earned his B.S. degree in accounting from the University of Akron (Ohio) in 1971 and served as a commissioned officer and civilian executive in the U.S. Air Force for almost 10 years where he was awarded the 1978 Air Force Audit Agency Outstanding Civilian Auditor of the Year. He received the M.B.A. degree in 1979 from Old Dominion University where he was awarded the 2001 Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Ph.D. in higher education administration in 1987 from Kent State, where in 2011, he was awarded the Alumni Leadership Award for the College of Education, Health and Human Services Annual Hall of Fame Awards. He is also a Certified Public Accountant in Ohio.
Dr. Dobbins and his wife, Jeanine Larson Dobbins, Founder and Director Emeritus of the Missouri Statewide Early Literacy Intervention Program based at Southeast, have a son, Paul Larson Dobbins, and a daughter-in-law Stacey Borage Dobbins, who are both Southeast graduates, and two grandsons, Lincoln Kenneth Dobbins and Brady Larson Dobbins.