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State of the University Address Fall 2012

President Kenneth W. Dobbins
Photo of Dr. Kenneth Dobbins
17th President

Good afternoon.

Welcome to the 2012 State of the University address.  It is hard to believe Jeanine and I have been at Southeast for 22 years and it is the 14th State of the University address I’ve had the privilege to deliver.

Today’s event has become a tradition to afford the President the opportunity to update Southeast faculty, staff, students and friends on our accomplishments during the past year and to thank you for all you’ve done to make this a successful year. 

It also is a time to introduce this year’s theme - “Since 1873:  Educating, Changing, Succeeding,” and sharing the goals established by each division for the upcoming year.  Finally, it gives Chartwells an opportunity to show their appreciation to you for all you do for our University by providing what is commonly called “the shrimp boat reception” following my presentation.

As you can see from your handout, this has been an eventful year for our University.  As you review our accomplishments this year on pages 1 through 9 of your handout, we have achieved a record number of successes that have continued to keep Southeast in premier status in our state and nation.

We have been able to successfully navigate the financially challenging past several years when there have been state appropriations reductions, tuition freezes and limitations, and the downturn of our state and national economy.   We have faced those adversities with a great can-do attitude.  In many instances, we saw those adversities as an opportunity for change, for streamlining our operations, and for strategically reinvesting for the future, for example, establishing the cybersecurity academic program and purchasing the new learning management system.

I’m reminded of an old saying, “The recipe for a better tomorrow is giving the best you have today.”

You’ve been giving the best over the past several years, and I am reminded of the resiliency and dedication of our faculty, staff and students when I look at today’s handout and see all we have accomplished and all we will continue to do to make Southeast The University of First Choice.


It has been a tradition for many years to welcome the new members of the Southeast Missouri State University community at this event.

Would all of those who started their Southeast employment after September 2011 please stand.  Please join me in welcoming these new members of the Southeast Missouri State University community.

Every year we review our organizational structure during the summer to ensure that it is configured in a manner that will accomplish our goals and objectives.  This year, we again had to look at several issues which affected our structure, including:

(1) transitions due to retirements and departures of faculty and staff; and

(2) the initiatives recommended by the Southeast in the Year 2020 Steering Committee.

Let me take just a moment to discuss several of these changes and to introduce several of the individuals who are new or are in new positions you will find in the organizational chart in your handout.  This will allow you to see exactly how these new appointments fit in our University organizational structure for this year. 

Executive Staff Area

If you will look at the Board of Regents side of the organizational chart handout. . . We currently are advertising for a person to be the Assistant to the President for Equity and Diversity Issues.  We thank Dr. Sophia Scott who has admirably filled the position on an interim basis for the past year. Jim Cook, Director of Human Resources, has assumed the duties of this position until we can hire an individual. 


Please stand as I call your name and remain standing until all have been introduced.  In Academic Affairs:

Dr. Chris McGowan

Dean of the newly created College of Science, Technology and Agriculture

Dr. Diana Rogers-Adkinson

New Dean of the College of Education

Dr. Diana Bruns

Interim Dean of the College of Health and Human Services for another year, or

Dr. Tamela Randolph

Interim Dean of the College of Health and Human Services

Dr. Francisco Barrios

Dr. Barrios as admirably served as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts for the past four years, and he has graciously agreed to also be the Dean of General Education.  General Education/Health and Human Services advising and Career Linkages also will report to Dr. Barrios and this area will ultimately reside in the Center for Academic and Career Advising to provide our students with a one-stop location for undecided, HHS and Liberal Arts majors and career advising for all students.  I also would like to introduce Michele Tapp, who started her job yesterday as the new director of the Center for Academic and Career Advising.

Additionally, on the academic side of the organizational chart handout, you will note a number of changes in directors and department chairs, including:

  • Two new regional campus directors –
    • Dr. Nicholas Thiele at the Malden Regional Campus, and
    • Dr. Stephen Borgsmiller at the Sikeston Regional Campus
  • Dr. Shelba Branscum, Chair of Human Environmental Studies
  • Dr. Gloria Green, Chair of Nursing
  • Dr. Philip Nacy, Chair of Theatre and Dance
  • Dr. Glen Williams, Chair of Communication Studies
  • Dr. Jack Zibluk, Chair of Mass Media
  • Dr. Charles McAllister, Interim Chair of the Department of Accounting
  • Dr. Hamner Hill, Interim Chair of Criminal Justice and Sociology, who wasn’t able to be with us this afternoon
  • Dr. Brad Deken, Interim Chair of Industrial and Engineering Technology
  • In Athletics, Mark Alnutt has joined us as the Athletic Director

Finally, in Finance and Administration Division, Wil Gorman, director of the Show Me Center

This is an exceptionally large number of leadership changes, but these are very well qualified individuals who do an outstanding job leading our University.

Please acknowledge their new leadership roles at Southeast.

Recognition of Years of Service

We said good bye to 47 long-standing faculty and staff members this past year due to retirement – by the way, those 47 had a combined total of 1,028 years of service to our University – and we said good bye to several other faculty and staff who left due to various other reasons.  Needless to say, we continue to appreciate those of you who have been dedicated members of the Southeast community for many years.  Let’s see how many years of service we have in the audience today.

Would every faculty and staff member please stand and remain standing until you no longer fit the criteria.

If you have worked at Southeast Missouri State University for less than 10 years, would you please sit down?

If you have worked at Southeast for less than 15 years, please sit down.

If you have worked at Southeast for 20 years or less –please sit down.

25 years or less, please sit down.

If you have worked at Southeast Missouri State University for 30 years or less, would you please sit down?

How many of you have worked at Southeast for 35 or less years – please state your name, position, and give your years of service.

Let’s give a round of applause for those who have worked for more than 35 years at Southeast.

I didn’t bring my calculator, but it would take one to add up all the years of experience demonstrated by this exercise.  Suffice it to say, we are very privileged to have a very experienced, loyal, and dedicated faculty and staff here at Southeast.  Please give yourselves another round of applause. 

“Since 1873:  Educating, Changing, Succeeding”

Southeast Missouri State University has a prestigious legacy in this region, and as we continue with the remodeling of our iconic and historic Academic Hall, we are reminded of what our institution has meant to the students and the residents of Southeast Missouri. 

Today, as we celebrate the team work of our faculty and staff and the achievements of academic year 2011-2012, we must also look to the future of our University and how we can best continue to serve the needs of our students, this region, and our nation.

We have become adept at making academic and institutional changes to ensure that Southeast Missouri State University will continue to educate our students, and continue to be The University of First Choice.

As you can see from the cover of your State-of-the-University handout, we have chosen as our theme for the 2012-2013 academic year: “Since 1873:  Educating, Changing, Succeeding.”

Since we were founded in 1873, it seems we have concentrated a great deal here at Southeast on educating and changing.  But we often fail to fully celebrate our success.  In fact, we often briefly celebrate our successes, establish future goals, and quickly begin working towards achieving those future goals.  Sometimes we forget that to achieve maximum success, progress must be made one step at a time.  Success is a series of steps with an occasional giant step thrown in.

This year, your steps led to the successful accomplishment of many initiatives.  Today, I would like to focus on three very important, major projects:  completion of the state audit, the Higher Learning Commission reaffirmation of accreditation visit, and the issuance of the draft report from the Southeast in the Year 2020 Steering Committee.

After hosting state auditors for more than nine months in 2010-2011, and devoting countless hours to their requests for information, meetings, and thousands of pages of documents, the Missouri State Auditor FINALLY released the audit report in February that gave our University, and I quote:  “an overall good rating” with very few areas for improvement!  Let me tell you, there are very, VERY few state audits that receive such a high rating.

The “good rating” given to the University is the second-highest attainable rating.  In order to receive the highest rating, there has to be zero findings.  As you can imagine, almost no audits EVER receive the highest rating.   The state auditor stated that our “good rating,” and I quote: “reflects that the University is well run overall.”  In fact, he indicated that if we addressed the few issues he listed, they would come back and, I quote:  “they’ll probably get our highest rating.”  That’s ok – we’ll address the issues, but we’ll forego another visit from the state auditors anytime soon – don’t you agree?

I want to commend all of you not only for how you accomplished and documented your daily tasks that were reviewed by the auditors, but I also want to thank you for your graciousness, support, and cooperation in working with those state auditors for a full nine months!   I especially want to commend the two individuals who lead the interface with the state auditors -  Kathy Mangels, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Pam Sander, the University controller.  Would you please stand and let’s give them a round of applause.

A week ago last Friday, a tremendous amount of work came to an end when the Higher Learning Commission or HLC examiners completed their review of our University.  As almost all of you in this room are aware, the HLC had originally planned for their visit to occur in April 2013.  However, due to federal compliance regulations, HLC moved our visit to this month.  Since we were only notified of that change on May 1st, I know many of you spent your summer diligently working on the reports, documents, and information necessary for a successful reaffirmation of accreditation visit.

Due to your outstanding efforts and team work, the examiners gave Southeast outstanding marks.  Prior to their public briefing, the examiners met with the Provost and me and provided their insights.  

  • Everyone on campus knew the continuous improvement process required by HLC (Plan, Do, Check, Act).
  • Students were outstanding, understood the University’s goals and purpose, and participated in University governance.
  • We set goals for major projects, e.g., the River Campus and enhancing online learning, and accomplished those goals in an outstanding manner.
  • Campus leadership was excellent and always focused on what is in the best interest of teaching students.
  • The Budget Review Committee and academic review program processes were outstanding and should be “taken on the road” to other public and private universities.
  • The documents prepared for the review were unbelievably thorough.
  • No other actions are needed based on the three-day on-site visit.

As you can see, the team was very impressed with our faculty, staff, and especially with our students.  We expect to receive their written reaffirmation of accreditation later this semester.

We all owe a great deal of gratitude to Dr. David Starrett, chair of the AQIP Steering Committee and our point person for this review.  Dave, would you please stand and let’s give Dave a round of applause for a job VERY well done. 

We also want to especially thank the members of the steering committee who worked countless hours, had numerous meetings including late afternoon and evening, and ate carry-out food on many a night – we sincerely appreciate all their efforts.  Would members of the AQIP Steering Committee please stand?

Thanks to the steering committee and to ALL of you for your efforts in contributing to a successful reaffirmation of accreditation visit.

We can also be very proud of our efforts on the Southeast in the Year 2020 initiative.  A draft report has been finalized and will be presented to the Board of Regents this fall.  Once the Board has formally accepted the report, they plan to use the document in a day-long planning session much like the one we did with Consultant Bill Weary several years ago when we developed our current strategic plan, which is outlined under each priority in your handout. 

Would Vice Provost Bill Eddleman, chair of the steering committee and the members of the Southeast in the Year 2020 Steering Committee please stand?  Would you give them a round of applause for a job well done?

As you know, the 2020 initiative has significantly progressed during the past year, and has already produced a number of major initiatives we have put into place.  Our new Learning Management System, or LMS, was a 2020 recommendation and already is in the implementation process.  Thanks to Dr. Alan Gathman, associate dean for online learning, the members of the LMS Selection Committee, the Information Technology staff, and the Online Learning staff, a LMS was selected, installed, and since this summer, more than 220 faculty and staff have received training in classes using the new Moodle system. This fall, we have more than 530 sections of courses using the new LMS and Moodle will be fully implemented by Fall 2013.

Those are just a three of our many successes this year.  We have been able to accomplish some very major initiatives in spite of our continuously challenging budget and the state appropriations issues.  And on behalf of the Board of Regents, faculty, staff and students, thank you.


I hope over the past several years you’ve had an opportunity to compare notes with your colleagues at other colleges and universities in the state and across the nation.  As past chair of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, I have heard many presidents report on the funding condition of state colleges and universities throughout our nation. I can say, without hesitation, that the state of Southeast Missouri State University today is very good because we have planned for appropriation reductions and our dedicated and hard-working faculty and staff have accomplished our plan.

As I previously mentioned, the HLC visiting team pointed out that our Budget Review Process is beyond compare.  In your handouts, you will find a Budget Review Committee document which outlines what revenue enhancements and expenditure reductions we needed to do by Fiscal Year 2015 and exactly what we have done, as an institution, to accomplish that goal.

You will remember that this budgetary process started in FY2010 to plan for appropriations reductions for FY2010, which were flat; FY2011, which was a $2.4 million base reduction; and FY12, which was a $3.1 million base reduction.  We anticipated we would need approximately $20 million over a period of five years to offset those appropriations reductions.

As you can see from the handout, we consolidated or eliminated several programs and positions; reduced operational costs; redesigned the benefits and scholarship packages; minimally increased tuition when possible; implemented creative program delivery strategies such as winter intersession, state-wide collaborations, and course redesign; added new summer session initiatives; promoted efficiencies in class sizes; and eliminated low-enrolled classes where appropriate.  Finally, and most importantly, Southeast increased our enrollments. 

Enrollment increases were very instrumental to the success of our budget process.  Our fourth week fall 2012 record enrollment stands at more than 11,700, up 1.9% from this time last year, making Southeast one of the fastest growing public, four-year universities in Missouri with 18 consecutive years of enrollment growth. 

Part of the fourth week census report also shows enrollment at Southeast’s Sikeston campus up 11.9% and the Kennett campus up 13.3% from a year ago.   We should all be extremely pleased that the student freshmen to sophomore retention rate has steadily risen over the past decade to 73.8%.  Since retention is everyone’s responsibility, our faculty and staff efforts have paid off.

As many of you know, the Budget Review Committee recommended a balanced budget using the Governor’s budget proposal with an 8% appropriation reduction.  The General Assembly passed and the Governor signed an appropriations bill that restored the 8% reduction.  Additionally, House Speaker Steve Tilley made sure additional funds were given to us due to our 18 years of significant increases in enrollment.

While we continue to be cautiously optimistic that we will receive most of this appropriation, we are aware there can still be additional withholding of FY13 appropriations if the projected state revenue growth does not materialize. 

That is why we made the decision to consider all appropriations in excess of what Budget Review Committee used to balance our FY13 budget to be one-time funds amounting to $3.68 million.  Those funds are being used this year as one-time funding for 1) $781,500 in much-needed equipment purchases in many University departments; 2) $800,000  funding for priority maintenance/repair projects; and 3) additional funds of $2.1 million for the University’s rainy day fund in case there are additional FY13 withholdings.

Your support in finding ways to balance our budget over the past several years has included forgoing salary increases for two straight years, FY2010 and FY2011, and a modest 2% or $475 minimum merit salary increase in this fiscal year.  Due to a Faculty Handbook change designed to provide a larger merit increase for Faculty, the 2% merit salary pool funds a 1.75% base merit salary increase for faculty with the remaining 0.25% to fund post-professorial merit salary increases. 

As a result, we are aware that the hiring and keeping competitive faculty and staff has been challenging due to salary and benefits issues, and that there is salary compression among many Southeast staff.

For those reasons, we are committed to hiring a consultant this year to review compensation and benefits for ALL faculty and staff, and the Budget Review Committee will begin the process of deciding how additional funding will be utilized if the almost $3.7 million remains in our base budget for next year.

While I’m mentioning faculty and staff benefits, United Healthcare has been renewed as our provider, and will only increase our premiums by 5% or approximately $360,000 per year.  Our utilization rate, which is our claims paid versus the amount of premiums paid in, for last year was 94% compared to 95% the previous year.  We need to be at least less than 90% to ensure that premiums are not significantly increased.

More Academic Successes

Let me now focus on the dedication of our faculty and staff.  The great scientist Albert Einstein said that “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”  And over the past several years, where some might have felt that doors were closed due to our budget issues, the vast majority of our faculty and staff just knocked very loudly on those doors which opened for better and more efficient opportunities.

Faculty worked to address several efficiency measures, including class sizes and credit hour generation.  Average class section size grew from 21 students per class in 2010 to 24 students in 2012.  At our current rate of progress, we will achieve our goal of a class size of no more than 26 students per class long before our goal deadline of May 2014.  Additionally, we have a goal of generating 312 semester credit hours per faculty member per semester by May 2014.  As of May of this year, we have achieved 90% of that goal and we may reach that goal this year. 

In 2010, approximately 813 sections of courses met the definition of low-enrolled sections.  The number of low-enrolled sections per semester is expected to reach an acceptable threshold by January 2013, thanks to the hard work and dedication of many of our deans, chairs and faculty. 

This year, several offices worked cooperatively to transition many of the graduate student processes to a more technologically driven system. 

The Admissions Office accepted additional responsibilities, and our graduate students were totally unaware of the seamless transfer of processes from one office to another.  The success of this transition again highlights how each of you continue to make our students your first priority.

At the start of the fall semester, the Information Technology folks were even hard at work at 4 a.m. on the Thursday before move-in day, working to make sure our new students had access to the wireless network as soon as they moved in.  That’s dedication!

Again this year, I want to commend those who work in Facilities Management.  Director Angela Meyer and her crew have accomplished an extraordinary amount of work over the past year, with more than $90 million in construction and relocation projects ranging from the continuing remodeling of Academic Hall to construction at Magill Hall, new HVAC systems at Scully, an addition to the dining area in the University Center, and a new residence hall, just to name a few.

How many of you have had to relocate due to the construction projects?  Many of you have been relocated due to the remodeling, renovation, and construction projects.  I know some of you are located in spaces where you know WAY more about your co-workers than you’d like to know, because you’re working almost on top of each other.  I want you to know how much the Board of Regents and I appreciate the fact that you’re making it work -  you understand the long-range goals and you’re willing to deal with the short-term disturbances in order for us to accomplish these long-range goals.

And while we’re discussing our working environment, let me assure you that we are conducting a space utilization study to determine long-range needs for classrooms and office space, laboratories, and student areas.  Before we complete this planning exercise, please make sure all of you talk with your directors or deans to provide needed input to this study.

I also want to commend those faculty and staff who continue to work diligently to bring in grants and federal and state dollars to our University. 

You will note in your handout under Priority 4, pages 7 and 8, the vast variety of grants received by our faculty and staff amounting to more than $4 million.  Thank you to those who continue to work with Diane Samuel in Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, to ensure that Southeast remains competitive for grants and federal and state programs.

All of these areas I’ve mentioned today are just a few of the many, many examples of your success during the past academic year.  I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for what you do to educate, change, and help our students be successful.

Suffice it to say, it is because of your support, your expertise, and your dedication that Southeast Missouri State University continues to be strong, prosperous, and a beacon to all in our region who seek higher education.

Dennis Holt Retirement Announcement

As I mentioned earlier, 47 faculty and staff members retired last year.  I suspect we will see similar numbers by the end of this year.  In particular, I already have had discussions with one long-time member of the Southeast team who is planning to retire.

Many of you know that Dr. Dennis Holt, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Dean of Students, is often the institutional memory for the Executive Team.  Dennis, would you please stand? 

He came to Southeast from the University of Oregon in 1976 as an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion.  In his 36-year tenure here, he has served as a faculty member; department chair; the founding director of the Writing Outcomes Program; assistant, associate, vice, interim, and acting provost; Director of Assessment; Dean of Extended Learning; Executive Director of the Southeast Missouri Educational Consortium; vice president for Administration and Enrollment Management; and now vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Success and Dean of Students; and, through all these titles, he has continued to do what he loves most – teach – both face to face and online.

Dennis has truly been one of the “go-to” people for our University for more than three decades, willing to take on any assignment that is in the best interests of Southeast and our students.  Even though we understand his desire to retire so he can concentrate more fully on his traveling and myriad of interests, I have asked him not to leave the University without first tapping him one more time for his expertise.

Dennis will officially relinquish his role as Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success and Dean of Students effective December 31, 2012.  But he has agreed to stay on at the University as Special Assistant to the President until December 31, 2013, to work on several special projects for my office such as student assessment and institutional research, and to assist Dean Barrios with the transition to the Center for Academic and Career Advising, just to name a few.  This will allow us a little extra time to make some transitions and to wish Dennis well in his retirement.  Would you please join me in thanking Dennis on an outstanding career here at Southeast and congratulate him on a job well done and wish him well in his 2014 retirement plans.

Thank you, Dennis.


In conclusion, I want to assure you that while we will continue to face challenges in higher education in our state, the health, vitality, and future prospects for Southeast Missouri State University are strong and bright. 

Our theme for the year, “Since 1873:  Educating, Changing, Succeeding,” actually describes what we have accomplished for decades.  I am confident that we will continue to work strategically to educate our students, change to incorporate current best practices, and continue to be successful.  An old adage says, “Success is for those energetic enough to work for it, hopeful enough to look for it, patient enough to wait for it, brave enough to seize it, and strong enough to hold it.”

I truly believe that all of you have all those attributes, and our successes here at Southeast will continue to carry us through the future.  I want to express my personal gratitude to all of you who are a part of our progress and who bring dedication and optimism to our campus each and every day.  The state of our University is a reflection of the faculty, staff and students who are Southeast Missouri State University. 

The state of our University is strong and bright and we will continue building for the future, as we continue being The University of First Choice:  First Choice for Students; First Choice for Faculty and Staff; and First Choice for Employers who hire our Graduates.

On behalf of our current and future students, thank you – thank you very much - and have another Great Year!

And now, thanks to Chartwells, we can now enjoy an opportunity to socialize over some excellent refreshments in the atrium.

Academic Hall 144
Office of the President
One University Plaza, MS 3300
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701