Missouri State University
Dean's Blog
Communication from the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters

COAL’s mission, goals, and holiday wishes

As we get ready for the holidays and the holiday break, I want to bring everyone up-to-date about what we have been doing in the College of Arts and Letters (COAL). Let me catch you up on the last six months.

COAL’s new mission statement and slogan

I will open this blog by sharing COAL’s new mission statement and slogan, then I’ll tell you the story of how we got “there.”

New Mission Statement:

The College of Arts and Letters is dedicated to the success of our students. Our rigorous programs provide a solid platform for personal growth and professional preparation. We are proud of our mission to nurture literacy in the arts and letters, stimulate self-reflection and build critical thinking while fostering excellence and fueling the creative passions of our students.

New Slogan:

Uniting Passion and Creativity

Music graduates

Who are we in COAL?

We started early in the summer to review our college identity, with particular attention to our mission statement (shown below) and slogan (“The College of Human Expression”). The mission statement, in particular, did not inspire us (in fact, we thought it was boring). It was so generic that it could have fit any college, in any university. It didn’t seem to say anything about us. Here is what we started with:

The College of Arts & Letters promotes learning, scholarship, and service to the broader community in all aspects of human communication — spoken, written, visual, musical, dramatic, and electronically mediated. With support for general education and with discipline-specific degrees, both undergraduate and graduate, we aim to foster intellectual independence, expressive competence, and aesthetic appreciation within the traditional arenas of arts and letters. We also aim to instill the desire and capability for lifelong learning, in keeping with the advancements of our disciplines and their technologies. In the departments and programs of the College, we enhance students’ creative and performance skills, sharpen students’ communication effectiveness in a variety of languages and media, and prepare students to be effective professionals and community members. We hope to model an attitude of respect for diverse cultures, traditions, values, ideas, and ways of knowing.

We had three planning retreats this summer, involving the department heads, the staff, and the three associate deans in separate meetings before coming together in several joint meetings this fall. In each case, we had free-flowing discussions about who we are—what are the characteristics of our college that distinguish us from other colleges, that define us. Collectively, we identified four factors that seem to define COAL: We are passionate, creative, student-centered, and fun. This was our starting point in creating our new mission statement.

We weren’t crazy about our slogan, either. Our college was formed in the early 1980s as an administrative convenience (which is true to some extent of all colleges). But unlike, say, the College of Business or the College of Education, our original six (now seven) departments didn’t appear to have a unifying set of curricula, practices, or goals. We struggled for a long time to find a common thread to pull us together. We finally concluded that what we have in common is that we all participate in human expression, whether that is through people communicating with one another directly (through written and spoken words) or indirectly (through vehicles including music, theatre, dance, visual arts). Thus, we agreed that COAL was “The College of Human Expression.” But that slogan didn’t especially excite us. COAL folks are nothing if not creative. We love, and are good at, fostering our students’ passion and enthusiasm. Those characteristics led us to a slogan we liked better: Uniting Passion and Creativity.

coallogoartworkWe have started to use the new mission and slogan in our materials, including our website. Our next step will be to update our logo, which currently is a spray that looks like a fountain. As before, we want something more exciting, and we will be asking our Design students to help create a fresher, more exciting look.

Goals for COAL

We think we have a pretty terrific college! Our faculty are superb; our students are bright, creative, and eager to learn; and we have a supportive central administration that supports us in numerous ways. Our primary goal may sound ambitious but we think it’s attainable: We want to be the number one choice for any Missouri high school graduate who plans to study in any of our programs, and we want to be in the top three for any high school graduate from throughout our region of surrounding states. We want people to say, “The best place to go for art (design, communication, English, media, journalism, film, modern and classical languages, music, theatre and dance) is Missouri State’s College of Arts and Letters.” And, we are not far off this goal!

Gloria Cohen Shomo with Oscar for Life of Pi
Electronic Arts alumna Gloria Cohen Shomo with Oscar for “Life of Pi”

To cite a few examples, we have the largest music and art education programs in the state, our graduates in professional/technical writing have a virtually 100% placement rate upon graduation, our debate program is competitive with larger and better funded programs from top-tier schools, our theatre and dance graduates appear across the country in Broadway and touring productions of major shows, our Foreign Language Institute represents an innovative collaboration among five area colleges and universities, and a recent alum from our film program was honored as outstanding young alum at Homecoming this year. Students from every department excel at their chosen fields, and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, for talented high school students, brings sophomores and juniors to campus for three weeks in the summer to immerse themselves in the arts.

Galanes Gloria, COAL Dean
Dr. Gloria Galanes, Dean

For these and other reasons, we are well respected throughout the state and region for our arts and letters programs. What we need to do is to make sure people know how good we are! We are working to tell our story, and this we will be our focus for the next few years.

If you want to know more about the college, I invite you to check out our website for more stories about us, and to follow us on Twitter (@MSU_COAL) and like us on Facebook (MSU.COAL).

Happy Holidays

As we head into the holidays (and I’m looking at the snow falling outside my office window as I write this), I wish you all a wonderful  holiday season, and a safe one! May the joys of the season bring you happiness and peace!

And if you want to play Santa for the college and help us achieve our goals, you may want to take a look at our Holiday Wish List of items for which we’d appreciate support! We wouldn’t turn down a gift from Santa to launch us into the new year!

Happy New Year to you all—



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Holiday Wish List

Dear Friend,

We have had a tradition in COAL of publishing our annual Holiday Wish List, and we do this with deep appreciation of past support, which has made a daily difference in the lives of students and faculty in the college.

We’ve done something a little different this year. In the past, our list consisted of a number of items, by department, to support departmental programs. This year, we are focusing on college-wide programs and initiatives that will enhance both our ability to serve students and to increase the college’s reach throughout the state. These are “extras” that give us a competitive advantage.

As you review your charitable contributions for 2013, please consider supporting one or more of the initiatives described below. To make your contribution, specify the item you want to underwrite and send your check, payable to Missouri State University Foundation, in the business reply envelope enclosed.

Galanes Gloria, COAL Dean
Dr. Gloria Galanes, Dean

Of course, if your heart belongs to one of our seven departments (Art/Design, Communication, English, Media/Journalism/Film, Modern/Classical Languages, Music, Theatre/Dance), you may certainly designate your gift to that department’s general fund, which helps fund a variety of initiatives!

May your holiday season be filled with love and the joy of giving.

Best wishes,

Gloria J. Galanes

P.S.  We are working consciously to use our resources responsibly and to be as “green” as possible. Please let us know if you are willing to receive an electronic (rather than paper) response to your gift by calling Karen Smith (417-836-5247) or emailing her at KarenSmith@MissouriState.edu.

College of Arts and Letters

Holiday Wish List


Missouri Fine Arts Academy
Missouri Fine Arts Academy:
MFAA plays an important role in fostering the growth and development of some of the most talented young artists—sophomores and juniors in Missouri high schools. Participation in this three-week residential program literally changes lives. And because about 25% of the participants end up coming to Missouri State, this program helps COAL as well. The state no longer pays for the entire program, so we have subsidized it and have had to charge tuition (the program used to be free to participants). We are working to build an endowment for the MFAA so we can guarantee its continuation. After the program this summer, one parent wrote:  Attending MFAA was a life-changing experience for my son.  I know he will remember this summer for many years to come.  Thank you for this opportunity!  Help us continue this wonderful program!

 Cost:  $250 to $10,000 toward the endowment

 Ozarks Celebration Festival

Ozark Celebration Festival: The OCF is held the second full weekend of September each year, from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, and brings to campus many artists, crafts people, out-of-town visitors, and so forth to experience traditional Ozarks crafts and culture. Consider sponsoring a performance stage or helping underwrite one of the Friday night concerts.

 Cost:  $5,000 (sponsorship of a stage or concert);
any amount to support the Festival




Student with artworkStudent Success Awards: COAL supports students who have demonstrated success in their chosen majors. This usually means that students have been invited to present their papers at conferences, to perform their music compositions, to submit pieces of art to exhibitions, and so forth. The COAL Student Success program  provides $200 if a student needs travel support to present a paper, needs specialized packaging/mailing support to send a piece of art, and so forth. This fund enhances the funds that departments are able to provide for their individual students and allows the college to share in bragging rights!

 Cost:  $200 to support Student Success award



Missouri State Study Away

Student Study Away Awards: COAL has set aside funds, and President Smart has matched them, to support short-term study away opportunities for students. With “cultural competence” as one of our pillars of public affairs, we are seeking ways to support students in taking advantage of the many study away opportunities MSU offers. These experiences change students’ perspectives and broaden their horizons in countless ways. While some students choose to study away for an entire semester, most students select programs of shorter duration, such as month-long summer programs (e.g., Florence, Italy; Costa Rica; Montreal) or 10-day spring break programs. Study away can be costly, and students appreciate any support they can get. Our Study Away travel awards range from $500 to $1,000 per award.

 Cost: $500 to $1,000 to support Study Away


COAL General Fund: Of course, if none of these programs appeals to you, we have a COAL general fund that helps us do all kinds of things, many of which come up unexpectedly, including faculty travel, purchase of specialized equipment, and so forth. We are happy to accept any and all contributions to our general fund.

 Any amount for the COAL General Foundation Fund

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Living Our Mission

Julie Combs, head of MCLWritten by guest blogger Julie Combs, head of music

As my thirty-fifth year in higher education and third year as Music Department Head at MSU wind down, I’m pleased for the opportunity Dean Galanes has offered me to communicate with you, gentle reader, about our department. I am a Missouri girl who couldn’t wait to leave the state for college, but now I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to be back in Missouri and on the Missouri State campus. My two previous institutions were land grant universities, designed to provide low-cost educations to many constituents within those states.  I had known Missouri State as Southwest Missouri State and almost missed the opportunity to apply for my position because of the name change.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this job is the university’s Public Affairs Mission of Cultural Competence, Community Engagement, and Ethical Leadership. President Smart recently wrote that he shortened the mission: “Our goal is to develop educated persons. Our mission is public affairs.” The Music Department lives this mission.

Cultural Competence in Music

Music, an original member of ancient Greek scholarship and learning, was coupled with arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy (the quadrivium, all branches of mathematics) and followed by grammar, rhetoric and logic (the trivium) to form the liberal arts. Our music curricula stress critical thinking in theory, history, and aural skills, and open our students’ worlds to musics from many world cultures.

Missouri State White String Quartet
Missouri State White String Quartet consisting of Ryan Hardcastle (viola), Matthew Price (cello), Xiao Hu and Yajing Zhang (violin)

In regard to the latter, we have been blessed with Chinese, Malaysian, Australian, and South American students who share their musicianship and cultures with their colleagues. Our White String Quartet, Yajing Zhang, Xiao Hu, Ryan Hardcastle, and Matt Price, competed on a national level in New York City in 2012, spent two weeks on our Qingdao campus last summer, and will play their farewell concert soon since they are graduating. Cindy and Sherry, both from Qingdao, will return home. Matt plans to attend law school. Ryan has a viola assistantship at the University of North Texas. Despite language barriers and differences in backgrounds and majors, these four lived a commitment to interpreting the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Ravel.

Dr. John Prescott, one of our resident composers, has brought Chinese music to life for our students. His Multicultural Instruments Ensemble teaches students skills to perform on traditional Chinese instruments like the pipa, the hulusi, the erhu,  and the sheng, bringing Chinese and American students together. Dr. Prescott, who has studied Chinese and is quite proficient in the language, travels to the Qingdao campus annually to teach. Every other year, MSU has three Qingdao instrumentalists who spend a three-week residency here working with our students. Did I mention that this involves learning to read Chinese musical notation, too? I just acquired my own hulusi, a Chinese oboe-like instrument, and I hope to join Dr. Prescott’s class next fall.

Dr. Amy Muchnick leads two groups of Study Away students to London each summer for concerts, plays, and museum tours. Next fall, she and Dr. David Hays will take the MSU Chamber Orchestra to China over fall break.

Our choirs do an international tour every other year under the direction of Dr. Guy Webb. Last May, I was able to accompany the choirs on their trip to Germany and Paris. It was a life-changing trip for many students to sing in the Chartres Cathedral or to sit on the organ bench once occupied by composer Gabriel Faure.

Community Engagement

It is easy to talk about community engagement when a department presents nearly 200 free concerts per year! We have our loyal following of Springfieldians and campus community members, and every year, we gain new friends through students who wind up at concerts due to a class assignment or who show up to support a friend. I have called our department “The Department of Cheap Dates.” Where else can you take a date for an evening of free entertainment, and still have funds left for a pre-concert dinner or après-concert dessert?

Missouri State student jazz musicians performing at downtown Springfield venueThere are other ways the Music Department demonstrates community engagement as well. First, the department faculty are an amazing and wonderful community themselves. Individually, our faculty members are dedicated and talented performers, conductors, and scholars who work independently to continue to hone their expertise and who come together to perform, create, and share research with each other and with our students. They continually model the behaviors and efforts that we want our students to have.

Here is a short list of community activities that the department offers:

  • The Music Department offers a community choir experience every Thursday evening, and the community band meets every Monday night.
  • The band area presents the Ozarko marching contest every fall for regional marching bands, and the day-long pageantry is open to the public.
  • The Pride Bands are also known for their annual Veterans’ Day Concert, another free public offering.
  • More recently, the department has sponsored the “Taps Cascade,” a gathering of over fifty trumpeters who successively play “Taps” at 11:11 AM on or close to Veterans Day on the MSU Campus. This offering, started by former Associate COAL Dean Roger Stoner, has included many community musicians and a number of high school trumpeters.

Community Engagement can also refer to communities beyond the scope of campus boundaries. This March, our Jazz Studies Ensemble traveled to New York City. On the way to the airport, they performed concerts at four St. Louis area school programs. Their first evening in New York, they joined the Theatre and Dance annual Showcase at a venue in Greenwich Village as the back-up band for the musical theatre majors to perform for alumni and friends. The following day, the Jazz Studies Ensemble members had master classes and individual lessons with some legendary members of the Village Vanguard Big Band, and they attended an evening listening to the Vanguard Band. This was a case of taking our students into a new “community” for engagement!

Missouri State Opera performance of Magic Flute

New faculty member, Dr. Ann Marie Daehn recently produced and directed our first full-length opera in a number of years, Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Dr. Daehn involved Dr. Eric Pervukhin’s class in designing the posters advertising this event. In addition, Dr. Vonda Yarberry and her classes in designed the virtual digital sets for the production. The costumes were donated as a result of her efforts in the community. Visiting Theatre instructor Jennifer Stoessner built and trained the puppet dragon (who unfortunately is killed in the first scene!). Our opera theatre workshop class developed a partnership with Robberson Elementary who studied what the genre of opera means and what the Magic Flute story symbolizes. The story, rich with Masonic symbolism of the Enlightenment, is about the power of love, redemption, and integrity, which brings me to the Ethical Leadership piece of our mission.

Ethical Leadership

As the primary institution for music education in the state of Missouri, our faculty is dedicated to providing our students with solid examples of classroom standards, integrity, and honesty as teachers, whether in the classroom or in the private studio. Our music education majors are exposed to these ideas from their first year on campus in their first teaching practicum. And we, of course, want our other majors and minors to embrace these ideals as well. I think our faculty all model ethical leadership for our students, but one faculty member visibly lives it every week through his work in founding and directing the Missouri State String Project.

The MSU String Project was the idea, dream, and reality of Dr. David Hays, our violinist. Dr. Hays designed the String Project, founded in 2005, as a means for providing group and individual string lessons to elementary students through a model of master-teacher, apprentice-teacher activities delivered off campus in partnership with Roundtree Elementary. Dr. Hays and Elizabeth Johnston, MSU alumna, serve as master teachers, and supervise a number of MSU string students and registered volunteers who teach a growing number of young string students and present them each semester in a culminating recital.

String playing teaches coordination, independence, and interdependence in ensemble work. Elementary students get to learn concentration, fine motor skills, to read a non-verbal language, and to use both sides of their brains in performing. MSU students get the opportunity to hone their teaching skills, and audiences get to experience the joy of shared music making by enthusiastic youngsters. The Project does not compete with any regional string orchestras and provides a bridge from elementary to middle school string programs.

These are just a few of many examples of work by the 30 full-time and 17 per-course MSU music faculty, our 300 undergraduate majors, and 45 graduate students to “live” the mission of Public Affairs.

During summer 2013, you will be able to enjoy the Summer Carillon Series, Tent Theatre, the Missouri Fine Arts Academy, and performances by the Summer Choir, Bands Alive, and others.

We will be back starting in August with a year’s worth of wonderful free concerts, and we hope you’ll join us as we continue President Smart’s summary: “Our goal is to develop educated persons. Our mission is public affairs.”

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¡Hola! Salve! Salut! Hallo! Olá!

Jason Jolley, head of MCLWritten by guest blogger Jason Jolley, head of modern & classical languages

Greetings from the Department of Modern and Classical Languages (MCL)!

This is an exciting time for language educators, with interest and enrollments in languages at an all-time high. According to the findings of a survey by the Modern Language Association, “Enrollments in languages other than English at US institutions of higher education have continued to grow over the past decade and are diversifying to include an increasingly broad range of language studies.” The newly-established Foreign Language Institute reflects a strong commitment on Missouri State’s part to be a leader in meeting the growing demand for instruction in certain less-commonly taught languages, and the department is taking other steps to provide the best possible language instruction to its students and the broader community.

What is the Foreign Language Institute?

On September 17, 2012, then-Interim President Clif Smart and his counterparts at Evangel University, Drury University, Southwest Baptist University, and Ozarks Technical Community College signed an agreement to create the Foreign Language Institute (FLI). This marked the culmination of several years of collaborative discussion and planning.

Foreign Language InstituteThe FLI is a Missouri State-led partnership among five Springfield-area institutions of higher learning. Its purpose is to expand opportunities for students at all of the partner schools and in the broader community to learn languages, particularly those identified as critical or less commonly taught languages. Although most area schools are able to offer robust language programs in Spanish, French, and German, many cannot offer courses in other languages because of low enrollments or the lack of faculty resources. The FLI will allow the partner schools to combine students and to share instructional resources, such as faculty and facilities, thus saving money and making it possible to offer collaboratively many languages that could otherwise not be offered.

The classes will be held in the Jim D. Morris Center in downtown Springfield. The first offerings, in Italian and Portuguese, debuted this spring. Other languages to be offered by the Institute include Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian. Students from the partner schools will pay tuition to their home institutions to enroll in regular, three-credit classes. Members of the community interested in taking language courses on a non-credit basis may enroll in semester-long classes but will pay reduced fees. The Institute may also offer shorter, specialized courses, such as Spanish for medical or law enforcement professionals or travel-prep courses in various languages for groups preparing to study abroad.

The Institute will be jointly administered by MCL and the International Programs office and will also have an advisory board consisting of Missouri State personnel and members from the partner institutions and the community. You can find more information about the FLI at its new website.

Program Changes

MCL is gearing up to introduce two major curricular changes we believe will help us better serve our current students – and attract new ones. The first of these involves combining all nine of our current undergraduate programs in modern languages into a single, new Bachelor in Modern Language and Culture. Under this flexible, interdisciplinary design, students complete 33 hours beyond the 102-level in one language and culture and pair that emphasis with one of four options: (1) Second Language and Culture, (2) Translation, (3) Applied Business, (4) Teacher Certification. We’d like to thank faculty and administrators in the departments of finance and general business, communication, and English, and in the College of Education for their support of this new approach, which encourages students to combine language proficiency and cultural competence with other 21st Century skills. We hope to be able to add new professional options as we discuss possibilities with other departments whose graduates would benefit from language learning. (Wait… Wouldn’t that be all programs? We’ll be in touch!)

We’re also preparing to propose a new graduate program in partnership with the Department of English. This program, provisionally titled Master of Applied Second Language Acquisition (MASLA), is a flexible degree program that combines training in topics pertinent to second language acquisition theory and practice (such as linguistics, research and teaching methods, and materials and assessment design) with advanced discipline-specific coursework focused on the areas of TESOL, Spanish, and French. It is designed for anyone with an interest in teaching one of these languages, including currently certified teachers. MASLA graduates will be well qualified to teach languages in a variety of settings, both in the United States and abroad.

MSU's Modern & Classical LanguagesMCL and all of its new and old partners are very excited about the potential of all three of these initiatives. We’re also grateful for the support we’ve received from Interim Dean Galanes, President Smart and everyone else who understands how crucial language-learning is to the success of today’s graduates.


There’s never been a better time to learn a language. So, what are you waiting for?

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Visual Arts Thriving and Moving Forward

Carolyn Cárdenas, Head of ARTWritten by guest blogger Carolyn Cárdenas, head of art and design

Halfway through my first year as the head of the Art+Design department, possibilities for vital growth and creative changes in the department remain strong. Art+Design is undergoing a full-scale move to a converted warehouse, Brick City, in July, and it will be the first time since the early fifties that all thirty full-time and thirty adjunct faculty and staff are serving students in the same spaces.

Moving from five buildings on campus to a 180,000 square feet facility in the historical district of downtown Springfield, “BRIK” will be the new home for 569 majors, five undergraduate and two graduate degrees within thirteen disciplines. Art history, ceramics, photography, metals, printmaking, graphic design, animation, electronic arts and digital arts students will join art education, painting, drawing, and sculpture areas already at the facility.

Brick City
Department of Art+Design’s 2013-14 classes will be located in newly renovated downtown Springfield Brick City studios

The many opportunities to study at the largest art department in the state are another example of this exciting growth. A new Master of Fine Arts in Visual Studies degree program is being developed by the faculty, with a promise of opening its doors in a year. Seven study away programs are offered for our artists and students across the university in Florence, China, Korea, London, France, the US southwest and Taiwan. Recently Art+Design’s new website, designed by Marlin/The Alchemedia Project, a local and Chicago based-design firm and long-time supporter of the visual arts at Missouri State, has launched. A new graphic design endeavor, the Brick City Design Studio, has begun an enterprise, a real working studio, which has students as employees who design for clients in the community and for university accounts, as well. Our students are placed in valuable internships all over the country. The electronic arts degree is one with classes in music and media, film and journalism that allows students who want a digital degree, but from a different perspective, an interdisciplinary path.

A still shot from “Alien”, an animation student’s project
A still shot from “Alien”, animation student Matthew Stevens’ project, developed in his major, after a two-year foundations study in design and drawing

Evidence of these successful programs is brought to the table by faculty whose talents can only be described as remarkable. Last year faculty members exhibited art in locales as far away as Germany, Portugal and India. They showed their works in cities across the country: New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City.  From Rutgers University and University of Southern California to the University of Texas, painters, graphic designers, and print makers sent solo shows and participated in definitive group exhibitions. Over thirty prizes were awarded to them at competitions. Lectures were delivered in Mexico City, Paris, and Krakow and at such institutions as Pratt University, UC Santa Barbara, and Wayne State. Art history and art education publications and conference presentations were delivered in or are currently scheduled for Manchester, England, San Diego, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz.  Electronic arts were screened in Caracas, Venezuela and at Syracuse University, N.Y.

Student Tom Davis' work in Metals
Student Tom Davis’ work in Metals

Many faculty members sit on prestigious committees and hold offices in national professional organizations, and well-known visiting artists are brought in two or three times a month by every area. Faculty members have intensively networked over the years and continue to introduce our students to regional and national opportunities.

All these professional faculty activities—in one year alone—bode well for our students and alumni. They also regularly travel to conferences, present their own research, collect prizes and awards, host international artists, work as interns and are regularly accepted in top-drawer graduate schools. I invite you to visit our website, call our department to schedule a visit, or just search the web for all the talented artists—teachers, students, professionals and alumni who have associations with Missouri State University. On behalf of them all, I am delighted to report that the visual arts are not only thriving, but are also taking the next step to new prospects and a great future.

Student Carissa Parks' work in Photography
Student Carissa Parks’ work in Photography
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A Few Thoughts on Assessment

Bob Willenbrink, Head of THEWritten by guest blogger Bob Willenbrink, head of theatre and dance

There has been a great deal of talk on campus about assessment and we have just concluded the first successful Showcase on Assessment here at Missouri State. The half day showcase featured presentations by a number “faculty assessors” and committees from many departments and all colleges as well as a keynote speech and consultations with assessment and retention expert, Dr. Jean Hensheid, Portland State University. At its conclusion, I am convinced that we are on the cusp of great success in the development and implementation of solid assessment plans University-wide.

Some would question (excuse me for paraphrasing a great song) assessment, saying “…what is it good for, absolutely nothin’, say it again…” while others would counter that strong assessment strategies will answer many questions about student progress, enable us to carefully review our programs to ensure that our students are fulfilling their learner outcomes and are leaving the university adequately prepared for entering their careers. Truth is, the answer lies somewhere between the two extremes.

As I have shared with many, at my previous institution I was dragged kicking and screaming to the altar of assessment and left the first discussions quite confused and a little angry. But no matter, we were told we were compelled to assess our programs and we had to begin immediately to develop comprehensive assessment plans. These plans had to be done in just a few months! This led to a crash course on vision statements, mission statements, student learning outcome (SLO) writing and rubric development. The learning curve about assessment was steep, but I must admit that, after all was said and done, I was feeling pretty smug and satisfied with the first results. We possessed a thorough plan; it was built upon a sound educational foundation and philosophy. The plan we assembled would look fairly and comprehensively at all programs within the department. Surely we were about to become great program assessors! Then we assessed.

We discovered many things in that first assessment cycle. We discovered that we did indeed have a clear mission for our programs and for the most part our programs of study were consistent with our mission. On the flip side, we also discovered that while most of our coursework described and appeared to address the SLO’s, we established that wasn’t always the case. So we made some adjustments, tweaked a few courses and adjusted some course content. All in all, even that early cycle gave us a good picture of the nature of our program and where we needed to improve. Most importantly, what I discovered was that the real value in assessment was not the standards or outcomes we assessed, but rather how we utilized that information to improve and enhance our academic and co-curricular programs. I must confess, even this modest success convinced me that assessment was a valuable thing and strong assessment plans would be a significant tool in building and augmenting our programs in the future. In short, I was a believer. Unfortunately, after that first cycle I departed that university and happily landed at Missouri State.

As we all know, the university has recently reconstituted the Assessment Council, hired a new Director of Assessment and is pursuing new strategies for developing a system of strong program assessments throughout the University. This pursuit is heightened by the development and employment of the Quality Improvement Project (QEP) for the upcoming Higher Learning Commission (HLC) review and the development and implementation of a new General Education program. Strong assessment plans are key components to both of these significant initiatives and it will be vital for all faculty members to be active and enthusiastic contributors to the construction and execution of these plans. I have heard that previous assessment initiatives did not thrive and faded from lack of interest and faculty participation. But Missouri State is much different now, and with clear direction from an eager and stable leadership team, I am convinced that in relatively short order we will all benefit from quality assessment of our programs.

At the Showcase, it was clear that many departments and colleges have already composed insightful, active plans and use the information in positive ways. Others are still developing their plans and making progress toward total implementation. What is important to remember is that all assessment plans are living organisms that must change, morph and evolve to meet the ever changing needs of our students and our disciplines. Another important aspect of assessment plans is that they promote conversation and positive working relationships among faculty members. Perhaps most significantly, the information that assessment plans will provide will be used to strengthen and improve what we do in our classes, in our laboratories, in our studios and in our performances. Frankly, I am excited about assessment at Missouri State. I think we are headed in the right direction and I look forward to learning about all of the strong and excellent programs in all colleges. As E.S. Grassian says:

“We plan. We develop. We deliver. We assess and evaluate the results of the assessment. We revise, deliver the revised material, and assess and evaluate again. Perfection is always just out of reach; but continually striving for perfection contributes to keeping both our instruction fresh and our interest in teaching piqued.”

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COM Showcases Excellence with Community Engagement and Faculty Scholarship

Shawn Wahl

Written by guest blogger Shawn Wahl, head of communication

Greetings! As I approach my fifteenth year working in higher education and complete my first semester at Missouri State University as the new department head of communication, I have to say that my experience working in the College of Arts and Letters has been a true highlight of my career. I would like to thank Dr. Gloria Galanes, interim dean of the College of Arts and Letters (COAL), for her outstanding leadership this year. I also appreciate the opportunity to share with friends of COAL some significant accomplishments in the Department of Communication. Considering the remarkable quality and culture of excellence upheld by the departments of art and design; communication; English; media, journalism, and film; modern and classical languages; and theatre and dance, there are many student, faculty, and alumni accomplishments to showcase in COAL. In what follows, I would like to focus on several important accomplishments that profile the Department of Communication as one example of excellence and quality in our college.

Debate WAtch
Debate Watch

Fostering community engagement with Debate Watch 2012

The College of Arts and Letters and Department of Communication hosted a debate forum during the first presidential debate at the Gillioz Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 3rd. Debate Watch 2012 was organized by Dr. Elizabeth Dudash, assistant professor of communication, and Dr. Eric Morris, director of MSU Debate and assistant professor of communication. A panel of experts on media, politics, and presidential campaigns were available after the debate for discussion with community members.

Center for Dispute Resolution

Advancing MSU’s public affairs mission: CDR lands major Community Partnership grant

Congratulations to the Director of MSU’s Center for Dispute Resolution (CDR) and Professor of Communication, Dr. Charlene Berquist, and Heather Blades, associate director, who authored a Department of Health and Human Services Regional Partnership Grant to Increase the Well-Being of and to Improve the Permanency Outcomes for Children Affected by Substance Abuse that was awarded to Alternative Opportunities, Inc. (AOI) in Springfield, Mo. and partner CDR. Berquist and Blades wrote all aspects of the grant related to family group conferencing. The grant amount is for up to one million dollars per year for five years. AOI asked for nearly $500,000 this first year, and the CDR receives $32,000 this year to support the family group conferencing component that includes training of grant staff, community stakeholders and partners to get their buy-in; and the recruitment, training, and monitoring of third party meeting facilitators engaged in the family group conferencing process—primarily CDR staff, community volunteers, and MSU students. This type of grant activity is one powerful example of work that fosters the university’s public affairs mission.

Dr. Kelly Wood for receiving the Outstanding Advising Award presented by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA)

Wood receives national advising award

Congratulations to Dr. Kelly Wood, associate professor of communication, for receiving the Outstanding Advising Award presented by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). Wood won in the Faculty Advisor category that recognizes effective advising qualities and practices that distinguish the recipient as an outstanding academic advisor. The award was presented at an awards ceremony Thursday, Oct. 4th during the annual NACADA conference in Nashville, Tenn.

Communication alumna inspires students at COM Week 2012

The department celebrated COM Week 2012 this semester with a keynote presentation from one of our successful alums. Meredith Cantrell, a director of marketing, spoke on the topic of audience specific marketing in the communication field.

Cantrell currently serves as Director of Marketing for Saint Luke’s East Hospital, a member of Saint Luke’s Health System, in Lee’s Summit, Mo. She is responsible for the hospital’s strategic marketing plan, advertising, public relations and media relations, internal and external communications, and community relations. She also provides strategic marketing support for surgical services and primary care at the health system level. Prior to assuming her current role, she worked as Saint Luke’s manager of web and digital marketing, providing oversight of the system’s website, employee intranet, social media and digital marketing.

Cantrell graduated from Missouri State University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and later completed her master’s degree in health communications at Purdue University. She has previously worked at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Shawnee Mission, Kan., and the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service Partnership Program, based out of the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

Faculty present research and recruit graduate students in national forum

A number of communication faculty members presented research projects at the National Communication Association conference in Orlando, Fla. The following communication faculty presented peer selected research papers and served as national panel chairs/respondents.

Dr. Randy Dillon, Professor of Communication, Director of Graduate Studies

  • Instructor-Student Interactions: Rapport, Collaboration, and Ethical Negotiations
  • Applying Communication in Our Communities through Men’s Breakfast Groups, Patients in Medical Clinics, and Internet Health Information

Dr. Stephanie Norander, Assistant Professor of Communication

  • Practical Issues Addressed by Applied Communication Theory and Research
  • Technology, Social Media, and Organizational Communication
  • Fitting into COMMunity: Communication Training for Lifelong Opportunities

Dr. Kelly Wood, Associate Professor of Communication

  • To Tenure and Beyond: Strengthening COMMunity by Mentoring Associate Professors

Dr. Eric Morris, Assistant Professor of Communication, Director of MSU Debate

  • Framing Debate through the Digital Transformations in Contemporary Debate Practices

Dr. Nick Carcioppolo, Assistant Professor of Communication

  • Entertainment Narratives and Media Influence: Proposing Associations among the Predictors of the Entertainment Overcoming Resistance Model

Dr. Shawn Wahl, Professor of Communication, Department Head

  • Celebrating and Engaging Community in the Basic Course: Approaches to Teaching in the Communication Age

In addition to presenting research, a team of faculty from the Department of Communication recruited graduate students for the M.A. in Communication program and hosted an alumni reception. The Department of Communication National Alumni reception was attended by more than 70 MSU alums and professional communication colleagues from across the nation and served as a great forum for potential graduate students to network with faculty and alumni.


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English Department’s Outreach to YOU

Dr. W.D. BlackmonWritten by guest blogger W.D. Blackmon, head of English

First, I’d like to thank Professor Gloria Galanes for being such a wonderful dean, and, second, I’d like to thank her for allowing me the opportunity to communicate with you directly through her blog. I want to focus on four areas in which the English Department actively seeks to work with you, our colleagues, in the College of Arts and Letters or elsewhere on campus, and you, our fellow community members locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. I have chosen four representative areas to discuss, but I could have focused on dozens of areas in which we in English want to work more closely with you.

The Children’s Literature Festival of the Ozarks

One of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen at Missouri State (or anywhere) occurs each Friday (in recent years) of MSU’s Fall Break. On Wednesday of Fall Break week, the campus sidewalks are flooded by thousands of eighteen- and twenty-year-olds; on Friday, however, these students seem magically transformed into shockingly younger versions of themselves (nine- and eleven-year-olds)!

For the last five years, the Children’s Literature Festival of the Ozarks has been hosted on the MSU campus the Friday of Fall Break (the twenty-seven years before that it was hosted at Drury). Those thousands of fourth-sixth-grade kids taking over the campus the Friday of Fall Break are here to listen to noted children’s authors from around the country. Up to fourteen sessions are held hourly and concurrently throughout the school day, with some of the sessions hosting over four hundred children! The authors include our local literacy champion David Harrison, who has sold tens of millions of children’s books (eighty million, and counting, I believe).

It’s an inspiring sight to witness the river of enthusiastic young readers (and their teachers and librarians) flowing past the front of Carrington Hall at the change-over time between sessions. This flood of juvenile enthusiasm would be one terrific way to illustrate the productive collaboration between Missouri State University and the Springfield Public Schools, as would the multiple sessions with authors (one of the most striking sessions I’ve witnessed was author Roland Smith’s session with Coger Theatre full of young students: he had their absolute and delighted attention). The Children’s Literature Festival of the Ozarks Committee takes note of the favorite authors of their targeted fourth-eighth-grade audience, and has had remarkable success bringing those very authors to campus. Meyer Library at MSU and the Children’s OWP_Break-at-Youth-Writing-CampLiterature faculty in the English Department (and others on campus) help the organizing committee (public school teachers and librarians, local librarians, and others) coordinate this huge, colorful, and important event for young students.

The Ozarks Writing Project

The Ozarks Writing Project (the on-campus site of the National Writing Project) in the English Department at Missouri State has helped train, revitalize, and reinvigorate hundreds of teachers in the region in all the disciplines that use writing and at all levels of schooling, from kindergarten through graduate school. Dozens of specific initiatives undertaken by the Ozarks Writing Project focus on such things as preserving local heritage and involving a younger generation of students in learning about, celebrating, and writing about that heritage. The Ozarks Writing Project also empowers and inspires thousands of young writers from the region at youth writing camps held at Missouri State University. For the eight years of its existence, Dr. Keri Franklin, Director of English Education, has shaped, expanded, and directed the OWP.

For each of those past eight years I have sat in a session of one of  the Ozarks Writing Project  summer workshops and found the work done there to be especially effective and inspiring. Each time I have visited an Ozarks Writing Project session, the teachers/students/participants were so highly motivated and enthusiastic it was a very inspiring experience for me. Our future (and current!) public school teachers (in virtually every academic field, not just English) are obviously in excellent hands with Dr. Franklin at the OWP.

National Writing Project sites such as the Ozarks Writing Project have a profound “ripple effect” in regard to teachers and students in this region. For example, thirty-five teachers who have learned to improve their teaching of writing radically during the summer session, then, in turn, teach 150 or so writing students the next year, and this very positive cycle continues, year after year, to benefit the region in fundamental ways, since effective writing is perhaps the single most important skill (combined with reading) learned in our educational system.

Dr. Franklin’s grant writing success through the OWP is extremely impressive. Among the highlights of the over $300,000 in externally funded grants she has raised in connection with the OWP was a Local Sites Research Initiative ($20,000 for each of three years to study the effectiveness of DESE Literacy Academies for a total of $60,000). Dr. Franklin remains, year-after-year, the most successful grant writer in the College of Arts and Letters.

The Moon City Press

In 2006, Professor James Baumlin, as Managing Editor of the Moon City Press, began a series of books, researched and written by students, about the cultural heritage of this region, publishing The Gillioz “Theatre Beautiful”: Remembering Springfield’s Theatre History, 1926-2006. This beautiful book has been praised by countless community members and played an important role in the gala-reopening of the Gillioz Theatre in downtown Springfield in October 2006. That series has continued with such publications as Recipes of Hope: Holiday Stories for and from The Kitchen in 2009 (this was a fund-raiser for the Missouri Hotel and Kitchen), and  Confederate Girlhoods: A Women’s History of Springfield, Missouri in 2010 (a book for which Dr. Baumlin mentored graduate student research concerning the letters of the women of the Campbell family, Springfield’s founding family). This book is partly remarkable in that it is a feminist history of early Springfield, Missouri, which is a pioneering breakthrough achievement, clearly.

Publishing 6-8 books annually, the MCP uses the following mission statement in all the books it publishes: This book is a joint venture of the Missouri State University Departments of English and Art and Design. With publication series in “Arts and Letters” and “Ozarks History and Culture,” Moon City books feature collaborations between students and faculty over the various aspects of publication: research, writing, editing, layout, and design.

At its heart, the MCP is (and will always be) a “teaching laboratory,” providing real-world experience to student researchers, writers, artists, editors, and graphic designers. Its “book annual” (upgraded from annual journal), the Moon City Review, allows Missouri State’s best students to experience national publication alongside writers of international stature: these include recipients of Pulitzer, MacArthur, Fulbright, and Faulkner Awards, the Prix de Rome, the Poet’s Prize (poetry’s equivalent of a National Book Award), and a Pushcart Prize. Missouri State students have also been published side-by-side with a Missouri Poet Laureate, an American Poet Laureate, a Presidential Inaugural Poet, and a living past President of the United States.

The Ozarks Studies Institute

Professor Kris Sutliff in the English Department has served as the Director of the Ozarks Studies Institute since 2007. The OSI seeks to preserve the heritage of the Ozarks, its culture, environment, and history by fostering a comprehensive knowledge of the Ozarks’ peoples, places, characteristics, and dynamics. It sponsors an Ozarks Studies Minor, numerous research archives, a wide-ranging annual festival, and a revitalized OzarksWatch magazine, which has been published in various forms since the 1970s.

Each year, in September, the Ozarks Studies Institute sponsors The Ozarks Celebration Festival, which is an entertaining and educational look at the region’s culture and heritage. The University launched the festival in 1998 with the hope that it would foster an understanding of place for both natives of the Ozarks and visitors. This year’s festival featured over 60 traditional craftspeople and commercial artists, three stages of music (which included traditional, bluegrass, and gospel music), Ozarks storytelling, traditional dance, films, historical characters, exhibits, and more.

The Ozarks Lecture Series, which occurs in conjunction with the Ozarks Celebration Festival, featured such notable speakers and topics this year as Rachel Reynolds Luster’s “Bringing It All Back Home: Holistic Approaches to Community Renewal and Cultural Sustainability in the Ozarks”; David L. Burton’s “Saving One-Room Schools in the Ozarks”; Dr. Brian Campbell’s film The Natural State of America and talk “Cutworm, Crow, Share and Grow:  The Conservation of Ozark Agrobiodiversity”; and Professor William Garrett Piston’s “Forgotten Local History: The Confederate Attack on Springfield, January 8, 1863.” In addition, a day of digital stories was presented by the Ozarks Writing Project.

The focus of the Ozarks Studies Institute is to encourage scholarly research focusing on the Ozarks while also being an educational resource, particularly for the region’s elementary and secondary schools. Some of the more notable collections that Missouri State University has available for research are the following (the first two feature work by former and current English faculty):

  • The Katherine G. Lederer Ozarks African American History Collection showcases work done by Dr. Lederer for over 20 years, as she worked to preserve this region’s African American heritage. Through archival research and by building close bonds with the area’s ethnic community, Dr. Lederer compiled a collection of approximately 7,500 documents, many from the 19th century.  The Lederer Collection includes over 2,500 photographs, numerous documents (such as marriage records and copies of church records), and Dr. Lederer’s own notes and writings.
  • The Telling Traditions project is an oral history working to uncover, chronicle, and transmit the legacy of Jewish women in the Ozarks in collaboration with Temple Israel in Springfield, Missouri. This project’s goal is to preserve the culture of local Jewish women and to spread awareness of Jewish traditions.
  • The Max Hunter Collection is an archive of almost 1,600 Ozark Mountain folk songs, recorded between 1956 and 1976. A traveling salesman from Springfield, Missouri, Hunter took his reel-to-reel tape recorder into the hills and backwoods of the Ozarks, preserving the heritage of the region by recording the songs and stories of many generations of Ozark history. As important as the songs themselves are the voices of the Missouri and Arkansas folks who shared their talents and recollections with Hunter.

I hope you are able to enjoy, in one form or another, such outreach projects connected with the English Department as those described above.

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A Reflection on Change

Mark Biggs, Head of MJFWritten by guest blogger Mark Biggs, head of media, journalism and film

No doubt about it. We live in a time of rapid and remarkable change — the veritable best of times and the absolute worst depending upon your mood or prevailing perspective. You have but to open the newspaper (remember those things?), watch the news or read your favorite blog online to realize that the world is changing in fundamental and profound ways, both philosophically and technologically.

As Head of the Media, Journalism & Film Department in the College of Arts and Letters at Missouri State University, I find myself regularly confronting changes that are rocking the disciplines I represent and profoundly affecting higher education, an enterprise in which I’ve toiled for the past 26 years.

Just a few days ago, Fuji Film announced that the company will stop producing 35mm movie film after 2013. Kodak — that once venerable, now bankrupt giant — announced last year that the company would quit manufacturing 35mm film stock. The “film industry” is now officially dead. And while I am saddened by this prospect, I am not surprised. The conversion to digital recording has been coming for some time now.

Nonetheless, this change is profoundly affecting the whole film industry, from film makers, to film crews, to film distributors. Locally, the folks who run Springfield’s only independent movie theatre, The Moxie, are scrambling to find funding to purchase two very expensive high-definition video projectors to replace their old 35mm film projectors. They have no choice. Their film distributors stop shipping film prints within the next year. The transition to digital cinema is literally do-or-die for everyone in the film world. There is no turning back from this new digital divide.

Equally huge upheavals are affecting the rest of the media world. Broadcast television and radio networks are facing consolidation, increasing automation, and possible extinction due to the advent of cable and on-demand mobile TV and radio. Recently, I had an opportunity to watch a newscast at KSPR in Springfield. Just three people were needed in the studio to produce the evening news (an anchor, a weatherman, and a floor director armed with three automated cameras). A far cry from the number of skilled professionals needed to produce the news just a few years ago.

Indeed, the entire news industry has undergoing a rapid transformation commonly referred to as convergence. It is no longer sufficient for journalists to know how to cover and report the news. Today they must be able to snap telling digital pictures, shoot revealing video, and record evocative sound bites. Then these same journalists must know how to repackage these elements quickly into informative and digitally-engaging news packages for posting on the web. The recent 30th Anniversary issue of USA Today made clear that these new journalism skills are mandatory for anyone seeking a career in news.

Convergence is driving everything in media toward the world-wide-web. From a business perspective, this transformation makes complete sense. This is where the mobile generation resides, a generation of young people who prefer to consume their news, enjoy their entertainment, buy their goods, and routinely interact with their peers online.

Of course, not everything about the changes brought on by convergence is negative — a whole new generation of citizen journalists is flourishing, enhanced story coverage is now the norm via internet links, and ready access to news from around the world is free and easy to find. Still, the profound changes affecting all forms of media have begun to affect higher education as well. Universities with programs in media, film and journalism are struggling to understand what all these changes will mean to the students we are trying to educate today for tomorrow’s realities.

At Missouri State we have responded through some profound changes to our curriculum. We have developed new core classes in Fundamentals of Media Convergence and Media Literacy. All of our majors now take these classes along with courses in media theory, media law and media ethics. Most of them also gain practical skills required by professional careers in media production, journalism, and digital film production. Our goal is to train all of our students to be digitally literate, intellectually competent, and equally comfortable working online, in print, or on air.

But some universities have responded to industry-wide changes by pulling away from their previous educational missions. Last year, the regents at the University of Colorado voted to close the School of Journalism at the Boulder campus. They formed a much smaller department of journalism and mass communication and spread the J-faculty out across a variety of departments. Their stated objective was to create a stronger journalism program that would be more responsive to changes in the industry. Time alone will tell if “decentralization” works or not.

A week ago, Emory University announced plans to phase out its own journalism program and to shut down the departments of Visual Arts, Physical Education and the Division of Educational Studies, along with suspending graduate enrollment in Economics and Spanish. Emory’s stated rational for this reorganization is to improve quality by reducing costs associated with some programs, while bolstering programs seen as “truly essential to a liberal arts education.” I can certainly appreciate Emory’s aspirations toward excellence, but it is hard to imagine a discipline more in line with liberal arts expectations than journalism. And a degree more essential to the life of our democracy.

Yet transformative changes like these are occurring all across higher education. Much of the resulting change is being driven by a variety of new realities:

  • steadily shrinking funding from state legislatures (an economic reality that is dramatically affecting how public universities operate),
  • ongoing questions about the value and efficacy of higher education if it doesn’t lead to high paying jobs, and
  • competition created by a variety of educational alternatives, including free classes available online (offered by premiere universities such as Stanford and Harvard) and head-to-head competition with for-profit online universities.

In addition, change in higher education is being driven increasingly by the realization that today’s undergraduates want to learn in new and different ways. The mobile generation is far less attracted to the traditional university model of static lectures. Increasingly, today’s college students — at least in my experience — aspire to more interactive modes of learning. They want a variety of educational options available to them, including seated, online and blended class formats. They understand and value learning methods that require them to participate more fully in the learning process — regular small group interaction, problem-solving exercises in the classroom, and a variety of practical opportunities to engage with the real world. As a result, new modes of delivery and methods of teaching are being developed all across the country in a whirlwind of curriculum redesign.

In the midst of this upheaval, both educational and industrial, perhaps the best thing we can do is to take a deep breath, make the time to analyze what is happening throughout the world as a result of the digital revolution, and then try to embrace those changes in higher education that will better prepare our students for the world they will face in the 21st Century.

There really is no pressing need to eliminate a film program or a visual arts department simply because modes of visual storytelling are changing. Nor should we eliminate journalism programs at a time when we actually need more well-educated journalists — journalists who are actually fair and objective. In fact, our democracy would be better off if we trained all of our students to be more media literate. We need to enhance both liberal arts education and practical, professional training for our students since they need a healthy combination of theory and practice when they confront their own transformative changes in the future.

As educators, we simply cannot afford to see students merely as consumers who come to college to purchase a “customized playlist of knowledge” as Michael Roth puts it in his New York Times article, “We_Don’t_Need_No_Education“.

As Roth makes clear in this cogent essay, John Dewey, that prescient and still pertinent American philosopher and educator, got it right when he said that education’s primary goal must be to teach us how to learn so that we can continue to grow and develop throughout our lives. The ability to learn, not the content we acquired in any particular class, is what provides us with the deepest form of freedom. In a democracy like ours, education is the essential tool that allows us all to understand the world, to cope with change in productive ways, and to find significance through our work and interconnections with each other.

Vast changes are upon us. More changes are coming. Indeed, the only thing that will not change is change itself. And though education can’t offer all the answers, it is still the best hope we have to learn how to cope with change and to make good decisions when facing transformative change. Learning how to learn and then continuing to learn as we live our lives is the best antidote to becoming paralyzed by or cynical about the inevitable changes we all must face.

Perhaps this is the best reason to become an educator, and certainly it’s the best reason to remain a student for the rest of our lives. Turns out we really do need some education.

Here’s hoping your education allows you to cope well and prosper.

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Recruitment, Retention, Assessment

Greetings, again, to friends of the College of Arts and Letters! As many of you know by now, I am serving as the interim dean for the college this year. In my “regular” life, I am a professor in the Department of Communication and am starting my 27th year at Missouri State. I served as acting dean during the 2005-06 academic year, so I believe I know the college well and I will do my best to represent COAL this year.

We are focusing on three major issues in COAL during the 2012-13 year: recruitment, retention, and assessment. I’ll write briefly about each one.


As you may know, we are highly dependent on enrollment for funding our initiatives. State support for higher education has been dwindling for many years. Thirty years ago, about 54% of the University’s budget came from state funding sources; today, about 28% of MSU’s budget comes from state funding. This has increased the burden on students, and it has also made enrollment stability and growth extremely important. If we want to fund new programs and initiatives, we must find our own internal funding sources. This makes issues such as recruitment and retention critically important.

Moreover, relying on traditional recruitment for new first-time freshmen is not enough anymore! There are fewer first-time freshmen available and Missouri’s A+ program—which provides free tuition to two-year colleges if students meet certain high school grade and attendance criteria—means that many more students choose to pursue associate degrees at two-year colleges. It’s awfully hard to argue with “free”! What that means for us is that we have focused much of our attention in recent years to recruiting transfer students from Ozarks Technical Community College, in particular, but also from other two-year institutions around the state. We have strengthened our articulation agreements with such schools to ensure an easy transition from two-year schools to Missouri State. We will work, this year, to enhance those transition programs—even as we continue to recruit traditional students. The enrollment reports will not be final until mid-September, but as of the end of the first week of classes, COAL is down 2.75 % (from 2,512 students last year to 2,443 students this year). This isn’t the final count—we continue to process late enrollments and dual enrollments (high school students taking courses for Missouri State credit). However, we do need to pay attention to our recruitment efforts.


The college does a good job of retaining students. Missouri State’s overall retention—students who choose to return to Missouri State from fall to spring semester—was about 75% last year, but the college’s retention rate was 83%. We believe our retention rate is good because we work hard to connect to our students and make sure they find their home away from home. Each of our departments prides itself on excellent academic advising and on helping the students find their places.

Dr. Tom Kane, a faculty member in Psychology, has conducted research over the past few years to investigate why students choose to stay or leave MSU. Contrary to myths that sometimes get passed on, students generally do not leave because of poor grades or finances. They leave because they have not made an emotional connection to someone or something at Missouri State, and they are homesick. The efforts our departments make—to connect to the students early, to assign each student to an academic adviser who will help the student navigate the intricacies of the University—makes a difference and helps our retention. And, as I’m sure you know, it is far more efficient financially for us to hang on to the students we have than to find new students to replace them!


Assessment has been a focus at Missouri State for several years. We assess our students all the time—through tests, papers and other assignments—but when we talk about assessment, we are referring to assessment of our programs in general. Systematic assessment helps us identify our strengths and weaknesses and improve our instruction. For example, in my own department (Communication), we ask students during the semester they will graduate to provide examples of graded assignments they have received over their time with us. Each student uploads these materials, along with a current résumé and personal statement, and the student work is evaluated by a committee of faculty. What we learned, a while back, is that our students’ writing skills were weaker than we liked and our students were sloppy in their use of American Psychological Association (APA) style. Once we had identified these weaknesses, we looked at our curriculum to figure out where we could stress APA usage and enhance writing instruction. Thus, we used our assessment data to enhance our programs; this will be our assessment focus during the next year.

So, those issues will be our focus during the coming year—and we will be busy! But as a friend of the college, you know that we like to have fun, too! We will always be, as one of our department heads mentioned, the “College of Cheap Dates!” We have many free and low cost events scheduled throughout the year. The first of these is the (free!) Ozarks Celebration Festival, Sept. 7-9. The Ozarks Lecture Series and several additional events, including a showing of the film Winter’s Bone, are scheduled the following week, Sept. 10-14. We hope you will join us in as many COAL events as you can this coming year—we love to visit with our friends!

Ozarks Celebration Festival - Sept 7-14
The Ozarks Celebration Festival is an entertaining and educational look at the region’s culture and heritage. Join us Sept. 7-14 for music, storytelling, dance, film, historical characters, exhibits, crafts, vendors and more.


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