In the 10 weeks I have been in this office, I have been pleasantly surprised and very impressed with the calls I have received regarding our China Programs. I’ve received calls from both public and private Research I institutions in the Midwest asking about how we run our China Programs. They want to know details, not because our program is perfect, but rather because we are so far ahead of them in developing a solid, comprehensive program.
Over the years, Missouri State has received similar calls from state government, from national associations and from scholars doing research on these kinds of programs.
With the recent media coverage on one aspect of our China Programs – the Executive MBA program – I thought it would be helpful to give you a more comprehensive overview of a program that is the envy of many and one of our competitive advantages over other universities.
Missouri State’s China Programs began in 1998. Over time, it has grown and matured into several component parts: academic programs, research partnerships, exchange programs and much more. It is this combination of programs that causes other institutions/agencies/offices to call us to find out more.
Another reason we are contacted is that our China Programs generate more revenue than expenses. Said another way, the programs pay for themselves and also generate carry-forward funds. For example, in fiscal year 2010, revenues over expenses at our campus in China were a little more than $200,000. Those monies will be distributed as follows: $42,000 to the College of Business Administration, $24,000 to Missouri State University-West Plains and $134,000 will be transferred into our China Development budget which supports initiatives to further develop our recruiting, education and research activities in China. There is no longer any issue of getting the money home.
I want to summarize for you a few of the most significant component parts of the China Programs. You can also learn more on the Office of China Programs website.
Liaoning Normal University-Missouri State University College of International Business in Dalian
- This program has been in operation since 2000 and is currently in its second year of a 10-year extension of the partnership between Liaoning Normal University and Missouri State University.
- At LNU, the Missouri State University System offers two degrees: Associate of Arts in General Business from MSU-West Plains and a two-year completion program by the MSU-Springfield College of Business Administration which leads to the Bachelor of Science in General Business.
- All courses are taught in English, and students must take English proficiency tests before being admitted. As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, we recently raised the English proficiency standards, which is partly responsible for the decrease of 30-40 freshmen admitted into the program.
- MSU-West Plains is solely responsible for the curriculum offered and the faculty selected to teach classes for the initial two years. West Plains’ China AA program is separately accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and there are more than 500 students in the program this fall.
- The students receiving the AA degree have the choice of transferring to Missouri State-Springfield or remaining in the program in Dalian. Those remaining in Dalian are taught by our College of Business Administration faculty and the curriculum meets all of the accreditation requirements of AACSB. This fall, about 200 students remained in Dalian for years three and four, while 285 students are in Springfield taking their third year (125) and fourth year (160) courses.
- Also, as part of continuous improvement, the College of Business Administration is in the process of hiring two bilingual employees – one employee will be a China Programs Specialist, who provides a variety of support services for Chinese students studying in COBA, and the second will be an advisor working primarily with Chinese students.
- Missouri State University and Qingdao University have had a student and faculty exchange program in place since 1998.
- The faculty exchange program supports one Qingdao University faculty member teaching Chinese in our modern and classical languages department while Missouri State sends an exchange instructor to teach English at Qingdao University.
- In addition, an active program exists between the music departments of Missouri State and Qingdao University.
Study away in China Programs
- Missouri State students are given the opportunity to study at any one of four partner universities in China – Qingdao University in Qingdao, Henan University of Economics and Law in Zhengzhou, Renmin (People’s) University of China in Beijing and Liaoning Normal University in Dalian.
- Qingdao University of Science and Technology (QUST) – Missouri State and QUST have agreed to promote collaborative research in nanoscale materials, nanoscale devices, nanostructured spintronic materials, biomaterials, materials and metal complexes in hydrothermal solutions, and photovoltaic materials.
- Ningxia Forestry Institute and Ningxia University (Yinchuan) and China Agricultural University (Beijing) – Missouri State and these partners have developed a dual master’s degree in plant science and have also established collaborative research projects designed to promote research programs in viticulture, enology, plant pathology, and other agriculture and fruit science related areas. The MSU partnership with China Agricultural University in Beijing (China’s top ranked agricultural university) began in 2004.
- In 2007, COBA partnered with the International Management Education Center (IMEC) to offer the EMBA Program (Executive MBA Option). We respectfully disagree with the Springfield News-Leader’s editorial on our work with IMEC; we believe the partnership has been essential in the development of this program.
- This one-year, accelerated, cohort-based, 33-credit hour program is designed specifically for students “sponsored” by Chinese professional associations, provincial and municipal government agencies, and universities.
- Since 2007, 10 cohorts totaling 370 students have enrolled in the program. We believe the nearly five-fold increase in student enrollment from 2007-10 reflects student and sponsor satisfaction with the program and growth in the number of sponsoring organizations.
- All EMBA courses are taught on an overload basis – 29 COBA faculty have taught in this program since 2007.
- While English language skills are critical, experience to date indicates success is equally influenced by a multitude of other factors, including academic preparation, work experience, motivation and other time commitments (e.g., family obligations). We do agree with the News-Leader editorial that English language proficiency deserves on-going improvement and monitoring for quality assurance.
- The EMBA Program does help generate additional revenue, which is helpful, particularly in difficult economic times.
- The EMBA Program contributes to the University’s long-term commitment to economic development.
- The relationships being developed with sponsoring organizations, especially Chinese universities, have and will continue to provide cross-marketing opportunities for other academic programs at Missouri State.
Balancing priorities, challenges and benefits
Operating programs in two very different cultures, with very different education systems, is challenging, at best. We continue working hard on this initiative and to improve the quality of our programs for one reason: We believe there are tremendous benefits, primarily for our students and faculty, but also for the University itself, Springfield and the region.
If we are serious about the importance of and our commitment to diversity, international education and preparing our students to compete in a global economy, then we absolutely must have these kinds of programs. China is just one example. While we have 701 students from China this fall, we have a total 1,296 international students from 76 countries, and we are developing and/or expanding formal relationships in several countries, including Brazil and India.
And, if we continue to offer these programs, differences in culture, trust and language will continue to be challenges – challenges that also represent opportunities for us to address and strengthen our programs.
Should we lower our standards? Absolutely not. That is not the case now and no one is suggesting that. But we should be aware, empathetic, helpful and student-centered in our approach because that’s the right thing to do, and that’s what we expect as our students travel and study abroad.
Comprehensive internal audit
Will we improve each year we have the program? Absolutely. The China Programs are better today than last year or five years ago or in 1998. Most recently, Dr. Jim Baker, who oversees International Programs, asked for a comprehensive internal audit of the China Programs so improvements could be made.
The China Programs are a major financial operation. In 2011-12, for example, the 569 students in the undergraduate and graduate programs will generate about $5.85 million in gross revenue. The EMBA program will generate about $1.3 million in revenues. We must ensure these funds are being handled appropriately.
The audit is being completed in two stages. The first stage of that audit, which dealt with travel, is now complete. It can be best categorized as “routine” – no major findings but several suggestions for improvement. See the full audit. The second stage of the audit, regarding the overall finances of the program, will be available in the near future, and again we will post it on the Web for all to see.
So, we are committed to continuing our very successful China Programs, and we are committed to improving it every year just as we have done since 1998. Further, we are committed to expanding our international programs where it makes sense and where it is economically viable.
I hope this summary has been helpful to you. I wanted you to know what has caused so many to call us for advice.
The Board of Governors met last Friday. The Board had its summer retreat from 8-9:45 a.m., followed by the regular Board meeting at 10 a.m. I want to report to you on three significant topics we discussed at the Board retreat and meeting.
First year implementation of the long-range plan
At the retreat, we discussed and agreed upon the key objectives and tactics we will focus on during the first year of implementing the long-range plan, Fulfilling Our Promise. You can find the PowerPoint we used for this discussion online.
These priorities will be the major focus of my State of the University address Sept. 28 in Springfield and Oct. 4 in West Plains. I hope you can attend one of these addresses, or see coverage of them later on the Web and Ozarks Public Television.
Our intent was to identify some significant items from the long-range plan on which we could make significant progress during 2011-12. I look forward to working with you on these initiatives.
It is no secret that my top priority is finding a way to achieve across-the-board salary increases this year. On Friday, the Board of Governors confirmed its support and asked us to develop both short-term and long-term plans to increase salaries. I will work with Administrative Council, the Executive Budget Committee, and others to develop these plans.
For this year, whatever plan we develop will need to depend primarily, if not exclusively, on reallocated funds. Over the past several weeks, we have discussed the need to make decisions now that will allow us to reallocate funds later this year and next. Since more than 70 percent of our budget is spent on personnel (salaries and benefits), we absolutely must examine every open position to make sure we are addressing it in the best possible way.
The newspaper headline from Saturday – “Smart wants smaller MSU staff” – is misleading. My strong first preference would be to have the same or greater number of staff and to pay everyone above market rate. But that is not possible since state appropriations will continue to decrease, so we will have to make do with fewer staff as that will allow us to increase the pay for all.
I want to use the president’s office as one example of what I mean, since I have been given permission to use names of individuals.
- For nearly 30 years, the president’s office has had two full-time administrative assistants.
- Historically, the chief of staff has had one full-time administrative assistant.
- As most of you know, Barb Helvey retired at the end of May 2011 and is now working 1,000 hours (halftime).
- Marilyn Dennis will retire Dec. 31, 2011, and will begin working 1,000 hours.
- Renee Fogle, who has been working 1,000 hours in the general counsel’s office, is going to begin working 1,000 hours in the president’s office.
- And the administrative assistant position in the chief of staff’s office has gone unfilled since the passing of Teri Loch in June 2009.
So, by January 2012, we will have replaced three full-time positions in the president’s office and chief of staff’s office with three 1,000-hour positions, plus some increased student hours. This will save us more than $50,000 in salaries and another $12,000-$15,000 in benefits since we don’t pay benefits on 1,000-hour employees.
The end result is we will have about $62,000-$65,000 available for reallocation to the across-the-board increase.
Another example can be found in the Provost’s Office. Frank has ceased searches for two full-time staff members.Frank and his staff are redistributing responsibilities and planning to use more student employees to get the work done. This decision, too, will save several thousand dollars which can be reallocated.
Will we be able to combine and/or reduce positions in every unit across all campuses? Probably not, especially in those units that are very small and, therefore, have fewer options.
Will these changes cause us to stop doing some good, but non-essential, things we have done in the past? Yes.
Will we have to find ways to do things smarter and more efficiently? Absolutely.
Will the administrators in these areas work additional hours to get things done? Without a doubt.
But, if we are to position ourselves for an across-the-board increase, these kinds of personnel decisions have to be multiplied many times across campus. I hope I can count on you to help in this effort.
Investment in academic space at Brick City
On Friday, we had an in-depth discussion with the Board about an investment in academic space at Brick City. I want to share with you that same information.
As you know, academic space is at a premium on campus; Missouri State ranks last in the state in average square feet per student. And, quality academic space is even more precious.
For more than a decade, the University has focused its efforts on renovating buildings and space on campus (referred to as Facilities Reutilization Plan or FREUP). One of the primary goals of FREUP was to co-locate academic departments. Another strategy has been to lease space downtown instead of waiting for state funding for new buildings. All of this was intended to secure the best classroom and research space possible for our students and faculty.
We believe within the next 6 to 12 months, we will be presented with an opportunity to take yet another step in this process.
Frees other space
Missouri State already leases two of the buildings in Brick City, which house major portions of the art and design department. Soon, the University is likely to have the ability to lease the two remaining buildings (known as Buildings 1 and 5) which could be renovated so that the entire art and design department – faculty, staff and all functions – can be consolidated there.
By consolidating art and design in Brick City, we would free up (thus the acronym FREUP) approximately 20,000 square feet of space in Ellis Hall, the Jim D. Morris Center for Continuing Education, and Hill Hall for reassignment/reallocation.
Specifically, we would gain a very large space in Hill Hall to allow conversion and addition of a large core-campus state-of-the-art classroom, which would help facilitate our course redesign initiative. We would recover the fifth floor at the Morris Center for Continuing Education for reallocation for international programs (English Language Institute classrooms). The space in Ellis Hall would allow for the music department to be located in one physical location.
Both Wade Thompson, head of the department, and Dr. Carey Adams, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, have been involved in this planning and both are excited about the positive impact of this potential investment.
The “trigger” for this investment will be the ability to partner with a private company, which we anticipate would lease 1½ floors of the largest building (Building 1). Our hope is that this private company would allow for internships and student collaborations, as well as hire our graduates and create new high-paying jobs in Springfield.
A good investment
In addition to providing quality academic space, this investment would be a good one for several reasons:
- It further enhances and solidifies the IDEA Commons project/development area by completing the Brick City development.
- There is no cost for the next two years as the buildings are being renovated.
- The cost beginning in the fall of 2013 will be $550,000 annually for lease, which would be offset by about $280,000 in lease space we will discontinue, for a net increase of $270,000 per year.
- As is the case with our other Brick City leases, we have the option to purchase the buildings after five years.
I also would point out that this would address three of the six strategic directions in the long-range plan:
- It helps provide quality academic space for our current and prospective students – Access to Success.
- It is a good use of limited resources – Responsible Stewardship.
- In the process, it further develops the IDEA Commons initiative – Partners for Progress.
I believe this would be a great investment in our academic programs and I hope you agree. We will proceed as soon as a private partner is confirmed, which, again, we hope will be within the next 6-12 months.
Fall semester begins August 22
I look forward to seeing you often beginning the week of Aug. 15 as we begin welcoming students back for the fall semester. I hope you will plan to attend the New Student Convocation at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21. Classes begin Monday, Aug. 22. Let’s have a great year.