By Brian Sherrill, Staff Writer
Chancellor Thomas George gave the State of the University Address the evening of September 14 in the J.C. Penney Auditorium, followed by an awards ceremony, music, food, and drinks.
The Chancellor’s main topics of the speech were the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ budget, enrollment, awards, and achievements.
Topics that fell short of mentioning included the tuition increase of $1 million, the reduction of graduate assistant positions and tuition waivers, the increase in student fees, and the cancellation of many student-run programs throughout campus.
Total enrollment is at 16,100 this semester. In fall 2015, enrollment was at 16,743.
Chancellor George said, “The reason why we have dipped a little down was because we have about 600 seniors that haven’t come back. There are several reasons for that: one is, due to running out of financial aid, and we’re looking for trying to fix that; another is we had record graduations in the past two years. This has always been a goal of ours, to get students graduated, and enrollments are important, specifically in a cash flow basis but ultimately what is important is graduations.”
“We thrive off of having big graduation and retention numbers to get performance based funding from the state,” George said. “And the best thing is we are finally becoming people’s first choice rather than their second.”
The Chancellor continued by giving credit to the programs that reflect UMSL’s productiveness. UMSL’s international business program, online master’s program in education, overall online bachelor’s programs, research cybersecurity program, and commitment to military veterans, research, diversity, and inclusion have received awards, have been ranked first in Missouri, or have been ranked highly among national universities.
George said, “Students are also looking forward to the new Optometry Center opening to its first patient September 19th, the Science Learning Building having its open house on November 10th, and the Business Administration Building is expected to be complete during the 2017 summer semester.” Benton Hall is also due for renovations starting in January.
UMSL’s awards and rankings show that it is still valiantly trudging forward through rough patches from the past, such as the effects caused by: Ferguson’s Mike Brown turmoil, which the Chancellor has called “the Ferguson effect,”; Mizzou’s negative attention; and the $15 million budget shortfall the caused the elimination of approximately 80 positions.
In April, however, George told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “We wanted to minimize the effect on the quality of instruction and emphasize our ability to educate and graduate students.”
“What’s amazing about this is we are such a young school, and we do it all. We outreach into the community, we have the absolute best in teaching, we feed economic development into the region, and on top of that we have some of the very best faculty really in the world for that matter in order to get our rankings,” George said.
The speech then concluded in order to recognize the faculty and staff members during the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence ceremony.
The ceremony began by celebrating the university’s Employee of the Month winners, new full-time faculty members, and its Service of Twenty-Five Years award recipients.
Amber G. Candela, an assistant professor in Educator Preparation, Innovation and Research, won the Gerald and Deanne Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award. The most prestigious awards, the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, were given out last.
The categories and recipients were: Research and Creativity went to Dr. Robert Paul, Professor and Director of the Missouri Institute of Mental Health; Teaching went to Dr. Frank Grady, Professor and Chair of the Department of English; Campus Service went to Dr. Sally Barr Ebest, Professor for the Department of English; Non-Tenure Track Faculty Member went to Lynn M. Staley, Associate Teaching Professor for the Department of English; Part-Time Faculty Member went to Benjamin Peet, Adjunct Instructor for the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science; Student Support went to Shanta L. Kyles, Academic Advisor for the Bachelors in Social Work program; Office/Technical went to Sherry M. Hieken, Administrative Consultant; Service/Maintenance went to Mary E. Birdsong, Custodian.
Dr. Grady, the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, said about receiving his award, “This award requires solicitation from your past students. And that in itself is very moving.”