COVID-19: Charting our future during uncertain times

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On April 23, 2020

Missouri S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani sent the following message to faculty and staff on April 22:

Dear Colleagues,

I want to thank you all for everything you are doing in support of our students and the university as we confront this global pandemic, which has affected every aspect of our campus and personal lives. The speed and nimbleness with which you have adjusted to online course delivery, shifted to remote or altered work arrangements, and moved important student services into the virtual environment exemplifies the “can-do” spirit of our university. In fact, your agility and can-do attitude defies every notion of inflexibility that is historically associated with higher education. Throughout our history, we’ve been known as that campus that “gets things done,” but never before have we dealt with a challenge of this magnitude. I’m very proud of how all of you, collectively, have risen to the challenge.

As we enter a new phase of operations, we are looking toward the future. Relying on the same spirit and can-do attitude with which we addressed this crisis, we now have every intention of opening the campus for the fall semester. As we move forward, we will continue to take all necessary precautions and adhere to all guidance of local, state and federal health officials, as well as guidance from our elected officials.

I also want to assure you that we will provide you with honest, accurate and factual information as we approach the business of the university by remaining focused on our vision for the future and our core mission of providing the highest quality, rigorous and broad education for our students.  Our priorities will be:

  • Delivery of high-quality education
  • Retention and recruitment of our students
  • Research and scholarship
  • Response to the public health crisis
  • Protecting the existing resources and ensuring sustainment and growth of university revenues

We must remain focused on these priorities, even as the budget outlook for the entire University of Missouri System is extremely challenging. As noted in a recent message from President Choi, my fellow chancellors and myself, we are examining numerous scenarios at both the system and campus levels to ensure that we carry on our mission well into the future. This will require us to make some difficult choices, including significant budget reductions that will involve some personnel actions. These could include limited layoffs, furloughs and unpaid leaves in the short term, and further adjustments for the longer term.

State funding for this year has already been cut, and we anticipate even more drastic reductions in state funding in the coming fiscal year. As President Choi has stated, the UM System could face a $180 million cut in our state allocation. While we are doing everything in our power to grow undergraduate and graduate enrollment for the fall semester, the outlook for enrollment is also uncertain. I ask that you help in any way possible with our recruiting efforts, which includes our ongoing yield campaign to ensure as many of our accepted students as possible end up enrolling for the fall semester. This is particularly important since any federal relief we receive through the CARES Act is months away and will do little to address projected shortfalls.

Given the uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus situation, our planning efforts are short-term. We are operating within a 60-day to 90-day planning window. We are developing plans for some of our remote employees to return to campus as early as May, depending on federal, state and local directions, and we intend to be fully prepared to deliver courses on-campus in the fall semester.

As challenging as our short-term situation is, I am focused on the much longer term. We must consider this situation as an opportunity for all of us to reimagine what Missouri S&T will be in the future. As we prepare to celebrate our 150th anniversary this fall, we must ask ourselves, “What kind of university will S&T be in 10, 20 or 50 years?”

We have the opportunity, today, to shape that future so that, in the face of ever declining state resources, S&T will not only survive but thrive. What set of conditions and operational parameters should we have in place in 20 years so that we will be a thriving, world-class university regardless of state support? We must learn from this situation to better position ourselves to deal with future resource limitations and reductions.

We must confront the stark reality that we can no longer expect a significant level of support from the state. To survive this current situation, and position ourselves to thrive in the future, will require us to act more and more like a private university. This means growing our student body to a more robust level, with the right mix of undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. students, increasing our research efforts, and relying more on the generosity and private support of our alumni and donors.

I have absolutely no doubt that of all the public universities in our state, Missouri S&T is best positioned to realize such a future. We have the reputation and the outstanding faculty, staff and students. Our rigorous programs are of the highest quality, and our graduates are sought by employers from across the country and around the world. We must plan accordingly and position ourselves to never be adversely affected by resource fluctuations.

Last November, in my first State of the University Address, I set forth a vision for our university to grow to 12,000 students (8,000 undergraduates and 4,000 master’s and Ph.D. students), to double our research capacity, and to attain a top 100 ranking in the U.S. News & World Report listing of the nation’s best universities. More than ever, we must keep our eyes on these goals.

In the coming weeks, I plan to announce how we will move forward on our blueprint to become the S&T of the future. Already, planning is underway on the academic side, as interim Provost Steve Roberts recently announced the formation of the S&T Academic Planning Committee to envision our future academic programs for undergraduate education, professional graduate education and distance learning. Interim Deputy Provost Richard Brow is chairing this committee, which is to deliver recommendations to the interim provost by May 22.

While our current situation presents many daunting challenges, I assure you that we will overcome them. We always have as a university, as a nation and as Miners. It is up to us now to begin charting our destiny, creating the future that we want and continuing the remarkable legacy of this wonderful institution for the next 150 years. To achieve all of this, I look forward to your help, support and positive possibility thinking.


Mo Dehghani

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On April 23, 2020. Posted in Announcements, Coronavirus