Jan. 23, 2014

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New year, new focus

Even though the new year often brings unpleasant weather to the Midwest — and this one was especially frigid — the turn of the calendar is one of my favorite times of year. I see it as a time to reflect on the year before and focus on what's ahead.

This year has been especially gratifying for me as I think about what we've accomplished together in the past year and what's in store for Missouri S&T in 2014 and beyond. From our record enrollment to great strides with strategic planning to progress in identifying some of our next campus leaders, it's clear to me our future is indeed bright.

Looking back, I'm especially proud of our research programs, which continue to grow and contribute meaningful scholarship at a time when many research universities are struggling. I'm also proud to share that a few weeks ago our excellence was once again highlighted in the media when U.S. News & World Report ranked 14 of our online master's degree programs among the best in the country.

Looking ahead, implementing our strategic plan will continue to be a focus. Just last week, with your input, two of our four best-in-class, signature areas were selected: advanced manufacturing and advanced materials for sustainable infrastructure. These areas will help us to further sharpen our focus as we invest in key strategic areas and raise the profile of S&T both nationally and internationally. Finally, I'm pleased to announce that we're beginning the new year by placing a new emphasis on our most valuable asset — our people. Our faculty and staff inspire me daily, and making sure that S&T is an attractive place to work and to grow is a top priority for me today and every day. You can read more about this and other stories below:

13 important research stories of 2013
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Additive Manufacturing at Missouri S&TRobotic brains. Glass that can heal bones. A urine test to detect breast cancer. New insights into how Internet use could indicate depression. These were among the most notable advances in research made by Missouri S&T professors and their students in 2013. Check out 13 research stories that were publicized during the year but are well worth talking about again.

U.S. News ranks Missouri S&T among top online graduate programs
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Missouri S&T strives to provide exceptional return on investment, and recent rankings from U.S. News & World Report reflect this campus commitment — in engineering and beyond. U.S. News recognized not only our online graduate engineering programs but also our computer information technology programs and MBA program. Read more to see how we ranked.

Signature areas selected
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MoDOT rebar project - Missouri S&TLast week, S&T made significant headway in implementing our strategic plan by naming two of our four best-in-class, signature areas: advanced manufacturing and advanced materials for sustainable infrastructure.

These areas were selected after departments were invited to submit proposals and after much study. As outlined in Lever 2.1 of our strategic plan, we will employ transformative and focused hiring, including cluster hires, in these selected areas of expertise to support best-in-class achievements.

The second round of selecting the two remaining signature areas is now under way and will be announced this summer. I encourage faculty to reach out to their department chairs for assistance in putting forth ideas and proposals.

Attracting and retaining the best people
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As you may be aware, the University of Missouri System and Missouri S&T have developed and implemented a new staff compensation structure for employees. All staff positions were reviewed. The positions were graded and placed into compensation ranges consistent with the duties and responsibilities assigned and more than 100 S&T staff members were found to be below the minimum.

Due to budget concerns, Missouri S&T had planned to gradually increase the salaries of employees who are affected by this new compensation structure over the next three years. However, our campus leaders and I decided that this crucial investment in our employees couldn't wait that long. Across campus, we have made difficult tradeoffs in order to fulfill this commitment immediately. This is something the campus has been requesting for a long time.

We will continue to address competitive compensation for faculty and staff. Faculty will immediately see bigger promotional bumps as they move from assistant to associate professor positions, and from associate to full professor.

It is my strong belief that sustainable growth is not possible if our people are not appropriately compensated. These initial investments in the new compensation structure and in our faculty are sure to provide a high return.

Missouri University of Science and Technology