Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
As another tumultuous year draws to a close, our spirits are undefeated.
And that alone is worth remembering, celebrating and being grateful for as we prepare to celebrate joyful holidays.
To our students, I say thank you for enduring the ups and downs and disruptions of campus life during the pandemic. To our faculty and staff, I say thank you for your sacrifices, demonstrated resolve and professionalism. To our alumni and friends, I say thank you for your support, encouragement and presence in times of need.
Please know that your efforts, support and encouragement have made a big difference and most certainly have not gone unnoticed. We have made great progress on many fronts despite the unsettled times.
So, on the cusp of a new year, I’d like to share with you my “top 10 list” of the most significant events and activities of 2021.
- Kummer Day. On the one-year anniversary of the largest single gift to any university in the state of Missouri, public or private, we paid tribute to our donors, Fred and June Kummer, and began a new tradition at S&T with our first-ever Kummer Day (view the video). We honored Fred and June during this event, as I read the inaugural progress report, written in the form of a letter to Fred and June.
- Welcoming new leadership. This past year saw the arrival of several dynamic new leaders for S&T, with more to join soon. In June, we welcomed Colin Potts as our new provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. In July, Alysha O’Neil became our new chief financial officer and Danny Tang our new chief information officer. Beth Concepcion is one of our newest leaders, having joined us in late September as vice provost for corporate and professional education. Soon we will announce founding directors for our Kummer Institute centers of excellence, as well as other key positions. S&T is on the move, and we have a leadership team in place to help guide us toward our North Star goals.
- Successful student-athletes. Our Miner student-athletes enjoyed success on and off the courts and fields this past year. Our women’s volleyball team made the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament, and players Payton Gannaway, Jordan Burton and Shelby Ply were named to All-GLVC teams. The women’s soccer team also had an outstanding season, clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2014. And for the fifth consecutive year, our men’s track and field team claimed the GLVC outdoor track championship. Team member Nathan Swadley stood out not only for his outstanding success in the shot put but also for his academic excellence. He was one of six S&T Academic All-America selections for the 2020-21 academic year and was named the GLVC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2021.
- Research, teaching and faculty excellence. Our steady growth in research is due to our tremendous teacher-scholar faculty and their excellence that spans many disciplines. Last week, we recognized 65 faculty members for their teaching, research, service and service learning, and virtually every academic program was represented. Several Missouri S&T faculty members also received national recognition in 2021. They include three NSF CAREER Award winners who were featured in one of my earlier emails (S&T, the high research activity university); Dr. Frank Han, who received the Air Force Office of Scientific Research’s Young Investigator Award and nearly $450,000 in funding for his aerospace engineering research on electrospray propulsion systems; an accomplished military historian, Dr. John C. McManus, whose new book Island Infernos is getting great reviews; one of our newest faculty members, Dr. Niranjana Krishnan, whose research on how insecticides may affect the monarch butterfly population has led to a best paper award and a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and 63 current or former S&T faculty who are ranked among the top 2% most-cited scholars in their disciplines.
- Honoring Influential Alumni. This year, we continued a tradition that began in 2011 and occurs every five years: the recognition of our Alumni of Influence. This year we honored 12 graduates for their lasting contributions to S&T and their impact on the broader world. As I wrote in my email about this year’s honorees, each one of us is a person of influence to thousands of others. And as I wrote then, I reiterate today: it’s up to us to manage the nature of that influence.
- The Arrival District: a new front door. When the University of Missouri Board of Curators approved our Campus Master Plan in September, it put us on the fast track toward making our new front door to campus, the Arrival District, a reality. This entry to campus will be on the west side, along Bishop Avenue, with a rerouted boulevard, Tim Bradley Way, to campus from Interstate 44. Our Arrival District will also feature a stunning campus green and clear view to the Rolla Building, which was the first structure on campus when we opened our doors in 1871.
- Advancing advanced manufacturing. The curators also recently approved the first phase of the Missouri Protoplex, a major construction project that will benefit our region’s economy for decades to come. The Protoplex will be the first building of our manufacturing technology and innovation campus across Interstate 44, north of campus. The Protoplex and this new innovation campus will serve as home base for the Manufacture Missouri Ecosystem (MME), which will bring manufacturers from across the state together with our outstanding R&D faculty, students and facilities. You’ll hear much more about the Protoplex, MME and innovation campus in 2022, so stay tuned.
- Designing a top finish. Missouri S&T’s 19 student design teams are known for being innovative and competitive in their national and international championships. This year, three teams in particular stood out: the Steel Bridge Design Team, which finished first in its regional competition in April and advanced to the national event; the Solar House Design Team, which earned a second-place finish in the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge; and S&T’s Formula SAE team, which finished third among 51 contestants in an international competition last July.
- Powering through the pandemic. We entered our fall semester hopeful that we would soon put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us. But that was not the case as the Delta variant began to spread through Missouri and elsewhere last summer. We again required face coverings to begin the fall semester, remained vigilant with social distancing, encouraged all students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated, and applied the lessons we learned from the previous academic year to this one. Despite the challenges the pandemic brought (and still brings), we adjusted successfully. Our Fall Career Fair broke records for employer recruitment, spectators returned to our athletics events, and we held cultural events and in-person commencement ceremonies for our graduates, including those who were not able to walk across the stage in 2020.
- 150 years and counting. The pandemic hit just as we began to celebrate our sesquicentennial, but that did not dampen our spirits, and we pushed forward with numerous activities and events throughout the year. S&T was founded in 1870 as the University of Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, and later known as the University of Missouri-Rolla (as I first knew it). We held our first classes Nov. 6, 1871. To mark that occasion, we celebrated Founders Week with numerous on-campus and virtual events and ended the week with the ceremonial sealing of our time capsule and our Alumni of Influence celebration. The time capsule will be opened 50 years from now, during our bicentennial in 2071. I hope that many of today’s students will return to celebrate that event in fine fashion, and to see how far we have come from the good ol’ days of 2021.
What a year it has been! A year of ups and downs, unexpected adversities, and trials and triumphs. To all our soon-to-be new graduates, the members of our sesquicentennial class, as you prepare to receive your hard-earned and well-deserved degrees, I offer my congratulations on a job well done and welcome you to the family of Miner alumni!
Mina, Devon and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a joyful holiday season filled with fun, friends and family.
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Mohammad Dehghani, PhD
firstname.lastname@example.org | 573-341-4116
206 Parker Hall, 300 West 13th Street, Rolla, MO 65409-0910