Friday, July 8, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
The start of a new fiscal year, July 1, is a natural point in time for us to review our progress toward our ambitious North Star goals. After all, in my earlier note on the topic, I promised an update.
In short, we are marching forward, albeit impatiently! We are hopeful that the new academic year will bring a renewed sense of well-being and inspiration to our campus, and the opportunity for our students to experience learning in ways similar to those of pre-pandemic years. Of course, we will take advantage of all we learned from the virtual experience of the past two years to provide greater flexibility for learning and teaching.
Recruitment and Retention
Efforts to grow enrollment have involved practically every academic and administrative unit on campus. We continue to recruit successfully in Missouri and throughout the nation even in these challenging economic times. Our value proposition and the ROI of an S&T degree are without peer in Missouri and among the best in the nation, as evidenced by recent national rankings, a few of which are listed below. Getting the word out about our exceptional academic quality and value is key to attracting more applicants and students to S&T and we ask for your help in that regard.
We’re also working to attract a broader range of students to S&T. Key to that effort will be our new Kummer College of Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development. The Kummer College became official on July 1 with three inaugural academic departments – business and information technology, economics, and engineering management and systems engineering – and more innovative programs to come. The Kummer College’s focus on innovation and entrepreneurship complements our more traditional outstanding academic offerings and will significantly contribute to our enrollment efforts.
We are excited to welcome a new dean for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Education, Dr. Mehrzad Boroujerdi, who is a renowned international affairs scholar. We also continue our national search for deans of the Kummer College and the College of Engineering and Computing. I ask our academic colleagues and friends to feel free to nominate candidates for these and other key positions.
To achieve our goals to elevate research requires renewed emphasis on recruiting master’s and Ph.D. students, which is why our goals for graduate enrollment are so ambitious. This fall we begin the second year of our Kummer Innovation and Entrepreneurship Doctoral Fellows program and are bringing 19 new Kummer I&E Fellows on board. Currently we have enrolled 30 Kummer fellows on our way to 100 fully supported fellows. Again, I ask our academic colleagues and friends to feel free to nominate your qualified students for these fully supported doctoral fellowships.
Those who have visited S&T recently know that a construction boom is underway on the east end of campus. Work on our Arrival District, a new welcoming “front door” to campus, is ramping up and will continue through the summer. One of the first new buildings at the Arrival District will be our student-focused Innovation Lab, where students can convene to collaborate, design, ideate and innovate. We broke ground on the Innovation Lab in April. The planning process is well underway for our welcome center with a groundbreaking event in early 2023.
One of the most exciting initiatives underway is our Manufacture Missouri Ecosystem. This network brings small, medium and large manufacturers in our state together with experts from S&T and other academic institutions in Missouri to help make companies more innovative and competitive. The first building for this ecosystem, the Missouri Protoplex, is close to being fully funded thanks to the partnership between our Kummer Institute Foundation, which provided matching funds for any federal or state funds for this project, and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and the Missouri General Assembly.
Growing our research effort includes investing in our faculty and their “big idea” projects. Through our Kummer Ignition Grants for Research and Innovation initiative, faculty can apply for grants that support researchers’ efforts to obtain long-term, externally funded, collaborative research projects. The first round of ignition grants, announced in January, awarded a total of $365,000 to 12 research projects. A second round provided $135,000 to five research projects.
Achieving greater research success also involves attracting more great researchers and scholars to S&T. Since January, in addition to recruiting new research faculty members, we have successfully recruited new leaders for two of the four Kummer Institute research centers: Dr. Richard Billo, who leads the KI Center for Advanced Manufacturing, and Dr. Donald Wunsch, who is currently a program director for the National Science Foundation and will return to S&T Dec. 1 as director of the KI Center for Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems.
These efforts will help us continue our significant upward trajectory in research. As of May 31, our research expenditures have increased by 14.5% over May 31, 2021, and by 54.75% over that same date in 2020.
S&T has consistently ranked among the best technology-centric universities. In fact many of the most credible ranking organizations place us at the top of our peers based on the value of S&T’s education.
Consider these rankings so far in 2022: Money ranks us as one of the nation’s top universities and the best in Missouri, and lists us as a top five university for engineering. The Princeton Review ranks us third in the nation for career placement. And financial technology firm SmartAsset ranks us best in the state and seventh nationally for average starting salaries of our graduates.
Given the new realities of the post-pandemic world, we make our path as we traverse it. We have learned to respond positively to the nonlinear path and it is fair to say that, despite all the challenges, this university has provided and continues to offer one of the best academic experiences with a tremendous ROI for our students.
We look forward to a productive academic year, continue to march forward optimistically, and appreciate what we have and what we have overcome.
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