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From the President

Metropolitan State University looks forward to a productive and fruitful year

Posted June 29, 2017

To the Metropolitan State University community:

As June draws to a close and we approach the start of a new fiscal and academic year, I want to share with you a number of updates that promise a productive and fruitful year ahead for our university, and success and opportunity for our students.

One of our most important campus accomplishments this year has been the conferral of nearly 2,200 baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral degrees. Our students are realizing their hopes for an education in greater numbers than ever.

Through them, we are influencing and improving our region every day and we continue to fulfill our core mission of serving those individuals for whom higher education might not otherwise be a possibility. Each and every one of you is integral to our students’ success. Thank you for supporting 2,200 success stories!

One of my goals this year was to continue to build a strong leadership team for the university. During this last year, we conducted national searches for both a provost and a dean of the College of Sciences. I am pleased to announce that Dr. Amy Gort will begin her appointment as provost and vice president for Academic and Student Affairs on July 3rd and Dr. Kyle Swanson begins his appointment as dean of the College of Sciences that same day. As you are able, please join me at a reception to welcome these new colleagues from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Monday, July 10, in the 2nd-floor foyer in New Main. I am extremely grateful for the outstanding service that Carol Bormann Young and Sue Fitzgerald provided this year in their interim capacities of provost and dean.

On May, 1 Rita Dibble joined Metropolitan State as vice president for Advancement and Chief Advancement Officer. She is bringing great energy, enthusiasm, and experience to the new role and I am highly optimistic about our future fundraising efforts. Rita is looking forward to sharing her strategic plan for alumni engagement, friend-raising, and fundraising in the fall.

In other leadership news: 

  • On June 12th, Associate Dean Shonda Craft began a one-year leave of absence in order to pursue an opportunity to serve as interim dean of the School of Health and Human Services at Saint Cloud State University.
  • Bruce Lindberg, executive director of Institutional Effectiveness, is retiring June 30. I am very grateful to Bruce for his efforts and leadership over the past few years, first as the executive director of AdvanceIT MN and then as leader of Institutional Effectiveness. After substantial thought, I have decided not to continue the Institutional Effectiveness function as I believe that we can achieve the university’s objectives through a different organizational configuration.
  • As a result, the Institutional Research function will become part of the Information Technology Services division. Combining IR with the excellent data team in ITS is expected to provide a substantial boost to our information and analysis capabilities. Joyce Paxton, coordinator of AQIP Accreditation and Continuous Improvement, will report to the provost and Michael Eisenbeisz will join Wendy Helm in ITS to create a powerhouse project management team.

Spring brings positive changes to our IFO faculty as well. It is a great pleasure to recognize our faculty colleagues whose tenure became effective June 15. Please join me in congratulating:

  • Dr. Mark Asplen, Department of Natural Sciences, College of Sciences;
  • Dr. David Jacobson, Department of Mathematics, College of Sciences;
  • Dr. Faisal Kaleem, Associate Professor, Department of Information and Computer Sciences, College of Sciences;
  • Dr. Linda McCann, Department of Accounting, College of Management;
  • Dr. Denise Williams, Department of Management, College of Management;
  • Dr. Leslie Morrison, Department of Nursing, College of Nursing and Health Sciences;
  • Dr. Raj Sethuraju, Department of Criminal Justice, College of Community Studies and Public Affairs;
  • Dr. Yvonne RB-Banks, Professor, School of Education.

Professors Asplen, Jacobson, McCann, Williams, Morrison and Sethuraju were also promoted to the rank of associate professor.

Other colleagues who achieved promotion include: 

Dr. Minh Vo, Department of Economics & Finance, College of Management, promoted to professor.

  • Dr. Deborah Matthias-Anderson, Department of Nursing, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, promoted to associate professor.
  • Dr. Ruth Staus, Department of Nursing, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, promoted to professor.
  • Dr. Deborah Eckberg, Department of Criminal Justice, College of Community Studies and Public Affairs, promoted to professor.
  • Dr. Jeanne Grant, Department of History, College of Liberal Arts, promoted to professor.
  • Dr. Carol Lacey, College of Individualized Studies, promoted to professor.

All promotions take effect on August 15, the first day of the academic year.

These reviews are excellent reminders of the outstanding work our IFO faculty do with and on behalf of students.

On the legislative front— the $210 million higher education bill includes a biennial allocation for the Minnesota State system—$106.3 million—that, while not at the level requested by the board or the governor, is a larger amount than any discussed during the regular session. The allocation provides $91 million in new money for campus operating support, and an $8 million installment of the Next Gen ISRS project.

The Legislature continued its recent practice of giving direction to the Board of Trustees regarding tuition. While universities were allowed to propose tuition increases for FY18, undergraduate tuition must be frozen next year (FY19). Last week, the Minnesota State Board approved the system’s biennial budget, which included a 4 percent increase in tuition at Metropolitan State, an additional $8 per credit differential tuition for natural science courses and an increase in our student technology, fee from $6 to $7 per credit.

Outside of the higher education bill, Metropolitan State is the recipient of a legislative appropriation to the Department of Agriculture that provides $400,000 toward renovating our greenhouse into the GROW-IT Center. This updated facility will support important work by several departments with community partners whose missions and beneficiaries are closely aligned with our university’s mission and values. We have already raised more than $225,000 from foundations and private donors; ongoing fundraising will secure the remaining funds needed for the project.

Once the higher education bill was signed and our tuition increases were approved by the board, the executive team was able to complete the FY18 budget. Our final operating budget totals $77,108,808. I am particularly pleased that we have approved a budget before the start of the fiscal year, the earliest ever in my five years at the university. In doing so we have accounted for all anticipated expenditures, will make our board-required reserve contribution of $750,000 and have sensibly centralized the accounting for fringe benefit costs that in past sometimes imposed unpredictable budget impacts on departments and divisions.

However, even with an increase in our state support and new tuition revenue, achieving a balanced budget was challenging. Expected increases in compensation and benefits coupled with an expected enrollment decline of approximately 1.5 percent for the year, resulted in projected expenses that exceed our anticipated revenue. I commend the deans, directors and divisional vice presidents for their efforts and their results.

The process of loading the budget into ISRS will be complete by mid-July. Additional details about the budget will be shared with campus over the next few weeks and briefings will be scheduled shortly after the start of the academic year. I look forward to working this fall with our new Resource Planning Council and campus constituencies on examination of our current budget issues and development of financial viability strategies for FY19 and beyond.

Finally, I received my first-year performance evaluation from the chancellor last week. Everything went well but the most gratifying aspect was hearing that Metropolitan State is now recognized and valued for the excellent work we do in serving a highly diverse student population and our innovativeness and responsiveness to a changing environment for higher education.

I am excited for the upcoming academic year and very optimistic about what we can accomplish together. I wish everyone an enjoyable summer, and I look forward to the start of a new academic year on Aug. 15.
Best wishes!

President Virginia "Ginny" Arthur, JD
Metropolitan State University