UM System President Tim Wolfe reflects on his first year

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 | 5:51 p.m. CST; updated 8:04 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 13, 2013
UM System President Tim Wolfe reflects on his first year as president on Tuesday morning at University Hall. Wolfe took questions from reporters in Columbia, as well as in St. Louis via conference call.

COLUMBIA — In reflecting on his first year leading the University of Missouri System, Tim Wolfe said its biggest focus now is strategic planning.

Each campus is creating a plan to show what it will look like in 2018, which will influence all decisions the campus makes in the next five years, the UM System president said during a meeting with reporters Tuesday morning. As part of the plan, each campus is asked to identify its strongest areas to "define the brand" of each.

Wolfe said there are no plans to cut jobs.

"We're going to take every measure that we possibly can to continue to employ the wonderful employees that we've got right now, but the strategic planning will drive what resources we need, where, to accomplish the objectives defined by each of the four campuses," he said.

All campuses have prioritized online learning, which is growing twice as fast in the UM System as the market is growing, Wolfe said.

"We are recruiting a student that now has expectations for online learning, and they're very comfortable with that because it's customized and it's individual, and we're supporting that," Wolfe said. "The marketplace of potential students is demanding this as well."

Wolfe said online learning also assists with capacity challenges in classrooms. In the past 12 years, UM System enrollment has grown by 19,000 students — enough students to form an additional four-year college that would be the third-largest in Missouri — and the system does not plan to place caps on enrollment.

Last year, the system brought its e-learning portal online, which allows a current or prospective student to search more than 1,200 classes and more than 100 degrees available. The system is continuing to enhance online learning with course development and awareness campaigns.

Wolfe sees partnerships with universities around the world as another growth area. Chancellors have been traveling internationally to look for new opportunities and strengthen existing relationships for all four campuses; previously, each campus individually approached global relationships.

As Wolfe promised in his acceptance speech in December 2011, he spent the weeks before taking office Feb. 15, 2012, talking with people about the system. These conversations have allowed him to make more informed decisions as president, he said.

Wolfe said he has learned more interacting with students and faculty on campuses than being in University Hall. "You have to experience it firsthand and see what the challenges are," he said.

He said he also learned how complex the UM System is and how to get input from faculty to make better-informed decisions for the system.

"We have brilliant faculty that are very eager to be part of the decision-making across the four campuses, and we need to take advantage of that," he said.

Wolfe, a career businessman, said he's learned not to use terms such as "customer," "profit" and "loss" in discussions about higher education; they don't translate well, he said.

At a different point in his remarks, Wolfe said that although the University of Missouri Press is in a better place than it was, he would have handled the situation differently and talked with more people to make the press's transition more smooth. Last year, Wolfe initially announced that the press would close, then said it would continue under MU's operation and with an increased digital presence.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

TIMELINE: Tim Wolfe's first year as UM System president

This timeline shows the highlights Tim Wolfe's first year as the University of Missouri System president. (Graphic: Aaron Cooper)

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