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UM System Board of Curators gets updated on international partnerships, facilities

Thursday, April 10, 2014 | 6:15 p.m. CDT; updated 10:39 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 10, 2014

ROLLA — For Brian O’Connell, international partnerships with other universities are all about sharing.

O’Connell, the rector of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa, presented the importance of maintaining and sharing the institution’s partnership with the University of Missouri System to begin the UM Board of Curators meeting Thursday morning.

"We are the transitionists," O’Connell said. "We are the ones moving from a time when humans had a lot going for them to a time with significant challenge."

UWC and the UM System have been partners for 28 years with more than 500 student-staff exchanges throughout, demonstrating the reciprocity between the institutions. O’Connell, who is stepping down this year, said he wants the partnership to continue to grow a new generation of researchers.

"With the help of friends — and you must have the help of friends — we will do incredible things," he said.

O’Connell said university-level research could contribute in fighting Africa’s biggest issues, such as hunger, HIV and poverty. UWC leads research in physics and molecular biology in South Africa.

UM System President Tim Wolfe presented a gift to O’Connell on behalf of the system, thanking him for his dedication to the relationship.

Richards talks facilities, budget

Tom Richards, interim vice president for finance and treasurer of the UM System, discussed the importance of facilities in the system.

Richards reviewed the building conditions of each system campus, a topic the curators discussed in January's meeting. About 43 percent of MU’s buildings are in poor or below-average condition, according to Richards’ presentation.

"It is important to recognize that there is a cost to not investing in facilities to support institutional priorities," Richards said.

There was no public talk about the walkway collapse at University Village, the related death of firefighter Bruce Britt and the subsequent announcement that the graduate housing complex will close.

Richards also presented an update on the fiscal year 2015 budget.

As things stand now, tuition and fees approved by the curators in January would make up about $13.6 million of revenue, while changes in enrollment would make up $2.1 million. Unrestricted student aid would create an additional $3.5 million, most of that coming from MU.

State appropriations to the UM System are anticipated to increase between 3 and 5 percent, or between $12 million to $21 million. New state funds will continue to be allocated by the president to support investment in strategic plans, Richards said.

More detailed budgets will not be developed until May, with a board vote in June.

Establishing state relations

Steve Knorr, the UM System vice president for government relations, updated the curators on the "Show Me Value Tour."

The tour, which has totaled 14 stops and 4,230 miles, is designed to promote the value of higher education to Missouri middle school students and business and community leaders.

A typical visit involves a tour of local businesses, a community luncheon and an editorial board meeting, but it all starts with a visit to local middle schools.

"The president has the ability to establish rapport with the seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders," Knorr said.

The students play games like "Guess the Major," where students are shown photos of celebrities and must determine what each person studied in school.

Knorr added that the “Show Me Value Tour” would be a long-term effort that can expand from the president to the chancellors.

"When we put the strategic plan together, the discussion with the president said that this is not a one-year thing," Knorr said. "It’s going to be a five- to eight-year period where we see a lot of movement."

Other notes:

  • Betsy Rodriguez, the UM System vice president for human resources, presented an outline of a task force’s recommendations for the Total Rewards package, which includes evaluating retirement plans and staff time-off plans for UM System employees.
  • Hank Foley, system executive vice president for academic affairs, research and economic development, spoke in favor of an amendment regarding e-Learning program fees. The proposed revisions are intended to allow flexibility in fees to be more competitive in the market, UM System spokesman John Fougere said later. The amendment unanimously passed.

Coming Friday:

The Dowd Bennett Law Firm, which was hired to investigate whether MU employees acted consistently with university policy and the law in the Sasha Menu Courey matter, is scheduled to present its findings to the board in a closed session on Friday. It was unclear when the information will be released to the public.

Menu Courey, an MU swimmer, allegedly was assaulted by three football players and told several university employees about it, according to an ESPN investigation. She took her life in June 2011 after leaving MU.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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Comments

Ellis Smith April 11, 2014 | 7:28 a.m.

"We are the ones going from a time when humans had a lot of things going for them to a time of challenge."

Interesting statement. One could hardly challenge that we are in a time of challenge (like THAT'S never happened before!), but since when do humans no longer have a lot of things going for them?

Humans will ALWAYS have a lot of things going for them - provided they have been sufficiently educated/trained to meet today's and tomorrow's real world challenges.

And those humans who have not? Not so much. Quite possibly not at all.

Also, prior centuries, if examined, weren't for the faint of heart - and neither will the 21st century be.

Tomar al toro por los cuernos.

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