ST. LOUIS – In his Nov. 19 comments to Missouri Baptist University trustees Keith Ross, university president, outlined a new project to aid the university’s strategic planning, said MBU has successfully addressed COVID challenges to in-person classes so far this fall, explained new campus technology improvements, and reported that fall 2020 sophomore retention – a measure of returning first-year students – matched prior year results despite COVID’s effects.
Ross described how the strategic planning project that begins in January will guide the university’s future direction and “help move forward our evangelical Christian mission.”
Current planning practices “tend to be more operational,” he said, in goals and objectives. The university needs to create a framework that will help MBU “be the best Midwestern (education institution) with faith and learning.”
Fundamental to the overall strategic plan is that outcomes are:
• Mission centric in promoting MBU’s evangelical objectives.
• Data informed and data driven.
• Action oriented with clear strategies.
• Constructed with goals and objectives that clearly explain where the university is going.
CREDO, a higher education consulting firm that has worked with other private, faith-based institutions, has been engaged to help MBU with the project.
Ross said the entire MBU community will be involved throughout 2021, culminating in a plan that should be ready for trustee approval next fall.
Ross also explained that the university’s COVID policies on campus have mitigated virus transmission and allowed in-person classes to continue to the Thanksgiving break, after which classes will be virtual for a two week period. Contact tracing and other measures have confirmed that COVID cases at MBU originated off campus, he said.
He reported that the university was eligible for $369,000 as part of a state COVID relief fund for private educational institutions. The funds will be used to improve campus technology, provide campus-wide wi-fi, and offset expenses incurred for virtual learning.
Since technology needs are always a large part of the university annual budget, the funds will also allow MBU to “do some things that we won’t have to do next year,” Ross said.
Though MBU’s 2020-2021 school year start was down 7% in head count and revenue Ross reported the situation is “better than we thought (it) would be.” On the plus side, he said 70% of the 2019-2020 freshmen returned to MBU for the 2020-2021 school year—a rate that matches the annual student retention rate of the past two years.
The board approved the university’s audit report for the fiscal year that ended on June 30th. Ross called it a “clean” audit that documented the university’s sound financial status.
During the meeting trustees also approved a new minor in Nursing Across Cultures, a cross-cultural study program that supports missions medicine.
Two new faculty appointments were approved: Dr. Paul Gilliam as Assistant Professor of Information Technology, and Dr. Philip Ragusky to Assistant Professor of Education.
Gilliam retired after a technology career that included cyber-security work; Ragusky, also retired, worked as an educator and principal besides other public education roles.