State of the university: Chancellor touts return on investment

Missouri S&T Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader

Quoting Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Missouri University of Science and Technology Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader on Tuesday discussed the university’s plan to focus on providing a high return on investment for Missouri S&T’s students, the employers that hire them, the university’s research partners and donors.

“Lewis Carroll said, ‘If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there,’” Schrader said in her State of the University Address, held at noon Tuesday in Leach Theatre of Castleman Hall on the S&T campus. (Download PowerPoint.) “At Missouri S&T, we know where we are going. We are focused on providing a top return on investment for our key customers.

“And we know how we will get there: by providing extraordinary access to renowned expertise, services and experiential learning opportunities,” she said.

In her address, Schrader outlined the particulars of Missouri S&T’s strategic plan. The process to develop the new plan began last summer when a small group of campus officials, including Schrader, met with representatives from the University of Missouri System and the other UM System campuses in Columbia, Kansas City and St. Louis. Each of the four campuses is to complete a strategic plan that will guide the campuses’ operations through the next five to seven years.

Chancellor Schrader delivered her State of the University Address on April 23, 2013, in S&T’s Leach Theater

Missouri S&T’s emphasis on return on investment, or ROI, is unusual for a university, Schrader says.

Noting that higher education is “at a crossroads,” Schrader added, “Higher education cannot expect to continue to do the things that placed us at the crossroads. Our campus strategy requires S&T to do things differently than we do now.”

A keystone to that strategy was to focus on providing high ROI to six customer groups: undergraduate students, research-based graduate students, distance and online students, research investors, employers, and donors.

“We are focused on the value added” to each group, she said. “We intend to be the institution of choice for our partners.”

Planning involves thousands

Missouri S&T’s strategic planning, under way since last July, has involved thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni, employers and research agency representatives along the way. Led by Provost Warren K. Wray and Dr. James A. Drallmeier, chair of mechanical and aerospace engineering, the process has resulted in a concise “strategy statement,” as well as themes that relate to the strategy statement and “levers,” which include specific actions to accomplish each theme.

Schrader discussed the strategy statement, themes and levers in her address on Tuesday.

The 33-word strategy statement says, “Missouri S&T will provide by 2020 a top return on investment among public research universities to students, employers, research partners and donors through extraordinary access to renowned expertise, services and experiential learning opportunities.”

Comparing strategy to a blueprint, road trip or game plan, Schrader pointed out that the strategy statement is not the same as a mission statement or a vision statement. Rather, it is “a means to an end,” as a blueprint is the means to achieving a dream home or a game plan is the means to achieving victory on the playing field.

The strategy statement consists of three sections:

  • An objective, which Schrader described as a “specific, measurable and time-bound” goal. For S&T’s strategic statement, the objective is contained in the phrase, “Missouri S&T will provide by 2020 a top return on investment.”
  • A scope, which “is the universe, if you will, of who we are competing against and will measure ourselves against, and the specific customer groups we will serve and bring the top ROI to.” For Missouri S&T, the competitors are other public research universities, and the university’s six customer groups.
  • The advantage, which equates to “what we offer that none of our competitors can,” Schrader says. That advantage is defined as “extraordinary access to renowned expertise, services and experiential learning opportunities.”

Four themes, many levers

The details of how Missouri S&T will carry out the plan and measure it is still being worked out by the campus’s leaders in consultation with students, faculty, staff and others. But competitors or comparators will be identified for each of the six customer groups, and specific goals (action items) will be identified for each of four themes. They are:

  • “Develop and inspire creative thinkers and leaders for lifelong success.” Goals related to this theme include requiring all Missouri S&T students to take part in an experiential learning activity (such as participation on a design team, studying abroad or conducting research) and create professional development opportunities for students, faculty and staff.
  • “Enhance reputation and raise visibility.” Goals related to this theme include hiring and keeping faculty in areas that will strengthen S&T’s reputation and leveraging Missouri S&T as the state’s hub for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.
  • “Achieve sustainable growth to ensure best return on investment.” Goals related to this theme include an evaluation of current academic programs while making sure those programs remain relevant, and improvements to classrooms, labs and other facilities for more effective research and learning.
  • “Increase and facilitate meaningful access to and interaction with renowned faculty, staff and services.” Goals related to this theme include creating a comprehensive strategy for distance and online education and improving recruitment for doctoral students.

In her remarks, Schrader applauded the broad involvement of the campus and its stakeholders – from students to staff and faculty members to alumni and employers – in the planning process.

“This unique approach to strategic planning has produced a rich conversation and substantial involvement with leaders from across campus stepping up to implement a truly innovative plan,” Schrader said.