From the deserts of Utah to the Black Box Theatre to the skies above Rolla, 2017 brought several firsts to Missouri S&T. Here’s a look back at those and other noteworthy moments from 2017 — 17 in all.
1. An out-of-this-world championship
Missouri S&T’ Mars Rover Design Team won the 2017 University Rover Challenge last May, out-designing, out-roving and outscoring 34 other teams from around the world. The teams designed and built rovers to compete in the desolate, Mars-like desert terrain near Hanksville, Utah. Read more about the S&T group’s accomplishment in the latest issue of Missouri S&T Magazine. Many other student design teams achieved success in competitions this year, including the Rocket Design Team (second place), Formula SAE (second place) and Formula SAE Electric (fourth place), Solar House Design Team (fourth place), and Solar Car Team (eighth place).
2. Changes at the top
It was a year of change at the top, with a new interim chancellor, a new vice provost and dean, new department chairs, and other new faces in leadership occurring in 2017. Dr. Christopher G. Maples became interim chancellor last May, following the departure of Dr. Cheryl B. Schrader, who became president of Wright State University in Ohio. Dr. Richard Wlezien became vice provost and dean of the College of Engineering and Computing in August. Also in 2017, Dr. Suzanna Long became chair of engineering management and systems engineering, Dr. David Duvernell was named chair of biological sciences, Dr. David Borrok became chair of geosciences and geological and petroleum engineering, and Dr. Susan Murray became chair of psychological science. At the university leadership level, Cuba Plain was named interim vice chancellor for finance and operations, and Neil Outar was named interim chief diversity officer as part of a campus reorganization.
3. Bucking enrollment trends
While many institutions across Missouri and nationally continue to see lower enrollments, Missouri S&T’s enrollment continued to grow, although slightly. The official fall 2017 enrollment number — 8,884 — reflected a 0.5 percent increase over 2016,’s total of 8,838. On-campus enrollment of 7,969 is a record, which is good news for the Rolla community, as S&T students’ impact on the local economy — from pizza runs to rent and retail sales — adds up to an estimated $24 million.
4. Amid budget cuts, protecting the academic core
Due to lower-than-projected tax revenues in Missouri and other reductions in state funding, Missouri S&T — as well as other public institutions across the state — had to tighten belts and make some difficult decisions in 2017. Through a campuswide budget realignment process that began at the outset of 2017, S&T identified areas to cut while maintaining a commitment to protecting the academic core and minimizing cuts in areas that brought in revenue, such as student recruitment and fundraising operations. To address these challenges, the university eliminated open positions and laid off employees, while leaving other positions unfilled. Since then, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens withheld additional state funds from public higher education, including S&T. The result was an even lower level of state funding than anticipated for the current fiscal year, which began July 1.
5. Athletic accolades and additions
It’s no secret that Missouri S&T student-athletes excel in the classroom as well as on the courts and playing fields. This continued in 2017. The Miner football team finished the year with a 7-4 record and fielded three Academic All-America selections — Bo Brooks, Landon Compton and Deshawn Jones. Jones was also named to the Associated Press’ Division II All-America Team. Women’s volleyball defensive specialist Lauren Flowers was named an Academic All-American, as were men’s soccer midfielder David Murphy and swimmer Stuart Mossop. Two new NCAA Division II programs also began at S&T in 2017: men’s golf and women’s golf.
6. STEM in the spotlight
November saw the debut of “The STEM Monologues,” a theatrical production created by Jeanne Stanley, associate professor of theatre. The play, based on Stanley’s interviews of dozens of men and women in the STEM fields, depicts the challenges faced by women in the male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”Everyone’s story is different,” says Stanley. “Sometimes they’re funny, with a lot of laughter. Sometimes you just want to cry. Sometimes you learn things you would never have known, particularly as a male, about what women go through.” The play also earned two awards from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
7. Booming academic programs
You could say business is booming for Missouri S&T’s explosives engineering program. In September, S&T received approval to offer a new master’s degree in explosives technology. The new M.S. is in response to growing interest in explosives technology among both federal investigators and military personnel. Also in 2017, S&T expanded its teacher education program, making it a full-fledged academic department: the department of teacher education and certification.
8. TEDx comes to town
Missouri S&T entered the world of TEDx talks last spring by hosting its first TEDx event. The evening featured presentations by nine speakers, including four from Missouri S&T. The inaugural event set the stage for S&T’s second TEDx, which is scheduled for next March.
9. Successful fundraising
Missouri S&T donors were generous last fiscal year, donating $14.7 million in charitable gifts for the year ending June 30. That’s a 45 percent increase over the $10.1 million received in the baseline 2012-2013 fiscal year. Major gifts during fiscal year 2016-17 include the largest gift ever received for S&T’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) program, a $1 million gift for scholarships, and the addition of four new Rolla Rising Scholarships, a priority funding initiative focused on strengthening S&T’s recruiting flexibility. “These charitable gifts come from donors with an abiding belief in the power of education, a deep commitment to giving back, and confidence in the work of Missouri S&T,” says Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Joan Nesbitt. “This is Miner pride and purpose in action, and we are both inspired by and grateful for their financial investments.”
10. A dark day in August
Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members gathered outside of the Havener Center on Aug. 21 to catch a near-total solar eclipse. (At its height over the skies of Rolla, the moon’s transit of the sun resulted in 99.8 percent coverage.) The S&T solar eclipse watch party held to witness the rare event was likely the largest gathering ever held on campus, and it gave S&T’s Amateur Radio Club the chance to take part in a global research project on how the eclipse might affect radio waves in the atmosphere. View watch party photo gallery.
11. Checking campus climate
Two years after a University of Missouri System-led survey designed to help leaders from all four campuses better understand campus climate issues, survey results were released and Rankin & Associates, the consulting firm that conducted the survey, visited campus in September to discuss the findings. While 75 percent of those surveyed in 2015 perceived the academic and work environment at Missouri S&T as “comfortable” or “very comfortable,” 18 percent indicated they’d experienced “exclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct” during the previous year. The findings “provide the Missouri S&T community with an opportunity to build upon its strengths and to develop deeper awareness of the challenges ahead,” Rankin & Associates reported.
12. A top year for tech transfer
Fiscal year 2016-2017 was a record year for technology transfer at Missouri S&T, as the university generated the most money ever from patent royalties on commercialized inventions and products. During the fiscal year that ended June 30, Missouri S&T brought in $540,396 in royalty income, more than double the amount received in 2013. “The inventions and commercialization of products that resulted are a testament to the creativity of Missouri S&T faculty, post-docs and graduate students,” says Keith Strassner, technology transfer and economic development director. “Not only are they working to solve real-world problems, but their efforts also have a significant impact on our campus and our state’s economy.”
13. A record Career Fair
More proof that an S&T degree is a worthwhile investment: a record Fall Career Fair. More than 315 employers registered for the annual event, which was held in September, and
14. Switching channels
St. Louis Public Radio assumed operations of S&T public radio affiliate KMST in July. KMST operated from the S&T campus for more than 40 years. As part of the St. Louis Public Radio network, KMST continues to provide National Public Radio programming to area listeners at 88.5 FM in Rolla and 96.3 FM in Lebanon.
15. Planning and progress
The University of Missouri System Board of Curators approved an updated master plan for Missouri S&T last April. S&T moved forward on other high-priority campus improvement plans, including development of the Advanced Construction and Materials Laboratory, which received Board of Curators’ approval in December, and completion of the third and final phase of the S&T Biosciences Complex, which curators put on a short list of possible projects to discuss in 2018. Both the ACML and Biosciences Complex still require additional funds before construction can begin.
16. New voices at commencement
Graduation is the Big Day for all students, so it only makes sense that they hear from their fellow classmates. For the December 2017 commencement, four S&T students began a new tradition of addressing their fellow graduates. The students also heard from graduate and S&T trustee Kathy Walker, who told the Class of 2017 about the importance of becoming a person of influence.
17. Mr. MSM-UMR-S&T bids farewell
It was the end of an era when Jerry Bayless, a faculty member at Missouri S&T (and MSM, and UMR) for more than half a century, retired last February. The longtime instructor in civil engineering — a member of Missouri S&T’s Alumni of Influence inaugural class — was celebrated during Homecoming in October. “There’s nobody who has made such an impact on our students in our almost 150 years of civil engineering education in Rolla,” says Dr. Joel Burken, Curators’ Distinguished Professor and chair of civil, architectural and environmental engineering. “He has influenced many, many students, helping those who are struggling to stay in school and see it through. That’s day to day, not just a special occasion. That’s who he is.”