2018 has been quite a year for Roger Best.
In July, the Board of Governors appointed him as the interim president after the resignation of then-president Chuck Ambrose. Then, in closed session on Nov. 2, the board unanimously approved his appointment as the 16th president of UCM.
His appointment comes after an arduous two fiscal years that saw a reduction in the university’s budget and the subsequent campus reorganization.
Best sat down and spoke with the Muleskinner about his appointment as well as a few of the things he and the administration will be focusing on moving forward:
Interim Administrative Positions
One of the results of the budget cuts and reorganization, as well as typical organizational shifts and turnover, is that many administrative positions around campus are filled by people working under interim titles. Best said there are four administrative positions that report to the president currently occupied by people working under interim titles: provost/chief learning officer, chief financial officer, vice president for university advancement/executive director of the UCM Alumni-Foundation and chief communications officer. He said he is currently updating job descriptions and will have those in place by the first of the year, at which point he will work with the Board of Governors to begin the processes determined best to fill those positions.
One concern about a recent decline in enrollment is that in the short term the revenue associated with enrollment would be recouped by raising tuition. Best said that while enrollment is down this year by about 850 total students, he doesn’t expect across-the-board increases in tuition beyond what is typical based on the rate of inflation and the associated increases in the cost of services offered by the university. He said instead of increasing tuition, the university is looking to vary the types of courses offered to appeal to other demographics of students, such as working adults.
Plans for the Presidency
Best said he plans to continue to focus on the six areas he outlined in his State of the University Address in August. He said the university has historically done well with recruitment efforts, but those efforts need to be updated to strategically address the current climate and landscape of enrollment at UCM. He said the physical structures need to be an area of focus as well. The university has been limited financially in addressing the repairs and updates some of the structures around campus have needed.
A goal of the administration going back to the last year of Ambrose’s tenure is to increase retention. Best said that while increasing retention will help the university financially, the goal of increasing retention is “the right thing to do.”
“If we invite a student into our academic program here at the University of Central Missouri, we want them to achieve a degree,” he said.
The Union Renovation
After the financial concerns of the last couple of years, breaking ground in October on the $7 million renovation to the Elliott Student Union has raised a few eyebrows. Best said since the Union operates as an auxiliary, the money it generates can only be used in and for the Union.
Additionally, Best said since the Union renovation is being funded largely by the sale of bonds to investors, repayment is contingent in large part on the revenue generated by the Union. Therefore, using the money raised through the sale of bonds specifically for the renovation to the Union on anything else would violate the bond covenants, which could potentially make it difficult to find investors for future projects around campus.
It has snowed twice, and with snow comes the questions of snow days. Best said there is a lot that goes into that decision.
“I will tell you, and I’m not making this up or overdramatizing it, whether to cancel class for a snow event or inclement weather is one of the toughest decisions that I actually have to make,” he said.
Best said the risk to students, faculty and staff is considered against the loss of time in the classroom and the impact that has on the return on the investment made on the part of the students.