Interim President Roger Best outlined six areas of focus for UCM in his State of the University Address Wednesday: Sustainable financial and operating structure, academic program quality, institutional culture, alumni engagement and fundraising, growing enrollment, and marketing and branding.
Sustainable financial and operating structure
“We’ve got to get away from routine work that’s repetitive and doesn’t really add value to the mission we serve, and focus on those value-added activities,” Best said. “It is important that we take some common-sense approaches here. We don’t add value by creating unnecessary processes. We don’t add value by creating redundant processes. But we do add value by supporting our colleagues. We do add value by helping facilitate the work of others and their success.”
Best said it is critical to learn from the recent budget cuts and to identify areas of strain and how to better focus on those areas of risk as new revenue becomes available.
Academic program quality
“The one area we cannot compromise on is academic program quality,” Best said. “It’s essential that we… are perceived as a destination for quality programs.”
He said they must ask what makes programs excellent or ineffective.
“Without good, or even sufficient, answers to these, what’s our purpose?” he said.
“Something I’ve discovered in 23 years of service is that we have an amazing culture of service to our students and to each other,” Best said in a meeting with the press following the speech. “My message about that yesterday was really more a reinforcement of who we’ve always been and what we’ve always done.”
He said it is the responsibility of university leadership to facilitate an environment where faculty, staff and students are successful.
“I want to keep that as a highlight,” he said. “It is my responsibility as interim president to ensure that we have quality work life and that we have the resources people need to feel successful in their position and actually be successful in their position.”
Alumni engagement and fundraising
Best said the Alumni Foundation began a significant rebuild in personnel and operations last spring, led by former UCM President Chuck Ambrose and with the addition of Bill Estes as the Foundation’s interim vice president for university advancement and executive director. Ambrose also oversaw the launch of the Gift of Success Campaign announced last spring and made the first contribution of $25,000.
“Financial contributions will make a difference at this institution,” Best said. “If you look at our two primary drivers of resources – right now it’s tuition and state appropriations – it’s critical that we look at external funding as well.”
Best said the rebuild of the Alumni Foundation is almost complete and needs to continue to reduce financial limitations of the university.
“(Alumni) can make a difference,” Best said. “We know that. They’re waiting to be asked. I’m ready to ask them.”
Best said enrollment growth is necessary to the university’s ability to obtain the resources it needs to fulfill its mission.
“However, growth can’t come from randomness,” he said. “We have to be very strategic with our recruiting efforts and our marketing initiatives.”
Best said there is about a 3 percent decrease in the number of high school graduates in Missouri, so enrollment growth cannot depend on that demographic.
He said the university will use market research to identify programs not currently offered at UCM, identify effective or new delivery modes of instruction and locations, and focus recruitment and advertising efforts to specific audiences, such as to adults seeking continued education opportunities.
Marketing and branding
Best unveiled the new “Opportunity in Action” advertising campaign, which will replace the “Choose Red” campaign.
He said the “Choose Red” campaign has resulted in brand recognition both in Missouri and the region, but the university needs to refine its message.
Best said he doesn’t believe the rebranding and the launch of a new advertising campaign will incur additional costs due to planning that led up to the campaign’s unveiling.
“We are using the budget that would have already been allocated to our current campaign to launch this new one,” said Sam Schleicher, communications specialist in the office of Integrated Marketing and Communications, previously University Relations.