View imageThe plan called for increasing fundraising, research and student recruitment efforts to help attain the goal. At the same time, Carney wanted to reduce the university’s deficit and flatten the administration to break down “silos” among the academic departments – moves that were also necessary to ensure the campus operates at peak efficiency.
Today, when people talk about the transition, they’re talking about the process of moving to a “zero-school” structure in which the heads of UMR’s 21 academic departments will report directly to the new provost, Warren K. Wray, instead of to their respective deans. This administrative model takes effect July 1.
The restructuring may be just the first step toward creating a campus that can quickly respond to national and global shifts in research priorities, student demographics and economic issues. Further reorganization may include combining some academic programs, if feasible, to create a more collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to teaching and research.
Such an approach is needed as more research projects require an interdisciplinary approach with expertise from a variety of academic specialties. A transportation project, for example, may require not only civil engineers but also materials scientists, psychologists, engineering management experts and marketing specialists. Carney wants to make sure UMR can bring together experts from many disciplines to address myriad social and economic issues.
“The strategic planning effort is a work in progress, of course, but I think we’ve made great strides in creating a draft plan that is coherent and focused,” Carney says, speaking about the 16-page document being discussed campuswide. “My hope is that the community can spend this year fine-tuning and then endorsing the detailed strategic plan.”
Carney counts the strategic plan and reorganization among the most significant accomplishments of the past year. He also points to the record-breaking year in raising private funds and “another outstanding class” of new students as indicators of success. “As the percentage of total budget obtained from the state continues to decrease (dropping from 42 percent of revenue in 2000 to just 29 percent in 2006), we need to explore other sources of support,” Carney says. “That involves calling on our alumni and friends to give back to the university, in addition to increasing research funding and other revenue sources.”
Despite the accomplishments of the past year, Carney also experienced a “great disappointment” with the failure of a legislative initiative to partially fund the construction and renovation of Toomey Hall (the mechanical and aerospace engineering building). The project has been a top priority for UMR for more than a decade, but to date only half of the $28 million needed for the project has been raised. (State funding was earmarked for the project but rescinded due to tax revenue shortfalls.) John, ME’49, MS ME’51, and Mary Toomey made the cornerstone gift of $5 million in 2004. Last year, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt introduced a proposal to fund construction projects like Toomey Hall through proceeds from the sale of assets from MOHELA, the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority. The proposal would have provided most of the remaining funding needed to complete the Toomey Hall project, and millions more for capital improvements at other public institutions within Missouri. Carney and other leaders in higher education lobbied Missouri legislators about these capital projects, but the MOHELA initiative died at the end of last spring’s legislative session. “I’m hoping that this will get resurrected this year,” he says. This would mark the first time in six years that UMR received state funding for a building project.
This year, Carney plans to spend more time raising private funds for UMR as he hands off much of the academic restructuring work to Wray. “We want to make sure we implement the new structure so that our students don’t miss a beat,” Carney says. He also is spending time discussing the possibility of changing UMR’s name to something that better reflects the campus’s mission – a topic he brought up at his “State of the University” address in October. Now, he’s seeking alumni input on the idea.