Missouri State University-West Plains will welcome a new chancellor next spring, as Dr. Drew Bennett is stepping down at the conclusion of the academic year.
A 12-member search committee led by Matt Morris, MSU’s vice president of administrative services, is recruiting for the position and will narrow the field of candidates for on-campus interviews and community input. At that point, President Clif Smart will recommend a finalist to the MSU Board of Governors.
A recent survey asked, among other questions, what the community desires in a new chancellor.
“The things that came to the top were responsiveness and connection with students, comfortable in a rural setting, actively willing to participate in the community and community organizations,” Smart tells KSMU.
A majority of survey responders also feel the most important issues facing MSU West Plains are boosting campus enrollment, building trust with the campus and community, and managing budgets amid state reductions.
“That’s consistent with my observations as well,” says Smart. “Every institution of higher education is struggling with the funding piece and West Plains is no different.”
In May, Bennett will have served as chancellor for 11 years, the second longest term at that position.
“Lots of good things have happened in that 10 plus years,” says Smart. “The enrollment to the university there from where he started now has significantly increased. The fundraising piece has been better than it ever has. He’s been able to privately endow three professorships, whereas when he started there were none.”
Smart adds there’s been growth in the number of faculty at West Plains and great improvement to its facilities under Bennett.
“That campus is really coming into its own as a real campus experience now. The acquisition of what used to be called the Shoe Loft Apartments to have a residential – really nice residential facility within a block of campus allows it recruit to campus beyond just driving distance for folks.”
West Plains, while a part of the Missouri State University System, is separately accredited. It is a two-year school with open admissions, meaning high school graduates or GED recipients can enroll there.
Smart calls the school an economic engine for the region.
“[It] serves an underserved area of our state,” he says. “Those seven counties include, including Howell County where West Plains is situated, all of those original service counties have a population that has about 10-15 percent of their population has a college degree.”
Recruiting for the position is expected to begin later this month or in early December. Smart says he hopes the process is completed by next March.
Above, hear the full conversation with President Clif Smart, part of KSMU's monthly program Engaging the Community.
Follow Scott Harvey on Twitter: @scottksmu