The Board of Governors at Missouri Southern State University is moving forward with the search for the university’s sixth president.

Meeting in closed session following the regular board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19, the members discussed the next steps following Dr. Alan Marble’s recent announcement that he will retire as of June 30, 2020.

Alison Hershewe, current chair of the Board of Governors’ personnel committee, will also chair the presidential search committee.

“We fully understand the eagerness expressed by our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community as we prepare for the next chapter in our history,” she said.

Over the next 30 days, nominations for the search committee will be sought from members of the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, Student Senate, Alumni Association, the Missouri Southern Foundation, the Lionbackers booster club, the city of Joplin, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Missouri Southern administration. From those nominations, the board will decide who will be appointed to serve on the presidential search committee.

The board has authorized a request for proposal (RFP) process to hire a presidential search firm. The search committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Governors regarding a search firm.

“We all share the same high hopes for this institution, and finding the right leader to continue our forward momentum and campus culture that was established under Dr. Marble’s tenure is key to our success,” said Hershewe. “Our goal is to be as transparent as possible throughout this process. We want to hear from everyone as Missouri Southern continues to play a large role in the economic growth of the community.”

In other business, the board received an overview of fall enrollment numbers.

Enrollment at Missouri Southern saw a decline from Fall 2018, according to data compiled by the university’s office of Institutional Effectiveness.

“While we anticipated around a 5-percent decline, we have experienced around a 6.7-percent decline compared to last year,” said Michael Sanders, MSSU’s dean of Admissions.

While overall headcount for this year stands at 5,604 students – down from 6,006 in 2018 – there numbers indicated a number of positive developments, including student retention numbers.

“We moved the needle from 61 percent (from 2017-18) to 65 percent (2018-19) of our first-time, full-time bachelor’s degree-seeking students,” said Dr. Josie Welsh, MSSU’s director of Institutional Effectiveness. “In other words, our fall-to-fall retention rate increased by 4 percent.”

This year’s freshman and transfer classes saw a 6 percent increase from the university’s Lion Pride initiative, which offers in-state tuition rates to students from Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee as well as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

This year’s freshman class also yielded one of the highest GPA’s (3.44) the university has seen the past five years.

While Missouri Southern continues to be one of the most affordable institutions in the state, as well as in the Four State region, it continues to provide financial assistance to students.

“We want to remove financial barriers for students who want to come to MSSU,” said Sanders. “One way we’re doing so is providing an application fee waiver to those who have or will graduate from Joplin, Carl Junction, Webb City, Carthage and Neosho high schools, or Crowder College. They can receive that waiver by simply applying through the university’s website.”

The Board of Governors also recognized two outgoing members. Tracy Flanigan, whose term ended on Aug. 30, will not be seeking reappointment. Michael Franks, whose term was to end in 2021, also announced his resignation.

Bill Gipson, chair of the Board of Governors, expressed his appreciation to both for their service to Missouri Southern. He said new appointments for the open seats would be made soon by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.