Dear UMKC Community,
I asked, and you answered. Thank you so much for taking the time to carefully read the UMKC Forward recommendations and provide feedback through our survey.
Your detailed input on this project was a wonderful statement of your commitment to UMKC. I want to thank each one of you for keeping your eyes on the prize. Even amid our normal work plus the challenge of responding to this COVID-19 pandemic, I have been able to count on you to simultaneously pursue UMKC Forward, an intensive exploration that will determine our university’s academic and financial future. This is not an easy time and there are no easy answers. Your dedication fuels my hope. We have many excellent ideas to pursue but we have to be thoughtful and strategic.
As a reminder, each team had different missions. Team A was given the charge to provide recommendations to reorganize, downsize and/or eliminate to spur efficiency and reduce costs in our academic enterprise and in our operating and administrative units.
Meanwhile, Team B took a broad look at the entire university to identify opportunities for innovation, growth and investment.
As promised, today I am announcing ideas that can move forward for immediate action as well as initiatives that will be launched for longer-term development and implementation. I want to reiterate that no idea will be forgotten. We will save other recommendations from UMKC Forward for future development and consideration.
I also want to be candid: We are still far from achieving the hoped-for savings from our UMKC Forward ideas. We won’t know how big a gap exists until we complete this next phase of work. Today, I want to lay out the priorities for what comes next.
Immediate actions from Teams A and B
• Proceed with key administrative position mergers and eliminations. Because most of UMKC’s resources are tied up in people expenses, streamlining staffing for cost-savings is a vital step. Since March, we have eliminated 33 administrative staff positions, not counting positions unfilled due to retirements or departures from the university. I have also endorsed recommendations to:
· Merge the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies with the Vice Chancellor for Research.
· Eliminate the director of assessment role and merge that portfolio into existing vice provost roles.
· Eliminate the position of the Chief of Staff for the Provost
· Close ProRoos, a work study/career development program, eliminating two administrative roles.
· Eliminate one vice president role at the UMKC Foundation.
· Eliminate four other associate director or higher positions.
• Convert the Honors College to an honors program, reporting to a vice provost, and appoint a director, rather than a dean. Change will not affect student programming. Details on the staffing and structure of the program will be worked out in coming weeks; effective FY21-22.
• Move full speed ahead with transforming Kansas City Athletics, as approved by the UM System Board of Curators. The three-year plan calls for significantly reducing non-scholarship university funding for athletics, hitting targets for increased revenue and philanthropy and increasing success in athletic competition. As part of that plan, Athletics announced that it has cut two sports – men’s tennis and women’s golf -- to reduce overall operating costs. The division must meet annual targets for progress. The goal is to reduce institutional support 21% by the end of FY2022.
• Sell or ground lease the Epperson House. This historic home is dear to our hearts. UMKC is not financially in a position to save it, so we must find someone who will.
• Launch a new Bachelor of Applied Sciences degree, to enhance our ability to further attract and retain transfer students and fast track new degree programs under development in selected high demand areas. Additionally, UMKC can quickly scale existing degrees as part of the University of Missouri System’s collaborative e-learning organization.
• Establish a Transfer/Adult Learner Center to better attract and retain those students.
• Expand student services to increase retention and graduation rates, including investing resources in Multicultural Student Affairs and programming for diverse populations as well as increasing support for mental health services.
• Revamp and expand the Roo Pantry, also as part of the university’s culture of care, per recommendations from a campus taskforce on food insecurity at UMKC. In addition, a UMKC Forward committee proposed that campus departments contribute surplus office supplies to the Pantry for distribution to students. More details will be announced soon on both initiatives.
Critical explorations: Next steps toward longer-term initiatives
We need to make some hard decisions. In some cases, despite data indicating that programs and initiatives are struggling or no longer serve our community, we have not acted for change. As a result, we are missing out on opportunities to free up revenue, resources and energy to invest in new or already flourishing enterprises.
In other cases, we have surfaced creative opportunities that can streamline costs or spark new enrollment, new research or new ways of working and engaging in our community. But we have not catalyzed to seize those possibilities.
The recommendations below offer great promise, but in all cases, they need more research and analysis. I have identified groups or individuals who can conduct that work, created parameters for decision-making and am asking them to report back on an expedited timeline with recommendations. We will kick off this work in early September after the new academic year is underway.
Team A opportunities
1. Restructure academic units. We need to realign existing colleges and schools, merging departments with similar disciplinary backgrounds to eliminate administrative overhead and the need for additional hiring. While doing that, I want to further reduce the number of deanships by at least two. Working group: Faculty Senate and Provost, with input from Deans, the Student Government Association and Trustees. Deadline: December 1, 2020.
2. Academic program review. We will systematically review all programs based on key criteria and eliminate, downsize or merge some of our programs. Working group: Faculty Senate, Council of Deans, Provost, with input from the Student Government Association and Trustees. Deadline: December 1, 2020
3. Centralize resources and align graduate assistantships with strategic goals. That would allow us to increase graduate assistant pay and invest grad student support in highest priority programs and research, across disciplines. Working group: VC for Research/SGS Dean, Graduate Council, unit Deans and Provost. Deadline: December 1, 2020
4. Full implementation of Shared Services of Finance, HR and IT. Finish the work begun a couple of years ago. Working group: Finance, HR and IT division leaders working with affected units. Deadline: Framework by December 1; Implementation by June 30, 2021.
5. Workforce 2021. We learned from the pandemic that we can successfully use technology and telework to conduct much of the campus’s business. Now we must study how that can lead to savings (in terms of both money and space) while creating potential benefits and flexibility for our employees. Working group: Human Resources and Finance and Administration leaders. Deadline: December 1.
6. Leverage UMKC’s physical assets. We need to complete the new campus Master Plan and use data and insights from that process to reduce the leases and rents UMKC pays off-campus and maximize revenues UMKC receives for selling, renting or leasing university-owned properties or space. Working group: Finance and Administration leaders engaging with campus and community partners, including Trustees. Deadline: April 2021.
Team B opportunities
Team B made numerous recommendations to tap possible new revenue sources or innovations in the way we serve our campus and community. Some of these proposals can’t move forward until we secure savings from the above initiatives. Some may be able to move forward with minimal investment. One of my primary targets will be investing in tenure track faculty positions as resources become available. The other ideas I want to pursue first are captured under five mission-critical themes:
1. Build K-12-to-career pipeline for student recruitment, including the following recommendations:
• Develop micro-credentialing programs
• Create program-finder functionality
• Partner with area schools to develop grade school and high school mini-programs and summer camps to expose these young people to UMKC
2. Enhance student success and retention by investing in diverse faculty, student programming and faculty development, including the following recommendations:
• Implementing the Culture of Care campus-wide
• Teaching/Engagement Enhancement Model for faculty
3. Build the research enterprise, including the following recommendations:
• Invest in the Office of Research Services to hire support for faculty and fund start-up packages for tenure track faculty
• Develop a public-private research institute
• Develop data-driven agricultural research, using our data science and drone research to develop new endeavors to meet regional needs in collaboration with other schools.
4. Build our UMKC Foundation infrastructure to enable UMKC to increase philanthropic support and launch next capital campaign.
5. Build more strategic partnerships, including the following recommendations:
• Public-private partnerships are key to developing campus assets along Troost and Brookside. For example, we need to develop a new housing/retail vision for the former Oak Place Apartments space that will create new opportunities for investment and quality services for our campus, especially once the streetcar line is extended to UMKC. We have similar opportunities on the east side of campus.
• Monetize campus property, including parking garages, for community use.
Read more details on the initiatives outlined above.
In closing, I want to thank you all again for investing your time and thoughtfulness in the UMKC Forward process. We have much, much more to do together, and many challenges to face, but each great journey begins with the first steps. I’m glad to have this great campus community walking along beside me.
C. Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D.