Annual Report 2019-2020

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OMC Leaders donate to President Smart, Chancellor Lawler and Academic Dean Lancaster​​​​​​​

$300,000 commitment from OMC will help expand nursing program

A $300,000 commitment from Ozarks Medical Center (OMC) will help Missouri State-West Plains expand the Associate of Science in Nursing degree program. The funds will be used to help underwrite the cost of expanding the university’s nursing program to include an online LPN-to-RN bridge program for an additional 30 students, as well as a second cohort of the regular track RN program for 25 additional students. The new programs started with the 2020 spring semester.

“We’re very appreciative of OMC’s continuing commitment to our program, our university and this region,” university officials said. “As a result of their generosity, Missouri State-West Plains is positioned to better meet the increasing need for trained nurses in this area for years to come.”

Enrollment Up 5% for 2019 Fall Semester

A total of 1,963 students were enrolled in classes at the close of business on the 20th day of the fall 2019 semester. University officials pointed out it was good to see the increase at a time when enrollment trends at two-year colleges were falling. In addition to the students enrolled in Missouri State-West Plains courses last fall, 123 students were enrolled in bachelor’s and master’s level courses offered locally through Missouri State-Springfield’s Outreach office.

Landscape showing Bell Tower and Amphitheater

Amphitheater completed in time for the 2019 fall semester

Contractors completed construction on the 850-seat outdoor amphitheater just in time for the 2019 fall semester, and the first official event, a “Welcome Back” rally for faculty and staff, took place Sept. 6.

Community members were welcomed to the amphitheater Oct. 17 for the Fall Festival Kickoff Event. This free event featured food trucks, music and activities for all ages at the new amphitheater, just west of the Smith-London Centennial Bell Tower. Although delayed two days due to weather, an estimated 300 students, faculty, staff and community members attended and participated in a variety of activities while listening to the band Patient Eyes from Mountain Home, Ark.

The $585,000 project gives the university and the greater West Plains community an outdoor venue for such activities as spectator events, concerts, rallies, films and theatrical performances. Construction costs were covered by a combination of private donations, university funds and a $202,137 matching grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Land and Water Conservation Fund.


Carol Silvey, President Smart, Governor Parson, Commissioner Mulligan, and Chancellor Lawler

Focus on Fast Track Event Held in Hass-Darr Hall

Missouri State-West Plains was the venue for the “Focus on Fast Track” event hosted on Aug. 23 by the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (MDHEWD) at Hass-Darr Hall. Missouri Governor Mike Parson, MDHEWD Commissioner Zora Mulligan and MSU President Clif Smart visited campus to introduce the new Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant to the community. They discussed the new program in front of a packed house, then visited with many community members. University officials were pleased Missouri State-West Plains was chosen for the rollout of this new, innovative tuition incentive program for students who need to complete a certificate or degree in order to pursue a high-demand occupation.


Chancellor Shirley Lawler steps down after two years

Shirley LawlerDennis Lancaster

As faculty, staff and students prepare to face a new year that will be significantly different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they will do so without Chancellor Shirley Lawler, who announced in June she was stepping down after two years due to health reasons. She accomplished much during her tenure and left MSU-WP in a good position to move forward in these unprecedented times.

Dr. Dennis Lancaster, dean of academic affairs, was tapped as interim chancellor and will serve in that capacity for at least a year due to the pandemic.

Lancaster has been affiliated with MSU-WP in a variety of teaching and administrative roles for 30 years. He joined the campus as a per course English and journalism instructor in 1990 and was hired full time in 1992 as assistant director of university communications/lecturer. In 1997, he was appointed special projects coordinator/lecturer then became the assistant to the chancellor/instructor in September 2001. He served as acting chancellor/instructor for six months in 2007 and was appointed assistant professor/director of the Darr Honors Program in January 2009. He has served as the dean of academic affairs for the last eight years.

University Milestones During Lawler’s Tenure:

  • Establishing an apprenticeship program through GOCAT, marking the campus’ first venture into U.S. Department of Labor certified registered apprenticeships
  • Overseeing the construction and completion of the 850-seat amphitheater project
  • Establishing a West Plains Police Substation at Drago Hall
  • Securing a $300,000 commitment from Ozarks Medical Center (OMC) to help the campus expand the Associate of Science in Nursing degree program
  • Increasing enrollment 5% in fall 2019
  • Establishing the Ozarks Teacher Corps Scholarship, which funds a new cohort of students each academic year.

1st registered apprenticeship program completed at GOCAT

GOCAT Apprenticeship Program completers, Chancellor Lawler, Dean Lancaster

The university’s first registered apprenticeship program reached a milestone in December when nine participating students graduated. In the earn-and-learn program, which is conducted at the GOCAT, a student is employed by a company and earns a paycheck throughout his/her education and on-the-job training. At the end of the apprenticeship, the student receives college credit and an industry-issued, nationally recognized credential.

Funded through a Missouri Registered Apprenticeship Grant from the Missouri Economic Development Division of Workforce Development, the program brought together a coalition at GOCAT that included Missouri State-West Plains, the South Central Workforce Investment Board (SCWIB), the Missouri Registered Apprenticeship Program, the U.S. Department of Labor and two local companies, Leonardo-DRS and Jasper Engines and Transmissions.

NSF Grant funds purchase of NMR spectrometer

Dean Lancaster, Chancellor Lawler and Faculty receive NMR spectrometer

College and high school students in south-central Missouri have a new and powerful tool to use in their study of chemical compounds.

Officials at Missouri State University-West Plains purchased a 90MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer with funds from a three-year, $242,790 grant from the National Science Foundation. The NMR spectrometer is one of the most powerful tools available for chemists to use to examine the structure of molecules, university officials said.

COVID-19 Pandemic moves classes and operations online

During the 2020 spring semester, MSU-WP met the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic head on when, in a matter of days, officials shifted all classes and campus operations online. Using an extra week of spring break, faculty and staff took the steps needed to offer all scheduled classes by alternative means and provide services virtually while helping students navigate the new normal to complete the semester.

Agriculture Students receive FFA Honor

Six agriculture students were recipients of the FFA’s highest honor – the American FFA Degree. As the highest degree achievable in the National FFA Organization, the American FFA Degree shows an FFA member’s dedication to his/her chapter and state FFA association.

Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) students earn medals

Three MSU-WP students received a total of nine medals at the PBL State Leadership Conference during the spring semester. The conference took place virtually due to COVID-19. Two of the students qualified to compete at the PBL National Leadership Experience held June 24-26 in a virtual setting, as well. Both students, Angelia Ashberger and Isrrael Jimenez, both of West Plains, each placed in the top 10 in the nation in two events and received medals for their placements in July.

2 attend student leadership forum in Jefferson City

Douglas Cooley, Plato, and Emily Ryan, West Plains, represented Missouri State University-West Plains at the 33rd annual Missouri Governor’s Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values Feb. 14-16 in Jefferson City. Ninety-eight collegiate students began the day having breakfast with Governor Mike Parson and First Lady Teresa Parson at the Missouri Governor’s Mansion.

Students also heard from several speakers who lead by example. Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft welcomed students to the annual event. The forum was created by his father, former Missouri Governor and 79th U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Awards and achievement

  • Seth Hadley, Missouri State University, Citizen Scholar Award
  • Teala Mahan, second-team honoree, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) 2020 Missouri All-Academic Team
  • Brenda Polyard, Missouri State University, Staff Excellence in University Service Award

Fall 2019 Enrollment

  • Headcount: 1,963
  • *Missouri State Outreach: 123
  • Total Students Served: 2,086
  • Full-time: 781
  • Part-time: 1,170
  • Noncredit: 12

* Missouri State Outreach's program offers bachelor's & master's degrees on the West Plains campus.

County Enrollment

  • Douglas: 21
  • Howell: 669
  • Oregon: 133
  • Ozark: 100
  • Shannon: 100
  • Texas: 182
  • Wright: 118
  • Other Missouri Counties: 537
  • Out-of-State: 90
  • International: 13