Annual Report 2021-2022


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Chancellor Dennis Lancaster

Missouri State University-West Plains names new Chancellor

Dr. Dennis Lancaster is a familiar name and face at Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP). After serving in a variety of teaching and administrative roles for more than three decades, Lancaster became the university’s chancellor on Jan. 1, 2022.

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 served as the dean of academic affairs for eight years and has served as interim chancellor since July 2020.

Lancaster has a master’s degree from the University of Missouri and a doctorate in higher education leadership from Lindenwood University.

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. He has also served as special projects coordinator/lecturer and assistant to the chancellor/instructor.

MSU-WP receives federal, state funding for hospital sim lab, technology upgrades

Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) received $4.25 million in federal and state funding to create a new hospital simulation lab for the nursing program and upgrade equipment and technology.

render of new simulation lab

In March, President Joe Biden signed a federal budget passed by the U.S. Congress that included more than $3 million for MSU-WP. The omnibus package included $2.5 million for the hospital simulation lab at Looney Hall and $525,000 for equipment and technology upgrades in Melton Hall science labs to support STEM research and teaching. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) led the effort to secure those funds.

In June, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation that included an additional $1.25 million in MoExcels funds for the hospital simulation lab. Combined with the $2.5 million already received from the federal budget, the federal and state funding should cover the estimated $3.75 million costs of construction.

When the one-floor renovation at Looney Hall is complete (expected fall 2022), the hospital simulation lab will provide realistic spaces for training students to treat patients needing care in a variety of settings, including obstetrics, pediatrics, intensive care, emergency room and a doctor’s office.

ASCEND Program designed to help Autistic Students

Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) established the ASCEND (Autism Support Can Empower New Directions) Program to help area students with autism transition into college and toward a life of personal success and independence.

The first program of its kind in southern Missouri, ASCEND will offer specialized support services for students with autism who wish to embark on a traditional college degree path to reach personally chosen goals.


“Students with autism face a unique set of challenges that can make it difficult for them to reach their full potential, academically and in life. Through ASCEND, we hope to help these students develop the skills they need to achieve their goals in both areas,” MSU-WP Chancellor Dennis Lancaster said.

“We hope to encourage and foster self-confidence, self-advocacy and growing independence in our students with autism through ASCEND,” said Dr. Angela Totty, dean of student services. “By understanding their strengths and weaknesses, we can help them learn and apply skills and strategies to successfully navigate the demands of college life.”

A core team of highly trained individuals whose work will focus solely on the ASCEND Program will offer students structured support, scheduled guidance, individualized coaching, and peer and graduate mentoring that will help the students develop independence and self-advocacy.

Mikala King, who previously worked at West Plains R-7 with students who had a mild to severe disability due to an autism diagnosis, was tapped to direct the program.

Construction on Pace Science Center building‘Transformational’ gift leads to new name for 
welding program, building

Family and friends joined the Missouri State University Foundation and other university representatives in December 2021 to announce a transformational gift and naming of the Terry L. “Bo” Pace Advanced Welding and
Fabrication Technology Program at Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP).

The naming announcement was made in the Broadway Building (218 West Broadway), which was renamed the Terry L. “Bo” Pace Industrial Science Center to honor the late local businessman and champion of the MSU-WP campus.

Pace Industrial Science Center logo

The significant gift, which was part of the university’s Onward-Upward Campaign, allows the university to proceed with its renovations to the Broadway Building and permanently locate the welding lab there.

“As we honor, celebrate and remember Bo Pace, we feel the impact of this program will present local industries with talented and qualified employees for their workforce,” Sunie Pace said of the gift given in memory of her late husband. “The Terry L. ‘Bo’ Pace Advanced Welding and Fabrication Technology Program will positively promote the economy of our local communities, making it a cornerstone program that will always be associated with MSU-WP as a successful program.”

“Bo Pace was a longstanding advocate for education and avid supporter of our campus,” said Dr. Dennis Lancaster, chancellor of MSU-WP. “To have earned his and his family’s confidence in our fabrication and welding technology program, which will bear his name both for the program and on the building, is an honor. We are excited about the opportunities this offers our students to be educated in a state-of-the-art facility.”

Board of Governors approves new long-range plan for MSU-WP

Members of the Missouri State University (MSU) Board of Governors approved a new long-range plan for Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) which outlines the goals and objectives of MSU-WP for the next five years. The plan focuses on facilitating student success and meeting the educational needs of the region.

A core team of faculty and staff led by Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Michael Orf and Associate Professor of Child and Family Development Dr. Brenda Smith began the process in July 2021. From August 2021 through April 2022, the team reviewed the strategic planning process and analyzed the current campus goals while focusing on the framework of student success.

Campus Master Plan map

Over 100 campus and community stakeholders were selected for focus groups to aid in the plan’s development. These groups represented staff, academic advisors, information technology staff, Student Government Association members, students, faculty, online and seated nursing and allied health students, and the administrative council.

Comments from the focus groups were used to complete an analysis of current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges and identify areas for improvement. Themes derived from the analysis included student success, opportunities offered through programs and degrees, student services, resources, communication, and information technology. From that information, the following goals were developed:

  • We will seek to establish new partnerships and enrich existing collaborations to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
  • We will clearly define, articulate, and communicate our distinctive value to the regions we serve.
  • We will strive to provide a comprehensive, positive higher education experience.
  • We will offer relevant and valuable educational opportunities through numerous mediums and pathways.
  • We will effectively utilize existing and future resources to fulfill our mission.

University officials have now transitioned to establishing key performance indicators for the goals and strategies.

In conjunction with the new long-range plan, board members approved a new campus master plan outlining proposed projects for the next five years. These projects, some of which are underway, will change the look of the campus.

MSU-WP Expands Intercollegiate
Athletic Program

Missouri State University-West Plains (MSU-WP) was approved by the NJCAA to offer women’s softball and esports beginning with the 2022 fall semester.

Grizzly Bus

The women’s softball team will compete at the NJCAA Division II level. The Grizzly eSports team, which will be co-ed, will compete through the NJCAAE, the national governing body for two-year college esports in the United States.

The Grizzly Softball team will have a maximum of 30 student-athletes and compete during the spring. They also will take part in off-season games during the fall. The Grizzly eSports team will be made up of 12 student-athletes who will compete year-round.

University officials said the new softball and esports programs will enhance the collegiate experience for current students and bring new and expanding interest in MSU-WP from prospective students and area residents.

Other Highlights of the Year

  • MSU-WP graduates Morgan Spoor and Weston Phipps each received the Missouri State University 2021-2022 Citizen Scholar Award.

  • MSU-WP Phi Beta Lambda members Micha Amos, Cheyenne Cavitt and Elaine Vaughan placed in competitions at the Missouri PBL State Leadership Conference in April 2022. Vaughan placed second in Entrepreneurship Concepts at the National PBL Leadership Conference in June 2022.

  • The Grizzly Volleyball team placed third at the NJCAA Division I Women’s National Volleyball Championship in November 2021 in Hutchinson, Kansas.

  • MSU-WP agriculture students Viviana Prado and Andi Howard will serve as president and vice president, respectively, of the Missouri Professional Agriculture Student (PAS) Organization for the 2022-2023 academic year.

  • The Grizzly Volleyball team and 14 student-athletes received academic honors from the NJCAA. The volleyball team received one of the 2021-2022 Academic Team Awards, and 11 volleyball players and three basketball players earned All-Academic Team honors.

  • MSU-WP implemented a Host Family Program for students to provide a “home away from home.” The friendship program helps students acclimate to the community and college life by pairing them with host families who include them in family activities and provide a safe place to relax and enjoy a home-cooked meal.

  • The Friends of the Garnett Library celebrated 30 years of supporting and advocating for the Garnett Library in April 2022. The organization raises awareness of the library’s services and needs in the community.

Grizzly Statue

Quick Facts

Fall 2021 Enrollment

Headcount: 1,953

Students come from:
64 Missouri Counties
25 States
8 Countries

Mission statement

Missouri State University-West Plains empowers students to achieve personal success and to enrich their local and global communities. As a two-year public institution, we provide accessible, affordable and quality educational opportunities.

To become a student, call 417-255-7955 or go to
To support the campus, call 417-255-7240 or go to