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MSU President Clif Smart touts accomplishments in his last State of the University address

MSU Sign
Michele Skalicky
Missouri State University sign on the southwest side of campus (photo taken August 17, 2023)

The address Monday also included an update on the search for the next university president.

During his last State of the University address Monday, President Clif Smart highlighted achievements over his last 12 years at the helm of Missouri State University.

He said the university is not the same as when he started on June 27, 2011.

The biggest accomplishment of the last few years, according to Smart, was obtaining the status as a professional doctoral university, which he said was a major challenge.

"The first thing we had to do was get the law changed to allow this to occur," Smart said. "That was a two to three-year process that was achieved in 2019. We then had to convince the (Coordinating Board for Higher Education) over the strenuous objections of the University of Missouri and the Higher Learning Commission that we had earned it."

Smart said they reached those goals last year, and this year the university has its first Doctor of Psychology cohort.

He touted enrollment records, too. Turning the enrollment decline around caused by the pandemic "and other factors," he said, was the number one goal last year. Numbers released recently show the MSU freshman class grew by 22.1 percent from last fall to this fall — the biggest year over year increase in the school's history. This year's freshman class consists of 2,782 students. Smart said they hope to get back to a freshman class of 3,000.

He also talked about the retention rate, which was 79.3 percent for 2022-2023. The goal set by the MSU Board of Governors is to increase that to 82.2 percent by 2026, which Smart said will be a challenge with an increase in first generation college students and Pell Grant eligible students. However, he said that must be a priority and that there are many efforts underway to provide the support needed for students to be successful.

"If we're not graduating our students," he said, there is little point in recruiting them."

Smart will retire at the end of the academic year. A search is underway for the 12th president of MSU. The university's board of governors decided not to hire a recruiting firm. Smart said MSU's experience with them "has not been successful."

A search committee is being led by MSU's general counsel Rachael Dockery, its vice-president of marketing and research Suzanne Shaw and the board of governor's secretary Roweena Stone.