Wilson Kuhlemeyer, a second grader at Northwest’s Horace Mann Laboratory School, and Mason Saffels, an elementary and special education major, unfurl a banner acknowledging the Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award.

The Northwest Missouri State University Regents accepted over $1 million spending of the RT Wright Farm additional projects during the August 30 meeting.

The Regents authorized the university to move forward with improvements to the entrance and a road expansion at the farm, not to exceed $1 million, another step in several improvements planned for the farm site.

Vice President of Finance Stacy Carrick said Northwest intends to execute a contract to complete the road expansion and site improvements with Scott Gann Construction for $438,528 and a contract to complete the farm entrance project, which is contingent on approval by the MoDOT, with Scott Gann Construction for $390,084.

The projects are part of improvements leading toward the construction of an agricultural learning center and will enhance visibility to the 448-acre farm. The project will include construction of about 2,200 linear feet of roadway to connect the farm to its Highway 71 entrance, the addition of turn lanes for traffic safety on the highway and defining entry features such as signage, fencing and landscaping. The project also will include preparation of the building site for the center.

Carrick said the components of the project were competitively bid and will be funded from Northwest’s Campus Master Plan funds.

Several department leaders ran off a litany of achievements and praised their teams at the beginning of the Regents’ first regular session.

Northwest began classes August 27 with 78.66 percent of its 2017 freshman class returning to the university for a second year, shattering an all-time record set in 2007. In addition, Northwest’s total student headcount is up about five percent to 6,786 students and its freshman headcount of 1,351 is an 11 percent increase from last fall. The institution also is reporting large enrollment increases in online enrollment transfer students, first-time graduate students and underrepresented domestic first-time students.

“We are up in so many ways, and it’s because of our cross-disciplinary enrollment and recruiting teams,” Vice President of External Relations Dr. Lonelle Rathje said. Vice President of Strategy and Operations Nola Bond also recognized the group formed last year to revamp Northwest’s recruitment strategy and processes.

Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Matt Baker highlighted Northwest’s performance on the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory, a survey of freshmen and juniors that measures student satisfaction every two years across a variety of campus areas. Results of the 2017-2018 survey show Northwest freshmen graded the university higher in every category, and juniors scored the university higher in 93 percent of the survey. Baker added that Northwest also outperformed national averages when students were asked whether they would enroll at the same institution if they could do it again; 79 percent of freshmen and 78 percent of juniors said they would enroll at Northwest again, compared to 71 percent of all students surveyed nationally.

“We’ve talked over the last four or five years about our strategy, about our intentionality, about maintaining our focus,” Baker said. “I think this is really showing that it’s working and we’re getting better at narrowing that focus and working on the right things.”

Dr. Tim Wall, the dean of Northwest’s School of Education, highlighted a faculty-led redesign of the school’s curriculum to place greater emphasis on students’ access to diverse clinical practice in urban, rural and suburban settings – work that recently netted Northwest the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ 2018 Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award. As Wilson Kuhlemeyer, a second grader at Northwest’s Horace Mann Laboratory School, and Mason Saffels, an elementary and special education major, unfurled a banner acknowledging the award, Wall credited Dr. Sue Wood, an assistant professor of professional education, who led the redesign.

Finally, Carrick highlighted the outlook Northwest received recently from Moody’s Investors Service. Carrick noted Northwest’s emphasis on debt reduction through refinancing and its responsible fiscal management in spite of decreasing state appropriations and enrollment volatility.

The Regents approved an update to the university’s tuition rate for other programs after hearing a presentation from Dr. Jamie Hooyman, Northwest’s Provost, about its pilot of a competency-based master’s degree program in strategic communication. The master’s program, which the school of communication and mass media initiated in 2016 after Northwest received a Hawthorn Foundation grant, will follow a subscription cost model. Students who enroll in the program will pay $3,500 for a minimum of six credit hours and a maximum of 12 credit hours per term. Students also can elect to demonstrate competency through a test out process at a rate of $200 per credit hour.

The board approved a multiyear contract with Skyfactor, an industry leader in student satisfaction surveys, and reviewed Northwest’s annual state appropriations requests. The board also approved updates to Northwest’s Code of Academic Integrity Policy; 69 faculty appointments, procurement bid processes for supplies, equipment and services; amendments to its Title IX: Sexual Misconduct Policy; and board bylaws.

There was a closed session with the topics of litigation, real estate and personnel.