Northwest Missouri State University’s long-awaited Agricultural Learning Center (ALC) at the RT Wright Farm will soon be a reality after the Regents on March 19 gave the go-ahead to award a contract to EL Crawford Construction, St. Joseph, for $8.217 million.

The Regents meeting saw several historic firsts including that there are now four female Regents with the addition of Lydia Hurst, Tarkio and the four of the Regents signed in remotely due to the COVID-19 situation.

The Regents heard a COVID-19 action report from Assistant Vice President of Enterprise Risk Management Brad Scott, Assistant Vice President of Wellness Services/Executive Medical Director Dr. Jerry Wilmes, Vice President of Student Affairs Matt Baker and Vice President of Finance Stacey Carrick. Baker and Carrick began to address the Regents about the refund policy for student room and board fees the implemented on March 18. Regents Jason Klindt and John Moore questioned the timing of the decision, asking why the leadership did not wait 24 hours for the scheduled Regents meeting to make the initial decision, which will cause the solvency of the institution to dip $3.5 to $4 million into the auxiliary services budget’s reserves.

Both men noted they and the Regents as a whole would have probably arrived at the same decision, but were not pleased with the action that superseded their authority. Regent Chair Dr. Marilou Joyner voiced her approval of staff’s actions.

Baker reported that any students who needed to stay on campus would be moved to the Forest Village apartments and contract negotiations have begun with Aramark for unused food service monies.

The next tense time during the meeting was during the tuition and room and board proposed increases for the coming year presented by Carrick. The proposal would raise tuition by the 2.3 percent CPI resulting in a per credit hour rate increase of $6.26 with an average annual increase of $348 sticker price that would include tuition and fees for an average student. The vote from the Regents to accept the tuition increase saw two “no” votes coming from Klindt and Hurst; however it did pass. Klindt noted the academic committee vote that he serves upon had a 2-1-1 vote on the increase.

The Regents heard more about the ALC project.

As the university and the Northwest Foundation have been actively raising funds for the ALC through their Forever Green Campaign for Northwest, Rod Barr, the director of the school of agricultural sciences, thanked the Regents for their support after the seminal vote.

“I think this is a landmark for the university,” Barr said. “I remember (Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski) talking about it being a lynchpin. Well, we just put a stake in the ground. I’m very excited.”

The project, for which the university received bids from seven vendors, calls for a new single-story 29,500-square-foot pre-engineered metal building that will house classroom, laboratory, kitchen, exposition and office spaces.

The school of agricultural sciences has realized enrollment growth during the last decade and now claims 650 majors, accounting for about 12 percent of all students at Northwest. Meanwhile, Northwest’s agricultural business program is the largest in the state.

Additionally, the ALC will help address infrastructure needs at the farm related to academic facilities, parking and farm production. It will provide facilities that enable innovation and partnerships and address best practices for the Northwest campus and the school.

The total project cost to build and equip the ALC is estimated at about $9.8 million; turn lane improvements required by the MoDOT, MoExcels Lab Equipment and estimated financing costs will increase the cost to about $11 million. Additional costs will be funded through multiple sources including donors, the university and state funds.

The Northwest Foundation has raised more than $5 million toward the project through the support of more than 40 public and private donors who have joined the university’s Homesteaders and provided gifts of $25,000 and greater toward the ALC project.

Northwest also partnered last year with the Maryville R-II School District’s Northwest Technical School on the construction of a 1,300-square-foot farm manager’s home at the farm. The new structure, which replaced an existing farmhouse, consists of three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage with an open floor concept and full basement.

Other business addressed by the Regents included:

• Provost Dr. Jamie Hooyman recommended a curriculum proposal to add an online program for a master of science in education: educational diagnostics to begin fall 2020. Regents approved.

• Hooyman also presented a revised code of academic integrity policy that spoke to standards for plagiarism. Regents approved.

• Regents authorized the revised graduate academic credit policy that changed the institutional standard for graduate full-time enrollment from nine credit hours to six credit hours.

• Accepted the amended contract with Academic Partnerships LLC for a five year expansion at a expected revenue increase of $600,000.

• Authorized the promotions and tenure appointments of 18 faculty members, effective next fall. The promotion to full professor went to Dr. Kristi Alexander, professional education; promotions to tenure and associate professor: Dr. Rhonda Beemer, health and physical education; Dr. Alisha Campbell, biology; Dr. Jim Campbell, biology; Dr. Denise Case, computer science and information systems; Dr. Keely Cline, psychology; Dr. Nathan Eloe, computer science and information systems; Dr. Aziz Fellah, computer science and information systems; Dr. Justin Hoffmeier, mathematics and statistics; Dr. Steve Ludwig, business; Dr. Jay McGhee, biology; Jose Palacios, modern languages; Dr. Greg Rich, professional education; Dr. Rob Voss, history; promotions to senior instructor: Dan Biegelson, English; Sarah Creason, psychology; Matt Schieber, computer science and information systems; Dana Ternus, history.

• Vice President of Culture Dr. Clarence Green proposed the approval of Jeremy Staples as a University Police officer. Regents agreed.

• Carrick brought the technology purchase through Hewlett-Packard of laptops for a three-year multi-year loan not to exceed $4 million.

• Regents Roxanna Swaney and Moore went through the proposed changes to the bylaws that govern the Regents as a second reading. No action was taken.