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Aug. 25, 2011 Volume 33, No. 1

While you were away: A roundup of MU summer news headlines

Translational research efforts get $5 million boost

A five-year, $5 million grant from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation will help biomedical engineers at the University of Missouri take promising research from the lab to the clinic.

The grant, through the Coulter Foundation’s Translational Partnership Award Program, will be used to develop technologies that will save, extend and improve patient lives around the world. The funds will be used to support collaborative projects between biomedical engineers and clinicians to take research discoveries to clinical practice.

Jinglu Tan, James C. Dowell Professor and chair of biological engineering in the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, said the grant agreement the university reached with the foundation on June 21, represents “major recognition” for MU’s translational research efforts. Only about 15 universities have been given the award, he said.

“This award will allow our scientists to take their discoveries and develop them for use in the hospital or other clinical settings in an effort to improve the quality of life for many people,” Tan said.

The agreement stipulates that the Coulter Foundation will provide $666,667 per year for five years, while MU will match that money with $333,333 each year, for a total amount of $5 million over the next five years. An oversight committee, consisting of stakeholders in translational research, will be formed to decide how to award the money to MU bioengineering faculty who are seeking to commercialize their research discoveries in partnership with clinicians.

COE professor to lead writing program

Amy Lannin, an assistant teaching professor in English education at the University of Missouri, has been appointed to serve a two-year term as director of MU’s Campus Writing Program.

Lannin, who has been associated with MU in a variety of capacities since 2001, also accepted a tenure track position as an assistant professor in the College of Education.

Lannin has served as the associate director of the Missouri Writing Project (MWP) since 2003. The MWP is part of the National Writing Project, which is a network of more than 200 sites throughout the country dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of writing.

“It is exciting to be part of such a successful program,” Lannin said. “I am committed to building on the current strengths of the Campus Writing Program and increasing its presence on campus as we find new directions and areas to take this program.”

Lannin has taught undergraduate and graduate level classes at MU and has been an advisor for online and on-campus undergraduate and master’s students. She has served on several doctoral committees, including acting as the committee chair twice and co-chair four times.

Curators approve merit raises, hybrid pension

A merit-based salary increase approved by the University of Missouri Board of Curators in June will cost the MU campus about $10 million, most of which will be born by individual academic units and departments.

The board unanimously agreed to the 2 percent increase at its annual meeting in Columbia, despite Gov. Jay Nixon’s decision to trim an additional $4.4 million from the UM System’s fiscal 2012 budget, which went into effect July 1.

Tim Rooney, MU’s budget officer, said the flagship campus will fund $3.1 million of the increased salary and benefit costs. That means department managers will have to work with their existing budgets to cover the other $6.9 million.

“The campus doesn’t have the funding to cover it all,” Rooney said. “So the units will be asked to cover most of it, by cutting positions and reallocating other expenses within their own budgets to find the money.”

Curators also approved a proposal to create a new “hybrid” retirement plan for UM faculty

and staff who are hired after

Sept. 30, 2012. While details of the plan haven’t been determined, it would include elements of the current defined-benefit plan, which guarantees employees some level of retirement income, and a defined-contribution plan, which requires employees to invest on their own for retirement. Current employees would not be effected by the change.

Curators said they expect a detailed plan by fall, with a vote likely in October.

Faculty will revisit diversity course

Campus leaders say that despite the failure of a diversity-course requirement for undergraduate students to pass muster with MU faculty, they plan to keep working on the issue.

The general faculty narrowly rejected a proposal drawn up by the MU Faculty Council that would have required completion of a three-hour course that explores “the diverse human experience” before graduation. Ballots were sent to 1,200 faculty members; 210 voted for the proposal, while 232 voted against it.

Council Chair Leona Rubin said “multiple factors” contributed to the proposal’s defeat. Some faculty members were concerned about the process for approving courses that would be designated diversity-intensive. Others thought the focus on “social inequalities” was too narrow. Still others believed students were already knowledgeable about diversity issues and a course requirement was unnecessary.

“My biggest concern is that we did not hear these concerns before the vote, or we were not listening because we thought we had a good product,” Rubin said.

Rubin said she expects the council to revisit the issue during the 2011-2012 school year.

Tate and Switzler halls re-open for business

Faculty and staff began moving into Tate and Switzler halls in early July, following renovation of two of the university’s oldest academic buildings.

Tate and Switzler received major facelifts, including new plumbing and electrical systems, central air conditioning and wall-to-wall carpeting. Funded by $19 million in bond revenue approved the UM Board of Curators in 2009, the renovations also added 280 new classroom seats and 34 faculty offices.

The four-story brick-and-stone Tate Hall, built just east of Jesse Hall in 1927 to house the law school, is now home to the Department of English. The building was gutted to reconfigure the interior space, including removal of the two-story law library “stacks.”

Light fixtures and handcrafted items such as handrails, cornice work and interior trim were recycled from the original structure.

The Switzler project includes an 8,000-square-foot addition on the southwest side of the building. The north interior wall of the addition features the original exterior wall, which architects left exposed for aesthetic reasons.

Both buildings are outfitted with energy conservation measures, such as automatic lighting and heating and cooling systems, and have been updated to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.