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New Missouri S&T Chancellor Wants To Build On Strengths, Pursue More State Funding

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio
Mo Dehghani became the chancellor of Missouri University of Science and Technology. He is the 22nd leader in the school's 149-year history.

Mo Dehghani looked at Missouri University of Science and Technology (then known as the University of Missouri-Rolla) when he was picking a school for his undergraduate education.

While he decided to go to Louisiana State University, Missouri S&T’s commitment to science and technology stayed in his mind. Now, he’s ended up in Rolla as the school’s chancellor.

“When I got the call for the position, I was over the moon,” Dehghani said.

Dehghani, who started as chancellor on Aug. 1, said he is looking to build on S&T’s biggest strength: its academics and research in engineering and other tech fields. 

“The potential this place has to become significantly more relevant and an important player in the world of science and engineering and beyond is in the whole field of STEM activities,” Dehghani said.

Dehghani said he intends to oversee efforts at the university to do a better job of promoting and highlighting its academics and research. 

He also pointed to lower enrollment and decreasing state funding as the school’s two biggest challenges in the coming years. The school’s all-time high enrollment was 8,889 in 2015. That fell to 8,607 last year and is expected to be down another 500 students this fall.

“We can’t rely on tuition only. Research is costly to the university — it’s never a source of income. And yet it’s critically important,” Dehghani said.

In terms of enrollment, Dehghani said all schools are in a down cycle after a baby bust 20 years ago, and S&T needs to manage its resources carefully until it is able to attract more students.

Missouri S&T has seen a reduction in staff, including leaving some open positions unfilled and some layoffs. Dehghani said despite that, he is impressed by the attitude of employees.

“The impact of budget cuts and reductions of enrollment and the elimination of some positions are felt,” Dehghani said. “But I’m not prepared to say morale has been affected. This is a tight community.”

Dehghani said staff reductions must be short term, because if they last a long time it will start affecting morale among faculty and staff.

Dehgahi came to Rolla from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he served as vice provost for research, innovation and entrepreneurship for six years. Before that, he held various posts at Johns Hopkins University. He replaced two-year interim chancellor Chris Maples. 

Hear Jonathan Ahl's conversation with Mo Dehghani:

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Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.