Kaitlyn Waller, Staff Writer
University of Missouri System President Mun Choi delivered a public address called “Excellence through Innovation: A New University of Missouri System” Sep. 14. The address took place on the University of Missouri’s campus and was available to livestream on the UM system’s website.
President Choi’s address outlined a five-year $260 million plan of prioritized strategic investments. This one-time investment by the UM system is expected to be matched by its four universities and is to be used to invest in students, faculty and staff through the system’s strategic plans.
Choi addressed problems the UM system and other higher education institutions are currently facing.
According to Choi, these challenges include “competition for state and federal support, competition for student enrollment, technological disruptions, and declining perception of value for higher education.”
In order to overcome these challenges, Choi said the UM system needs to be innovative and needs to “break away from tradition that impedes excellence for all of us.” He proposed a “collaboration across the whole system and bold actions that [will] lead to meaningful results.”
The UM system’s vision is to “advance the opportunities for success and well-being for Missouri, our nation and the world through transformative teaching, research, innovation, engagement and inclusion.” To achieve this vision, the UM system has to “enhance revenue growth, realize cost savings, invest new resources, reallocate resources and transform operations,” said President Choi.
The planned investment strategies will support each of the Missouri compacts. These include student excellence, research and creative works, engagement and outreach, inclusive excellence, and planning operations and stewardship.
To improve student excellence, $75 million will be used for promise and opportunity scholarships “to meet the unmet needs of our students at all four universities.” The UM system’s students deserve an “affordable and high-quality education,” said the UM president.
An additional $25 million will be used for next generation scholarships to better recruit outstanding Missouri students to the universities. Undergraduate scholarships have increased by $100 million in the last 10 years. A potential $400 million for scholarships could be raised if philanthropic donors and the UM universities match the UM system’s investment. These scholarships would increase university enrollment and retention rates.
Additionally, $20 million will be invested in online initiatives to reduce the costs of education for students. President Choi also revealed plans to reduce the cost of textbooks, to create easy cross-campus enrollment, to expand internships, and to improve research and service learning opportunities in order to prepare students for the future workforce.
$100 million will be invested in research technology to increase the amount of research produced at UM universities. $50 million of this will be used to increase “excellence and breakthroughs in research and creative works” and to increase collaborative research summits among the universities. An additional $2 million will be invested in attracting world-class faculty members. The goal is to turn UM universities into powerful research institutions.
The UM system also plans to do more for the state of Missouri, not just the campuses. The announced Buy Missouri Program will utilize more of the UM system’s resources to benefit Missouri citizens. A $1.25 million investment will expand KC SourceLink into MO SourceLink to connect Missouri small businesses to resources. $10 million will be dedicated to research that will directly benefit Missourians.
The inclusive excellence compact will be fulfilled by an $8.5 million investment in recruiting and retaining diverse students and faculty to create an inclusive environment. An additional $1.5 million will fund American Public Square, a program founded by a UMKC professor that brings together different individuals to have fact-based civil discussions over important issues.
University operations will also be improved through the strategic plans. President Choi was candid about the UM system’s financial challenges and stressed the need for the UM system to make changes or the system’s deficit will increase. A $7.5 million investment will be used to recruit and retain faculty and staff. President Choi also announced a five-year initiative to increase the salaries of faculty and staff at the universities. He commended the strong stewardship the UM system currently has through its chancellors and provosts and thanked faculty and staff for all they do for the universities.
President Choi ended his address on a positive and hopeful note for the UM system’s future and stressed the importance of all those involved to work together to achieve “excellence.” He said, “We want our universities to be a place where faculty and staff are proud to work, where are students are proud to attend, and where civic leaders and communities are proud to support. We will become a stronger University system for all of them. We will be driven by innovation and hard work. We have to reinvent ourselves each and every day. But we can’t do it without you.”