Kat Riddler, Managing Editor
The University of Missouri System Showcase took place on February 28 in Jefferson City. The showcase was formerly called UM System Day. President Mun Choi suggested the change in the name and format for this year.
The university programs showcased were broken up into a number of themes: Feeding Missourians, Engaging Missourians, Protecting Missourians, Caring for Missourians, Enhancing Innovation through Partnerships, and Preparing Missourians for Life and Work.
Participants were able to visit various booths set up in the Magnolia Grand Ballroom of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Jefferson City from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Shuttles were available to pick up elected officials from the capitol building, bring them to the event and shuttle them back. The Missouri House of Representatives was in session until around 5 p.m.
The University of Missouri-St. Louis sent several representatives: Joe Blanner, BSPA 1998; Kirk Richter, BS 1968; Patrick Gadell, BA 1973; Dean of the College of Business Administration Charlie Hoffman; Chancellor Thomas George; CFO Rick Baniak; Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni Engagement Jennifer Jezek-Taussig; Manager of Public Affairs Karen Pierre; and other students, staff, and alumni.
Annie J. Mbale, graduate, business administration, said, “Being my first time, my mind was blown away. I enjoyed seeing what other schools have done and it empowered me … to know that my spirit of doing more at UMSL should continue.”
Dusty Schnieders, director of government relations at the UM System, explained some of the differences enacted for this UM System Day. Schnieders said, “In recent years, the day was centered at the Capitol during session and did not give us the opportunity to showcase our programs. This year, we engaged legislators and state agency heads through an evening reception held off-site, and offered a hands-on experience and conversations about our groundbreaking research and innovation, cutting-edge programs in such areas as community service and healthcare, and partnerships with businesses and other institutions.”
The new format required a committee from each campus to submit their potential presentations to showcase at the event. Schnieders said, “When we decided to use a new format for legislative day, we convened a planning group with representatives from the four campuses. The representatives were asked to solicit exhibit concept proposals from their campuses and then each submit their top proposals to the system to be considered for inclusion.”
Campuses were encouraged to prepare proposals that would be engaging and interactive and showcase programs that benefit Missourians to fit the overall theme. Schnieders continued, “More than 40 proposals were submitted. We reviewed the proposals looking at a number of criteria to help narrow down to the final 15-16, including the program’s impact on Missourians and its relevance to the budget priorities and strategic initiatives. In some cases, individual proposals were merged into a broader theme, and other proposals were expanded to demonstrate collaboration among the campuses.”
Dan Lauer of UMSL’s Accelerate and Department Chair of Military and Veteran Studies Chair Jim Craig were showcased at the event for the Fostering Entrepreneurship and Student Veteran Success showcase, part of the Preparing Missourians for Life and Work theme. The two UMSL tables were expanded to highlight collaboration, according to Schnieders.
Craig had not been to a UM System Day previously and enjoyed his experience talking to everyone who stopped by. He said, “I hope that the attendees recognize the huge strides that UM System veterans program have made over the past few years. But selfishly, I want to get UMSL programs to the forefront. No one in the country is doing what we are doing here. The explicit and deep connection between veterans services and academic programs is what makes UMSL different. I pitched the idea of Veterans Studies and the Veterans Center as a part of an academic department to everyone who would listen.”
Campuses did not have to pay for tables, but they were responsible for travel, giveaways, and signage. There was a limit on space. Schnieders said, “The planning team and system staff worked together to notify the exhibitors of their selection, and ongoing communication was distributed as the event approached. Based on the size of the room, we not only had to limit the number of exhibits, but the space allocated to each exhibit.”
Mizzou had nine tables, UMKC had three tables, Missouri S&T had three tables, the Extension campus had two tables, and UMSL shared two tables with all four campuses.
There was an educational event planned from 2:30 to 4 p.m. to hear from Dr. Choi and the chancellors, key legislators, agency heads, and students in the Senate Lounge of the Capitol building. This was Gadell’s first UM System Day. He enjoyed the earlier event instead of the trade show format of tables. He said, “I was able to attend the earlier program, which was actually much more informative. Senators from both sides of the aisle (Brown and Walsh, in particular) stressed that education is a nonpartisan issue and pledged to do everything possible to restore the proposed budget cuts to higher education.”
Gadell was optimistic after the day. He said, “I hope attendees realize the importance to the State of each campus. St. Louis and Kansas City are the economic drivers. There is much more to the University System than Division 1 sports.”
Mbale encouraged more students to be involved with their elected officials. Mbale said, “I enjoyed meeting the representatives as well and talk about the amazing UMSL Accelerate program. Looking at their faces admiring UMSL’s Accelerate program and them getting curious to want to hear more about it made me feel optimistic.”
Mbale continued, “Also, to fellow students, please attend these events and get your voice heard. Representatives need to know that you rely and voted for them, and they are working for you. Therefore, they need to do things in your best interests, not theirs.”