Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

February 2, 2007

Senate Interim Committee releases report with recommendations to improve higher education


Rep. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) is vice chair of the House Higher Education Committee. Pearce attended Central Missouri State University and received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1984. “The University of Missouri is the flagship university for our state,” Pearce said. “Its mission is to create the image and to be the standard for all of the state in helping Missouri move forward intellectually. It serves as a role model to the other universities in the state.”

Rep. Pearce with his collection of political buttons in his Capitol office
Rep. Pearce with his collection of political buttons in his Capitol office

Pearce enjoyed his time at MU during the 1980s, describing his major in agriculture journalism as a “good marriage of both worlds.” His ties to the University go further -- his father holds an agriculture education degree, and many other friends and family members went to MU.

He remembers Delmar Hateshol, agricultural journalism faculty member, as having a great impact by serving as Pearce’s mentor and advisor. He also was influenced by Richard Lee, in the journalism school ag program, and Ray McClure, who served as a counselor.

“I learned a great deal during my time at the university, such as what it is like to have people edit your work – sometimes brutally! But I learned a lot in the process of people doing that,” he said. “I also think it taught me that I don’t have all the answers. Socially, I think being on your own, taking care of yourself and keeping up with your school responsibilities, that had a great impact.”

Pearce was first elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2002 to represent part of Johnson County, District 121. He notes that he has a history of volunteering and being active in the community. “I have always been fascinated with politics,” he said.

In fact, he started collecting campaign buttons in the third grade, and now has a collection of them framed in his Capitol office. “It is always a great conversation piece. I have buttons from candidates of both parties, dating back many years in some cases. A few of them are probably worth something. And in the end, it turned out to be a way to put some of my interests together.”

In addition to serving as vice chair of the Higher Education Committee, he is a member of the Appropriations-Public Safety and Corrections Committee and the Special Committee on Job Creation and Economic Development.

“Higher education is a crucial part of our state. Higher education is a ticket to prosperity. Our institutions will play an even more important role in our state in the future,” Pearce said. “We are in the era of lifelong learning, and we will look to the universities to educate both the traditional students and nontraditional students.”

Pearce notes that it is a challenge to “try and have the right workers at the right time and place and with the right skills to meet what businesses demand.”

“Society changes rapidly, and universities must always be on the forefront of training workers. Our old models don’t always work, and we turn to higher education to prepare us for the future,” he said. “I believe higher education is doing a much better job, but there will be an ongoing dialogue. It is helpful to have students engaged in internships and other ways to get them involved in the business world even while they are in school.”

University of Missouri Extension plays an important role and is present in every county, Pearce said. “It plays a large role in the University’s mission,” he said.

The University also has an economic development responsibility. “If you see economic development happen, it tends to be around a place where you have universities, because they are a hub for economic activity.” Training people for the jobs of the future and recruiting new businesses also happens around major universities, he said.

While the University of Central Missouri is the largest employer in his district, Pearce notes that it is amazing how many University of Missouri graduates are in his district. “I think it illustrates how far the University of Missouri reaches,” he said.

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