Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

February 9, 2007

Profile: Sen. Norma Champion

Sen. Norma Champion (R-Springfield) was first elected to the Missouri State Senate in 2002 after serving ten years in the Missouri House of Representatives. Champion is a member of the Senate Education Committee, which addresses elementary, secondary and higher education in the state. “The University of Missouri is gaining national recognition – helping Missouri attract out-of-state students and businesses and furthering our health care research capability. The more attention we get, the more students and businesses we bring in,” she said. “That is why we need the capital improvements and buildings proposed in the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative – to attract this development. Among the major challenges the legislature has right now is the ability to fund both capital improvements and operations.”

Prior to serving in the Senate and House, Champion was a member of the Springfield City Council for five years. She is well-known for her nearly 30-year role as “Aunt Norma” on the Children’s Hour on KY-3 television.

As a member of the Education Committee, Champion recognizes that “higher education has a tremendous economic role in the state. It has a responsibility to young people to prepare and educate them for the future – training them for jobs, but also preparing them to handle jobs in the future that may not yet be a reality.”

The University also contributes to economic development, Champion said, especially in the fields of health services, technology and engineering.

The University of Missouri is the state’s flagship school, Champion said. As the major research institution in the state, “it has a vital role in being the linchpin of the state higher education system.”

The University of Missouri also impacts Champion’s district, which includes Missouri State University, by giving students options that might not exist at MSU, such as the cooperative agreement between UMR and MSU to offer engineering degrees. “Missouri State University (in my district) helps out with collaborative agreements in such areas as engineering,” she said. 

Champion said the greatest challenge for higher education is funding. “There would be better support for funding if we can overcome some other fundamental problems,” she said.

She cites the need for a strengthened Coordinating Board for Higher Education. “We should strengthen and empower the CBHE to help our institutions effectively use their funding and prevent program overlap,” she said. “An effective, coordinated system helps all Missouri schools reach their full potential.”

“We haven’t even begun to tap into our full potential. But with all of our institutions working together and each carrying a different load, we can be strengthened. With a strengthened group of institutions, we can improve our reputation nationwide,” Champion said.

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