With the end of the semester quickly approaching and our students preparing for another round of deadlines and finals, it’s a good time to reflect on the value of resilience and perseverance. I was recently inspired by the story of a group of ROTC cadets from the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) and Missouri Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) who participated in a marathon to memorialize the Bataan Death March during which more than 60,000 American and Filipino soldiers endured the grueling trek aggravated by heat, hunger and disease.
Each year, Lt. Col. Brent Unger leads a group of student cadets through 26.2 miles of difficult terrain. Participants wear full combat attire and carry a 35-pound pack. Before this month’s Board of Curators meeting in Rolla, I had the privilege of meeting with Air Force ROTC faculty, including Lt. Col. Unger, as well as the Army ROTC faculty, including Lt. Col. Otis Register. I’m very proud that leaders at all four universities are so dedicated to training cadets and midshipmen to serve our country. Their stories embody the tenacity and determination that are the foundation of the University of Missouri System.
"Their stories embody the tenacity and determination that are the foundation of the University of Missouri System."
The power of perseverance can be seen throughout our University community. Each time a researcher is awarded a major grant, we see the fruit of years of hard work. We saw this recently, when seven Missouri S&T faculty members were awarded $5.1 million to help the Army understand traumatic brain injury. It was also apparent when MU’s Drs. Tommy Sewell and Arthur Suits were awarded a combined $8.3 million from two Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grants from the Department of Defense. If you want to learn more about the research at MU or any other of our universities, consider attending the Saturday Morning Science series or other similar events across the system. These outreach efforts are an important way to show our greater community the effort and dedication that go into research discoveries.
Perseverance is demonstrated daily by the work of faculty and staff like Chuck Graham, former state senator and current associate director of the Great Plains Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Center at MU. Mr. Graham has championed disability rights throughout the state, including founding the successful Mizzou wheelchair basketball program that attracted exceptional students like James Bohnett, who graduated with four degrees in political science, economics, statistics and math. We also see it in the example of Danielle Friz, a University of Missouri –St. Louis nursing student and 2019 Newman Civic Fellow. Ms. Friz has significant impact on UMSL and the surrounding community, through her mentorship at UMSL and leadership roles in community service. Our graduates also achieve the incredible through dedication to their chosen path, such as Missouri S&T graduate Dr. Frederick Baganoff, who helped capture the first image of a black hole, and University of Missouri – Kansas City graduate Dr. Angela Myers, who battled childhood cancer and is now a division director at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
Systemwide initiatives also demonstrate the innovation and perseverance of our University community. Earlier this month, the 3rd annual Entrepreneurial Educator Summit (EES) was held in Columbia. This event helps faculty across the system to continually improve entrepreneurship curriculum, so our students have the experiences and skills needed to pursue their dreams. This year, the EES was held in conjunction with the inaugural UM System Entrepreneurial Quest (EQ) Final Pitch competition, where student entrepreneurs from all four universities showcased their creativity and dedication to their business ideas. I was very excited to take part in the EQ Awards ceremony and present the competition winners with a total of $30,000 to fund their entrepreneurial efforts.
“The inaugural UM System EQ Final Pitch competition…provided the opportunity to see student entrepreneurs from all four campuses showcase their creativity and dedication”
The EES is just one of many ways that our faculty continually work to improve the quality of their teaching. At Missouri S&T, the new Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence (CAFE) is devoted to promoting the success of faculty as teaching-scholars at all stages of their careers. CAFE’s programming includes mentoring, early career faculty forums, and teaching observations, which contributes to the Missouri Compact for Student Success. I’m proud of our faculty’s hard work to give students a high-quality education.
Currently, one of the most important ways we are serving Missouri is through flood relief efforts by MU Extension. Record-breaking floods this year have destroyed homes across the state and caused major losses for farmers. Extension specialists are working with local partners to help flood victims, such as helping farmers assess crop losses, and connect them with the necessary resources to recover and move forward. On a system level, we are also exploring options to provide FEMA-eligible students with additional assistance. By engaging across the system and state, we are helping flood-stricken Missourians endure difficult times so we can build a brighter future together.
"By engaging across the system and state, we are helping flood-stricken Missourians endure difficult times so we can build a brighter future together."
At times, our perseverance and resilience will be tested by those who hold views that are different or even diametrically opposed. As a university with a strong foundation of upholding freedom of expression and free speech, we welcome the opportunity to have difficult but civil conversation. More than a century ago, John Stuart Mill, a British philosopher shared an indelible thought on free speech. His message is still relevant today and it goes like this:
He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that;
His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them;
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion;
Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations
I believe that our educational mission for student success, research & scholarship and engagement can and must benefit through the diversity of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives shared by our stakeholders.
Perseverance is also about looking toward the future to drive the work we do today. If you have a story to about perseverance in our community, or other news to share, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mun Y. Choi
President, UM System