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Campus Highlights - June 2019

Dear University community,

I am always inspired by new stories of how members of our university community work together to make a difference in the world. Recently, I learned of the Global First Responders, a medical relief organization founded in 2011 by Dr. Adam Beckett of MU Health Care. His organization conducts high-impact, short-term trips to regions of need with teams of volunteer professionals that are often mostly comprised of University of Missouri System employees, especially MU Health Care staff. In the coming months, these teams will deliver health care and education to countries such as Ecuador, India and South Africa. Visit the Mizzou-based group’s Facebook page to learn more about their activities, such as their annual Rally in the Alley fundraiser that was held this month.

These kinds of efforts bring into focus how much can be accomplished when we work together. The idea of combining efforts is central to many of our systemwide initiatives. This month, leaders from across the UM System came together with our partners in government and industry to celebrate the launch of the statewide NextGen Precision Health Initiative and the groundbreaking of its anchoring facility, the NextGen Precision Health Institute at University of Missouri-Columbia.

The groundbreaking event marked a major signpost in our journey to advance a health care transformation that will be felt for generations. Nothing excites me more than thinking of how the innovations stemming from the collaborative work of all of our institutions will improve the quality of life in Missouri and beyond. The future is certainly bright, also enhanced by the relocation of major institutes of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Kansas City. Across the state, new collaborative opportunities motivate us to keep working to make a difference.

"The groundbreaking event marked a major signpost in our journey to advance a health care transformation that will be felt for generations."


The activities at our universities also demonstrate how a group effort can multiply our impact. MU’s partnership with State Farm has yielded more than $1.6 million to support outreach programs such as the Fire Rescue Training Institute and Personal Finance Course Development for grades K-12, among others. A team from the University of Missouri – Kansas City is partnering with the drone imaging company Aware Vehicles to study roof damage caused by the Jefferson City tornado to learn how to design buildings that will better withstand natural disasters. Similarly, Missouri University of Science and Technology professor Dr. Guirong (Grace) Yan is working with her team to assess tornado damage in the capital to improve building design.

Embracing partnership also means that aspiring pharmacists attending the Missouri S&T have an accelerated pathway to admission into St. Louis College of Pharmacy’s Doctor of Pharmacy program. Community effort and a grant from the United Way of Greater St. Louis has enabled the Triton Pantry to bring food security to hungry students on the University of Missouri – St. Louis campus. These amazing stories of partnership show how we are enacting our vision to improve many facets of life for our community.

Another partnership that represents the UM System’s commitment to building a better world is the University of Missouri South Africa Education Program (UMSAEP). In 1986, the UM System began this academic cooperation with the University of Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa to aid UWC in overcoming apartheid policies and build impactful programs through collaborative projects. In 1996, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who served as Chancellor of UWC, shared the following perspective with the UM Board of Curators: “….your institutions had the courage and foresight to forge institutional links amidst the turmoil of apartheid South Africa and the directives of the cultural and academic boycott. We join with you in celebration of this anniversary and warmly congratulate you on its success”.

Since 1986, more than 800 faculty exchanges have occurred to support areas of research in astrophysics, plant sciences, comparative constitutional law, among others. Many deserve credit for establishing this program, including the Board of Curators, Ron Turner, Ken Hutchinson, among others. I visited UWC for the first time last month with Professor Rod Uphoff, who serves as an outstanding director of the UMSAEP program, and had the amazing opportunity to visit with Rector Tyrone Pretorius and his team to discuss expanding the partnerships to include more student exchanges. I recognized that the bold initiatives of the UM System in 1986 created a lasting program that benefitted our own institutions as much as UWC.

"I recognized that the bold initiatives of the UM System in 1986 created a lasting program that benefited our own institution as much as UWC."



The idea of working together to build resilience is very important to me right now. MU Extension’s statewide efforts to provide flood relief continue to help people across the state rebuild their lives. If you know anyone that might need help, please watch the Flood Resources video produced by MU Extension and the UM System Office of Engagement to learn about the available assistance. Our researchers are also dedicated to helping our communities respond and recover from disaster. This month, MU hosted the 6th UM System collaborative research summit with the theme “Road to Resilience – Disaster to Social and Environmental Resilience.”

Recently, I was asked to participate in the Over The Edge fundraiser for Love INC and cut the ribbon to signal the opening of the fundraiser. Love INC is an organization that provides support to families in need. In Missouri, 20% of the population live below the poverty line and in Boone County, the poverty rate is 24%. For context, a family of four is at the poverty line with a total income of less than $25K. Love INC organizes and deploys resources, training and comfort without judgment to those in need. I will be rappelling down the side of Tiger Hotel with Dr. Peter Stiepleman, Superintendent of Columbia Schools, on September 28, 2019. I look forward to your support for the fundraiser to address poverty. More details to come in future issues.

"Recently I was asked to participate in the Over the Edge Fundraiser for Love INC and cut the ribbon to signal the opening of the fundraiser."


I’m very proud that we have so many examples of combining our strengths with our partners to make a difference in the world. If you have a story about the power of partnership in the UM System, please send it to


Mun Y. Choi
President, UM System

Correction: Last month’s Highlights incorrectly referred to a group of MU students who presented their findings to Southwest airlines executives as “communications seniors.” These students should have been called strategic communications seniors from the School of Journalism.

Reviewed 2019-06-28