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Campus Highlights - March 2018

Dear Friends of the University:

The start of spring is an exciting time across our campuses. Last week, more than 200 medical students from the MU School of Medicine and the UMKC School of Medicine celebrated the next step in their lives during Match Day 2018. Spark, a group of student entrepreneurs from Missouri S&T, was selected as a Top 25 finalist for online business pitch competition e-Fest. And, in St. Louis, UMSL surprised five area high school students with life-changing news: that they would begin their college educations next fall as the newest members of the Opportunity Scholars Program.

We are committed to doing all we can to ensure the success of these and other talented students across our campuses. One way we are working to support our students more fully is with our affordable and open educational resources initiative, which will reduce the cost of attendance. Earlier this month, we launched a partnership with McGraw-Hill Education to increase access to affordable course materials. This effort is lowering the cost of the publisher’s electronic textbooks for our students by an additional 38% to less than $40 per textbook. Starting this summer, McGraw-Hill will offer its entire higher education eBook catalog through the UM System’s AutoAccess program, which to date has saved UM System students approximately $9.7 million.

During our Legislative Showcase, I shared that the UM System has a $5.5 billion economic impact on the state of Missouri. On April 17, I will be joined by business leaders and elected officials in Jefferson City to share additional findings from an economic impact report we completed with Tripp Umbach. As part of our presentation, we will share examples of how the work on our campuses makes significant economic and social contributions to Missouri communities. I look forward to sharing more about this with you next month.

I want to share a story about a successful international partnership. In 1986, the UM Board of Curators launched the University of Missouri South African Education Program (UMSAEP). The University of Missouri System was the first American university to partner with a historically disadvantaged, nonwhite South African university. Back in 1986, our partner, the University of the Western Cape, was a very under-resourced institution. It is now one of the top seven universities in all of Africa. To read more about the teaching, research and artistic successes of the UM/UWC partnership, visit the University of Missouri South Africa Education Program 2017 Report. This April, each UM System campus will hold a symposium where current and past participants will showcase the UM/UWC partnership and collaborative projects as well as inform others on how to apply for a UMSAEP grant. The symposiums are scheduled as follows:

  • UMKC: Friday, April 6, 1:30 p.m., Toyota Executive Education Room, Flarsheim Hall
  • MU: Monday, April 9, 3:00 p.m., Columns D&E, Reynolds Alumni Center
  • S&T: Tuesday, April 10, 3:00 p.m., Missouri Ozark Room, Havener Center  
  • UMSL: Wednesday, April 11, 2:00 p.m., Room 331, Social Science and Business Building

I encourage you to attend one of the symposiums to learn more about this remarkable partnership. I want to thank and congratulate Professor Rodney J. Uphoff, Elwood Thomas Missouri Endowed Professor Emeritus of Law at Mizzou and the director of this program for his outstanding contributions. To read more about the history of this program and see the wide range of collaborative projects that have been funded, visit

I want to close by sharing a Columbia Missourian article that features MU Vice Chancellor for Extension and Engagement Marshall Stewart. Marshall’s work on his ‘campus,’ or all 114 Missouri counties, has been truly remarkable. The positive and engaging culture that he has cultivated across our state make us all very proud. Like me, Marshall has the great opportunity to meet people every day who have benefited from the transformational power of public higher education. Marshall is coming to a community near you, so share your stories with him. You can also share your story about the positive impact our University has made in your life by sending it to


Mun Choi, President
University of Missouri System

Campus monthly highlights


Family legacy leads to mining co-op
For Missouri S&T student Eli Rychtarczyk, engineering is a family affair spanning centuries and oceans. The mining engineering junior, the son of Polish immigrants who came to America from a coal mining area, recently completed a co-op job with Cargill.

Breaking the bias of STEM stereotypes
Dr. Jessica Cundiff, assistant professor of psychological science at Missouri S&T, examines why stereotypes toward women pursuing STEM careers persist in research published in the new book, The War on Women in the United States: Beliefs, Tactics and Best Defenses. Cundiff’s book chapter, “Subtle Barriers and Bias in STEM: How Stereotypes Constrain Women’s STEM Participation and Career Progress,” discusses implicit STEM-male stereotypes that have been unconsciously ingrained since childhood.


UMSL ranked first in state, No. 8 nationally for online education and teaching degrees
Reasonable tuition, generous financial aid, a healthy student-teacher ratio and a high six-year graduation rate earned UMSL a top spot among Affordable Colleges Online’s 2018 list of the best education and teaching degrees.

UMSL History Chair Laura Westhoff honored for teaching excellence
UMSL’s Laura Westhoff, associate professor of history and education, accepted the Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Historical Association in January and is due to receive a Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching this spring.


Multidisciplinary team identifies new genetic targets for autism spectrum disorder
Using advanced computational techniques enabled by NSF-funded equipment, Chi-Ren Shyu, director of the Informatics Institute in College of Engineering, and his multidisciplinary team were able to identify 193 potentially new genes not found in previous autism studies. The discovery has been called a quantum leap forward in the study of the genetic causes of autism.

Jean's journey: Scholarship opportunities, hard work helped Mizzou alumnus
Jean Whitley struggled financially as a sophomore at Mizzou and was nearly evicted. That’s when a friend told him about the Vasey Academy in the Trulaske College of Business. Established in 1997 through a gift from Roger and Sandy Vasey, the academy is a selective program for minority students that includes a one-credit course and a one-time $1,000 scholarship. The Academy helped Whitley—who now has two accounting degrees from Mizzou—both financially and academically.


Department of Defense awards $14.9 million to develop counter-drone technologies
The U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research has awarded a $7.2 million grant and a $7.7 million contract to UMKC to develop technologies to reduce national security threats from small, unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly called drones. These are the largest non-health research awards received at UMKC. The team of investigators also includes researchers from Missouri S&T and MU. The threat from drones is disproportionate in cost and complexity compared to the damage they can cause. UMKC researchers are helping the US military mitigate these threats and support our servicemen and servicewomen.

Researcher Fights Breast Cancer
The American Cancer Society has awarded Professor Kun Cheng $525,000 in research funding through 2019. Cheng’s research focuses on breast cancer, and Society officials recently toured Cheng’s lab at the UMKC School of Pharmacy. Since 2007, Cheng has worked on developing targeted delivery systems for drugs that treat cancer and liver disease, primarily those involving a gene-silencing large molecule called siRNA. The molecule is so unstable that Cheng’s team will store siRNA at -112 degrees Fahrenheit to keep it from breaking down.

Campus Monthly Highlights

Reviewed 2019-04-18