Perhaps it’s the changing weather and a bit of sunshine, but lately I’ve been thinking of how exciting it is to be part of the University of Missouri System. This was especially true this month, because March provided several opportunities to see talent shine at each of our universities. For example, Missouri S&T hosted the PickHacks hackathon, the MU Novak Leadership Institute hosted a 3-day Athlete Leadership Development Program for Special Olympics Missouri, graduate students at UMSL showcased their graphic design thesis work and UMKC’s costume design program was named one of the top 10 in the country. Most rewardingly, we’ve seen the UM System and MU Extension join together at the frontlines of the flood recovery efforts across Missouri.
I hope some of you had the opportunity to see student teams from MU, UMKC, Missouri S&T and UMSL pitch their business ideas in Shark Tank-style semifinals in preparation for the UM System Entrepreneur Quest finals on April 5. The final event will feature students from all four of our universities (get your free tickets here!). Witnessing our students in action as they pitch their innovative and creative business ideas is not just fun; it is truly inspirational.
"Witnessing our students in action as they pitch their innovative and creative business ideas is not just fun; it's truly inspirational."
This month also provided opportunities to hear some of the exciting research stories from across our system. Nobel Laureate Dr. George Smith gave an evening lecture about his experiences, and also kicked off a phenomenal Mizzou Giving Day with the donation of his prize money to students at Mizzou’s College of Arts and Science as part of the UM System Promise and Opportunity Scholarship program. UMSL’s Chancellor Tom George also gave an engaging scientific talk at Astronomy on Tap, which underscored his years of dedication to our mission as a public research University and was particularly fitting as he announced his retirement this month. For another source of inspiration, I encourage you to mark your calendars for Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol on April 4, where undergraduates will share their unique opportunities tied to faculty-mentored research and creative scholarship with state lawmakers.
I think many people in our system would agree that our opportunities to engage with the community are invigorating. This month I enjoyed joining in the excitement of Engineer’s Week at MU and accepting an honorary knighthood during Missouri S&T’s famous St. Pat’s Celebration. MU Extension is also continuing an important community tradition with the St. Louis Storytelling Festival, which runs from April 25 to May 4. Undeniably enjoyable, these traditions are important ways for us to connect across our campuses and with our greater communities.
"Undeniably enjoyable, these traditions are important ways for us to connect across our campuses and with our greater communities."
For me, though, the best part of our University community is having the opportunity to recognize the achievements of our amazing faculty and students. This month, MU leaders surprised faculty members Botswana Blackburn, Donald Meyer and Peter Motavalli with $10,000 Kemper awards in recognition of their teaching excellence. UMSL also surprised high school senior Jalen Rhodes with an offer to join the Opportunity Scholars program. On April 2, I’ll have the personal honor of participating in the formal investiture of UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal, in recognition of the new era at UMKC that will be defined by his bold vision. Our newest issue of Tapestry, a biannual e-publication produced by the UM System Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, also highlights many stories that celebrate the diversity that exists across our university system. Finally, I’m especially excited to recognize the 2019 UM System’s President’s Award winners in the coming months. Honoring our outstanding work in research, teaching, service and entrepreneurship expresses the true spirit of the UM System’s mission.
"Honoring our outstanding work in research, teaching, service and entrepreneurship expresses the true spirit of the UM System's mission."
Another important part of our mission is to let the world know about the impact we make. Last month’s Legislative Day was an engaging event that helped us share our message at the State Capitol. MU Chancellor Cartwright recently had the opportunity to advance this goal at our nation’s capital. But sometimes, our achievements are so outstanding that they capture national attention on their own. In January, I shared with you that our system’s online programs received some of the nation’s highest rankings from the U.S. News and World Report. The happy news continues this month as MU, UMKC, Missouri S&T and UMSL have all been recognized for climbing the ranks of the nation’s best graduate programs.
I hope you share my enthusiasm for spreading the message about the work we do each day—as well as the fun we have doing it. If you’re at MU, the upcoming Show Me Mizzou Day on April 13 will definitely be one opportunity to spread that message. Likewise, Missouri S&T will be holding their 150th anniversary open forum on April 2. These and the other system events I’ve described in this letter are important expressions of the value that we bring to Missouri. If you have a story to share about our university system, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mun Y. Choi
President, UM System