Legislative Day 2019 features University programs improving lives across Missouri

Jefferson City, MO – On Feb. 21, the University of Missouri System’s 2019 Legislative Day, themed “Serving Missourians,” gave faculty, students and staff the opportunity to interact with legislators and share University programs and research that benefit the state’s citizens.

President Mun Choi expressed satisfaction with the event’s success. “We’ve had a number of legislators walk by the exhibits and they told me that it opened their eyes about the breadth of activities we lead across the University of Missouri System,” Choi said. University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal also expressed appreciation for the high level of engagement, noting “The thing that’s most obvious to me, first of all, is the energy that you see here—not just from the participants from our institutions, but from the people who are stopping by.”

Several exhibits at the event emphasized the University’s impact on public health in Missouri, including the state’s targeted response to the opioid overdose crisis. Addiction researchers Rachel Winograd from UMSL’s Missouri Institute for Mental Health and Holly Hagle from UMKC’s Collaborative to Advance Health Services were eager to discuss coordinated efforts to address the crisis using evidence-based and community-sourced approaches. Current methods are already producing results and researchers want to save even more lives by increasing access to opioid-use disorder medications like Naloxone, as well as expanding recovery services, which includes discussion of a possible charter system “recovery high school” in the Kansas City metro area.

The University’s ambitions to increase the quality of healthcare in Missouri were also apparent in the Precision Medicine Initiative exhibit, which included virtual reality tours of the concept design for the new precision medicine complex. The exhibit also showcased the ongoing collaborative precision medicine research across the UM System, highlighting the cutting-edge vascular, cancer and neurological research that is addressing the state’s greatest needs. Vice Chancellor for Strategic Partnerships and Dean of MU Engineering Elizabeth Loboa enthusiastically described how the current and future direction of UM System research will help discover cures and drive startup company and industry activity in Missouri.

Innovative research was also on display at Missouri S&T’s Mars Rover exhibit. The Mars Rover Design Team are national champions in the University Rover Challenge, the world’s premier college robotics competition. At the exhibit, legislators were able to see first-hand the results of the design team’s hard work and creativity in the form of the latest Mars Rover robot. Students at the exhibit described how their experience on the team not only advanced their technical and scientific knowledge, but helped make them highly competitive graduates by building their skills in fundraising, marketing and business planning.

The event also showcased other systemwide workforce development efforts such as Project Lead The Way, which works with K-12 students to build skills in communication, resilience and teamwork. A major goal of Project Lead the Way is to foster these traits, which are highly desired by employers across the state, in early education by generating excitement for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Another workforce development initiative, the continuing education program for health providers, public safety and other professions, was also highlighted. MU Extension representative Susan Renoe said, “The work that we’re doing to train firefighters across the state, police and also hopefully EMS too, is making a direct impact on the lives of Missourians every day.”

The University’s economic impact was also demonstrated by many other programs, including MO Source Link. The program’s goal is to bring together the resources of all four system universities and serve as a central access point for entrepreneurs to obtain key information to make their business successful. In addition to providing online resources and customized planning materials, the program offers skill-building seminars and networking events across the state. Other entrepreneurial infrastructure programs include Ameren Accelerator, National Science Foundation I-Corps and Bloch Mentorship.

The Legislative Day goal of continuing to build a productive relationship with state officials was emphasized by the capstone announcement of a new bipartisan caucus that will advocate for the UM System. Led by Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden and State Representative Greg Razer, the caucus is composed of 13 lawmakers who each graduated from or represent one of the four system universities. Together, the day’s events and exhibits clearly demonstrated the UM System’s unique and vital role in continually advancing the opportunities for success and well-being for Missourians.

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