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UM Board of Curators approves the naming of the Michael A. Middleton Center for Race, Citizenship, and Justice


Christian Basi

Board also approves new degree programs at UMSL and MU

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Earlier this week, UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi approved a proposal to establish the Center for Race, Citizenship and Justice at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  Today, the Board of Curators voted to name the center after former interim UM System President Michael A. Middleton. The center, rooted in interdisciplinary research, will promote diverse research and engagement in critical conversations about race, citizenship and justice.

“The core mission of our four UM System universities is to engage in the research and scholarship that improves the lives of our students, betters our communities and advances the state of Missouri,” board chair Julia Brncic said. “The Michael A. Middleton Center for Race, Citizenship, and Justice will provide a valuable forum where critical state and national issues can be discussed and debated thoughtfully from all perspectives and politics.”

The curators voted to name the center for Middleton, an MU alumnus with degrees from the MU College of Arts and Science and the MU School of Law. In Middleton’s 50-year relationship with MU, he has served as a university faculty member, MU deputy chancellor and UM System interim president. He has worked as a civil rights attorney and was instrumental in the development of Black Studies at MU.

“The Middleton Center will build on Mizzou’s commitment to creating a more inclusive, diverse and equitable community by exploring complex issues in a setting that is respectful to all,” Choi said. “The important work of this center will contribute to the discourse on difficult topics at all four of our universities.”

Stephanie Shonekan, associate dean of the MU College of Arts and Science, and S. David Mitchell, associate dean for academic affairs in the MU School of Law, will lead the center. The center, which will serve all UM universities, will also have a partnership with the State Historical Society of Missouri. In addition, the Center will participate in collaborative programs with the Kinder Institute for Constitutional Democracy, the Novak Leadership Institute, the Department of Black Studies and the Center for Dispute Resolution.

“We have created a place with a focus on interdisciplinary scholarship where we can explore the nuances and complexities of race, citizenship and justice,” Mitchell said. “This is a great opportunity for us to lead by engaging in intellectual discourse and critical analysis that will challenge our students, faculty, staff and community at large.”

“As a land-grant institution, the university is well-positioned to help our students and faculty think through how the status of race has evolved and where it’s going in the future.” Shonekan said. “I look forward to having reasoned, generative conversations with scholars across campus and beyond about how race, culture and history are interwoven in American history and the American experience.”

In other business, the curators approved the creation of two new degree programs: a Master of Arts in Defense and Strategic Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Master of Science degree in Supply Chain Analytics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.


Additional statements about the Michael A. Middleton Center for Race, Citizenship, and Justice:

Gary Kremer, director of the State Historical Society of Missouri
“You cannot plan for the future or even understand the present without knowing the past. The State Historical Society has a strong foundation in a number of areas that are consistent with the mission of the Middleton Center. This new center meshes well with the interests of the SHS, and we are very supportive of anything that honors Mike Middleton’s life work. We’re looking forward to this new partnership as we plan for Missouri’s future.”

Latha Ramchand, provost and executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs
“Mizzou has experience with these tough conversations in ways that few other universities have. Through the combination of scholarship and the lived experiences of our people – our faculty, staff and students – this center will provide a venue for honest dialogue about tough issues that are facing our country.  Importantly, this center ’s challenge will be to use difficult conversations coupled with informed discussions as a starting point to make a positive difference in the way we live our lives.” 

Pat Okker, dean of the College of Arts and Science
“Mike Middleton has dedicated his life’s work to fighting for a more just and equal world. This center, and the critical research and scholarly debate about race, citizenship and justice it will generate, are a testament to his legacy.”

Lyrissa Lidsky, MU School of Law dean
“The creation of a center dedicated to civil and scholarly public discourse around the issues of race, citizenship, and justice could not be more timely. The center’s research, publications, symposia and public events will benefit not only MU’s faculty, staff and students, but the communities MU serves as well. Scholars and students associated with the center will come from many different disciplines and bring diverse perspectives to share with one another, thereby making the work of the center a model for bridging differences and leveraging strategic partnerships to benefit citizens throughout Missouri.”

Reviewed 2020-09-24