Last week the Board of Curators voted to realign the UM System and MU leadership structure and appoint me to a new, dual role as chancellor of Mizzou and president of the UM System.
I am incredibly honored and inspired to take on this new role. It gives me the opportunity to work more closely with all of you while we guide Mizzou into our future of excellence. It also comes at a pivotal moment – not just for our university, but also for higher education more broadly, as institutions continue to face the uncertain realities of COVID-19 and navigate a changing economic and social landscape.
Since I arrived in Columbia in 2017, we have worked together to enhance our public research, land grant, AAU university by strengthening our core missions in student success, research and creative discovery, engagement and inclusive excellence. To mention a few of the many remarkable strides Mizzou has taken recently, we have:
- Made transformations in the perception of the value of the University of Missouri among alumni, legislators and Missourians.
- Created a stronger and financially-viable university to meet the upcoming challenges.
- Celebrated three consecutive years of substantial enrollment growth and reached new heights with the highest graduation rate in our history.
- Invested in comprehensive student success initiatives including new need-based and merit scholarships for talented students, enhanced bridge, advising and engagement programs.
- Made strategic investments for research and creative works for the NextGen Precision Health Initiative, with core investments in microscopy, data analytics, language and literacy, to name a few areas.
- Soon, we’ll announce strategic investments for proposals submitted for the Arts, Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences Tier 3 competition.
- Made significant progress towards inclusion and diversity goals:
- Underrepresented minority tenured/tenure-track faculty increased by 26%.
- Black/African-American tenured/tenure-track faculty increased by 20%.
- In 2020, the percentage (7.7%) of Black/African-American undergraduate students at MU ranked as the highest among all 11 Midwest flagship universities.
Personally, I have also had the privilege of getting to know many of you over the last three years, and I am anxious to work together on Mizzou’s next chapter. Your ambition, commitment and passion will forge a path for impact that better serves our entire state and all of our people. While I know these last several months have been particularly challenging, I have great confidence we will continue to move forward in our collective pursuit of our mission.
Many of you likely still have questions about this dual role and other restructuring changes. This decision was made after dozens of meetings between the Board and nearly 300 constituents and groups who represent the MU campus, the UM System universities and the broader community. It takes into account how Mizzou will be best suited to make effective and strategic decisions, how we can further our shared governance structure and how we can instill greater economic flexibility across campus while doubling-down on our most important work.
If you want to read more about all of the work and considerations that went into this decision, you can find a message from Board Chair Julia Brncic here. I also encourage you to reach out to me with your suggestions and insights to identify the best ways that I can support you and your work, and that you can support the university in this new iteration.
Every leadership change comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. One clear mandate is for a new leader to achieve the excellence expected of our AAU institution. The path to achieving excellence also requires a culture of accountability. We are all accountable for our work and our decisions. I’m no different, and I ask you to hold me accountable. Please share your ideas for improvement as well as dissenting views.
When I assumed the interim chancellor role in March, it was difficult for us to forge our new working relationship as we were all thrust into a situation involving the confluence of the pandemic and financial crisis, followed by the horrible death of George Floyd and racial tensions. As we move forward, I will continue to build relationships involving dialogue that respects dissent, and ultimately, trust in one another. I will make decisions based on input from a variety of constituents, including the Faculty Council and the Staff Council. Some of my decisions will be received with great enthusiasm by our stakeholders, but others will be less popular. I have not and will not make decisions based on popular consensus, but with the goal of serving the needs of our students, faculty, staff and Missourians.
I am proud to be a member of such a vibrant, hard-working and talented community of Mizzou students, faculty, staff, health care professionals, alumni and supporters.
Thank you for everything you do to help Mizzou thrive.
Mun Y. Choi, Ph.D.
President, UM System