A $10 million gift to MU from the Kinder Foundation announced Tuesday will support new degree opportunities and other benefits for students studying constitutional democracy.

MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright announced the gift on a stage adorned with black and yellow banners at the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The gift will provide undergraduate and graduate students at the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy and the College of Arts and Science with two new degree opportunities: a bachelor of arts in constitutional democracy and a master of arts in Atlantic history and politics, according to an MU press release.

The additional funding will support both of the new degrees and sustain and expand the institute’s partnership with Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford, according to the release.

“In the new bachelor’s degree in constitutional democracy, students will have an opportunity to pursue an interdisciplinary course of study on the ideas and the events of the American founding and the development of constitutional government after that,” said Justin Dyer, the director of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy. “But, of course, we can’t really understand the American founding outside of the broader global context in which it arose. So, we are also launching a master’s degree program in Atlantic history and politics.”

This gift also will establish the Kinder Institute Residential College, which will launch next fall, according to MU spokesperson Sheena Rice. The Kinder Institute Residential College is in collaboration with the College of Arts and Science and MU Department of Residential Life and will be located in Wolpers Hall.

This will provide first-year students with the opportunity to make connections with other students interested in American history and politics, according to Dyer.

This endeavor began four years ago, when Rich and Nancy Kinder, founders of the Kinder Foundation, granted a $25 million gift from the foundation to MU, kick-starting the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy, according to the release.

In June 2019, the Board of Curators approved the degree programs, which had been established by MU faculty. While the bachelor’s degree has already launched, the master’s degree will launch in the summer of 2020, according to the press release.

“The degree offerings supported by this transformative gift allows students interested in the grand challenges of constitutional democracy throughout the United States and around the world to expand their learning opportunities far beyond the classroom,” Cartwright said. “Their support in creating and supporting the Kinder Institute has undoubtedly established the University of Missouri as a global leader in the study of constitutional democracy.”

The goal, however, does not stop at the education and housing of students. The program is designed to attract exceptional students who have a passion for learning, no matter where they are from.

Riley Messer, a College of Arts and Science student from Buckner, said she has been presented with opportunities she could not imagine having access to.

“In an instant, I realized that I, an 18-year native of a Missouri town with only one stoplight and a population of fewer people than the entire incoming freshman class at MU, I could be in access to opportunities that had never seemed possible before,” Messer said.

The programs will not only expand opportunities at MU but the opportunities of students who may have never dared to dream before learning of the Kinder Foundation.

“I think it was one of my first conversations with him (Rich Kinder) where he talked about the need to think big,” Cartwright said. “That’s what makes an institution great, and we are seeing that today.”

Supervising editor is Fred Anklam.

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