KANSAS CITY — Over the past two years, MU has made substantial gains in financial stability, enrollment and reputation with state government, UM President Mun Choi said Thursday.

But at a UM System Board of Curators meeting where Choi made his presentation, it was clear that the statewide university system is still striving to improve in areas including online education, facilities, academic programs, teacher evaluation and graduation rates.

The board approved a preliminary five-year capital plan. It includes construction projects that have already been included in the finance plan, as well as those that are still early in the planning process.

The four MU projects on the list fall into the latter category. They include:

  • Creating a satellite boiler plant to provide steam to campus.
  • Removing Pickard Hall due to radium contamination.
  • Replacing the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.
  • Replacing and redeveloping Neff Hall in the journalism school.

At a press conference after the public session, Choi and Board Chair Jon Sundvold also emphasized planned expansions of University Hospital and Women’s and Children’s Hospital, as well as the planned NextGen Precision Health Institute.

The board voted to ratify four new academic programs recommended by its committee on academics: two at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and two at MU. The new MU programs: a master’s degree in business, and a bachelor’s degree for occupational therapy assistants.

During his presentation to the board, Choi emphasized MU’s turnaround since racial protests on campus made national news. The flagship Columbia campus saw double-digit enrollment increases the past two years after experiencing a drop in applications after the 2015 protests.

One sign of improvement: The 2019 marketing goals included improving MU’s national reputation and increasing enrollment, but goals for 2020 have narrowed to improving its research reputation and holding enrollment steady.

During the post-session press conference, Choi said UM will start a national search for a chief diversity officer to replace Kevin McDonald this fall, aiming to hire someone in the spring who can start in the summer. Student body diversity has already increased the past two years, he said.

He’s hoping to hire someone with experience in academic leadership who is “caring” and “hardworking,” understands the process of “hiring and nurturing” faculty and “recruiting and retaining” students, and “is generally interested in working with the diverse community that we have.”

Newly confirmed Curator Michael Williams was sworn in at the beginning of the meeting.

Other areas of discussion at the meeting included expanding UM system online learning programs in order to make innovation easier as education changes.

The board also discussed finding more accurate and fair ways to evaluate teaching with the aim of incentivizing excellent teaching and providing resources for improvement.

In presentations to the curators, provosts from each campus emphasized using multiple methods of evaluation to avoid bias and other issues with traditional student evaluations. They also stressed that good teaching involves care for and engagement with students.

“Today, there are institutions like MIT and Harvard which put entire courses on YouTube,” Curator David Steelman said. “The idea that a teacher can simply record a lecture and then grade a test is beyond us. ... If our teachers don’t engage, then why would (students) pay us for a course?”

  • Education reporter, fall 2019 Studying investigative journalism Reach me at mariabenevento@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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