Boundless: The Value of the Flagship of the Future
2019 State of the University Address

Oct. 11, 2019

Thank you, Steven. Good morning, everyone. And welcome home to our alumni.

I’m thrilled we are able to host this event on our very special Homecoming weekend.

I want to thank Steven again for welcoming everyone… and for getting this event started on time.

Steven mentioned that he is the host of my podcast, Inside Mizzou.

Every other week, he and I sit down with guests to talk about the extraordinary stories of our Mizzou family.

We discuss how we build more bridges for our transfer students, and explore the many ways our university family reaches out to our community — including the work we did after last spring’s floods and tornadoes.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

What happens at the University of Missouri, Mizzou, changes lives — for our students and for the people we serve around the world.

I want to thank President Choi, our curators and our elected officials for their continued support of Missouri’s flagship institution.

A special thanks to everyone who put this event together and who have worked so hard to create a remarkable Homecoming experience.

Homecoming is a special time for all of us.

It’s a celebration of our legacy.

The legacy our students, faculty and staff strengthen every year.

And the legacy that our alumni, supporters and friends expand as they help us build our future.

Now in my third year, I have a great appreciation of our history and I am so proud of what our Mizzou family has accomplished in the last 180 years.

I want to sincerely thank everyone who has made my first two years possible and successful.

And I am so grateful we can work together to build on Mizzou’s extraordinary history.

I’m sure most of you know that Mizzou was the first public university west of the Mississippi, that we founded the world’s first and best journalism school, and that we’re the birthplace of the Homecoming tradition.

But maybe you didn’t know that Tigers also taught the first engineering course west of the Mississippi; and that, in 1964, we established a Space Sciences Research Center to conduct leading, NASA-funded research in support of the moon race.

For almost two centuries, our Mizzou community has continued to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

This commitment to providing more value by embracing opportunities, proposing and implementing solutions, and, thus, impacting our lives is above all a commitment to people.

Similar to other universities, we can measure our commitment with scholarly productivity, fellowships, research awards, economic development, and of course with student success, as well as many others.

But at Mizzou, our value also goes beyond numbers.

That’s why I’m not going to talk a lot about metrics today.

They are part of who we are as the Flagship of the Future, and we will continue to drive towards them and use them to help us further shape this amazing university.

But when I talk about our value, I’m talking about the remarkable connection to people that I see across this institution.

Every day, I experience the priceless change that our people facilitate in our student’s lives, and I see the tremendous scholarship and teaching that happens here.

I discover new ways that our community works hard to provide a place where people want to learn, work, and thrive.

Our value is:

  • the first-generation, Pell-eligible student who graduates in four years with no debt
  • a staff member who is empowered to change our operations and drive new ideas because it benefits our community
  • an alum who provides access to quality health care in rural communities
  • and a faculty member who develops a pathbreaking way to communicate news to the world.

This is value — a value that is built by people FOR people.

And this is Mizzou — a community that shares a passion for affecting people.

It feels especially important for me to articulate this today because our people bring value to society in so many ways.

And the world needs to hear that.

According to a recent Pew Research study, only half of American adults think colleges and universities positively affect our country.

Now… we all need to think about that.

And we need to take a moment and remind the world of this great institution we’ve inherited in the middle of the middle of the country — in the great state of Missouri.

Mizzou is among the nation’s leading research universities, and our people make that possible.

We sit at the center of an American higher education system that is the best in the world.

Does our Mizzou community positively impact society?

Let’s consider just a few recent examples.

  • George Smith’s Nobel Prize winning discovery, phage display, paved the way to the breakthrough drug Humira, which improves thousands of people’s lives every year.
  • Our eMINTS scholars transform education in rural school districts in Missouri and Kansas.
  • Our student-led philanthropy, MizzouThon, signed a $1.3 million pledge to help expand the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital that impacts so many families.

For every one of these examples, there is a ripple effect that delivers value for generations.

This great Mizzou legacy is what we build upon today.

Our overall contribution to the greater good of society is much more important than any personal gain along the way.

Tigers add more energy to society than we absorb — we contribute.

And guided by this hard work and commitment, Mizzou can be a university that’s more valuable than ever.

Here are three ways our people enable this and continue to strive to do more.

First, we ensure student success inside and outside the classroom.

We must do everything we can to promote success for every student.

Some of our students never dreamed they would have this opportunity.

And we owe it to society to provide that opportunity by leveraging our strengths and supporting their journey in all the little ways that make a big difference.

Second, we solve the world’s grand challenges through collaboration, creativity and extraordinary commitment.

We must embrace and enhance our legacy as a flagship, land-grant, research institution in service to society.

We are among only a few universities with engineers, medical doctors, veterinarians, agriculturalists, nurses, artists, humanists and scientists all on one campus.

And our phenomenal chemists and physicists lead the most powerful university research reactor in the U.S., which produces life-saving radioisotopes used to treat patients around the world.

Like no other place I’ve known, our community celebrates and encourages the interdisciplinary nature of this university to generate pathbreaking results.

Third, we serve the people of Missouri, and beyond, by connecting our community to the world and society to us.

MU Health and MU Extension help us listen to and learn from our fellow Missourians so that we can reach every corner of our state with the advances that benefit society.

Beyond Missouri, our community forges partnerships that span the globe and open even more pathways.

They enable our people to translate meaning across disciplines, and impact across cultures.

And we have plans for so much more.

This special combination of people, assets, and goals makes us more valuable to society than ever.

First, our mission starts with our students.

Our freshmen enrollment has grown by more than 30 percent over the last two years.

It’s tremendous to see so many students from different backgrounds choosing Mizzou.

As we go forward, we expect to focus even more on providing a world-class, affordable education to every student.

This year’s freshman class is more diverse and more academically gifted.

In fact, we welcomed National Merit finalists from 8 different states.

And we’re again experiencing record-breaking retention, with nearly 88% of students returning for their second year.

But those fantastic numbers are just the beginning.

Our students are coming to campus with immense talent and ambition.

We want all of them to persist to their degrees, and we want to match their potential with boundless opportunity to help them excel.

And we want them to graduate quicker, with minimal or no debt — just as 48% of our undergraduates do — so that they can get started quicker on their life goals

They can educate others, cure diseases, lead businesses and give back to our communities for decades to come.

We provide opportunities to chase dreams, but also to alter social and economic trajectories for families.

In November 2018, Mizzou freshman Bailey Stamp was on her way back to Fredericktown, Missouri for Thanksgiving break.

She had already done something no one in her family ever had: attended college.

But because of major financial hurdles, she didn’t know if she would be able to continue past her freshman year.

Growing up, Bailey always put her education first.

She got straight A’s and took dual-credit classes in high school.

She spent hours researching the Mizzou admissions process on her own.

The faculty, staff and outstanding students at a leading research university would challenge her, and help her fulfill her dream of becoming a sports lawyer.

Suddenly, that dream was fading.

Bailey pulled over and checked her email.

She didn’t have to read very far before she started crying.

Sue and Irl Engelhardt of the Davenport Society — one of our Trulaske College of Business alumni organizations — were giving her, and every other Heartland Scholar, a substantial scholarship.

Now a sophomore business major in the Heartland Scholars Academy, Bailey continues to have access to the opportunities, mentors, and resources that will transform her life due to Sue and Irl — true Tigers!

Bailey, will you stand so we can recognize you?

Bailey’s story reveals the true value of being a Tiger.

That value doesn’t stop with her.

It will change the lives of her family, friends, and community.

Like Bailey, everyone should have access to what a Mizzou education offers:

our world-class learning environment, more than 600 recognized student organizations, research and entrepreneurial activities — and so many more opportunities.

Simply put, we provide access to opportunity.

This is the comprehensive educational experience that makes our students “Mizzou Made.”

I love that phrase.

“Mizzou Made” reflects the pride of being a Tiger, and is indicative of the remarkable transformational experience that only a higher education institution like ours can provide.

Recently, we reached out on social media to see what a Mizzou education means to people.

Students, alumni, and parents shared their sense of pride and community, and they described the opportunities that have opened up for them.

I’ll read just a few:

“It’s my second home (first in Malaysia). Met a lot of great friends and had great experiences.”“Mizzou to me means a quality education led by the best.”

“Mizzou means a second chance to pursue a degree that I always wanted.”

This is value, this is Mizzou.And we are working hard to ensure more success inside and outside the classroom and to provide more value.

We’ve reduced costs and implemented new and improved scholarships like the KC Scholars fund.

We’ve enhanced bridge programs like the Center for Academic Success and Excellence, especially for underrepresented and first-generation students.

And we’ve reinstated MU’s Graduate School to ensure we meet the needs unique to our grad students’ academic goals and lives.

These strategies open more doors for our students.

They can join the Missouri Students Association as a senator like Jeffrey Ford — a veteran, geography major, and Deaton Scholar who came here more than 20 years after he first attended college.

Or they can fulfill their dreams of studying abroad at Oxford like Faramola Shonekan — a track-and-field athlete, history major, and McNair Scholar who was supported by the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy.

We envision a university that goes well beyond location.

That gives our students endless possibilities which aren’t limited to our beautiful campus here in Columbia.

A report from The Chronicle of Higher Ed noted that students — and Generation Z in particular — want academic programs and support services that justify their return on investment.

Part of that return means an impact on the pocketbook.

But the other part means an increase in possibility and their ability to impact society.

Ensuring student success also requires strategic investments.

It means hiring the best faculty who can forge new scholarly opportunities,

collaborating with the best industry partners to build more student pathways to careers,

and funding programs that distinguish Mizzou students in the highly skilled workforce.

Already, we’ve seen great success with the still-new Mizzou Mentoring Program.

Across the university, we challenged ourselves to think innovatively about student success.

How could we ensure our students graduate with a degree that increases in value and connects them to an established community — our alumni?

The Mizzou Alumni Association rose to that challenge.

Now, our students can connect with alumni through a matching system that’s accessible anywhere in the world.

They can communicate about college and receive career advice, establish meaningful relationships, and build networks.

If our students feel like they belong here, from the moment they set foot on campus, then they are much more likely to succeed.

In addition to mentorship, we are expanding affinity groups, which are extremely effective at encouraging success.

This year, we’ve launched the Mizzou esports team, and the Mizzou chess team.

We want each Tiger to become part of an interconnected network of Tigers who care about each other and also care about enhancing our society.

A great example:

our three former MU student-athletes who now serve on our Board of Curators, to give back to the very community that was so formative for them.

This is value, this is Mizzou.

The rate of change and progress in today’s world is unprecedented.

But our value for society is reflected in our student outcomes:

We enable our students to challenge themselves inside and outside the classroom.

We celebrate the many ways our individual differences make us collectively stronger.

And we help our students grow their support structures early on to become not just career ready — but world ready.

We want our students to graduate as quickly as possible… even if some don’t want to leave.

But even after they graduate, they will always be in our forever family.

I know our faculty, staff and alumni feel deep pride when our Mizzou students walk across that stage at graduation.

They are there from the beginning:when our staff ensure we have a beautiful campus to welcome students, or help them register for classes

to the learning our faculty facilitate, and the leadership our coaches impart

and then the graduation stage our staff prepare that sends our students out to join our global alumni family and change the world.

Our community has worked hard, and continues to work hard, to build a culture of compassion, collaboration, equity, and ambition that further underscores our core values.

This culture allows our scholars in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources to boost livestock health through virus-resistance in pigs

and it enables our linguistics scholars to support Missouri’s language and literacy education.

These advances improve our individual lives, fortify our state’s economy, and rescue our human history.

That’s the second way we are more valuable than ever.

We solve the world’s grand challenges through collaboration that embraces the beauty we find at the boundaries of disciplines.

Challenges such as health, food insecurity, literacy, among others.

Our remarkable people impact communities around the world.

And Mizzou’s culture of excellence will continue to thrive as we take steps that further unleash our potential.

Our new budget model allows us to be more agile and responsive by focusing on our desired outcomes and impact.

When we combine this with our new physical spaces, which are exceptional BECAUSE OF our scholars who use them, we open the door even more to boundless creativity and discovery.

Later this fall, we will celebrate the grand opening of our new School of Music Building.

Before this building, our amazing musicians and composers took classes and conducted performances in small pockets of brilliance.

Now we can bring most of them together — under one roof — where daily collaboration will make their COLLECTIVE BRILLIANCE shine even brighter.

Like the Music Building, our half-acre Plant Growth Research Facility will give our internationally-renowned plant scientists the tools and space they need to combat crop drought and disease.

Saying that Mizzou is on the move is more than just words.

I can walk out of this hall and show you our future.

In fact, I simply have to point to you!

Our students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters.

All of us work together to propel our excellence and discovery.

Because this is value, this is Mizzou.

Not long ago, we set an ambitious goal to double research funding by 2023.

I’m thrilled to report that last year, our research awards — an indicator of future expenditures — increased from around $200 million to $250 million.

This almost 25% increase in awards in one year is phenomenal.

It’s partly due to us receiving 4 new national centers, which is only possible because of our scholars.

I am constantly amazed at the work our people do.

Whether it’s education professor Kathy Unrath winning the 2018 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching; choral musician Brandon Boyd serving as the 2020 Carnegie Hall Choirs of America Composer-in-Residence; food scientist Fu-hung Hsieh pioneering the innovations behind Beyond Meat; or our newly launched Artist in Residence program celebrating our community’s artistic tradition of excellence.

Our value is having people who share that rare combination of curiosity and brilliance that makes no question too small to ask and no problem too complex to tackle.

I see this ambition across our community.

It will lead to our most exciting innovations and reveal new pieces of our truly boundless future.

In keeping with that tradition, our NextGen Precision Health Institute will bring our researchers from disparate disciplines together and attract even more of the world’s brightest talent as we tackle issues felt around the state and beyond.

Great scholars deserve great spaces.

Spaces that push them to do even more than they thought possible.

When completed, the NextGen Institute will reshape global health care.

It will enable our people to develop personalized treatments to cancer, vascular disease, neurological disease, and other illnesses.

It will provide strategies to reduce health care costs while allowing our outstanding clinicians to reach, virtually, communities that they never dreamed possible.

Where the boundaries of data science and analytics overlaps with those of medicine and biomedical science, new transformational diagnostics and therapies will emerge.

And our people, our innovations, our world-class facilities will be accessible to everyone from everywhere.

We don’t think small.

Tigers are inquisitive — we want to know more and do more.

This is value, this is Mizzou.

The NextGen Precision Health Institute isn’t just a building for us — it’s the bold spirit of our boundless culture.

On campus, our health care students revolutionize treatment modalities at the same time they study creative writing.

In the community, health care professionals save lives with cutting-edge expertise that’s guided by their compassion.

We are building the future of health care right here because no one else has our extraordinary combination of animal scientists, plant scientists, biologists, medical professionals, humanities scholars and more.

The more we embrace the value each of us brings to the table, the more we can solve society’s grand challenges with boundless solutions we deliver throughout the world.

Starting first, of course, with Missouri.

We know that 99 of Missouri’s 101 rural counties are designated “Health Professional Shortage Areas.”

Nursing has one of the highest vacancy rates in our state’s health sector.

And a federal analysis predicts Missouri will have a shortage of 1,200 primary care doctors by 2025.

Generally, rural residents face higher rates of disease, have poor access to prenatal care, and are more likely to die from cancer.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Being the Flagship of the Future means strengthening our role as the University FOR Missouri.

That’s the third way we are more valuable than ever:

We serve the people of Missouri, and beyond, by connecting our community to the world and society to us.

We bring cutting-edge solutions and world-class resources to every town and city that Missourians call home.

For example, we already have rural pipeline programs for our medical students.

And recently, the School of Medicine was awarded its largest-ever grant for rural health care to broaden this impact.

And the NextGen Precision Health Institute and the $133 million Alliance for Precision Health with Siemens Healthineers enhance this even further.

It enables both graduate and undergraduate students to get a world-class education from our world-class teachers… and then to take that valuable expertise into the community, including, in some cases, the rural areas that first supported them.

This reciprocity underscores our role as a midwestern, land-grant institution.

Along with health care, Missourians have told us: “Show me what you can do for our economy and education.”

So MU Extension, led by Marshall Stewart, has worked hard to respond to these needs and to bring even more value.

They’ve put specialists in every corner of the state.

By physically connecting our specialists, and MU’s resources, to communities statewide, we can better reach the people we serve.

This is value, this is Mizzou.

Right now, Extension is partnering with the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Department of Agriculture and Department of Economic Development, as well as legislators and state officials, on a massive project.

It’s the rural broadband project, which will bring broadband internet access to all Missourians.

Currently, our state ranks 42nd in the nation in broadband connectivity.

We all know that communications at the speed of light make our global community smaller and more accessible.

And this project puts that power at the fingertips of every one of our more than 6 million residents.

It’s a chance to take a continuing education class on nutrition from your living room.

Or to access programs that help fund your small business.

It’s better health care, enhanced agriculture, stronger emergency services, expanded youth initiatives, and so much more.

Marshall and his team have spent the last two years bringing more value to counties statewide.

We want to show all Missourians that we are grateful for the precious state resources invested in us every day.

And that our people are working hard to grow the $3.9 billion impact we have on the state by using more investments at our agricultural research centers to generate more impactful work, and by expanding engagement across the spectrum.

That collective value of service drives our mission as the University FOR Missouri.

Not long ago, Mizzou Alternative Breaks made a pledge to conduct weekend service trips in all of Missouri’s 114 counties and metro areas by 2020.

One year ahead of schedule, they have fulfilled that pledge.

And with the support of Extension, they have now reaffirmed their commitment with plans to send 2,500 students on service trips by 2030.

I asked our students to send me video footage from their trips across Missouri and beyond.

I want to show you what I have the privilege of seeing every day:

what our Tigers do for society.

Take a look.

To me, this is value, and this is Mizzou.

We are a community that is with you always and everywhere you go.

In short, we are collectively boundless.

Here’s another example of that.

A 2018 graduate of our animal sciences program, Libby Martin is now a second-year doctoral student in our School of Veterinary Medicine.

She is originally from California, Missouri, and discovered that Mizzou is the perfect place to align her interest in animals, entrepreneurship and community impact.

As the first-place winner in our 2019 Entrepreneur Quest program, Libby’s business — Calving Technologies — will bring farmers affordable and durable technology that can decrease calf mortality and increase profits.

Given that Missouri has the 6th largest cattle population in our nation, this technology will be a game-changer.

But it could also benefit farmers and economies in places such as the European Union and Brazil — two of the world’s top 5 beef producers.

Libby helps us serve the people of Missouri, and beyond, by connecting our community to the world and society to us — her work is boundless.

I started this address with that video of our students.

They are our future.

But they stand on the shoulders of people who helped us get to where we are today.

Like our Nobel Laureate, who enjoyed a more than 40-year career at Mizzou and knows its special qualities and value.

George’s presence has impacted hundreds, thousands of people.

So I want to close that loop by letting him take us on a quick tour of how our campus and its community have impacted him.

George is joining us today.

George would you stand so that we can recognize you?

As George showed us, bringing value to society isn’t a new kind of Mizzou.

It’s always been who we are.

It’s our student leadership and excellent hands-on learning…

and our creativity and innovation that drive our scholarship, health care solutions, engagement, and so much more.

We do all of this and more because this is value, this is Mizzou.

And probably our most important value is seen in our alumni.

At more than 300,000 strong, you make Black and Gold the most valuable color scheme in the world.

Every day, it’s clearer to me that we are more valuable than ever because of your commitment to being a Tiger providing public benefit.

That commitment is evident in our record-breaking giving from last year, which brought in more than $200 million.

This tremendous generosity is more scholarships, more opportunities for students to go abroad, more support for research that changes lives…

and brings more value to society.

For the last 180 years, Tigers have brought value to the state we call home, and to the students who have become part of our Mizzou legacy.

And we will do that, and more, for the next 180 years.

I am so proud to be a Tiger.

From the moment we walk on to campus, we are all Tigers for life.

And we remain forever interconnected.

We have been shaped by those who have gone before us, and we are obligated to bring more value than ever as we continue to impact society — now and in the future.

Wherever we are, and well beyond our limited time at this campus.

Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, parents, families, partners, legislators, governing and advisory boards.

Our people are our value, and we are collectively Mizzou.

We are boundless.