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Exam - Listening Sessions Lead to UM System's List of Qualifications for Next President

University of Missouri System

The University of Missouri system approved a list of qualifications it is looking for in the next UM System President during the two day Board of Curators meeting on April 14 and 15 in Rolla. 

To create this list, the Presidential Search Committee held four public listening sessions at each of the UM System’s campuses. The April 6 session in Columbia took place after forums in Rolla and UMSL, but before the session at UMKC.  During the Columbia meeting, the Presidential Search Committee discussed what experiences, traits and qualities the next system president should have.

  MU’s Associate Vice President Kelley Stuck said the selection process has become more transparent than it has been in the past.  In former years, the only people involved in the presidential search were members of the Search Committee and the University’s Board of Curators.  Stuck says this time, community members get a chance to voice their opinion and participate in discussion on who the next system president should be in an open forum. 

The listening session discussions were led by presidential search committee co-chairs Jim Whitaker and Cheryl Walker.  The first question asked was what type of educational background the ideal candidate would have.  For many of Columbia’s community members at the meeting, the discussion dealt with what former leadership roles they would have held.

MU Professor Rebecca Johnson said it should be someone with leadership experience in an academics.

“I would like to emphasize that I think someone needs a terminal degree, whether that be an MD or PHD but this person needs more than anything to have the educational academic mission in his or her DNA so that they understand what it is we are here for,” Johnson said.

Community member John Clark said that leadership in an academic institution wasn’t enough.

“I want to talk about the business of the DNA.  But actually that’s not enough, it’s a DNA about shared governance as well.  Not everybody who is in the academic world and reaches that level either across disciplines within one campus has any really kind of sense of the shared governance across campuses and vertically within campuses, we’re talking about faculty, staff, students, etcetera,” Clark said.

The second question discussed at the listening session was what life or work experiences the candidates should have.

For many of the community members present at the session, the most important experience to look for in a candidate was experience in a multicultural environment. 

MU Business Professor Bill Griffin said an understanding of the University’s role globally was an important attribute for any candidate to have.

“I think we’re a very provincial university, we are not cosmopolitan at all, most of my career was spent overseas.  I would like to see someone in this position who has a global mindset because what we do reaches much further than these 100 miles that we’re sitting in the middle of.  Particularly, our students need an exposure to that.  Right now, we have about three thousand international students here and I’d like to see ten thousand and I’d like to see our students going to other universities,” Griffin said.

Darryl Cook came to Columbia from Moniteau County to participate in the discussion.  Cook said the next System President needs to build a relationship with Missouri’s rural communities.

“I think that the president really needs to come from an environment that is extremely diverse.  I say that because we are an outlier.  We are the farthest distance in this constellation of education and we need someone who in the presidents position, can acknowledge the existence of small places like Moniteau County and the young people that come from there because hopefully they’ll end up being candidates hopefully for admission into MU,” Cook said.  “So diversity, a multicultural background, an understanding or urban and rural affairs and certainly international ones are really crucial characteristics.”

The final discussion of the day centered around what characteristics and traits the ideal candidate would have.   For community member Bob Roeper, the trait he was looking for in the next candidate was courage.

“I would suggest there’s a couple of other areas, or qualities that we’re looking for, traits.  One is courage, the courage to, if misconduct is alleged, racial of otherwise, be sure and check it out.  Do the right thing.  I’m afraid we aren’t where we need to be in that regard and I would hope that our new leader really is passionate about that,” Roeper said.

The Search Committee discussed suggestions from these listening sessions with the University Board of Curators at its meeting in Rolla on April 14th and 15th and approved a first draft of twelve qualifications. According to the UM System, this list includes: 

  •  Fluency in, and a passion for public higher education
  •  An interest in the development and achievements of students, faculty and staff including a recognition of their contributions
  • The acuity to cultivate political, civic and business relationships necessary to run a university system
  • A demonstrated awareness of different cultures and backgrounds that will help create a supportive environment       

The full list of requirements can be found on the UM System’s website.

The Search Committee will begin the process of seeking candidates in May.  

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