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Curators name fishing, wetlands institute after Bass Pro Shops founder

Sara Shahriari

The University of Missouri System Board of Curators voted Thursday to name the Institute of Fisheries, Wetlands and Aquatic Systems in honor of Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops.

The near unanimous vote — curator Robert Fry abstained because of his involvement with a related group, the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation — took place during the curators’ regular meeting at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The newly named Johnny Morris Institute of Fisheries, Wetlands and Aquatic Systems is a fitting recognition of Morris’ commitment to natural resources and stewardship, said Christopher Daubert, dean of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

The institute is a private-public partnership made possible by a $30 million endowment pledge from the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, which included a “leadership gift” from Morris. It is based in Columbia but does work throughout the state.

Through coursework and research, the institute aims to provide Missouri with future generations of conservationists who are focused on protecting the state’s rivers, streams, wetlands and other places that support aquatic life.

The institute works on the guiding principle of “all living things depend on clean and sustainable sources of water” and works to train environmental scientists to keep Missouri’s watersheds healthy and sustainable, according to its website.

“We believe that this will be an exciting initiative that focuses on the importance of water and the fact that this state has two major river systems,” said Mun Choi, chancellor of the University of Missouri and president of the UM System.

University stalking policy

Curators also unanimously approved a change to the system’s sexual discrimination, harassment and misconduct rules by adding a “recklessness test” to its stalking policy.

The change means that in order for a person to be accused of stalking, that person must be aware that they are engaging in a behavior that a reasonable person would consider threatening or with a reckless disregard that they are engaging in such behavior. The change was made to comply with the finding of the Supreme Court case Counterman v. Colorado, which established the new standard..

Enrollment numbers

During the curators meeting, Choi presented preliminary enrollment figures for MU to the board. Official figures will be gathered after the 20th day of classes.

Freshman enrollment is up over 3% from last year for the general student body. The retention rate has hit a historic high of over 91%, and the graduation rate is at 76%, both continuing in their upward trends.

“I know that these are numbers, but every student that returns or that graduates contributes to that. That means that every person who has had a successful outcome contributes to that,” Choi said.

The board also reviewed its investments, strategic dividend plan and five-year capital plan.

Over a three-year period, retirement plans have returned 9.7% and the endowment pool has returned 10.1%, both landing comfortably above their benchmarks, according to presentations provided to the curators.

The board approved both the strategic dividend plan and its five-year capital plan with no objections.

UMKC growth

Mauli Agrawal, chancellor of UMKC, gave the board a presentation on the state of its campus.

UMKC is in the fifth year of a 10-year strategic plan. In line with the goals of this plan, Agrawal said the university has experienced a 20% increase in admission, and 60% growth in international student enrollment. The university also received a 10-year reaccreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

“There has also been tremendous progress at UMKC under chancellor Agrawal’s leadership,” Choi said.

Agrawal said that UMKC can start to realistically plan to receive R1 research status from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Higher Education. R1 research status is a coveted classification given only to universities that meet certain standards.

UMKC is also seeking funding for a new health sciences building. The building would house multiple programs focused on helping students grow in their career.

“We would like to make Kansas City a regional draw for health care innovation and use that as a magnet for the best medical practitioners and the best medical students,” Agrawal said.

Alex Cox is a Junior in the Missouri School of Journalism. They're a reporter and producer for KBIA.
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