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Mun Y. Choi Announced as New UM System President

Rebecca Smith

The University of Missouri System announced Wednesday its next president will be Mun Y. Choi, current provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Connecticut. The announcement was made at an event in Jefferson City. According to a release from the University of Missouri System, Choi will begin work on March 1, 2017.

Pamela Henrickson, the chair of the Board of Curators, introduced Choi. She called him a “superb leader,” and praised his commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“Dr. Choi is known as a person of immense energy and passion, integrity and innovation, whose primary strengths include his vision, strategy and ability to set the direction of change and innovation,” Henrickson said. “He not only comes up with bold ideas, he knows how to translate those into action by assembling a talented team and directing them to achieve results. That is the definition of leadership.”

Choi lauded the school as being one of the finest research university systems in the country.

He then spoke broadly about his vision for the UM system during his presidency. His first priority being engaging with numerous system stakeholders – including students, faculty, staff, alumni, lawmakers and more.

“As president, I'll work with the curators, the chancellors and the senior leadership team and all of the stakeholders to shape the compelling reasons why talented and diverse students would select UM for their education,” Choi said. “Why world-class faculty members would begin and continue their careers here at UM.”

He added that he intends to meet with “all of the elected officials to help shape a shared vision” for the UM system going forward.

He spoke about his commitment to making sure that higher education is affordable and accessible to all, as well as ensuring that the UM system continues to be nationally competitive across all departments.

“But I also recognize that there are many challenges ahead, on the horizon, for public higher education. I also recognize the significant responsibility and accountability for leading a university system,” Choi said. “But together and with a deep sense of commitment, we’ll provide a clear articulation of our plan and implementation that involves all of the stakeholders.”

Choi, who holds Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University, forms a stark contrast to his predecessor, 23rd UM System President Timothy Wolfe, who came from the business world, previously serving as president for enterprise software company Novell.

Interim MU Chancellor Hank Foley echoed this sentiment. He said he is thrilled by the selection of Choi, and adds that he believes Choi’s background in academics, rather than business, will greatly benefit the UM system.

“Academia is different that business. Universities are not businesses. They're enterprises. They have budgets, all sorts of things that make them look like businesses, but at the end of the day, it's not a business,” Foley said. “It's deeper than that, and I think Mun Choi really understands that right down to his core.”

In November 2015, Wolfe resigned from his post as system president amid student protests and accusations of racism. Since then, deputy chancellor emeritus Michael Middleton has been serving as interim system president.

In 1994, Choi began work as a faculty member in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Illinois. He moved to Drexel University in 2000 to become department head of mechanical engineering and associate dean for research. Choi has been at the University of Connecticut since 2008 and was appointed provost in 2012.

Nathan Lawrence is an editor, documentary filmmaker and data journalist.
Michaela Tucker is a Minneapolis native currently studying broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri. She is also a co-founder of KBIA’s partner program Making Waves, a youth radio initiative that empowers Columbia Public Schools students to share their stories.
Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.