Welcome back, everyone, to a campus that’s going places

move in photoUMKC is the place for people who are going places.

I like the sound of that, and I believe that.

Everyone from Toyota to Dr. Seuss has encouraged us to go places, and that’s good advice. We don’t want to stagnate and stay in our usual comfort zones. We need to get out, make some discoveries, meet people, learn something, and – on occasion – start fresh. You can do all of those things here. That’s why you’re going to hear us talking a lot, over the next few months, about UMKC as a place for people who are going places.

New places offer excitement and challenges, and that’s what UMKC offers to newcomers and old friends alike. Even for those of us who are returning to UMKC, it still will be a new place. We’ll see new faces in our departments, our classrooms, our residence halls.

So many of our fall rituals are the kinds of things that engender good, positive feelings. We welcome students at Convocation – complete with Provost Hackett’s legendary list for success. We celebrate our history and our ties to the community during Founders Week. We congratulate our faculty who have achieved promotion and tenure. We all promise to eat better and get more exercise. And our newly tobacco-free campus (as of Aug. 1) offers a healthier environment for all.

In the fall, everything conspires to fill us with a sense of promise – the beautiful weather, the quiet summer campus giving way to capacity crowds, people everywhere, going to concerts and sports events. This is the place where  our scholars, musicians and athletes take the big city by storm; where students from Blue Springs and Baldwin City meet new friends from Bangalore and Beijing; where a faculty researcher finds someone else approaching the same question from a different angle.

Please, make this a year when you go places. This may be the year you attend a UMKC Theatre production or try the coffee shop in the Student Union. You may promise yourself to attend more extracurricular programs and find out what the draw is that brings the community to campus at all times of the day and night. Take UMKC by storm, and see what’s out there. (Our online calendar offers a wealth of opportunities, from lectures to athletics to free performances by Conservatory faculty and students.)

If ever we need our spirits lifted, fall usually does that for us. My wish is that you may feel a renewed sense of hope that this will be your best year ever.

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An important message about personal safety

Members of the UMKC campus community:

With the end of the spring semester rapidly approaching, I wanted to take this opportunity to update the entire campus community on an issue we take very seriously: the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff.

As you may recall, University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe recently directed each of the four campuses of the UM System to conduct comprehensive reviews of their respective policies, training and procedures concerning the prevention and reporting of sexual misconduct including sexual violence, sexual assaults and sexual harassment, and the availability of mental health services. This inventory is the first step of a three-phase task force designed to ensure that each University of Missouri campus has the necessary resources to educate the campus community about sexual violence and prevention, as well as an effective process for reporting such incidents, plus adequate capacity to address mental health issues among our students, faculty and staff.

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The Chancellor’s Concerto

It was a delight to be a part of the audience at a recent performance by the UMKC Conservatory Orchestra at the Folly Theatre, though I certainly hope no one there got the wrong idea about whose talents were on display.

There was a reference to “The Chancellor’s Concerto,” but let me assure you, I was in the audience, not on stage; and the piece performed was Barber’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, not Morton’s.

No, I lend my office’s title to the annual Chancellor’s Concerto Competition at our Conservatory of Music and Dance because I want to underscore how important this program is to our university and our community. That importance stems from several factors.

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Lucky 13?

The number 13 is supposed to be “unlucky,” and while I’ve never been one to put much stock in superstition, the year 2013 certainly cured me of any lingering negativity associated with that number.

The year just concluded was one of UMKC’s best ever. We celebrated our 80th anniversary in style, enjoyed enrollment growth, and opened two spectacular new buildings. We welcomed some terrific new talent to our ranks, while some of our best and brightest rose to new heights of accomplishment. We were blessed by the generosity of our supporters, and renewed our vital bonds to our community.

So, while we certainly were not unlucky during 2013, it wasn’t luck that drove our success. The progress we enjoyed was the product of hard work by many, many talented and dedicated people who proved their commitment to the future of Kansas City, and Kansas City’s university.

Please take a moment to review this collection of the high points of our outstanding 2013.

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Happy Holidays!

This is always a special time of year, but for me, this year is extra special.
As 2013 draws to a close, I reflect back on an exceptional year for Kansas City’s university. We celebrated our 80th anniversary with a ceremonial re-signing of our original charter, reaffirming and renewing our bonds with this great community.
That celebration came within a year of unprecedented growth, development and progress for UMKC. This video provides a brief overview of the year’s highlights, as it conveys my personal wish, as well as our entire university community’s wishes, to all our friends for a merry and joyous holiday season.

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State of the University

Leo MortonGovernor Nixon, Mayor James, County Executive Sanders, President Wolfe, former chancellors, Benefactors, Friends, Alumni, Faculty, Staff, Students, Honored Guests, People of Greater Kansas City, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning – I am pleased to report that the state of UMKC is one we can all be proud of.

You see, eighty years ago, in the depths of the Great Depression, Kansas City leaders set out on a great mission.  I guess some may have called it “a crazy mission,” given the tough times.

But, those leaders believed with all their hearts in a powerful, yet simple idea. If Kansas City was to overcome the tough times; if Kansas City was to become the great city its leaders knew it could be; it must have a great university. So, on that momentous day, 80 years ago, those visionary leaders founded the University of Kansas City.

Eighty years ago, 265 students made history when they started their first day of classes on the fledgling campus.

Back then, this campus was considered the suburbs – 40 acres of land donated by KC businessman and philanthropist William Volker – on what was basically the front lawn of the William Rockhill Nelson estate, or, what we know today as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

The students attended lectures in the first classroom building, the former Dickey estate, which later became known as Scofield Hall.

From that start, perhaps only a few could foresee the great force this university would become in the life of Kansas City.

Yet here we are today. Stronger than ever.  Living proof that a great university can help make a city great. Living proof that we have fulfilled the founders’ vision. A great university. Kansas City’s university.

The impact of UMKC on this community today is undeniable. I have seen it and felt it many times since I moved here 25 years ago, and even more as chancellor for the past 5 years. That first bold idea from our founders grew into a powerful beacon of light that still shines into almost every corner of Kansas City. Continue reading

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Translating Our Future

This is an exciting time for our community, and for Kansas City’s university.

We are making great progress in Jackson County, and in our region, because we have learned to work together. We are cooperating across this community, leveraging our strengths, shoring up our weaknesses, and creating a whole that is so much greater than the sum of the individual parts.

The proposed Jackson County Institute for Translational Medicine is a perfect example of this. Since the UMKC School of Medicine was founded more than 40 years ago, we have worked hand in hand with our local hospital partners, including Children’s Mercy and Saint Luke’s, to train physicians, conduct research and practice academic medicine. That broad opportunity – to be a practicing physician, an educator, and an active academic researcher – has played a critical role in attracting a number of world-class medical scientists to our community.

Armed with the resources of this exciting new collaboration, we can take this recruiting effort to the next level. We can make this region one of just a handful of communities in the U.S. – and really, the world – where a critical mass of talent, resources and opportunity establishes us as a contender for attracting the best and brightest clinicians, scientists and entrepreneurs in the medical field.

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Why Athletics Matters

As you might expect, the campus is a bit quieter over the summer months. But there is still excitement in the air, and a charged atmosphere.

Our new men’s basketball coach, Kareem Richardson, has signed some exciting new players, many with local connections. This school is ready to take its place in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), ready for some exciting games, and ready for all of our athletes to display their talents in places like Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Arlington, Texas, and other major venues.

I have always had a high regard for UMKC’s sports programs. The coaches and staff go the extra mile to connect with the community and to be another source of civic pride. They hold the scholar athletes to high standards, and they deliver. UMKC students and their instructors set up booths at community health fairs to make sports physicals available to kids at no or low cost. Kids’ sports camps are held on campus to teach fundamentals of soccer, softball, basketball and volleyball.  

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Amidst Mourning, Resolve

Over the course of a single week, we lost three exceptional and treasured members of our university family: a student, an alumnus and a retired employee.

We are poorer for these losses. But as we mourn, our sadness serves as a poignant reminder of our ultimate mission, through the ways that each of these individuals served that mission.

A university exists to create knowledge; to organize and preserve knowledge; and to transmit knowledge from one generation to the next. Through that process, we keep alive not just the memories, but the gifts, of people such as Walt Bodine, Aaron Markarian and John Mark Eberhart.

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80 Years of Growth and Development

Morton Cleaver Nixon at Sandbox

Chancellor Leo Morton confers with U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II and Gov. Jay Nixon at the launch of Digital Sandbox KC.

This is an exciting time for UMKC, and for Kansas City.

Our community is moving forward with an unusually high degree of consensus. You see it in the way the community is rallying around the Greater Kansas City Chamber’s “Big 5” blueprint, and in the effort to brand Kansas City as “America’s Creative Crossroads.”

The potential for making great forward strides as a community is palpable right now; you can feel it. And UMKC is in the middle of it all.

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