Documenting the Value of Higher Education

From time to time I get the opportunity to spread the good word about not just UMKC, but about higher education in general, via what we call the Show Me Value Tour. These are community forums in which I take that message straight to our future students at schools in the Kansas City region.

The tour, originated by UM System President Tim Wolfe, is designed to counter growing sentiment that a college education is not as valuable as it once was. Some of my tour stops have been in the Kansas City Northland, with visits to Eastgate Middle School and New Mark Middle School.

I talked about the benefits of a college degree, both career-related and personal, with AVID scholars. AVID is a college readiness program that targets students who fall in the middle academically and have aspirations for college.

I told the students a college education allows them to discover their talents, hone strengths, think creatively and strategically, and learn to work in teams, which are all skills needed in today’s workforce, regardless of the job.

This message applies to anyone considering higher education. There is no greater investment you can make in yourself than a college education. A college education gives you choices and will help you be successful. Education is the path to lifelong success.

I understand that the prospect of student loan debt gives some potential students pause. But an education through the University of Missouri System is more affordable than people might think; a lot of need-based financial aid is available (about 80 percent of UM system students receive some financial aid); and statistics clearly show that college pays off in the long run.

For instance, a person with a college degree will make nearly twice as much in his or her lifetime as someone with a high school diploma. And the rate of return on a college degree is about 15 percent – compared to the stock market at around 7 percent and the housing market at 0.4 percent.

President Wolfe has cited studies showing that college graduates live nine years longer than high school graduates; college graduates enjoy a higher quality of life; and college grads are less likely to lose their jobs during a recession. And UMKC alumna Mary Daly, now senior vice president and associate director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, has studied the financial benefits of a college degree for three decades. Her research shows that the average worker with a college degree earned about $20,000 more, per year, than the average worker with just a high school diploma.

So don’t let finances hold you back. Once you’ve earned it, an education is something no one can take away from you. Go to college, discover yourself and be yourself. The entire community needs you to live up to your potential. Your future is ready and waiting for you to seize it.

Posted in All stories Tagged , , |

Hispanic Development Fund

Cristina Jiménez held the audience spellbound.

All of us watched her struggle to hold back tears as she told her story. Brought to the States at 13 by her parents, Jiménez filled her school years with hard work and diligence, only to be rewarded with rejection and shame. Her family was undocumented, and that would stand in the way of college.

Hispanic Development FundLucky for Jiménez, New York changed its laws to admit undocumented high school graduates at in-state rates. Now an attorney, Jiménez is co-founder and managing director of United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led organization. She called on the young people supported by Kansas City’s Hispanic Development Fund to work hard and pay their good fortune forward.

“It’s not just about access to college,” she said. “It’s about not living in fear.”

She’s right. Children should not live in fear if, by just laws, we can drive that fear away.

Read more…

Posted in All stories Tagged |

Biological Sciences and Spencer Chemistry

When the Biological Sciences (then called Katz Pharmacy) and Spencer Chemistry buildings were originally constructed in 1968, they were outfitted with the finest labs and most modern features available. Now, to serve our Chemistry and Biological Sciences students, as well as those enrolled in pharmacy, medicine and nursing, these labs are in desperate need of an update.

Chemistry LabThat will begin very soon. In early June, 2015, Gov. Jay Nixon and the Missouri legislature agreed to a bill directing $18.3 million in bond funds to renovate these laboratory spaces. I can’t wait to see the transformation.

Read more…


Posted in All stories Tagged , , |

Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center

It’s not difficult to sell people – potential students, business owners, artists and creative types – on the idea of locating in Kansas City. Our area is filled with amenities that few cities can rival, and an entrepreneurial climate that is known world-wide.

Free Enterprise CenterWith the opening of the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center, Kansas City should experience a rush of thinkers and theorists who want an imaginative, inspirational environment ready to road test their brainchild.

A state match of $7.4 million dollars, added to the original gift from the Plaster and Kauffman Foundations totaling $7.4 million, will help build the center on the Volker Campus.

Read more…

Posted in All stories Tagged , , , , |

Kangaroo Pantry Needs Our Help

Rent, electricity, gas, medicine or food – which could you live without? This is the question facing many students, faculty and staff right here on the UMKC campus. The Office of Student Involvement is proud to announce the formation of the UMKC Kangaroo Pantry.


The Kangaroo Pantry will open its doors Monday, March 30. This food pantry will be open to all current UMKC students, faculty and staff.

Here are some startling facts specific to UMKC:

  • More than 92 percent of first time students are receiving some type of financial aid (Fall 2013)
  • In Fall 2014, three students reported they were homeless
  • 47 percent of survey respondents stated they are responsible for feeding two or more household members
  • 46 percent of survey respondents stated they agreed or strongly agreed that they would use the Kangaroo Pantry

These individuals are our colleagues, students and friends.

Your donations of food, dollars or time will help the Kangaroo Pantry assist those who are in need at UMKC. We want to help our community by providing nourishing meals and a sense of belonging. Without donations like yours, however, the Kangaroo Pantry will not have enough funds to remain open. A financial contribution or a gift of your time will be a big help in supporting the UMKC community. Your financial gift could provide the following:

  • $10 provides meals for a day for a family of four
  • $35 provides individual meals for one week
  • $60 feeds a family of four three meals a day for an entire week

You may submit a donation by visiting Kangaroo Pantry online.

Together we can transform lives and make a difference for our University of Missouri-Kansas City family. I hope you will join me in supporting this new initiative.

Posted in All stories Tagged , , |

Addressing the Urban STEM Challenge

IMG_5276University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Computing and Engineering.

Together with KC Stem Alliance and many donors and volunteers, high school students from Paseo Academy and Lincoln Prep now have a place to work on robotics projects. Located on the UMKC campus at 4825 Troost Ave., it’s a space for them to create and innovate. And we provide tremendous STEM resources and mentoring.

As an engineer, I understand the need for and the importance of KC EZ. At a recent robotics challenge hosted by UMKC, 500 middle and high school students spent the day putting their team-built robots through a competition. The students were from the Kansas City area, St. Louis, Oklahoma and Iowa.

We like the idea of hosting these robotics contests, and like having KC EZ to provide a safe and positive environment for students to work and learn. We believe it’s imperative to provide the best science and math education for all the bright, inquisitive students who will be minding our future.

As an urban-serving public university, we have a responsibility to help level the playing field for young people whose local schools don’t have the resources to provide materials and facilities to prepare their students for these experiences. These robotics events are a lot of fun and are brimming with youthful enthusiasm, but they are not frivolous games. And where students live should not be an impediment to participation. That’s why KC EZ stepped into the picture.

KC EZ wouldn’t have been possible without the support of many. It was established by the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering through a partnership with KC STEM Alliance, assistance from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the support of KC EZ founding partners: US Engineering, NNSA, Honeywell, BNIM, JE Dunn and Mark One Electric. These partners provided in-kind donations of equipment, project management and construction, as well as down-the-road corporate commitments of financial and volunteer support.

We must also acknowledge the importance of our partnership with the Kansas City Public Schools. Superintendent Steven Green and his team took away one big barrier to success – they make sure the students are transported to KC EZ each day, and taken home safely.

I don’t think there is a limit to what motivated students can do. KC EZ is another way that we can help all young people reach their full potential.

Posted in All stories Tagged , , , |

Lighting the Road to Recovery

Just imagine how it would feel. You are sick and in pain, but no one can see it. There are no signs or symptoms, like fever or injury. All the same, you hurt.

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, this is what it’s like for 60 million Americans with mental health troubles. That’s an issue for one in four adults and one in 10 children. When you take into account how this illness affects family members, friends, or coworkers, you see these numbers climb out of sight.

The Kansas City chapter of NAMI was the beneficiary of this year’s Young Matrons Magic Ball, and I served as honorary chair of the event. The Magic Ball is always a party, but it’s a party with a serious purpose.

The Young Matrons are neighbors to the UMKC campus, just across Oak Street from my office, and we make a good team supporting NAMI. People with mental illness need help and hope, and that’s what the Young Matrons and their UMKC allies want to be:  a source of comfort through NAMI that reaches out to them rather than shunning them; being there for the families; and lighting the road to recovery.

It’s not always easy to identify mental illness, but it’s there. And it’s found in all segments of society. Returning veterans, high school students, the elderly, the wealthy, the drug-dependent, the people next door – it’s everywhere. It takes a widespread effort to deal with this illness.

NAMI is one of the best investments any community can make. NAMI affiliates work with crisis intervention teams to improve contacts between police and the mentally ill. They work with the families, like those of veterans, who need to understand their loved ones’ illness. Our university has counseling services for students and employees, because we don’t want people to suffer in silence. Our Counseling Center refers people in need of help to NAMI and other local sources of assistance.

Funds raised by groups like Young Matrons, or contributed by foundations and corporations, are a mainstay of NAMI. Contributions have underwritten the costs for a toll-free helpline, for education and for research into conditions such as bipolar disorder.

NAMI promises that, as long as there is a need, they will be there. Let’s meet them halfway. We can all get behind this effort, by informing ourselves, becoming advocates for the mentally ill, or relating a story that gives hope and shows others that there are people in their corner.

Let’s work some magic.

Posted in All stories Tagged , , , |

Scholarships Empower Students to Achieve

In November 2014, I had the pleasure of speaking at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Computing and Engineering Donor and Scholarship Recognition Luncheon.

I like talking to our talented students and the dedicated alumni and donors who provide financial assistance. With more than 1,700 students, SCE is the third largest school at UMKC, has grown 76 percent since 2010, awards more than 70 scholarships annually and has experienced a 75 percent increase in scholarships since 2008.

These are great accomplishments! Scholarships have played a key role in that growth because they allow students to spend more time on academics. They provide vital support to students and help ensure UMKC is able to attract the best and brightest minds, regardless of income.

Attracting brilliant students to UMKC is important to us all. Computing and engineering are some of the fastest growing career fields in the country. A recent report by the Greater Kansas City Workforce Summit shows there’s an “education-to-jobs mismatch” in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. With UMKC being within 20 miles of 250 engineering and computing firms, the campus is in the heart of one of America’s premier engineering cities – Kansas City. And the people needed to fill these jobs are being educated right here at UMKC.

Getting to this point took hard work and dedication to building our program. The school hired more faculty and created a dual-degree program leading students to undergraduate degrees in both a liberal arts major and a professional engineering, computer science or information technology degree. Students enter UMKC SCE following three or four years at their first institution. Those who follow the guidelines and meet the admission requirements will earn a degree from their first institution and a degree from UMKC following two years of study at SCE.

The graduate and doctoral programs give professionals the opportunity to advance their careers with further education. Continuing education programs help engineers, computer scientists, consultants, managers and other science professionals stay up-to-date on the latest research and technologies. SCE also partners with Kansas City companies and organizations to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and outreach to middle and high school students throughout the region.

As science and engineering fields continue to grow, I look forward to seeing UMKC continue to grow the School of Computing and Engineering, and its partnerships and network of supporters in Kansas City.

Posted in All stories Tagged , , , , , |

This Is Our Role

It was truly an honor when I recently participated in the opening ceremony for the new Entrepreneur Hall of Fame in Kansas City, now open in the Bloch Executive Hall on UMKC’s Volker Campus.

Chancellor Leo E. Morton at the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Induction.

Chancellor Leo E. Morton at the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Induction.

The Hall of Fame is an ultra-modern, interactive setting that tells the remarkable stories of some of Kansas City’s greatest business leaders – people like Henry Bloch, Lamar Hunt, Ewing Kauffman and Barnett and Shirley Helzberg.

Few would argue those stories are not worth telling, or those individuals’ contributions to our community not worth celebrating. But why do so on the UMKC campus? None of these people are students or faculty; they’re not teachers or researchers.

The way I see it, hosting this hall of fame is exactly what we should be doing. UMKC is Kansas City’s university. It was founded by our community, and exists as a public entity to benefit and serve our community. The Entrepreneur Hall of Fame is a place designed to be a teaching tool through the stories it tells; a source of inspiration for people – our students, and our community – to reach higher and expand their vision of what is possible.

This Hall of Fame is a demonstration of why Kansas City truly is “America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.” The honorees and their stories are a testament to the record of achievement and success that has occurred right here in this community – a record that rivals that of any city in America. Students, graduates and the community at large will find role models to emulate; and see their success stories as potential road maps to follow.

For the Bloch School, hosting this institution is a natural outcome of our strategic mission to support entrepreneurship in Kansas City. In this Hall of Fame, we are honoring and preserving the past. We are educating and inspiring the present. And we are laying the foundation for the future.

That’s because entrepreneurship and innovation have always been the keys to Kansas City’s growth and development. They had to be. The cities of the east – Boston, Philadelphia, New York – already had been cities for more than a century when Kansas City first appeared. In order to compete, we had to work harder to stand out. We had to be bold and take risks, which is the essence of entrepreneurship.

You could say that process started with the construction of the Hannibal Bridge in 1869. That bridge won the competition, among a number of young communities, to build the first railroad bridge across the Missouri River. Winning that competition established Kansas City as a major metropolitan center.

That drive to be first, and best, is the essence of who we are as a community.

Each succeeding generation has learned from, and been inspired by, the one before. And now, this Entrepreneur Hall of Fame will provide a focal point for our finest entrepreneurship and innovation role models, and the inspiration they provide

I invite everyone in our community to visit this Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, situated proudly on our campus, and learn more about the 20 exceptional individuals whose achievements have earned them a place of honor in this hall.

Posted in All stories Tagged , , , , |

Sports: Service and Success

I suppose that one measure of success for our athletic programs is the size of the network showing our games. If that’s true, when the men’s basketball game against Iowa State tomorrow night airs on ESPNU, then UMKC has arrived.

When the game tips off, I’ll be parked in a comfortable chair and tuned in to the Roos. I’m glad it’s a 6 o’clock game, because I get a little loud when the refs make mistakes; and my family needs their rest.

I am excited, not just for these hard-working players, but for all our athletes and their commitment to excellence. Our athletic programs are one more way in which we are Kansas City’s university, because there is something about sports that unites us. Continue reading

Posted in All stories Tagged |