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.

This has always been an educational institution by, of, and for Kansas City. The university was founded 80 years ago by community leaders in the midst of the Great Depression, who understood that a university plays a vitally important role in the economic development of a community. Those visionary leaders saw higher education as a vehicle to prosperity for all, and today UMKC continues to play that vital role.

I will have a lot to say about our 80 years of tradition, education and service over the course of this year. Right now, I want to focus on how we help this community grow, in knowledge, in our economy, in our health, in our cultural life, and in our very sense of who we are.

I really believe the Big 5 is a key indicator of our role in this community. It’s a list of our top five priorities for the growth of our community, and if our university did not figure prominently in that list, you would have to conclude that we are irrelevant to the community. The fact that we are directly involved in three of the Big 5 goals, and are connected to the other two, proves that we are a foundational asset for this community.

KCPT’s “The Local Show” recently produced a progress report on the Big 5. You can find a preview of the episode here, and view the entire hour-long episode here: Part I  Part II.    

To recap, one of the Big 5 goals is UMKC-based: Creating a Downtown Campus for the Arts. Our medical and science research is deeply involved in the Big 5 goal to Grow Kansas City’s Medical Research, from Discovery to Cure. And several of our programs are central to the goal of making Kansas City America’s Most Entrepreneurial City, such as the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Henry W. Bloch School of Management, and the UMKC Innovation Center, which created outstanding programs such as KC SourceLink and Whiteboard to Boardroom, and spearheaded the drive to create our newest entrepreneurial asset, Digital Sandbox KC.

The unprecedented level of cooperation and consensus that made the Digital Sandbox possible is another example of that spirit of unified purpose that is so prominent in this community right now. This community is on the move. Its university is one of the major engines driving that progress.

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