We’re exploring a possible name change for our university, and that has generated more than a little conversation.
I’m glad. That’s a sign of how much people care about this university, whether they’re alumni, students, staff or people who live in the greater Kansas City community and realize how much what happens here impacts their lives and their future.
This is not a process we enter into lightly, one we intend to rush, or one that will be resolved without a lot of input from stakeholders over the next several months.
Here’s how I see it:
The most important reason to explore a name change at any time is to enhance an entity’s ability to execute its vision, mission and strategy. Ours revolves around our unique status as “Kansas City’s university” – the only urban research university within the region, and a critical component of the city’s long-term economic development and quality of life strategies. This is made clear in both the Time to Get It Right report, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber’s “Big 5” goals for the metropolitan area.
We are Kansas City’s university, and we can strengthen our enrollment, our community partnerships and our philanthropic support by creating a broader and deeper understanding of that critical role. About 75 percent of our enrollment is from the Kansas City area, and 75 percent of our graduates stay in KC to live and work. We are the primary educator for Kansas City’s professional workforce.
In a recent speech on our campus, University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe said: “Kansas City has high expectations for UMKC. This university is a key component of this community’s goals. … Enrollment growth at UMKC is a critical need. To meet the demands of the future we envision, we need UMKC to deliver more: more well-trained, well-educated professionals; more research discoveries; and more future leaders.”
When a great city and a great university share a name, it can generate powerful benefits and synergies for both. That potential demands some careful and serious consideration.