Top Stories of 2016

Photo by Brandon Parigo, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

A year of significant steps forward

It was a year of significant steps forward at the University of Missouri-Kansas City during 2016. From the university’s campuses, to the city neighborhoods of Kansas City, to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, UMKC people achieved success and renown in areas ranging from physics to philanthropy, diversity to disability rights.

Here, in chronological order, is a recap of UMKC’s top news stories of 2016.

Get In the Pool
Published on March 16, 2016

Olympic champion Greg Louganis delivered the keynote address at the 2016 Pride Breakfast, an event raising awareness and money for scholarships established specifically for LGBTQIA students. Louganis, winner of five Olympic medals and five world championships in diving, delivered a message of determination to engage and participate rather than stand safely on the sidelines.


Justin Perry Named Dean of School of Education
Published on March 30, 2016

Perry, formerly Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Counseling, Administration, Supervision, and Adult Learning at Cleveland State University, was appointed to lead the UMKC School of Education by Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor at UMKC. Perry also had been director of the Center for Urban Education at Cleveland State since 2010. His work focuses on the prevention of school dropouts by improving college and career readiness to promote pathways for post-secondary education.


Alumnus of the Year Credits UMKC for Career Success
Published on April 21, 2016

Dr. Alex Garza, a physician and Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and Professor of Epidemiology at Saint Louis University, accepted UMKC’s Alumnus of the Year Award at a gala luncheon event. His service as a U.S. Army doctor during Operation Iraqi Freedom, charged with rebuilding the country’s ruined medical school infrastructure, helped lead to his eventual appointment as chief medical officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013. Garza was one of 16 individuals and one family honored at the event, one of the university’s largest. In the last eight years, the Alumni Awards event has garnered more than $900,000 for student scholarships and immediate aid. This year’s luncheon attracted more than 500 attendees and brought in more than $120,000 in student scholarship support.


Inventing a Nuclear Detection Device
Published on June 28, 2016

In an achievement with major national security implications, UMKC Physics Professor Anthony Caruso and a team of 20 student researchers, two companies and three universities — who started with a fundamental concept and prototype — transitioned their research instrument to a commercial product: a nuclear detection instrument capable of detecting illicit nuclear material in transit and measuring radiation with high accuracy. Their technology won a prestigious R & D 100 Award —sometimes called the “Oscars of Invention.”


New Credential Program Will Serve Persons with Intellectual Developmental Disabilities
Published on August 10, 2016

Individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) are now able to earn a higher-education credential from UMKC under a new program funded by a $1.8 million federal grant. The new program, called Propel, is designed to improve employment and independent living prospects for individuals with IDD. Students in the program pursue a transcripted program certificate that is endorsed by UMKC and the Missouri Department of Higher Education. They attend UMKC full time for two years (12 credit hours/semester) and participate in college courses with students without intellectual disabilities 60 to 70 percent of the time.


UMKC Grad Competes In Olympic Steeplechase Finals
Published on August 15, 2016

UMKC alumna Courtney Frerichs achieved her lifelong dream by competing in the Olympic Games, making it all the way to the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase event. A former scholarship athlete for the Roos, Frerichs received a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry in 2015. During her time at UMKC, Frerichs set (and beat) multiple records in track and field.


Center for Neighborhoods Celebrates First Class of Newly Empowered Leaders and Advocates
Published on September 2, 2016

The first cohort of neighborhood leaders and advocates graduated from UMKC’s Center for Neighborhoods. The group, representing 18 different Kansas City neighborhoods, spent 12 weeks in a Neighborhood Leadership Capacity Training program that covered topics including neighborhood planning and development, health and safety, governance and leadership, and technology and communication. The Center is a project of UMKC’s Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design. Missouri State Senator Shalonn (Kiki) Curls, a strong and early supporter of the Center, attended the Aug. 29 graduation ceremony and congratulated the neighborhood leaders.


Leaders in Learning: Special Evening Celebrates Faculty Achievement
Published on September 12, 2016

Recognition of faculty accomplishment at UMKC entered a new phase in 2016 with the debut of the Leaders in Learning celebration. The gala dinner event represented an upgrade and expansion of what had previously been an annual daytime, on-campus recognition of faculty who had received promotions or earned tenure. The new format is an evening of dinner and jazz, and recognition was expanded to include new and existing endowed faculty, Curators’ Professors, and other awards of distinction.


New Chapter in EyeVerify Success Story
Published on September 13, 2016

EyeVerify, Inc., a Kansas City startup based on technology developed by UMKC School of Computing and Engineering Associate Professor Reza Derakhshani, Ph.D., has been acquired by Ant Financial Services Group, the world’s leading online and mobile financial services provider and operator of Alipay. The biometric technology, developed by Derakhshani and colleagues, is an application that makes the eye the only password needed to secure smart phones and mobile devices. The technology is currently being commercialized by EyeVerify, where Derakhshani serves as the chief science officer, through an exclusive licensing agreement with UMKC.


Campaign for UMKC Raises $302 million
Published on September 22, 2016

The Campaign for UMKC, a seven-year effort to raise $250 million in capital funding for the university, concluded with a total of $302,534,370 raised, more than 20 percent above its original goal. Campaign co-chairs Bob Regnier and Tom Hyde joined Chancellor Leo E. Morton, UMKC Foundation President Steven Norris, and other officials for a pair of gala celebrations on the university’s two campuses Sept. 22 as the campaign drew to a close.


Celebrating 30 Years of a Pioneering Partnership
Published on September 29, 2016

The University of Missouri System and the University of the Western Cape in South Africa created the first-ever academic cooperation agreement between a U.S. university and a non-white South African university in 1986, while the brutal, racist apartheid regime still held power in South Africa. On Sept. 29, a delegation from Western Cape visited UMKC with a twofold mission: to celebrate 30 years of mutual growth and progress; and to chart a course for deeper and broader collaboration in the decades to come. The delegation toured both Kansas City and UMKC’s two campuses as part of their visit.


UMKC and Children’s Mercy Acquire High-Tech Mass Spectrometer
Published on October 3, 2016

UMKC and Children’s Mercy have teamed up to acquire a state-of-the-art device that will help identify diseases and accelerate research. The new mass spectrometer located in the UMKC School of Biological Sciences analyzes and measures proteins with a speed and sensitivity many times above what was previously available to most researchers in the Kansas City area. Among many areas of research collaboration, the device will provide key support to The Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at Children’s Mercy, the first genome center in the world inside a children’s hospital. It is also the first focused on genome sequencing and analysis for inherited children’s diseases.


Rally Welcomes UM System President-Designate Dr. Mun Y. Choi
Published on December 2, 2016

With great fanfare and an array of symbolic gifts, UMKC welcomed Dr. Mun Y. Choi to campus Dec. 2 – a campus Choi called “a crown jewel” in “one of the best university systems in the United States.” Choi will become the 24th president of the University of Missouri System on March 1, 2017. He concluded an advance tour of the system’s four campuses with his first visit to Kansas City, and to Kansas City’s university, UMKC. In a speech to a packed audience of students, faculty, staff, alumni and civic leaders at the Student Union, Choi called on the entire university community to “pursue excellence each and every day.”

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