Top Stories of 2015

New UM System President Michael Middleton joined Chancellor Leo E. Morton at Mid-Year Commencement. Photo by Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Remembering a year of new beginnings

For the University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2015 was a year of new beginnings: new leaders, new buildings, a new academic unit, new accomplishments in athletics and fundraising, and new recognition for old friends.

Here, in chronological order, is a recap of UMKC’s top news stories of 2015.

January: UMKC earns Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement
UMKC is selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for the foundation’s coveted Community Engagement Classification, one of 83 colleges and universities nationwide to receive the honor for the first time in 2015.

“These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities, and revitalizing their civic and academic missions,” said John Saltmarsh, Director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education.

February: Kansas City Engineering Zone opens
The UMKC School of Computing and Engineering and the KC STEM Alliance celebrated the opening of the Kansas City Engineering Zone with a dedication and thank you to donors and supporters. The KC Engineering Zone is a pilot program that includes high school FIRST® Robotics teams from Paseo Academy of Fine & Performing Arts and Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Students in the central city often lack science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and enrichment opportunities. KC EZ is a direct response to the equity and access issues faced by Kansas City’s K-12 urban schools.

March: First class inducted into Starr Women’s Hall of Fame
Seven women were inducted as the inaugural class of the Starr Women’s Hall of Fame: Marjorie Powell Allen, Kay Barnes, Myra J. Christopher, Adele Hall, Shirley Bush Helzberg, Dorothy Johnson and Martha Jane Phillips Starr. The Hall of Fame, dedicated in honor of Martha Jane Phillips Starr, recognizes the past and celebrates the present of leading local women whose contributions have made a lasting impression on Kansas City and beyond.

April: Alumnus of the Year Dr. Nicholas Comninellis leads list of 2015 awardees
With the goal of raising scholarship funds, UMKC alumni and friends celebrated the achievements of 17 individuals, one family and a dedicated husband-and-wife team at the 2015 Alumni Awards and Chancellor’s Medal Luncheon. The 2015 event raised a total of $141,435 for scholarships. The portion collected during the event, $31,435, was twice as much as was raised live during the event last year.

May: UMKC Athletics celebrates its finest year
Athletics Director Carla Wilson celebrated 2014-2015, her first full academic year in the position, as an exciting year of firsts. Accomplishments included conference championships in Women’s Soccer and Women’s Volleyball; All-American designations for student athletes in Women’s Track and Men’s Basketball; and the university’s highest-ever cumulative grade point average for student athletes of 3.28.

June: Bichelmeyer named new UMKC Provost
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, Ph.D., was appointed Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor of UMKC by Chancellor Leo E. Morton.

Bichelmeyer, a Kansas City native, most recently had served as Executive Associate Vice President for University Academic Affairs and Senior Director of the Office of Online Education at Indiana University in Bloomington. While she has strong roots in the Kansas City area, Bichelmeyer said the academic opportunities at UMKC are what spurred her to pursue the position.

June: $21.5 million upgrade announced for Chemistry, Biology labs
State legislation played a key role in facilitating a $21.5 million renovation and modernization project for the university’s primary biology and chemistry teaching laboratories in the Spencer Chemistry Building and Biological Sciences Building. These labs serve Chemistry and Biological Sciences undergraduate and graduate students, as well as those who go on to professional schools or graduate studies in medical, dental, pharmacy, nursing, law, social work, environmental science, optometry, physical therapy and veterinary programs. They also serve as part of the teaching mission for UMKC’s Pharmacy, Medicine and Nursing Programs.

June: 51 Oak project featuring Whole Foods Market kicks off
Officials from Van Trust Real Estate, UMKC, Whole Foods Market, Kansas City Mayor Sly James and a host of neighborhood organizations came together to break bread in celebration of the start of construction of the 51 Oak Project, a new development on the UMKC campus that will include the new grocery market, as well as a new UMKC Student Health and Counseling Center, 170 market-rate apartments and a six-story parking garage with 445 spaces.

July: Honors College launched
The UMKC Honors College was launched on July 1. Formerly known as the UMKC Honors Program, the UMKC Honors College retained all of the best features of the Honors Program while adding new educational opportunities for outstanding students. The Honors College offers the best elements of a small liberal arts college while drawing upon the resources of a comprehensive research institution. James C. McKusick, Ph.D., is the founding dean.

October: Free Enterprise Center launched
A major investment in Kansas City’s future was launched at a kickoff celebration for the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center at UMKC. The Free Enterprise Center, a high-tech prototyping and product development hub, will be available to entrepreneurs, local industry, and high school and college students as they pursue entrepreneurial ventures. The center will include laboratory space, rapid prototyping equipment and educational/collaborative space. The center also will support business and technology transfer advisors to serve UMKC students, faculty and researchers, as well as local industries, entrepreneurs, artists and K-12 students.

October: Campaign for UMKC reaches goal 1 year early
The Campaign for UMKC, a seven-year effort to raise $250 million in capital funding for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, pushed past its initial goal one year ahead of schedule and is continuing to provide additional resources for Kansas City’s university. At an announcement celebration event, campaign chairs Bob Regnier and Tom Hyde said the campaign had already bypassed the original $250 million goal by more than $20 million, and would continue for the full seven-year duration.

November: Entrepreneur of the Year Program celebrates 30th Anniversary
Kansas City’s world-renowned entrepreneurial community gathered as one for a gala dinner celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, sponsored annually by one of that community’s pillars: The Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management. The evening’s theme was “Fearless City: Celebrating Those Who Fearlessly Create.” Business and civic leaders mingled with Bloch School faculty, members of the school’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame and rising young start-up stars at the gala.

November: Michael Middleton appointed interim president of UM System
The University of Missouri Board of Curators appointed former University of Missouri-Columbia Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton as interim president of the University of Missouri System. The appointment followed the resignation of former System President Tim Wolfe.

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