Chancellor delivers the good news in his first State of the University address
Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D., announced $20 million in new scholarships November 8 as the capstone to his first State of the University address.
The address focused on key themes and objectives in Agrawal’s vision for the university he has led since June, and also provided an opportunity to shine a spotlight on outstanding students, faculty and staff.
“True greatness can be achieved here,” Agrawal said. “UMKC has the potential to move into the top ranks of the great urban public research universities in America. All of the ingredients needed are already here – we just need to put them together in the correct fashion.”
Agrawal’s address outlined his vision for a renewed and enhanced partnership between the Greater Kansas City community and UMKC, which was established by and for that community. That vision calls for strategic investment in several key areas, including student success, research, community engagement and an enhanced student life experience on campus.
“This is a campus, and a community, on the rise,” Agrawal said. “We can address both our short-term needs and achieve true greatness in the long term. Spectacular can happen here. I believe that we are called upon to ensure that it does happen here.”
Commitment to the success of current and future students is at the core of Agrawal’s vision, and starts with making higher education more affordable to more students within the Kansas City community.
“KC Scholars provides financial aid and other forms of support to low- and modest-income families in the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area so that young people can attend college,” Agrawal said. “Unfortunately, there are far more students who qualify for this assistance than KC Scholars has the resources to serve. So, I am proud to say that UMKC is stepping up to meet that challenge. As the university that was created to serve this community, this is our role and our responsibility.”
The new need-based scholarships announced by Agrawal are being funded by $10 million from KC Scholars, $5 million from UMKC and $5 million from the UM System’s new Promise & Opportunity Scholarship program.
KC Scholars, launched in 2016, currently awards approximately 500 college scholarships annually for students from the KC metro area to attend one of 17 partner colleges and universities in Missouri and Kansas, including UMKC. There are 46 recipients of KC Scholars grants currently enrolled at UMKC. The new funding will support 400 additional scholarships over the next nine years, each worth $10,000 per year, for students enrolling at UMKC.
Agrawal also stressed the university’s public service mission throughout the address. Among the initiatives he announced:
- Improving and expanding student housing on campus
- Improving graduation rates
- Increasing enrollment by 50 percent over 10 years
- Doubling research grants over a span of 10 years
- Establishing a Data Science Institute to leverage existing campus strengths in Big Data and Big Learning
- Establishing a task force to explore potential new programming and uses for the historic Epperson House and potential new funding streams to rehabilitate and maintain the building
- Increasing service learning opportunities for students bringing the level of student engagement to 75 percent in five years, and 90 percent in 10 years
- Exploring ways to enable capital projects such as the Conservatory, the renovation of the labs in the Spencer Chemistry building, phase I of a new shared facility in the UMKC Health Sciences District and renovating parts of the Bloch School
In the pursuit of excellence in engagement, UMKC will look for ways to increase community partnerships to address cultural, social, health and economic prosperity in the greater Kansas City region.
“Our new strategic plan makes one point very clear: our foundational commitment as a university is to provide an unwavering commitment to the development of our people,” Agrawal said.
To follow through on that commitment, Agrawal has tasked one of the university’s outstanding longtime leaders to develop and oversee an enhanced faculty development structure. Lawrence Dreyfus, Ph.D., has accepted the new position of Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Research Support, effective January 1.
In Agrawal’s listening tour on campus, he has heard a lot from faculty, staff and students about the need to increase attention and service to mental health and well-being. As a result, a task force has been formed to review the state of mental health services. The goal is to take inventory of the campus resources, determine the level of preparedness to respond, identify gaps and develop recommendations for improvements.
“My personal commitment is to ensure that we have the right services on campus, staffed at appropriate levels that work seamlessly together,” Agrawal said. “We will also explore ways to provide more professional training and mentorship for our staff so that they can have potential career ladders. This must also be a part of a strong infrastructure.
Lastly, Agrawal said he will work hard to create a culture of “la familia” or “we are family” on the UMKC campus. This will start with first ensuring a high level of customer service.
“This cannot be mandated, but has to be a change from within all of us – a change of attitude where service to others is more important than our own personal benefit,” Agrawal said. “We all will need to be role models – each and every one of us. At UMKC we have a lot to be proud of – both in our history and in our present. But we still have a lot more to do until we achieve excellence in everything we do. I will work alongside you as we march toward this goal. As others see our resolve they will join us.”