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Faculty, Staff Participate in UMKC Forward Town Halls

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Virtual event provides answers, explanations about re-imagination effort

Hundreds of faculty and staff participated in two virtual town halls May 19 to provide input for the UMKC Forward initiative. More than 115 faculty, staff, students and community members are tasked with developing far-reaching ideas to re-imagine the operations of UMKC to save money, generate new revenue and create an innovative and sustainable future for the university.

In separate sessions for faculty and staff, Chancellor Mauli Agrawal and leaders of the initiative talked about the process and goals of UMKC Forward. Agrawal described the initiative as “overdue” and said he has “no preconceived notions” about what creating a stronger, slimmer and more agile UMKC would entail.

Leaders of the UMKC Forward committees provided details on the two-team methodology being used. Team A is focusing on adapting and restructuring — one subgroup focusing on academic programs and the other on administrative and university operations. Team B is identifying areas for investments to stimulate growth. Initial review group reports are due to the Chancellor July 10 with specific targets for consolidation, reorganization, elimination and investment.

Laurie Ellinghausen, associate vice provost for academic innovation and a member of the Team B Steering Committee, said her team is pursuing growth strategies that will make UMKC more competitive.

“We need to differentiate as we grow,” she said. “Our unique mission statement will be our North Star.”

Director of Athletics Brandon Martin, another member of the Team B Steering Committee, called the process “a crucible” that will allow UMKC to “detach from our historic silos” and provide opportunities for growth, as well as to gain additional credibility for the university in the broader community.

In addition to Agrawal, Ellinghausen and Martin, other panelists from UMKC Forward included Provost Jenny Lundgren and Team A steering committee members Mark Johnson, University Budget Committee chair; and Jake Marszalek, Intercampus Faculty Council representative.

Questions from participants covered areas ranging from how committee members were selected, to reasons for confidence that committee recommendations would be carried out.

Here’s a sampling of questions and answers fielded by the steering committee during the town halls:

What’s an example of a big idea?

Ellinghausen: Something that produces significant and long-lasting return on investment that can achieve differentiation for UMKC.

How were committee participants selected?

Lundgren: We wanted to strike a balance between people with expertise in a specific area and those who could look at it with a fresh eye and challenge the status quo.

A few years ago, there was a similar process and nothing happened. Why will this be different?

Lundgren: The previous effort focused on leaders of units and departments, who had an inclination to protect and defend. This structure was designed to avoid that, plus we have a financial imperative now to make changes.

Will calculation of ROI (return on investment) include student quality of life?

Johnson: Yes, because we are using the Strategic Plan as our guide.

Are we collaborating with UM System on this?

Marszalek: President Choi has indicated he wants each campus to work independently.

The chancellor is scheduled to make data-driven decisions based on recommendations from the committees in July. The full timeline and updates are available on the UMKC Forward page.

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