Autumnal change arrived in full force at UMKC, and not just in the brilliance of the trees on campus.
Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal gave his inaugural State of the University Address Thursday and brought forth some changes of his own.
“[Chancellor Agrawal] knows something wonderful is going to happen here, and he wants us to be part of it,” said Faculty Senate Chairman Steve Dilks in his introduction of Agrawal. “He wants all of us to join him as part of a mutually-supporting extended family.”
In order to grow that extended family, Agrawal announced a partnership between UMKC, the UM System and KC Scholars, a foundation that provides financial assistance to Kansas City metro students wanting to attend college. Through the partnership, $20 million in need-based scholarships will be awarded to 400 local students to attend UMKC.
By listening and learning for the past four months, Agrawal has helped create a five-pillar strategic plan to lead the university into the next decade. The plan intends to improve UMKC and the surrounding Kansas City metro community.
Despite some obstacles, Agrawal is confident UMKC can become a top-ranking, urban public research university.
“As a newcomer to this campus, and to this community, my first responsibility was to listen,” Agrawal said. “I have learned a lot about the strengths as a university…and now I know about the problems we have overcome, and the issues we still face, and must address.”
According to Agrawal, the strategic plan is a roadmap that provides specific milestones and clear direction for the next 10 years’ worth of implementation. Within the plan, five pillars made up of numerous individual initiatives are mile markers along the way. Some initiatives specifically mentioned by Agrawal during the address included:
- Transforming UMKC from a commuter campus to a residential campus by increasing on-campus housing and rental opportunities near campus.
- Increasing enrollment by 50 percent in the next decade.
- Moving men’s home basketball games back to Swinney Rec in an effort to increase school spirit and campus pride while saving money.
- Harnessing Big Data to Big Learning to establish an interdisciplinary Data Science Institute (DSI) to improve the quality of life for all people.
- Doubling the current spending on research grants, grant proposals and patent applications in the next decade.
- Exploring ways to use the Epperson house, renovating parts of the Bloch School and the Spencer Chemistry Building.
- Pursuing state, community and alumnus funding to build a new Conservatory building.
- Ensuring that up to 90 percent of students are involved in service learning in the next decade.
- Implementing a task force to review and improve on-campus mental health services.
- Fostering an inclusive, multicultural environment by increasing staff and faculty members of color.
All of these initiatives, and more, constitute individual goals of UMKC’s strategic plan.
The State of the University Address was also an opportunity for Agrawal to honor individual students, faculty and staff members. Among the students honored was the UMKC Women’s Soccer team, who won the Western Athletic Conference championship for the second year in a row, and posted a team GPA of 3.75 for the 2018 season.
Bloch school undergraduate student Salem Habte was also honored by Agrawal for her success and achievements as a young entrepreneur, giving young artists in the Kansas City area the much-needed business skills to advance their careers in the arts.
Although the chancellor has been a Roo for less than a year, he has the campus and community poised for big changes. Undeterred by any potential obstacles, and confident in the talent and potential at UMKC, Agrawal is certain of one thing:
“True greatness can be achieved here.”