Barbara Bichelmeyer joined UMKC as a provost and executive vice chancellor in the fall of 2015, nine weeks before the Ferguson protests made their way over to Columbia.
Any other person in her position might be overwhelmed by the responsibility of carrying the university through such a tumultuous time. Instead, Bichelmeyer saw it as a rare opportunity.
“It was certainly a challenge, but it was one of the most important experiences that I have had here,” said Bichelmeyer. “I think it helped remind all of us at UMKC that everybody needs to be valued and supported and appreciated.”
The experience helped her define what she wanted to accomplish in her role at the university. From the beginning, Bichelmeyer says she committed herself to meeting each student’s individual needs to ensure they succeeded UMKC and beyond.
At her farewell reception, Chancellor Mauli Agrawal described this commitment as a “culture of care” that she created in her five years at the school.
To create this culture, Bichelmeyer oversaw the creation and implementation of a variety of programs in the hopes they would increase the success of students. Using new technology and an ever increasing amount of student data, these programs were designed to improve experiences for those at UMKC.
She first found success with her support of supplemental instruction, or SI. Though the program has been at UMKC in some form since the 1970s, recent data has now found a marked improvement for students who take at least three sessions of SI during the semester.
Next fall will see the implementation of Bichelmeyer’s latest, and last, project. A new general education program for all students, intended to be more flexible and learning-focused than its predecessor, will replace the Anchor and Discourse program at UMKC.
Bichelmeyer will leave her legacy at UMKC behind this February to serve as provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas. She is a four-time alum of the university and grew up in nearby Shawnee.
“For me, having the opportunity to go to KU is having an opportunity to go home,” Bichelmeyer said.
Many of her goals for her new position are shared with those she had for UMKC. This includes improving student success, expanding research and making sure students and faculty feel supported despite the continual lack of funding for public higher education.
Bichelmeyer says what she will miss the most about her time in Kansas City is the people.
“I’m very comforted at this moment as I make this transition with knowing that no matter what title I have or no matter what institution I’m at, there are friends and colleagues or relationships that last beyond that affiliation,” Bichelmeyer said.