Chancellor search kicks off with open forum

The Chancellor Search Committee, UM System President Mun Choi, faculty and students gathered last Monday in Bloch Executive Hall to share their visions for UMKC’s future chancellor.

The group addressed current obstacles facing the institution— namely, budget cuts and lack of funding— while also imagining a leader who might rise above and work to fix these issues.

Linda Mitchell, a professor of gender studies and history who serves as the committee’s co-chair, laid out these challenges and stressed the need to see beyond them.

“We all know that we are faced with fiscal issues. We possibly might refer to a hostile political climate for higher education,” Mitchell said. “Even though we have to think in those terms to some extent, we can think about what we want this place to be in 10 years and how to move that forward.

“To that end, what should UMKC want?”

Students and faculty attended the chancellor search forum.

Students and faculty attended the chancellor search forum.

As Mitchell led the discussion, a large projector behind her broadcast charts depicting desired experience, qualities and focus areas of any future candidate. These broad lists, containing key phrases like “student success,” “urban engagement” and “relationship builder,” represent the committee’s previous brainstorming.

However, the forum’s attendees quickly added to this list. Director of the Latina/o Studies Program Clara Irazábal stood up and delivered a passionate response.

“The person should be a visionary. It’s easy to be a leader and shepherd people in the direction they are currently going, to maintain the status quo,” Irazábal stated. “A visionary is someone who is able to lead under the budget, but is also able to resist it. I don’t know why nobody is talking about resistance— because this is unsustainable.”

Though many followed Irazábal in expressing dissatisfaction and a need for change, the forum also offered an opportunity to reflect on the positive: former chancellor Leo Morton’s legacy.

Morton announced in August that he would move up his retirement to October and leave UMKC to act as chief operating officer at DeBruce Companies. Morton’s served his last day as chancellor Oct. 11.

Dean of the Law School Barbara Glesner Fines looked back on Morton’s eight years of leadership.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have been led by a chancellor who, while being the face of UMKC very effectively, never made it about him,” Glesner Fines said.

Choi praised Morton’s ability to lead both in the university and in the community, using this as a basis for the future chancellor’s qualities.

“He or she must be internal facing, as well as external facing,” Choi explained. “He or she is responsible for the entire enterprise.”

Despite the daunting list of desired qualifications generated at the meeting, the committee remains confident a new chancellor will step into their role by early 2018.

“We’re talking months, weeks,” Mitchell clarified.

The Chancellor Search Committee emphasized the need to maintain confidentiality as the process moves forward, shedding doubt on how many updates the university and public will receive.

However, progress reports and updated time lines will be uploaded to www.umsystem.edu as they become available. Anyone with questions about the continuing chancellor search can email umhrexecutivesearch@umsystem.edu.

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