Mun Choi: A different Mizzou just getting started with new investments

UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi looks on during a press conference at Mizzou Arena.
UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi looks on during a press conference at Mizzou Arena.

As we welcome our students to a new academic year at the University of Missouri in Columbia, they will quickly see they are attending a different Mizzou.

Sure, it remains a beautiful campus with beloved traditions that generations of alumni cherish. But in many ways, we are a new university from just one year ago.

I’m not just talking about our first new research building in almost two decades or five years of research growth – though all are worth celebrating. We are in the middle of audacious, institutional improvements that will place Mizzou among the nation’s great universities.

During my State of the University address, I laid out a roadmap for this new era of Mizzou excellence. Less than six months later, we’ve exceeded our high expectations.

While important work remains, here is why these accomplishments matter for Missourians.

The centerpiece is MizzouForward – our 10-year plan to invest $1.5 billion in research and student, faculty, and staff success. Think of MizzouForward as the hub, with spokes that extend all over campus, and throughout 114 counties in the state – propelling us farther, faster and with greater impact. We’re developing a championship culture not only in our Southeastern Conference athletics program but throughout the university.

Our recent momentum began with the NextGen Precision Health initiative and its mission to change and save lives in the Midwest and beyond. When the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building opened last year at Mizzou, then-Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins described the building as a “great recruiting tool…I want to come here myself.”

Dr. Collins was right. In just over a year, we’ve supercharged our research capacity across campus by hiring 25 of an expected 150 MizzouForward faculty over five years. In total, more than 300 new faculty in a variety of fields will join this year. Many of these world-class researchers and scholars bring federally-funded projects with them to supplement the great work of existing faculty.

We’re also planning six more research-focused facilities, while also investing in our existing faculty and staff. This year, our merit raise pool was higher than ever before to reward exceptionally performing faculty and staff for their vital contributions.

These investments stake our claim in a competitive environment: An Association of American Universities member since 1908, we are a national research powerhouse, one with a history of Nobel and Pulitzer Prize recipients and fellows of the National Academies. During the past five years, total research grew to nearly $400M.

Though launching these plans required tough decisions, our strategic investments in excellence are paying off. We’re seeing the highest percent increases in state and federal support in decades, a sign of bipartisan trust among elected officials.

Our high expectations extend to our students – including nearly 8,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students joining us for the first time. Mizzou attracts the best students in the state, producing more graduates in medicine, law, veterinary medicine, health sciences and education than any other public university in Missouri.

Also consider:

  • Nearly 20% of freshmen identify as first-generation.

  • 95% start jobs or continuing education within six months of graduating.

  • More than 60% of graduates stay in Missouri.

  • Spring 2022 marked the highest graduation rate in university history at 75%.

We’re infusing this 183-year-old institution with investments that produce results to benefit Missourians. I’m proud to work with the Board of Curators, faculty, staff, alumni and our supporters to achieve excellence.

This is the new Mizzou. And we’re just getting started.

Mun Choi is the president of the University of Missouri System and chancellor of the University of Missouri-Columbia.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Mun Choi: A different Mizzou as new academic year begins