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UM System president focuses on growing research, faculty and students in first report

While the UM System is facing unprecedented budget cuts from the state, President Mun Choi focused on moving forward and even growing the system’s rank in his first president’s report.

Choi addressed the UM Board of Curators Friday morning at a meeting at Missouri S&T in Rolla. He began his presentation by thanking faculty members who are leaving the university, including former Interim President Mike Middleton and MU Interim Chancellor Hank Foley, in addition to announcing some new appointments, including Dr Christopher Maples as the interim chancellor of Missouri S&T.

Much of Choi’s presentation focused on how the four universities in the UM System stack up against other public institutions. “In order for us to move forward, we need to understand where we are,” Choi said.

One of the areas that needs improving is research, Choi said. He compared the money spent on research at MU to the money spent on research at Minnesota. In a 10-year time span, Mizzou’s total research spending grew by about $28 million, while Minnesota’s increased by $325 million. Choi said he believes that the lack of faculty members and lack of appropriate research space contributed to the desparity.

Choi said the number of faculty members at MU has decreased over the last couple of years. In 2012, MU had 1080 faculty members, but in 2016, it only had 983.

“Over the past five years, we’ve had very few raises… it is very important for us to recognize and reward outstanding faculty members,” he said.

When it comes to students, Choi said “our focus should be on increasing need-based aid.” He also said the graduation rate needs to be improved.

Choi had a few cost-saving suggestions for students, including the use of free, open source textbooks. He touched on the proposed 2.1 percent increase in tuition and said that amounts to about $200 for in-state students. He compared that to the average cost of textbooks, which, according to Choi, is about $1200.

Due to budget cuts by the state, Choi admitted that the UM System is ” facing a tough time right now,” but he said the system hasn’t effectively shared its contributions. He said the system is launching a study to find out what the system’s economic impact is and estimates that it is between $3 million and $4 million.

Choi ended his presentation on a positive note, expressing his optimism for the future.

“It is an exciting time for the UM System, and I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to work with all of you,” he said.

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