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University President

University of Central Missouri
Administration 202
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4112

State of the University Address

Dr. Charles M. Ambrose - President
August 23, 2010

Since our family arrived in Warrensburg on July 25th, I have had the opportunity to express our collective thanks to the Board of Governors, faculty, staff, students, and friends of the University for the opportunity to join you in service. This afternoon as we consider Where We Are – What We Do – and Where We Are Going into the Future – I would like to once again say "thank you" for all that you do to build a strong sense of an engaged community.

This engaged community invests itself in the success of our students in many diverse and exciting ways. Over the last 30 days we have experienced this engagement through several events -- the Community Band Concert, United Way Campaign Kickoff; Warrensburg Rotary Club, the Community Advisory Board at Whiteman AFB, the Annual Athletic Auction, Mule Haul, Freshmen Academic Convocation, and with the Alumni Board and Foundation Board, and Johnson County Alumni. Today, we join together as we begin our second week of classes for the 2010-2011 academic year. Throughout these many points of engagement I have been deeply impressed by your care for students and the sense of service to others in and around this campus who provide a collective identity for the University of Central Missouri.

As the campus prepared this summer for a new academic year, a transition planning team has been hard at work under the capable leadership of Dr. Gordon Lamb. I would also like to thank other members of the committee – Drs. George Wilson, Alice Greife, Shari Bax, David Kreiner, and Hank Setser. The team met with 24 different constituent groups from across campus to ask, "What is Important and What is Possible!" From these discussions, the committee worked hard to outline a set of starting points that will be shared with you as we begin our work together.

Another set of important factors impacting our future was provided last Tuesday in Jefferson City as Governor Nixon gathered Missouri higher education leaders from all sectors for the first educational summit in more than 20 years. Board of Governors President Walt Hicklin, Drs. George Wilson, Michael Bersin, Mike Grelle, and I represented our university. As a newcomer to Missouri Higher Education, this was an extraordinary opportunity to understand our place and purpose as we build the future of our university in the context of needs and vision for our state.

For the next few moments, let’s juxtapose the work of transition; the starting points that I bring with me as your new president; and the public policy agenda of the Governor of the State of Missouri, to build a template that can serve to strengthen our strategic position and increase the University’s recognized sense of destination [both in place and purpose], alignment of our priorities and programs, and ultimately, the value to the constituencies we serve.

The strategic leadership required to build this new positioning is symbolized in a meaningful way by the transformation of one of the front doors to our campus that is currently under way next door to us this afternoon – the Morrow-Garrison Building. This visible transformation represents the opportunity that we have to consider together what is possible for our university community.


The Morrow Health and Physical Education Building was completed in 1939. Walter E. Morrow was a Professor and Department Chair of Economics, Dean of the Faculty and acting President (1930-31). In years past, the building housed two large gymnasiums and a pool that was the first swimming facility for the campus. In 1950, an annex was added that served as a student center with a main lounge, small kitchen, snack bar, game room, student organizations’ room and a library/reading room on the lower level.

In late 1959, the Garrison Building was built to house a newer and larger gymnasium. James R. Garrison, who advocated for a new facility, was a former student and captain of the 1927 basketball team, and in later years a member of Board of Regents. He died in 1954 before the facility became a reality.

Today Morrow-Garrison brings together resources for the University that is clearly built on a historic and strong foundation. The significance of this heritage has been thoughtfully preserved and enhanced by the care and quality of work of these structures as they are being transformed to meet our students’ future needs. Morrow-Garrison will couple our academic mission of teaching, scholarship, and service for the programs utilizing the facility next semester. Additionally, the newly constructed Student Recreation and Wellness Center will transform the co-curricular experience for our students to provide holistic activities that build an increasingly heightened sense of the total collegiate experience that is distinctive here.

Building our future on a strong and historic foundation - bridging the academic and co-curricular needs of students to provide a true collegiate and student-centered experience -- Morrow-Garrison and the new Student Recreation Center serve as a visible example of where we are and, perhaps more importantly, where we can go together as an engaged learning community.

A New Reality

A new reality does exist for our world, the state of Missouri, and the communities that we serve. We are, as Governor Nixon clearly articulated, one of the most important aspects of not only recovery, but ultimately, the advancement of useable knowledge for the future. In order to effect positive and forward momentum – and realize the opportunities presented by transition and this refocus of priorities on public higher education – I would like to suggest that we begin our work together with a set of priorities that will allow us to manage through the current economic cycle [requiring us to do more with less better] and realize our fullest potential.

First, we must work to enhance the value proposition of the University of Central Missouri to the wide range of constituents that we serve. Access and attainment in higher education is driven first by being a university of choice and second by ensuring affordability. Coming from the private sector – this consideration for college choice was defined by cost, programs, and reputation. For UCM, the value of the collegiate experience coupled with the means it requires to afford a college experience comes together in the value proposition for all students. There is also an important value proposition that we as an institution create for work-life balance as you teach and support the learning environment on this campus. Value is extended to the community in the form of partnerships with schools, non-profits, and corporations for the purposes of economic, social, cultural, and community initiatives. Value is sought after by donors. Donors are deciding amongst a busy and crowded selection of choice as they decide where they can give their support and where it will yield the greatest return on their charitable investment. By aggressively focusing, defining and enhancing the value of our university, we will be turned more readily to as an offensive tool -- a proactive resource for the future versus a means by which budget shortfalls and reductions are managed.

The second requirement focuses on UCM as a mission-driven university. Our requirement to serve within a community that is learning, open, caring, just, disciplined, celebrative, and purposeful is built on a strong heritage and must also be transformed into a vision that meets the needs of tomorrow’s students. Our mission to serve, properly aligned, provides future alumni with a collegiate experience that is active and engaged, bringing together the knowledge required for leadership with their engaged learning experiences that equips them to make a difference. These are tools that linked together with our recognized focus on placement and career services makes UCM graduates more competitive through their experiences here. The mission of this university will be focused upon by students seeking value, by higher education in the state of the Missouri as it seeks to strengthen both educational effectiveness and institutional efficiency, and by our work together to align our resources and efforts to programs that are recognized as distinctive and meaningful.

Our future together will also be driven by an accelerated need for educational partnership and collaboration with others to meet both our challenges and opportunities. As I met and discussed future potential with members of the higher education community in Jefferson City, our university was clearly identified as a willing partner with many diverse resources across the state. This willingness and existing level of collaboration must be lifted up so that the UCM story is told and that awareness builds more opportunity with public education, community colleges, non-profit and for-profit corporations in order to meet a greater need during a time when all resources are much more strained.

Finally, any focus for the future of this institution must include a heightened sense of responsibility for student-success. I am grateful to be joining you because you care for students and the individualized sense of responsibility for student success is an important part of the DNA of this institution. But, if we are to effect the "big goal" discussed by Governor Nixon of increasing our state’s population that holds a college degree from 39 percent to 60 percent – the 461,886 more Missourians that need to be reached by 2025 must be included in our response. This outcome-based focus includes both meeting the needs of students who are not currently in the pipeline, as well as helping increase the number of those who are enrolled to complete their degrees.

Looking ahead over the coming year, we are going to utilize tools developed by the Association of Governing Boards and sponsored by the Lumina Foundation to build campus-wide engagement in a model program that focuses on Governance for Student Success.

This new model will provide an invigorated focus on strategic leadership and positioning, university-wide productivity, and a resource allocation model that provides both an open and engaged process for aligning our resources with the programs that will define both our identity and future potential.

Taken together – building a stronger value proposition, mission focus and alignment; growing partnerships and collaboration; and continuing a student-centered experience that increases success -- will position our university for the short-term challenges required within this economy and the longer-term vision and process for reaching for what is possible.

What can we hope for in return? – Governor Nixon outlined his agenda that includes a sustainable funding model for the state of Missouri that we can implement. This goal is hoped for across the nation and the public sector and one that will allow for thoughtful decision-making to consider college costs, new sources of revenues, and ultimately the resources required to move this university forward.

We are beginning this journey together from a strong starting position.

The Academic Experience

We begin the school year across all University programs with strong and positive growth in credit hour production, headcount, and full-time equivalent enrollments. Although our final census is not complete until after the fourth week of classes:

On the first day of classes: First-year student enrollment has increased 5.5 percent and initial transfer students increasing 11.5 percent.

I am truly excited to learn about the breadth of initiatives and the distinctive experiences produced on this campus from the Talking Mules, to a model Division II athletic program, to THRIVE that welcomes 12 new members to our university community...

Campus Environment, Energy Savings and Sustainability

Throughout the summer and into this semester – the learning environments on this campus are being improved. These projects include:

Finally, the 18-month effort of upgrade infrastructure systems and Energy Services Contract is almost complete – encouraging campus-wide sustainability, improving building environments, and meeting the targets for energy savings.

Building Our Future Together

Over the next several months, I am going to ask for your help as we seek to build a new strategic position for the University that will provide a collective sense of vision for the future. We will implement a new governance model focused on student success, and as we move toward our institutional accreditation, we will assess our institutional competencies in order to decide what to do more or less of; what to keep and what to let go; and how to add value to our programs.

As your new president, I want to hear from your individualized perspective answers to the following important questions. Your response will help me to learn and better understand what makes the University of Central Missouri distinct and will serve as a catalyst to a very significant period in our institution’s history.

First, what do you celebrate or cherish most about UCM? What are the core values of your Central Missouri experience? What are the University’s greatest contributions to higher education and to the communities we serve?

Second, as we reach toward 2020, where would you like your university to move over the next 10 years? What aspirations do you have for your university and how can we respond to the new realities challenging the state of Missouri and beyond?

By asking these questions, I am hopeful to gain knowledge that only you have about what makes UCM meaningful and gather a collective sense of what we can reach for in the days and months ahead. I ask this of you as alumni, faculty, staff, Board of Governors, students, and members of the UCM community as we refine our sense of vision and mission. I value your responses and invite you to engage in the process. Your thoughts, ideas, and input concerning the value and future of the University will help respond to needs and meet the challenges and potential ahead.

Thank you for the many ways that you are building an engaged community that is being called upon to respond to this significant period ahead. Recognizing the value of education, the breadth and depth of the experiences provided by the University, and examples represented in the lives and commitments of many outstanding alumni and for a future in those that will make UCM their University of choice.

In thinking about being a part of this university in Warrensburg – I have been reminded frequently of my father who represented a major influence on who I am and what I am doing. His life is reflected by the Psalmist who reminds us that our lines have been drawn in pleasant places and that we are recipients of delightful inheritance.

Building on those that have gone before us, as a place that serves others with knowledge and meaning, we do maintain stewardship of both a place and a purpose – an engaged community meant to provide educational access and opportunity to a world in need.

I look forward to this journey with you and hope for you a meaningful and productive year ahead.