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Our Time to Lead, Serve and Grow

Over the last couple months I have traveled the state to connect with our extension councils and regional faculty to share information about how we are changing the way we serve, lead and grow.

We are tapping new opportunities for revenue generation, strengthening our connection to MU Extension’s many dedicated employees and volunteers, and creating new ways to develop and recognize the people on campus. We’ve also strengthened our relationship with the university as a whole. Last year I took on the additional role of chief engagement officer for the University of Missouri System. UM President Mun Choi made this decision in order to broaden the reach of the entire four-campus system and foster a culture of engagement in every academic unit and department within the system.

These themes were on display Oct. 21-24 during UM System Engagement Week and the concurrent MU Extension Summit. With events on all four campuses, Engagement Week showcased the impact of extension programming and university engagement on our state’s grand challenges in economic opportunity, educational excellence and access, and health and well-being.

Highlights include a presentation on “The Engaged University” by Robert Jones, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, followed by a panel discussion with Jones and the chancellors of all four UM System campuses. Engagement Week concluded with a working session that brought together state, community and university stakeholders to examine broadband access and its impact on the state’s economy, education and health.

For many, Engagement Week and the Summit provided an opportunity to see what we mean when we talk about the right balance of high tech and high touch.

Examples of the high-touch approach include the new community engagement specialist staffing model as well as a commitment to leveraging expertise and resources through creative collaborations and partnerships. Among our high-tech initiatives are new e-learning and e-commerce platforms; the MU Extension Way website for faculty, staff and extension councils; and interactive resources such as All Things Missouri, which turns vast amounts of data into meaningful, actionable information for decision-makers, community leaders and others.

The week affirmed that our decision to reframe our Extension birthright into the broader world of Engagement and Outreach by focusing on the contemporary needs of Missouri communities is the right thing to do.

And that’s just the beginning. We have set the stage for what we will become as we partner with communities in and beyond Missouri to address society’s grand challenges. This will require us to take some risk, have courage and be bold if we are to truly serve and enrich the lives of all Missourians. Our future will be strong as we seize our time to lead, serve and grow.

Marshall Stewart
Vice Chancellor for Extension and Engagement, University of Missouri
Chief Engagement Officer, University of Missouri System

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