COLUMBIA, Mo - For his third stop on his UM System visits, UM System President-designate Dr. Mun Choi visited Mizzou's campus to talk to students, faculty and members of the Columbia community.
Dr. Choi follows former System President Tim Wolfe, who stepped down in November 2015 after the campus protests.
He spoke to about 100 people in Memorial Union about the importance of recognizing the University of Missouri Columbia as the flagship university of the UM System.
"Student success is our success, so we have to find ways to be very innovative to meet the unmet needs we have for students throughout the system," he said Thursday morning.
In a few weeks, Dr. Choi will be meeting with Gov.-elect Eric Greitens to discuss priorities for the system. Dr. Choi said he wants to form a strong partnership in Jefferson City. This year, many lawmakers fought to yank funding to the University of Missouri System after unrest at the school last November.
"I think it's very important being the land grant university that services so many citizens," he said. "It's important for us to demonstrate the value we provide not only in workforce training for the important jobs in the state but also creating innovation that brings in entrepreneurial opportunities and additional companies into the state of Missouri."
Bill Turpin is the president of the Missouri Innovation Center, a nonprofit that works closely with the university to create entrepreneurial opportunities in mid-Missouri. He said he was looking forward to working with Dr. Choi because "there's a fresh opportunity to create a dialog around becoming the best in the nation."
"In Connecticut he worked very closely with the state and some nonprofits to create a whole economic plan for the state," said Turpin. "If he could do that here, we get a statewide endorsement and plan to take the flagship university to support the entire state and we could work together a little better than we have in the past."
Turpin said he thinks Mun Choi's educational background will make him a strong system president. The last two presidents, Tim Wolfe and his predecessor, Gary Forsee, had backgrounds in business.
"He's going to get stuff done," said Turpin. "I think that's an important thing at a university, there's always that academic freedom and I think with his academic background he knows how to do that."
Dr. Choi told reporters Thursday he still needed some time to fully understand the financial state of the University of Missouri Columbia but he said it's important for people to recognize that investment in Mizzou is key.
"We are the economic engine that brings in not only workforce training, but also opportunities for companies to remain in the state of Missouri because of the graduates we provide," he said.
Dr. Choi emphasized workforce training and economic development several times Thursday morning, both in his speech to attendees of the reception and to reporters afterwards. He also wanted to increase research opportunities as well.
As someone with an economic background, Turpin said there were many opportunities to strengthen and accomplish those goals.
"We don't know yet about him but he's got a great track record in Connecticut and he got stuff done," he said. "I think going over to Jeff City, working with the other campuses, and getting us all to work together is the biggest possible thing he could do."
Dr. Choi will take over the system March 1. At that time, he will also focus on filling the many interim positions on Mizzou's campus.
"I think its important for me to work closely with all of the leaders to identify where our needs are," he said.