UMSL welcomes new Commissioner Bennett Boggs, members of Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education
University presidents and chancellors from across the state visited the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus this week as Missouri’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education held its quarterly meeting Tuesday and Wednesday at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center.
The meeting was notable as the first in the tenure of Bennett Boggs as commissioner of the state’s Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.
Boggs succeeded Zora Mulligan as permanent commissioner and assumed his new role in April after most recently serving as the deputy executive director and chief of staff in the Colorado Department of Higher Education.
He’s already visited 10 institutions of higher education in his first 73 days on the job, as he told those in attendance in the E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater during his remarks at the start of Wednesday morning’s public meeting.
“What I want to do is take the time to listen and learn and learn of Missouri,” Boggs said. “While I can bring outside states’ perspectives and other ideas of what’s going on in higher education, it’s not automatically adaptable into the Missouri system and culture, so I want to take the time to show some respect to listen and learn, see what the institutional issues are, what the state issues are and how that all fits together. I’m finding the hospitality very kind, and the doors are open, and the conversations are open and flowing. That’s exactly what I’m hoping to see, and I’m enjoying it.”
Chancellor Kristin Sobolik led Boggs, members of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, and staff members in the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development on a tour of UMSL’s campus on Tuesday afternoon before a reception at the Touhill.
Sobolik highlighted some of the campus enhancements getting underway as part of the Transform UMSL initiative, which will consolidate the university’s academic core on North Campus while creating space for the proposed North St. Louis County Business and Workforce District just south of Natural Bridge Road.
Boggs came away impressed with what he saw.
“What a dynamic and innovative place,” he said. “I congratulate Chancellor Sobolik on her planning, with her leadership staff and how they’ve all come together with the community. Her plan for reorganizing and pulling different units together, even through new buildings or reorganizing physically. Not many universities have a demolition zone where they’re actually going to plan to pull down some buildings and rebuild in a way that serves their ongoing new purposes. That’s a big plan, a lot of energy.
“But really, it’s focused on, as I could see, economic development, workforce development, high-end industry, knowledge industry, public-private partnerships. I was really impressed by what all she has going on here. It’s an exciting place.”
He also commended the university for how well it served as a host for the meeting, which included discussion of a study on performance funding models being conducted by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems as well as other updates and recommendations from staff in the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development.
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