The University of Missouri – St. Louis kicks off its Golden Jubilee year with a celebration on February 1. Chancellor Tom George was Don Marsh’s guest on “St. Louis on the Air” to reflect on the university’s growth in its first half-century as well as to discuss trends and challenges in higher education.
George, who has been at the helm of the institution for the last 10 years, describes the history of the university as a series of “happenings,” with each Chancellor playing a part. Arnold Grobman’s tenure began in 1975 and is credited with creating the School of Optometry. Marguerite Ross Barnett followed Grobman in 1986 and succeeded in opening the campus to the community. Blanche Touhill served from 1991 until 2002 and during her tenure, many programs were added to make the school into a public research university. She also oversaw the construction of several new buildings including the Millennium Student Center and a performing arts center that bears her name.
In its first 50 years, UMSL has grown from a clubhouse to a 352 acre campus offering 14 doctoral programs. When asked if he felt like UMSL was seen as a poor cousin commuter school when compared to Washington U. and Saint Louis U., Tom George responded, “Absolutely not.” He enumerated some of the UMSL programs that consistently receive national recognition such as International Business, Criminology, Counselor Education and Information Systems. He also pointed out UMSL’s collaboration with Washington U. on an Engineering program and research collaborations with Saint Louis U. And while most students still commute, UMSL now has housing for 1500 students.
George sees the biggest challenge to public universities such as UMSL is the dwindling support from the state. Institutions have to continue to search for new funding mechanisms because tuition cannot be raised high enough to make up for the lack of state funds or students will not be able to afford to attend. A caller pointed out the value of the scholarships to UMSL that are funded by the Clay family.
In addition to adding traditional programs, UMSL has seen growth in on-line classes and on-line programs. Another area of focus is UMSL’s work with first generation college students to help them succeed and insure their retention.
Despite all the challenges, the graduation rate continues to increase and is at an all time high for UMSL. And of the 84,000 UMSL alums, 62,000 have remained in St. Louis making a significant contribution to the work force.
UMSL 50th Anniversary Jubilee Kickoff
Friday, February 1, 2013
Touhill Performing Arts Center