University of Missouri System Office of Engagement and Outreach Year in Review • 2019-2020

In May 2018, the University of Missouri System created the Office of Engagement and Outreach to establish stronger partnerships with Missouri communities. By leveraging the talent on all four university campuses, this office works with and for Missourians to address the needs and concerns of our state.

The last year has not been what we expected, but in the face of great challenge, we accomplished some great things together: We launched engagement portals for the system and all four universities, presented the first UM System Engagement Week, led the call for statewide broadband access and delivered on our promise to work with Missourians to make progress on our three grand challenges: economic opportunity, educational access and health and well-being.

The worldwide pandemic forced us to reimagine how we engage with our audiences. Faculty from all four system universities rose to the challenge in unique and innovative ways. Please explore a few of our highlights from FY20 in the stories below.


Missouri's Grand Challenges

Everything we do is focused on improving the lives of Missourians by aligning people, partnerships and programs to support economic opportunity, educational access and health and well-being.

Economic opportunity

Resilience & Recovery: Business and Law Topics for Navigating the COVID-19 Economy

On May 27, business and law school deans from all four universities participated in a virtual roundtable discussion around common issues Missouri businesses need to navigate as they begin to reopen.

More than 260 people participated in the discussion and 115 have viewed the recording.

“This roundtable was an incredible example of collaboration, partnership and engagement across the UM System for our state's business community." — Roundtable participant

Educational access

We believe that postsecondary education is important to the success of Missouri. By partnering with the four universities in the UM System and the 114 MU Extension offices across the state, we can provide information to prospective students throughout Missouri.

In October, we placed student recruitment displays that feature the UM System universities in all MU Extension offices. These displays provide information to prospective students and their families about the educational opportunities available to them.

Health and well-being

The new Health Care Finder is a catalogue of all the ways the UM System is providing access to health care in Missouri. More than 200 health care assets have been identified and are searchable through keywords, ZIP code and radius.

This tool serves several purposes:

  • Informs citizens about health care access and opportunities.
  • Highlights underserved areas that need additional local programs and support.
  • Leverages partnerships for health care expansion.

Broadband access and affordability

In October 2019, Missouri was ranked 41st in the country for broadband accessibility. We need to do better. The speed, stability and availability of the internet is key to education, innovation and progress for Missouri.

The ongoing pandemic has made it increasingly apparent that high-speed internet is not a luxury. It is a necessary tool for education, health care and communication — touching all three of Missouri's grand challenges.

The UM System is leading the charge through workshops, resources and partnerships to bring broadband access to everyone in the state.

Bollinger County, Missouri

On June 1, the UM System Broadband Leadership Team, university researchers and community stakeholders met virtually to create a plan for bringing broadband to this pilot community where only one in five residents have broadband access.

On July 8, the group presented its findings and actionable plan during a public webinar. The plan will guide next steps for Bollinger County and serve as a model for other communities to work toward affordable, accessible broadband.

Missouri Broadband Resource Rail

Developed by the Broadband Leadership Team, in partnership with UMKC SourceLink and MU CARES, the free, web-based Missouri Broadband Resource Rail features UM System resources to help communities assess three key considerations:

  • Appropriate technologies to meet their broadband infrastructure needs.
  • Available financing and funding resources for broadband projects.
  • Strategies to educate the public on how to use broadband-based applications.

The site catalogues more than 100 current research, community education and service projects related to broadband expansion and the development of broadband-based applications involving UM System faculty and staff. It hosts government, business and nonprofit resources related to broadband and its applications. Resources are continually added to the site from collaborators around the state and from all four universities.

Innovative Engagement Approaches

UM System Engagement Week

October 21 kicked off a weeklong celebration with events at all four UM System universities that showcased the impact of extension programming and university engagement on addressing our state’s grand challenges.

Almost 5,000 people participated in events that included presentations on The Engaged University by Robert Jones, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana; a keynote speech by Stephen M.R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust; an All Things Missouri panel on broadband accessibility that spearheaded the current Broadband Initiative; and other events.

Presidential Engagement Fellows

Faculty from the UM System are renowned for their teaching and innovative research. The Presidential Engagement Fellows program was established to share the faculty's important work with the citizens of Missouri. During 2019-2020, Presidential Engagement Fellows gave more than 70 presentations to 3,500 participants across the state. Topics ranged from food science and history to pediatrics.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in much interest in Laura Zwarun's expertise on "fake news" and how to evaluate the credibility of information in the media. Additionally, she has been able to collaborate with groups promoting land use that helps pollinators, as seen here at Botanical Heights Community Garden in urban St. Louis. Zwarun is helping Gateway Greening and others articulate their environmental efforts in ways that inspire community support.

UM System Community Connect

Each university in the UM System has a dedicated website that highlights its community partnerships. Launched in October 2019, these web sites feature engagements – activities, events, outreach programs and more – that are addressing the three grand challenges.

Missouri 100

Missouri 100 members advise and assist UM System President Mun Choi in promoting the critical role of the UM System in our state's future and its reputation around the world.

When the pandemic hit, the university food pantries struggled to keep the shelves stocked and the volunteers and users safe. Members of the Missouri 100 stepped up and contributed a major donation to the pantries. The donations help the pantries keep up with the increased demand.

Special Olympics

In November, the University of Missouri System, MU Health Care and Special Olympics Missouri announced a partnership to combine resources and leverage their collective statewide reach to better engage the athletes, volunteers and coaches.

The 2020 State Summer Games were originally scheduled to be held in Columbia, after being in Springfield for the previous three years. Due to COVID-19, the games were held virtually.

University Engagement Highlights

Throughout the year, each university in the UM System engages with communities through a wide variety of programs. Below are stories from each university that demonstrate how we’re partnering with Missourians to address our grand challenges.

UM Science Center Day

Drones that deliver vaccines. A bike that makes healthy smoothies. From community development to rocket science, the imagination and scholarship of University of Missouri faculty were on display March 7 at the St. Louis Science Center.

UM Science Center Day brought faculty, staff and students from the Columbia and St. Louis campuses to demonstrate the reach, value and relevance of their work to members of the community. The event, part of the MU Office of Extension and Engagement’s effort to connect university people and resources with off-campus audiences, was held in collaboration with UMSL’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement.

Taking It to the Pews (TIPS)

TIPS is an HIV/STD testing, prevention and linkage-to-care project in African American churches. The TIPS intervention is delivered by trained church leaders to church and community members with the support of a religiously tailored toolkit. TIPS health agency partners include the Kansas City Health Department and KC CARE Health Center. These partners have provided HIV/STD testing and counseling at participating churches, primarily during Sunday morning services, Wednesday night bible study and outreach ministry events.

Researchers recently completed a TIPS trial funded by the National Institute of Mental Health for $3.3 million over six years. The study included 14 African American churches in the Kansas City metro urban area with more than 1,500 participants.

Two earlier TIPS pilot studies were conducted with 16 churches with 1,000 participants. Preliminary findings indicate that the TIPS intervention is effective in increasing HIV testing among church members, is easy to implement and accepted among African American church-affiliated populations.

Campus rallies to 3D-print protective medical gear

Inside the Kummer Student Design Center, where S&T students usually work on rockets, solar cars, Mars rovers and other projects, several students, faculty and staff worked together to provide 3D-printed protective masks to physicians, nurses and medical workers at Phelps Health.

Chris Ramsay, assistant vice provost for student design and director of the Kummer Student Design Center, said the project “re-energized our design team students. This community need fulfills a hunger that they have to do something positive and meaningful in this crisis.”

Rolla Public Schools was also involved in the effort, with instructors at Rolla High School, Rolla Junior High School and Rolla Technical Institute putting their 3D printers to use. Students from robotics classes and teams also helped with the cause.

Creating Whole Communities Neighborhood Leadership Fellows program

The mission of Neighborhood Leadership Fellows is to increase and amplify the voices of North St. Louis City and County residents for more equitable regional policies for neighborhoods. Each year, a cohort of fellows is selected from neighborhoods within the St. Louis Promise Zone to participate in this nine-month advanced leadership training. The primary focus is neighborhoods within the St. Louis Promise Zone due to the well-documented need for more targeted investment and the lack of representation of residents in the Promise Zone on boards and commissions.

The program provides hands-on workshops on policy, research and innovation promoting equitable neighborhood development. The program also offers positional power trainings for boards, commissions and public office. In addition, participants master collaborative learning through dialogue and presentations among fellows and experts and civic mentoring from leaders and peers. During the year, participants create personal leadership plans in addition to working in groups to develop policy initiatives related to the pillars of the St. Louis Promise Zone.

In a qualitative evaluation of the 2019 cohort, participants described the benefits of the program as confidence and support to lead, as well as connections, skills and knowledge to apply toward community improvement. They also reported that learning tactical skills such as using data and mapping tools were very useful.

“The most helpful aspect is the connections made with people in our cohort and organizations that never would have happened without being involved in this program.” — Neighborhood Leadership Fellows program participant
Marshall Stewart, Chief Engagement Officer, University of Missouri System
Thank you for your support of our mission, and your role in our efforts to serve the state of Missouri last year. In the face of challenges, present or future, our commitment to Missourians remains the same – to partner with, empower, and serve Missourians as we work together to improve the lives of people in our state. I hope you’ve learned something new about our work – and that you’ll join an engagement effort at a university near you.