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University Relations

University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


Nixon Points to Innovation Campus as Example of New Higher Ed Model

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Jan. 19, 2012) – In his State of the State Address focusing mostly on job creation and efforts to balance the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon last night cited the proposed Missouri Innovation Campus as an example of a new model for higher education. The University of Central Missouri is partnering with Lee’s Summit schools, business, industry, and state organizations to plan this campus of the future, which the governor said “has the potential to transform how we educate students.”

Mention of the innovation campus followed the governor’s outline of his plan for higher education, which includes as a priority stable funding for state-supported scholarship programs such as Bright Flight, Access Missouri and A+. Despite such efforts to make higher education more accessible, colleges and universities will face a much tighter budget year with a possible 12.5 percent reduction in state funding from FY2012.

Dr. Ambrose and Don Nissanka in Jefferson City

Charles Ambrose, standing right, president of the University of Central Missouri, outlines a proposal for the Missouri Innovation Campus when meeting with legislators, higher education officials, and Lee’s Summit community leaders in Jefferson City on Jan, 11. Also, speaking to the group was Don Nissanka, standing left, president and CEO of Exergonix, Inc., a new technology company in Lee’s Summit that is one of the key partners in this innovation campus initiative.

“To balance our budget in a way that protects our scholarships and academic programs, I’m calling on our colleges and universities to continue to look for more ways to cut overhead and administrative costs, and run smarter and more efficient operations.” The governor added, however, “While leaner, more efficient operations are essential, higher education must continue to adapt for the modern economy. Public colleges and universities must change their business models.”

Nixon cited the proposed Missouri Innovation Campus as an example of such a model. University President Charles Ambrose was in Jefferson City last week to discuss this initiative in a meeting hosted by state senator from Lee’s Summit, Will Kraus. The session was attended by a number of other legislators who work with higher education issues, as well as Lee’s Summit community leaders.

Partners working in collaboration with UCM share a goal to establish the Missouri Innovation Campus on property that is being developed in Lee’s Summit by Exergonix, Inc., developer of “green” energy storage products. The acquisition of classroom space for the expansion of education purposes, which could include possible lease agreements, will be part of the ongoing discussion.

Ambrose said the Missouri Innovation Campus would help bridge the gap between graduates and workforce skill demands. In addition to building knowledge through their classroom experiences, students would have the opportunity to experience a high-impact, real-world environment, where they can develop skills long before they complete their degrees. It would also provide an atmosphere for educators to stay current in technology areas such as wind and solar energy, electric vehicles, energy storage, LED lighting and more.

According to Ambrose, the campus will seek new ways to accelerate degree completion and assist students through student employment, tuition forgiveness, shared tuition, and low-interest loan programs that will reduce their overall cost and the amount of debt they have upon graduation. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to benefit from experiential learning, which will help them develop critical-thinking skills and competence in emerging technologies.

An initial step toward making the campus a reality was to create a Lead Facilitator Group that draws members from all the participating groups. These include UCM, Exergonix, Inc., city of Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit R-VII School District, Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, Metropolitan Community College-Longview, Cerner Corporation, Honeywell and the state of Missouri. Representatives from the Missouri Department of Higher Education, Department of Economic Development and the Missouri Governor’s Office are also engaged.

The Lead Facilitators Group is leading the charge to establish a Phase I program that will involve “early adopters” --  students in their junior year of high school in the Lee’s Summit area who can begin the program as early as September 2012. The facilitators group will guide the development of the initial phase in areas that include curriculum, finance, public and private partnerships, articulation, applied learning, student access and success and, outcomes. Rapid Response Teams assigned in each of these areas will help to more specifically identify ways to accomplish program outcomes. One example of the types of innovative thinking that has already come from individuals involved in the project is to develop a program that would enable select students to complete an engineering degree six years after entering the ninth grade.

“I encourage all of our universities to take the lessons of the innovation campus to heart and develop such programs,” Nixon remarked.

Ambrose said, “We appreciate the governor’s support and the support of our local and Lee’s Summit legislators. We’ve got a lot of work to do to make the Missouri Innovation Campus a reality, but we are committed to building a new model in higher education that will reduce student debt, accelerate the time it takes to complete a degree, and ultimately contribute to a stronger state economy.”