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

Momentum Building for Proposed Missouri Innovation Campus

Contact: Jeff Murphy   |   Watch Video
WARRENSBURG, MO (Jan. 9, 2012) – Momentum continues to build as the University of Central Missouri moves forward with discussions about the proposed Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit. This new, one-of-a-kind approach to meeting critical state education and workforce needs would address issues that include decreasing the amount of time it takes students to complete a college degree and reducing their education debt load.

“The Missouri Innovation Campus is an excellent, bold example of what we could do to reduce education barriers for students, while also preparing the workforce of the future,” said Charles Ambrose, university president. “We must identify and develop better ways to collaborate with public education, communities, government and industry to create more sustainable approaches to higher education. Such initiatives and partnerships are certainly consistent with our mission.”

Ambrose met earlier this month with the Lee’s Summit R-VII Board of Education, and this week he has been invited to meet with Missouri legislators from Lee’s Summit and those representing the university service area to provide more insight into the innovation campus. The meeting in Jefferson City will be hosted by state senator from Lee’s Summit, Will Kraus. Partners working in collaboration with the university share a goal to establish the 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.

Ambrose said the campus will seek new ways to 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.

This 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 Lead Facilitator 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.

“Without question, policy maker, employers and the general public are ready for some innovative new models in higher education that will meet the needs of Missouri industries. We’re excited about the support we’re getting from a number of different partners, and look forward to planning and launching the first phase,” said George Wilson, UCM provost and chief learning officer.

“The challenge will be how we take this program to scale,” Ambrose said.

 His vision for the Missouri Innovation Campus is to create a learning center that could grow to approximately 1,500 students, and provide new opportunities that could vastly accelerate the time it takes to earn a degree. 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.

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