By Jeff Murphy, December 14, 2021
University of Central Missouri President Roger Best
WARRENSBURG, MO – Demonstrating its continued confidence in President Roger Best’s leadership, the University of Central Missouri Board of Governors has extended the top UCM administrator’s employment contract through June 30, 2026.
Board action was taken during its closed session on Dec. 10. Best’s new contract becomes effective Jan. 1, 2022. He became the university’s 16th president in November 2018, under an agreement established through Dec. 31, 2021.
UCM Board President Stephen Abney stated, “The Board values Roger’s leadership and dedication to UCM and the communities we serve. His commitment to student success is evident in every decision he makes. In a time of extraordinary disruption in our day-to-day lives, Roger not only kept the university moving forward but has helped UCM achieve impressive gains in academic quality, financial stability, enrollment, and alumni engagement. As we celebrate our 150th anniversary and reflect on accomplishments of the past, we look forward to a bright future across each of our colleges and units.”
Among many accomplishments during his tenure, Best has demonstrated the ability to lead the institution during difficult circumstances. He has played a significant role in helping the university to navigate through the challenges of COVID-19, while also maintaining an institutional commitment to strategic planning to create a blueprint for the institution’s future, and building enrollment, which increased overall by 5.7 percent during the fall 2021 semester. He also utilized his strong financial background to help the university overcome financial challenges related to previous enrollment declines and state funding reductions, and worked with the Alumni Foundation leadership and staff to strengthen outreach and donor support, which is currently at an all-time high.
Also during his tenure, the university has continued its standing among the best institutions in the Midwest through U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review annual rankings, in addition to dozens of other rankings by organizations that are focused on specific academic programs. Additional successes include graduating more than 3,000 students during the past year; working with university faculty, staff and administrators to secure governmental and donor funding to support building a new terminal and education center at Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport; securing legislative funding of $5 million to further renovations to the W.C. Morris Building; leading investments of more than $27 million in deferred maintenance and capital construction projects over the last 24 months; and initiating additional planned building renovations and classroom modernization projects.
“I am incredibly fortunate to have an opportunity to work alongside the tremendous faculty, staff and administrators at UCM,” Best stated. “I appreciate the Board’s support for the initiatives we’ve led and their confidence in not just my work, but more importantly, the work of our faculty, staff, and administrative team. I’m very proud of the commitment to UCM, resiliency, and willingness to serve our students and empower their success that I see every day from our faculty and staff. I am also grateful for the strong support MuleNation alumni provide to their university. It has been through the collective efforts of faculty, staff, students and alumni that we are thriving today. And it will be through their efforts that we will continue to gain national prominence for innovation and for providing an exceptional education and enriching experience while doing our part to better the communities in which we engage. I look forward to the work ahead as the university enters its next 150 years of Education for Service.”
A first-generation college student, Best graduated from Georgia College, Milledgeville, in 1989 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Management, and went on to complete his Ph.D. in Finance at The Florida State University in Tallahassee in 1996. He joined the UCM faculty as an assistant professor in 1995, and climbed the academic ranks to become a full professor. His engagement in shared governance and service to his colleagues opened the opportunity for him to chair the Department of Economics and Finance, and this was followed by positions that included associate dean, dean, interim senior vice president for finance and administration, executive vice president and chief operating officer, and interim president.
While he has served UCM, Best has also received recognition from another institution, his alma mater, Georgia College. This fall, the institution recognized him as the first recipient of the 2021 Dr. John E. Sallstrom Honors College Alumnus of the Year. In 2021, Best was also included as one of “50 Missourians You Should Know” by Ingram’s Magazine. These were, in part, due to his work at UCM.