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What UMKC’s chancellor does

As the face and name behind UMKC, Chancellor Leo E. Morton’s job is a combination of several roles: cheerleader, collaborator, communicator and problem solver.

Q: People often wonder what a chancellor does. How would you explain it?

Chancellor Morton: The idea is to focus on the university’s mission is, which is to educate our great students and to be of service to the community. To do that, we have to make sure we’re listening and connected and communicating with people. I’ve found that almost everywhere I go, people want me to get up and speak about the university, so obviously, you have to be comfortable with that, and with communicating to a variety of different audiences. I come across so many impromptu opportunities to talk to people about the university—someone might just stop by when I’m out at lunch, and I have to think how this person might support UMKC and its purpose. That might be the one chance I have to make that connection so I have to be ready.

Q: What surprised you most about your role as chancellor?

Chancellor Morton: I knew it was a busy job, but I didn’t know it was 24/7. It’s like being in a fishbowl—I’m always representing the university. Even on the weekends, I’m still going.

Q: What similarities have you found between running a business and running a university?

Chancellor Morton: I think the challenges are the same. In a business, you have to work at getting individuals within the business aligned with its strategy, mission, purpose and vision. You want to be able to establish that there’s something to accomplish and get everyone excited about that and show them how what they do is aligned with the achievement of that ultimate purpose. That’s no different here at UMKC. It’s about achieving that alignment and making sure we’re serving the university’s purpose. In doing that, there are a host of issues that come up and get in the way, that’s why I’ve often described myself as like one of the sweepers in a game of curling who clears the stone’s path to the goal.