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What UMKC’s chancellor does

Chancellor Emeritus Leo E. Morton says the position 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 Emeritus Morton: The idea is to focus on the university’s mission, 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 went, people wanted 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 came 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 had to think how this person might support UMKC and its purpose. That might be the one chance I had to make that connection so I had to be ready.

Q: What surprised you the most during your role as chancellor?

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

Q: What similarities exist between running a business and running a university?

Chancellor Emertius 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 at UMKC. It’s about achieving that alignment and making sure we serve 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 described myself as a sweeper in a game of curling who clears the stone’s path to the goal.