Trustees Board Chair Debby Ballard presented the 2024 UMKC Trustees Awards on June 10 in recognition for collaborative projects and programs that benefit the region.

Community Partnership Awards

The award recognizes an ongoing and indispensable partnership that strengthens UMKC. The recipient’s support is essential to the university’s success, a critical component in fulfilling its urban-serving mission of education and research and enhances the quality of life in the region. The award is given to two categories: large and small organizations.

Google Fiber

Debby Ballard, UMKC Trustees Board chair; Andy Simpson, Google Fiber; Nick Saporito, Google Fiber; Wesley Fields, UMKC Trustee

Ever since Google Fiber established roots in Kansas City in 2011, the company has sought meaningful community partnerships to expand access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet connectivity and help move the Kansas City community forward.

Google Fiber has created a rare partnership with UMKC that combines technology, education and research. Since 2013, UMKC students from the School of Science and Engineering have been guiding Kansas City area high school students in the Google Fiber Summer App camp, empowering them to develop their own apps.

One of the most significant examples of this partnership is Google Fiber’s collaboration with the School of Science and Engineering Computing, Analytics and Mathematics Division. Together, they embarked on a groundbreaking journey to test Google’s 20-Gigabit broadband connectivity.

This pioneering initiative, starting in 2022 at the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise and Research Center at UMKC, not only marked a first for Google Fiber, but also one of the first-ever applications of its kind in the broadband industry.

This collaboration not only significantly elevated the technical capabilities of the UMKC campus but also sparked excitement about future opportunities and the role of higher education in broadband connectivity advancements.

The Porter House KC
People from Porter House KC

Debby Ballard, UMKC Trustees Board chair; Miranda Schultz, The Porter House KC; Daniel Smith, The Porter House KC;  Rachel Merlo, UMKC Trustee; Charon Thompson, The Porter House KC. 

The Porter House KC is an organization that is helping members of our community who feel left out of the region’s activity to "make Kansas City the most entrepreneurial city in America."

Leveraging their community connections, The Porter House KC’s partnerships with the university have strengthened UMKC’s position as an institution of, by and for the community. Their joint initiatives have helped UMKC reach underrepresented communities. Two recent collaborations include The Little Desk Series and Our Healthy Jackson County.

The Little Desk Series is an initiative supported by the university's Entrepreneurship Innovation Grant program. Through this project, The Porter House KC, the UMKC Innovation Center KCSourceLink program and the division of External Relations and Constituent Engagement hosted a series of master classes designed for students and community members and introduced them to the entrepreneur ecosystem in Kansas City. More than 100 attendees joined five sessions and discussed key themes fundamental to entering the entrepreneurship space, guiding them toward their personal and professional goals.

Our Healthy Jackson County is a program that promotes equity and access to vaccinations and other health and community services where people live, work, play, and worship through partnerships with more than 60 community organizations.

The Porter House KC has been leading the business sector in outreach and hosting events since the pandemic shutdown began, routinely overachieving the number of people served and vaccinations given at each event.

Because of The Porter House KC’s partnership with Amethyst Place, a long-term housing program for women and children recovering from generational poverty, substance use and trauma, the university was able to make life-saving impact on these families.

Leo E. Morton Community Service Award

This award is given to a program internal to UMKC and recognizes outstanding work that embodies the university’s urban-serving mission. The recipients' contributions ensure UMKC remains embedded in the fabric of the community through innovative services, programs and projects that strengthen and enhance the quality of life in the region and serve the citizens of Kansas City. The award is given to two categories, organization/group and individual, and comes with a $2,500 cash gift.

Conservatory Bridges
UMKC  Conservatory winner

Debby Ballard, UMKC Trustees Board chair; Elizabeth Valle, UMKC Conservatory; Rachel Merlo, UMKC Trustee

Conservatory Bridges is the recipient in the organization category and has distinguished itself with its unique and innovative approach to addressing the issue of diversity and access in arts-related fields. It is a program that truly bridges the gap, offering high-quality, individualized training and mentorship to students with limited access to supplemental arts instruction.

Conservatory Bridges supports underserved middle and high school students throughout the Kansas City metro and has made a significant impact. Currently, it partners with 28 schools in eight districts on both sides of the state line, providing a base of support through arts education that prepares these students for success in higher education.

As a result of the Conservatory Bridges program, students not only maintain a 3.0 GPA and graduate from high school, but they also feel prepared for higher education and are accepted into the program of their choice, ensuring their success in the performing arts.

The program was established in 2007 to serve the urban core and provide a direct pipeline for local students to attend the Conservatory. Since then, the program’s mission and services have evolved to include opportunities in theatre and dance, prompting a name change from Musical Bridges to Conservatory Bridges in 2020. Since its inception, more than 700 students have been served, and nearly every program graduate has gone on to attend college.

Vision Forward Award

This award recognizes a new or emerging initiative that demonstrates the spirit of discovery and innovation with promising outcomes that enhance the quality of life in Kansas City and support the university’s urban-serving mission. Awardees can either be internal or external to the university and can be a single entity or a partnership. The initiative must have been launched within 24 months of the current request for nominations.

Healing & Harmony Concert Series
University Health employees

Debby Ballard, UMKC Trustees Board chair; Mark Steele, M.D., University Health; Akin Cil, M.D., University Health; Steve Doyal, UMKC Trustee; Andrew Granade, Ph.D., UMKC Conservatory.

The Healing & Harmony Concert Series, a collaboration between the UMKC Conservatory and University Health, was launched during the 2023-24 academic year. Its two primary goals are to provide enjoyment and comfort to patients, visitors and staff at University Health facilities and to promote community engagement of student musicians from the Conservatory.

Through eight concerts held in seven different areas of University Health, the series exposed more than 400 people to live music, fostering an atmosphere of relaxation, joy and connection within the healthcare environment. One of the remarkable aspects of this initiative was the extensive feedback gathered from attendees through surveys.

The overwhelmingly positive responses demonstrated the profound impact of live music on the hospital environment. Participants consistently reported that the music improved their experience, making their wait more comfortable and reducing stress levels. The open-ended comments revealed a strong preference for jazz music, highlighting the importance of tailoring future performances to the preferences of the audience.

Beyond the quantitative data, the concert series facilitated meaningful interactions between musicians and audience members. Student performers displayed kindness and warmth, engaging with patients, visitors and staff members in conversations about music and instruments.

As the coordinators look towards the future, the insights gained from the inaugural season will guide the planning of subsequent concerts. Adjustments such as selecting quieter ensembles for specific locations and expanding seating options will further optimize the program's impact.