UMKC to Invest More Than $50 Million to $60 Million for Excellence and Achievement

UMKC Forward will benefit workforce readiness
Three women riding escalator

The University of Missouri-Kansas City rolled out its UMKC Forward plan, pledging to invest more than $50 million to $60 million over the next five years in five key investments. Chancellor Mauli Agrawal said the investments are designed to achieve growth and excellence for Kansas City’s university.

In addition, the university will spend another $5 million to hire new faculty in key strategic areas over the next three years.

Agrawal noted that higher education has been grappling with change for years, but when COVID-19 hit and added new challenges, he knew UMKC couldn’t wait any longer to create a creative vision for its future.

“To thrive in the years to come, we needed to reimagine UMKC, to envision an innovative and financially sustainable future for ourselves,” he said.

In response, he launched UMKC Forward in May 2020 as a comprehensive collaboration that included ideas and exploration by a broad-based group of faculty, staff, students and community members.


Their collective work led to UMKC Forward’s five key investments:

1. Student Success
UMKC’s signature Professional Career Escalators program is a unique, trademarked system of personalized support and services unlike anything being offered across the U.S. It is designed to propel students from their academic studies to good-paying careers.

“This escalator model that focuses on students that are traditionally underserved is something that universities everywhere need to do a better job of addressing, and I’m very excited to see UMKC be one of the first to do this,” said Mahreen Ansari, president of the Student Government Association and political science major.

2. Faculty Development

A new Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence, or CAFE, will feature a comprehensive program of mentoring, development opportunities and resources to support, attract and retain high-quality and engaged faculty.

“The heart of any university is the relationship of the student to the faculty,” said Tom Mardikes, chair of the UMKC Faculty Senate and Conservatory theatre professor. “We are working very hard to identify ways for UMKC to be innovative in its programs and especially in how it connects our students to the city and the region. Investing in our faculty to better secure student success is a winner, and I'm very excited to see how impactful and productive this new approach can be for UMKC.”

3. Research Excellence

To reach its goal of doubling research expenditures by 2028, UMKC will invest in building up research capacity and infrastructure, identifying high-impact research collaborations, training and mentoring researchers as well as investing in faculty hiring.

4. Career Expansion

UMKC will expand TalentLink, adding a robust offering of badges and certificates alongside high-quality professional, online and continuing education opportunities meeting in-demand needs for individuals and the companies they work for.

5. Community Engagement

UMKC will leverage its incredibly engaged community partners to create a student and faculty engagement network, increasing opportunities for students and faculty to connect with civic and business partners through internships, service learning and research.

Agrawal explained the reasoning behind each of the five investment priorities.

“Student Success is our ultimate metric; the fundamental reason we are here. Faculty Development is a key driver of student success and research excellence,” he said. “Research Excellence is essential to our public service mission; it builds available resources through grants and patents; and it is a major attraction for high-achieving new faculty and students.

“Workforce Talent Development will help us meet the needs of employers and professionals for lifelong learning, and enhances the quality and capability of our regional workforce. And Community Engagement is integral to meeting our commitment to public service as a state university.”

“The goal of the UMKC Forward plan is realizing the best UMKC possible – the version of Kansas City’s university which will effectively meet the needs of the whole community,” said Karen King, chair of the UMKC Staff Council. “The effective implementation of the UMKC Forward plan means long-term success for this institution, present and future students, and the Kansas City metropolitan community.”

Notable in this tough fiscal environment is that UMKC Forward plans do not call for large-scale layoffs or reductions in staffing.

“The effective implementation of the UMKC Forward plan means long-term success for this institution, present and future students, and the Kansas City metropolitan community.” - Karen King

Instead, UMKC Forward will realize the bulk of its funding – $50 million to $60 million over five years – by realigning current spending to these new priorities. Additional money, over time, will come from attracting new research investment and growing philanthropy, including a future capital campaign. UMKC hit record numbers on research dollars and philanthropy in 2020 and aims to continue those trajectories. UMKC also will continue its work to retain current students and attract new students, both important to the university’s fiscal health.

Some additional revenue will come from realigning academic units and closing some academic programs, but Provost Jenny Lundgren said those plans are more about positioning UMKC’s academic enterprise for excellence and innovation than about saving money.

“When we began to re-imagine the structure of our academic units, our faculty got really creative about the possibilities of developing some new synergies in the classroom and in our research,” Lundgren said. “We wanted our academic structure to reflect our commitment to our students and their needs and to create new ways to foster innovation and collaboration among our faculty in teaching and research.”

Starting in fall 2022, UMKC will have three new academic units among its 10 schools: the School of Science, Engineering and Technology; the School of Education and Applied Behavioral Sciences; and the School of Arts, Culture and Social Sciences.

Agrawal said the UMKC Forward advances will increase the value UMKC provides for all of its stakeholders.

“We will provide an environment of greater overall excellence for students, faculty and staff; solve more problems and create greater opportunities for our community; strengthen our regional workforce; and leave a more powerful legacy for future generations.”

Published: Mar 18, 2021