First Day of School for New MU Chancellor

Aug 3, 2017

Credit File Photo / KBIA

Alex Cartwright, former State University of New York System provost and executive vice chancellor, took over as MU's chancellor Tuesday.

His arrival marked the first day MU has had a non-interim chancellor since the end of 2015. Although he officially began Tuesday, he's been actively involved behind the scenes for some time.

At a UM System Board of Curators retreat last month, Cartwright called for MU and the system to build a "winning culture." He said the university needs to actively recruit faculty and staff that aren't just smart and talented but are also good human beings. He said by doing so, employees will encourage one another and recognize that "we're all on the same team."

A major issue for MU and the system has been a decline in state funding. Cuts to higher education funding, as well as enrollment declines, have forced MU to trim about $60 million in reserves, programs and more than 400 jobs.

Because of this, President Mun Choi, system Chief Financial Officer Ryan Wrapp, curators and campus officials have discussed at recent meetings how the system's primary source of revenue will need to shift from state funding to tuition. At its July 28 teleconference meeting, the board discussed how funding for educational buildings has historically been from state or federal funding, but this cannot be the case going forward.

Cartwright is also stepping into the position at a time when MU's enrollment has nosedived. This year's first-time freshman class is estimated to be about 4,009 students, while three years ago, in 2014, the fall first-time enrollment was 6,515 — a decrease of almost 40 percent.

But Cartwright feels there's room for optimism.

"If you look at this institution, it has all of the components of being an absolutely great institution, an institution that has a tradition unlike many others in this country," Cartwright said when he took the job. "And I believe not only is it an attractive place, but it can become a premier public research university in this country."

Research is a key emphasis for MU going forward, Choi has said. Cartwright was the president of the State University of New York's research foundation from January 2015 to June 2016. 

Curators voted Friday to request state funding for capital budget projects. MU's priority project was a planned new Translational Precision Medicine Complex, where new treatment techniques and technology would be developed and applied.

MU has come under fire for lacking diversity. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education found that MU's medical school needed to improve the diversity of its students or risk losing its accreditation. The racial climate on campus was at the root of unrest in the fall of 2015 that led to the resignations of Loftin and former President Tim Wolfe.

Cartwright brings experience in broadening diversity in a university setting. "Dr. Cartwright introduced and saw adopted a sweeping diversity, equity and inclusion policy which applies to all campuses and SUNY’s System Administration," according to the State University of New York's website

The State University of New York, commonly known as SUNY, is the largest state university system in the country. It has about 1.3 million students, and it is made up of 64 universities, according to its website.

Cartwright is married, has two children and was born in the Bahamas. He graduated from the University of Iowa with a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering, and he is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his work researching and teaching optical engineering.

Supervising editor is Hannah Black.