Story by Jason Brown/Managing Editor
Video by Kaitlin Brothers/News Editor
Students, faculty, alumni and members of the community gathered Thursday afternoon in the Multipurpose Building to witness another milestone in the 148-year history of UCM.
The 23-year UCM career of Roger J. Best culminated in his installation as the university’s 16th president. The ceremony represented a theme of milestones as the university nears its 150th anniversary (sesquicentennial) in conjunction with the State of Missouri’s 200th anniversary (bicentennial) in 2021.
Best joined UCM in 1995 as an assistant professor in finance and has since served in a multitude of roles, including dean of the Harmon College of Business Administration and as the university’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.
“I think he can apply service to this university,” said Shari Bax, vice provost of student experience and engagement. “He has served in almost every capacity he can at this university and has done so well.”
Best’s inauguration comes six months after the Board of Governors decided to remove his interim status and name him the new president. Board President John Collier said the board had a lot to consider in its choice to go with Best.
“One thing, we’ve got 100,000 alumni that obviously we have to be thoughtful of,” he said, “as well as the faculty, staff and the students here. So trying to put everything together but also somebody that shares the vision and the mission of the university during this time.”
In his inaugural address, Best reminisced on the milestones UCM had surpassed in academics, athletics and equality. He laid out the challenges facing higher education which include lack of funding and shifting demographics of college students. He challenged everyone to solve these problems together, whether they’re alumni, students or faculty.
“We have been entrusted by those who came before and those who hired us to build upon the legacy, to build upon the accomplishments and to build upon the milestones of this great institution,” Best said.
Bax said she expects to continue seeing Best lead with the goal of serving students first.
“I think we can see that moving forward that it’s going to continue to be about how we can best serve students and help students be successful both while they’re in school, but when they leave school with their degrees,” she said.
Collier said Best understands the logistics of leading a university.
“He understands the dynamics at play external and internal,” Collier said, “the funding, allocations and funding resources. But also like Dr. Bax said, the relationship with the students and faculty is something we’re very confident in.”
Best said UCM has to work efficiently while ensuring quality.
“We must be equally clear that more effort does not necessarily mean better outcomes, nor should we ever presume being busy is the same as being productive,” Best said. “It is time for us to slough off any of those activities that are done simply to check a box and consider those instead which make a real difference for our colleagues and students.”