The goal of the University of Missouri System is to touch every person in the state every day, said President Tim Wolfe.
The system includes four campuses — the University of Missouri-Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla.
It aims to meet its goal serving people through its health care offices, extension centers, through the education of students, work of alum, service to livestock producers and farmers, agricultural research stations and through other outreach programs.
President Wolfe spoke with The Missourian about the campus system’s impact statewide, and specifically in Franklin County.
In 2012, about 380 patients from Franklin County were treated by University of Missouri Health Care.
The county’s extension office, located in Union, made nearly 30,000 contacts with county residents over the same time period.
Additionally, 688 Franklin County students were attending a University of Missouri campus in 2012, while 3,316 alumni were living in the county.
Twenty-three percent of all county teachers and 31 percent of all school administrators were University of Missouri alumni as of 2012.
“An investment in higher education is an investment in Missouri,” said Wolfe, adding that education helps play a role in the economic development of communities.
Wolfe said education has a huge impact on the state’s economic development.
“Education is a prerequisite for economic development,” he said.
Businesses will move to the state or to Franklin County based on the quality of its schools.
“We need to make sure we have an educated work force that is engaged and involved in the community and in children’s academics,” Wolfe said.
Raising the level of education awareness will lead to economic development in Missouri being more competitive on a global scale, he noted.
Wolfe, who has children in college, said he takes “great satisfaction and joy” in spreading the message of education to others.
And while he’s thankful that higher education is a part of his children’s plans, he said it’s unfortunate that some kids are tuning out or deciding that college is unaffordable.
“We need to keep them inspired and motivated on their graduation from high school,” he said, and educate students on financial aid that is available after high school.
Students need to understand that if they have the credentials and work hard, they can overcome any financial hurdle, Wolfe said.
To achieve that goal, Wolfe launched the “Show Me Value” tour, in which he and others speak to middle and high school students, as well as community members, about the value of education and how education improves quality of life.
Wolfe cited national statistics that say college graduates earn an average of $540 more per week than nongraduates and that college graduates live longer because they’re making better decisions about lifestyle and other factors.
“Through the Show Me Value Tour — if one or two (students) take hold, then our mission is certainly accomplished,” he said.
The University of Missouri system has an extension center in each of the 114 counties in Missouri.
Wolfe said each individual campus and extension center helps high school dropouts get degrees, helps people create business proposals and helps with many other tasks.
The extension center also provides soil testing service, pesticide application training and vet lab services.
“We work closely with the extension leadership to develop services pertinent to those we serve,” Wolfe said.
The system also educates through its Missouri Research and Education Network (MOREnet) program, which is one of the nation’s first and largest statewide research and education networks that link nearly 800 Missouri schools, public libraries, higher education institutions, telehealth sites and state agencies across a private integrated network.
As a public research institution for the state, Wolfe said, serving communities like Franklin County “is what we’re supposed to be doing.
“We are responsible for educating all 6 million Missourians,” on the benefits of higher education, he said.
The system mission statement says that it “promotes learning by its students and lifelong learning by Missouri’s citizens, fosters innovation to support economic development, and advances the health, cultural, and social interests of the people of Missouri, the nation, and the world.”
The system will continue to move research from its labs to the community, to educate and foster innovation.
“And we’re excited about that,” Wolfe said.