The University of Missouri’s new chancellor of its flagship Columbia campus on Wednesday joined the embattled university’s quest for “inclusion, diversity and equity.”
“This university is on the cusp of a transformative era,” Alexander Cartwright said before an enthusiastic crowd greeting him at the Reynolds Alumni Center.
He sees a university prepared to meet global challenges with “excellence in research, excellence in education and engagement … in a culture where students and faculty can thrive.”
Cartwright comes from the State University of New York where he was provost and executive vice chancellor.
Wednesday’s announcement of the new chancellor meant another step for the university in moving beyond the discord of 2015 when racial protests forced the departures of the previous UM System president and Columbia campus chancellor.
Mun Choi, president of the UM System since October, recognized the long road when introducing Cartwright.
“What an exciting day,” he said to an audience of officials, faculty, supporters and students. “You’ve been waiting 561 days and 12 hours.”
Cartwright traced his own long road to Mizzou — born in the Bahamas where math education stopped at the seventh grade, then raised in Iowa where his work while trying to accumulate higher education included factory work and a job cleaning hog confinement pens.
He earned a GED, attended community college, then went on to the University of Iowa to earn bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in electrical and computer engineering as a first-generation college graduate in his family.
When he rose to leadership at SUNY, he was overseeing more students that there were people living in all of the Bahamas.
“I’m a Midwest boy at heart,” he said. “It’s great to be back.”
The work ahead is daunting — not just rebuilding the comfort and confidence of all students in the university, but coping with financial strain that compelled system curators this week to raise tuition.
Cartwright took on roles at SUNY that may help him repair the racial divisions that rocked the UM campus in 2015, said SUNY Faculty Senate President Peter L.K. Knuepfer.
Cartwright led the development of a systemwide policy on diversity, equity and inclusion, Knuepfer told The Star in an email. He praised Cartwright for several initiatives that united students and faculty.
“I am confident that he will be able to address the challenges that (UM) faces,” Knuepfer wrote, “and that the breadth of his experience and perspectives will lead to better and better things for the campus.”
In his remarks Wednesday, Choi said the university’s search team had identified a leader who is not looking for “a stepping stone,” but is ready for short-term and long-term challenges.
Cartwright, Choi said, comes with “a compelling vision for collaborative, shared governance” built on his experience at SUNY fostering student success, innovative research and expanding opportunities for innovative, affordable education.
“I’m so confident we have the right leader,” Choi said, “to lead this university.”