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Lawmakers praise UM System President Choi for taking interim chancellor position at Mizzou

  

University of Missouri (UM) System President Mun Choi has been appointed interim chancellor for the University of Missouri-Columbia. 

Choi will serve both roles for the time being without a salary change, the UM System said in a news release Thursday. The board is also not actively looking for a new chancellor for the university but will evaluate “in the coming months,” according to the release. 

Former Chancellor Alexander Cartwright left to take the helm at the University of Central Florida. 

UM System President Mun Choi

“We are taking this action to maintain critical leadership at Mizzou, and its continued excellence among the nation’s leading research institutions,” Julia Brncic, chair of the Board of Curators, said in a statement. “During this time of unprecedented challenges, it is important that our continuity of proven leadership is enabled for swift and efficient actions that benefit our students, faculty, staff, and communities.” 

Several state lawmakers praised the UM System and Choi for taking on the role, especially given the unpredictability the coronavirus pandemic has unleashed. The UM System suspended in-person classes on March 14.  

“In these times of uncertainty, everybody is tightening their belts and doing what they can with all the stuff going on with coronavirus,” Sen. Paul Wieland told The Missouri Times. “It’s a good decision on behalf of the president.” 

Sen. Justin Brown, whose son attends the University of Missouri, echoed those sentiments. 

“It shows good faith from the university that they’re trying to watch their money right now,” Brown said, noting Choi is “very capable” of taking the helm of the university. “As a parent with a student there now, it makes me feel good. It says a lot for him to step up and do both roles right now as we see what’s going to happen [with COVID-19].” 

“President Choi has been a steady leader at the University of Missouri,” Sen. Bill Eigel said. “I would welcome an opportunity for him to take on a larger responsibility for the direction of Missouri’s flagship public university.”

Choi has served as the UM System president, overseeing the four universities, since March 2017. He’s the former department chair of mechanical engineering and mechanics at Drexel University and executive vice president at the University of Connecticut. 

“I am committed to ensuring continuity of leadership at Mizzou at a time when partnership and collaboration among all four of our universities is more essential than ever — not only for our institutions, but also for our state,” Choi said in a statement. “I am proud to have been part of our world-class Mizzou community. The faculty, staff, supporters, alumni, and students of the University of Missouri-Columbia are the lifeblood of this university, and I will do all I can to support them and help us work together to not only get through this challenge, but continue our vital mission for the future.” 

More than 500 Missourians have tested positive for coronavirus this month alone. The 20-29 age range has the second-highest amount of positive coronavirus tests in the state.