As a mother of five and a COMO geek, the topic of education is core to nearly everything I do. Our job here at the magazine is to educate the community about what great things are available and what amazing people to meet. My job as a mother is to make sure that my children are exposed to a quality education even if it looks different for each of them. My role as a leader in this community is to promote and protect our culture that is largely influenced by the behemoth industry of education, being home to the University of Missouri’s flagship campus as well as Columbia College, Stephens College, MACC, and satellite campuses for Central Methodist University and William Woods University. The city’s No. 1 (University of Missouri) and No. 3 (Columbia Public Schools) largest employers are both in education. Many of the leaders of these organizations are bright, engaging visionary leaders whom I admire greatly.
I’ll never forget the time I was sitting on a bus next to Marshall Stewart, vice chancellor for extension and engagement at the University of Missouri and the chief engagement officer for the University of Missouri System, during a Leadership Visit with the Chamber of Commerce. (Leadership Visit is a trip taken to another city to learn about how they address issues that Columbia is also facing and is composed of 70ish civic and business leaders. I’ve been to six of them, and I’ll never miss one in the future!) We talked about how we have the best minds at MU and wondered how we could put all the right people in engineering, finance, social services, and business together to solve our public transportation issue. Additionally and for the first time, I really gained an understanding of what the MU Extension program provides to our state and insight into the man that leads that charge. Marshall Stewart is an engaging man who sees possibility and connections wherever he looks.
Then there’s Dr. Jeff Lashley, president of Moberly Area Community College. Jeff, along with Peter Stiepleman as the former superintendent of Columbia Public Schools, created a partnership after witnessing a similar program on a Leadership Visit for all CPS students to have access to the ability to do a dual credit program and graduate with an associate degree. Additionally, he is personally engaged with many CEOs of local companies regularly determining what the needs of our city are as it relates to preparing our workforce and then directly implements programs at MACC to address those needs. Jeff is currently chairing the Chamber of Commerce’s task force on workforce development and is committed to ensuring that MACC provides a solution and a supply of students to the workforce that is so desperately needed.
Lastly, I want to publicly thank Peter Stiepleman for all he did for the community during the time he served here. Many will never truly know of all the amazing work he did as our CPS superintendent. Deep feelings over COVID-19 restrictions during the last year and a half clouded the very much pre-planned retirement of an amazing man who loves kids and the chances given to them through a solid public education. I know his heart, I have known his battles, and he is a man I’m proud to call a dear friend and mentor.
Columbia, we are blessed with opportunities. I hope you enjoy reading of many that are available to you in the following pages. As usual, I invite you to connect with me if you have feedback about the issue or know of a story that should be told.
All my best,
Erica Pefferman, Publisher