Vice Chancellor, University of Missouri for Extension and Engagement; Chief Engagement Officer, UM System
Through the University of Missouri Office of Extension and Engagement, I lead statewide extension, continuing education, and university-wide engagement efforts. I also am the chief engagement officer for the UM System, leading statewide outreach and engagement strategies with leaders at the four system universities and key constituent groups.
I have always worked in education, leadership, and serving with and helping others grow. I started my career as a high school agriculture teacher in North Carolina, worked for the National Future Farmers of America organization (FFA), then spent 20-plus years at North Carolina State University before coming to Missouri. At NC State, I served in several roles, including associate director of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and director of College Leadership and Strategy in the College of Agriculture and Life Science.
Born in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, and raised in Sampson, Pitt and Nash counties in rural eastern North Carolina.
Years lived in Columbia
Since August 2016.
Why you are passionate about your job
My role allows me to do my best to serve, lead, and grow the 6 million-plus people of Missouri through Mizzou’s land-grant mission. I am passionate about that mission. Because of the Land Grant Acts (1862, 1890, 1994), those beyond the affluent and well-connected had the opportunity to go to school. As a land-grant graduate, I’m a product of that idea. My paternal grandparents never had the opportunity to go to school. So that transformation of opportunity that occurred for my family — thanks to that mission — is something I think about every day.
Why you are passionate about your field
It’s exciting to be working in a land-grant university, and the other institutions within the UM System have the opportunity to empower others. When you think about a vision of serving, leading, and growing others, there are very few places where you can do it at the scale that a land-grant university does.
Quote you live by
If you weren’t doing this for a living, you would
When I was a little boy, my dream was to be the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. When I got to be about 11 or 12 years old, I realized that’s not going to happen. So I thought that becoming a professional bass fisherman might not be a bad thing. The truth is, if I wasn’t doing this job, I’d still be doing this type of work — serving, leading, and growing others. The title doesn’t define the work.
Favorite recent project
My favorite project has been my role as we reimagine the extension engagement in Missouri. [We work on] how to bring knowledge and education from the four UM System universities to empower people and improve lives.
What people should know about your profession
In my leadership role, I am a connection to what people across the state are thinking about the university and how it is serving them. Through our campus faculty and a statewide network of offices and specialists in 114 Missouri counties and the City of St. Louis, MU Extension delivers $1.2 billion in economic impact to Missouri’s economy.
A Columbia person you admire and why
Matt McCormick, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, is doing incredible work to bring people together from across the community and to think about the big picture of what’s good for Columbia and the region.
The next challenge facing your field
The speed of change and our ability to keep up is creating a disruption in higher education. The pandemic further accelerated changes toward online and e-learning. We have to figure out ways to keep up with these changing demands of how and where people learn, and always be mindful of our land-grant mission to serve. The need and value of our work won’t change, but how we deliver knowledge, resources, and research may look very different in the years ahead.
Your next professional goal
I will always continue to look for places where I can contribute to making this world a better place where every person is recognized as having value and something to contribute.
Biggest lesson learned in business
We’re all interims. There was somebody here before me. There will be somebody here after. Like the leadership author Spencer Johnson says, all we have is the gift of today. Our most important work is to be a good steward of today.
How you want to impact the Columbia community
We are working on further strengthening the relationship between the university and City of Columbia. We want to bring more Columbia natives into the campus community and visa versa. We want Columbia to feel this is their campus — whether it is walking through our botanical garden or coming to a program.
Favorite volunteer/community activity
I chaired the university’s United Way campaign for three years and continue on the committee. United Way is a great example of how we can accomplish great things together that we can’t do apart.
I have a tremendous belief and interest in people.
I tend to see endless possibilities and therefore may take on too much; however, I don’t see that changing.
What you do for fun
I enjoy fishing on the local ponds and lakes. My dad taught me, and it brings back such great memories and lessons.
I say there’s no such thing as “quality time.” There’s just time, and all time is quality — it’s a gift. That’s true of the time I spend with my wife, Jan, our son, John, and our extended family. Faith is a big piece of our lives, too.
Favorite place in Columbia
Accomplishment you are most proud of
My time at MU and the system helping to expand our extension and engagement impact across the state has been the most affirming, challenging, and exciting time in my life and career.
Most people don’t know that you
I play the guitar — mainly country and Southern gospel music. My mother was a pianist, my father was a minister, and my brother is an excellent singer. We grew up with music in church. And I mow my own grass; that’s called yard therapy.