Fresh Faces: Choi’s background in higher education led him to U.M. System presidency

The 24th president of the UM System has a background in education that provides a stable foundation for his position.

Maneater File Photo

Mun Choi, the 24th president of the UM System, began his term March 1 as the first permanent president of the UM System in nearly a year and a half. The presidency had been filled by interim leader Mike Middleton since former President Tim Wolfe resigned in fall 2015.

His diverse background in higher education will inform his role as a new face on campus in the coming semesters.

“The voices of faculty, students, staff — the true heart and soul of the institution — matter greatly to me,” Choi told the Associated Press when he was appointed last November. “I will be meeting but, more importantly, listening to their perspective, their history and the programs that mean a great deal to them.”

Choi’s primary academic history is in general engineering. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. And since then, his specialization has been in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Before coming to MU, he spent five years as the provost and executive vice president of the University of Connecticut. From 2008 to 2012, he served as the dean of engineering there, and he also taught mechanical engineering.

While Choi has only been president of the UM System for roughly two months, he has already ended the incentive bonus program for administrators that was criticized in a state audit. The audit found that over $2 million was paid out in executive compensation to top UM System administrators, including over $1 million in incentive payments, “excessive” vehicle reimbursements, and unreasonably high salaries to resigned administrators.

In the fifth episode of the “First Five Fridays” vlog series on the UM System’s website, Choi said that “providing resources from external sources to support the activities in the university” will be a focal point in his presidency.

Choi began his term after Gov. Eric Greitens’ budget cuts left the system in a state of financial uncertainty.

“We cannot go through this process of having significant budget cuts and decreasing enrollment without having to make the tough decisions,” Choi said at a press conference after beginning his presidency.

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