Enhancing economic growth, strengthening secondary education and making health care more accessible are top priorities in the state, and the University of Missouri Extension wants to help reach these goals by focusing more on the mission of the University of Missouri.

Enhancing economic growth, strengthening secondary education and making health care more accessible are top priorities in the state, and the University of Missouri Extension wants to help reach these goals by focusing more on the mission of the University of Missouri. Dr. Marshall Stewart, vice chancellor for extension and engagement for the University of Missouri Extension was in Chillicothe Saturday, concluding a string of visits through western Missouri. He toured Chillicothe and met with several community members and University of Missouri Extension supporters. “We have to return to our mission, which is to take the core of the university – the research and innovation of the university – and drive it out to our network,” Stewart said. “We need to identify the needs and figure out how to align our resources better and make an impact.” In his position, Stewart oversees extension outreach programs and travels throughout the state looking for ways to better engage with Missourians through extension, whether it be in its work in k-12 education, the school of medicine, its work in agriculture, 4-H or any other area of interest. He stated that the University of Missouri was established in 1839 to serve the people as a public land grant university bringing into play research and extension as well as teaching aspects and emphasizing that universities are not just for the elite but for the common man and woman. “In today’s world, how do we take all the disciplines and ensure that the institution is accessible to all?,” he questioned. “What are the needs economically in the state, for education, health, and the environment?” Missourians want to see more economic growth. “We are looking at all the assets of the institution,” Stewart said. “How can we bring more support to the communities with the research and innovation that we have?” Enhancing secondary education is another focus for improvement. “People see a need in Missouri for better workforce preparation,” Stewart said. Programs such as the Litton Agri-Science Learning Center and Grand River Technical School’s Building Trades program which involves students building homes – are significant in helping prepare students for the workforce. “The Litton ag center... it’s phenomenal,” Stewart said. “Just imagine if we could replicate that – maybe not always with an ag theme, but something else in other parts of the state. These are examples we can share with other communities.” Stewart also noted that improvements should be made for health care accessibility. “There are health deserts,” he said. “We need to learn how to work better with tele-medicine, how to graduate more doctors who want to go to rural, under-served areas, and learn how to create better opportunities for nurses.” “We have a chance here to set a new standard of what it means to be a publicly-engaged university and do it in a way that is very intentional and meaningful in the lives of Missourians,” Stewart stated. Another significant challenge in Missouri is to make broadband internet available throughout the state. “There are broadband deserts not only in rural Missouri, but even in St. Louis County,” he said. He likened the campaign for bringing broadband internet to Missouri to the drive many years ago to bring electricity to rural communities. “This is like our modern day rural electrification,” he said. Missouri Extension, he noted, was integral in helping that movement get started through education. “We helped communities get engaged in that,” he said. “We worked with other agencies.” Stewart stated that the Extension is working with other agencies, entities to implement broadband. “If we can figure out how to do that in rural Missouri, we can bring great economic development, improved education and improved health care,” Stewart said. “This is a longterm project and it will take a longterm strategy to work it out.”