What is it going to take for Columbia to be a thriving community?


During Leadership Visit, the topics we cover will explore many of the challenges that have to be addressed in our community. In contrast, others will highlight some significant opportunities ahead of us. The Chamber selected each session’s topic because of how critical they are to Columbia being a great place to live, learn, work, and play.

Matt Moore, Chair of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, emphasized that when thinking of solutions to remember we will come out of this current situation. He says, “Think of it in two ways, post-COVID, and then what was happening with pre-COVID issues and changes in our community that we needed to address.”

The Future of Higher Education – So Far, So Good

Higher education is an undeniably large part of Columbia. For our opening session at Stephens College, we invited Dr. Latha Ramchand, Provost, University of Missouri, Dr. Dianne Lynch, President, Stephens College, Dr. Jeff Lashley, President, Moberly Area Community College, and Dr. Piyusha Singh, Provost and Sr. Vice President for Academic Affairs, Columbia College, to share how their institutions have adapted to COVID-19 restrictions and their predictions for the emerging workforce and the consequences of COVID-19 on higher education. 

Dr. Lynch started by quoting Winston Churchill with the phrase, “never waste an emergency.” She explained that emergencies create urgency and movement in an environment where it may have been difficult before.

All institutions are worried about the mental health status of students, staff, and faculty, and have committed to making the students their focus.

Dr. Lashley said, “Our mantra is being solution-focused, not problem-focused.”

Student services departments have been vital to maintaining student morale and safety. However, there are still a lot of concerns about the future. 

“Faculty are concerned they will not see the same outcomes this semester,” said Dr. Singh. “They (Students) think that sitting in front of a screen is the same as watching Netflix.” 

Tomorrow’s Workforce

There are additional issues identified with shifting to virtuality. Dr. Lynch emphasized how the college experience has changed. Students must be reminded that it’s not easier, cheaper, or “just as good” going to virtual school at home. 

As our higher education institutions create the employees of tomorrow, Dr. Lynch raised an additional concern on the growing virtuality. She states that students see social experiences through the screen as the norm and will impact their experience in the workforce.

When speaking on colleges contributing to the business community, panelists suggested giving industries incentives by tapping into the student talent pool. The critical method mentioned was to be intentional and make students feel a part of the community, so they will want to stay and grow in Columbia.

Faculty, staff, and students of higher education will all be part of creating a diverse Columbia.