A top administrator from the University of Connecticut has been selected to lead the University of Missouri system, according to multiple sources.
Mun Y. Choi, the provost at the University of Connecticut, will be named as the new president at a ceremony Wednesday morning.
His hiring will be a key step toward filling a yearlong leadership void at the four-campus system. The university system and its flagship Columbia campus have been led by interim administrators since campus protests tied to the issue of race rocked Mizzou last November.
The Missouri Board of Curators finalized the details of Choi’s hiring during the closed portion of their meeting Monday afternoon.
The announcement is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City.
Choi would replace Timothy M. Wolfe, who resigned amid the protests. Former Mizzou Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton has been serving as interim president.
A search committee had previously set a goal of choosing a replacement by the end of this year.
One of Choi’s first big tasks as president will be to hire the next chancellor at the flagship campus, Mizzou. The president names the chancellor, and the curators approve the hire.
Hank Foley has served as the interim Mizzou chancellor since R. Bowen Loftin stepped down the same day as Wolfe last November. The administrators left their posts amid a slew of student protests and a hunger strike, triggered by racist incidents on and near campus.
The turmoil led to a series of decisions by university leaders to focus attention and money to hire diversity and inclusion leaders and increase the number of minority doctoral students and professors at Mizzou, in particular.
According to a University of Connecticut website, Choi has been the school’s provost since 2012. Before that he was the dean of the engineering school and a professor of mechanical engineering.
He earned his doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton.
Choi is also the first academic to fill the role of system president in almost a decade. Wolfe came to the role from a software company. He replaced Gary Forsee, who was the chief executive officer of Sprint.
The last president to come from an academic background was Elson Floyd, who left the system in 2007 to lead Washington State University. Floyd died last year.
An academic background was important to faculty from at least one of the University of Missouri system schools.
“When folks from the system came to Faculty Council and asked what we were looking for in a president, one of the main things we said is a deep knowledge and understanding of academia,” Mizzou Faculty Council president Ben Trachtenberg said.
He called Choi “a real academic,” adding that he’s excited to meet him.
Typically, the next step up from a university provost is to lead a single campus. Trachtenberg said the larger jump to a multicampus system isn’t an issue to him.
“It’s all about the person,” he said. “I think qualifications of a person are more important than” typical next steps.
A colleague at the University of Connecticut lamented the announcement, calling Choi’s departure a loss for the East Coast school.
“He believes in making decisions based on evidence — he’s very much data-oriented,” said Rajeev Bansal, professor and electrical engineering department chair, who has worked with Choi for years.
“He’s an engineer, and for an engineer he’s a very good people person,” Bansal said. “In a large room, he would know all of the people who are there and remembers details about them. In a leadership position such as a president where he has a large constituency, he will do very well.”
The University of Connecticut enrolls 30,000 students, with a main campus and four regional campuses. The University of Missouri system has four campuses with a total enrollment of about 76,000 students.
University of Missouri system spokesman John Fougere declined to comment on the presidential search effort, citing the ongoing effort to keep names secret to protect candidates from backlash at their current jobs.
Fougere did comment on the unexpected decision to make the announcement in the state’s capital, saying it speaks to the university’s larger land-grant mission to serve the entire state.
“What better way to reinforce that statewide message, on the occasion of the announcement of the new UM system president and start of a new era for the university, than in our state’s capital city?” he said.