With final exams past and the campus slipping into the quiet calm of winter break, I have found myself reflecting on our just-completed Fall semester. A momentous semester, highlighted by a big increase in new student enrollment, exciting expansions of our online programs and academic degree offerings, a new initiative in character and leadership, and the addition of some iconic new campus landmarks.
And now as we head into the season of giving gifts, it was gratifying to see William Woods receive its own parting gift for 2022, thanks to the State of Missouri.
Last week, the administration of Missouri Governor Mike Parson, and specifically the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, officially awarded William Woods a grant in the amount of $258,273 to fund a new leadership and entrepreneurial initiative here at The Woods called Project CLEAR. To say were were thrilled to receive this support and vote of confidence from the highest levels of Missouri state government was an understatement – it is simply not every day that small private colleges receive about a quarter of a million dollars in funding from public entities like a state government.
Project CLEAR (Creating Leadership and Entrepreneurial Action and Response) is a unique new venture we are launching that is designed to cultivate leadership and entrepreneurial capacity to address the economic and workforce challenges of Missouri and beyond. A recent report from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce stated that only 44 percent of Missouri business owners were satisfied with the state’s availability of skilled workers, citing weaknesses in the state’s capacity to prepare, attract and retain workers. The report further pointed to the need for the state to improve the education system at all levels while integrating the skills needed by businesses into every curriculum.
Project CLEAR will address these current challenges in a number of ways, including through the establishment of a credit bearing Entrepreneurial Leadership and Change program, open to all students at WWU; the annual recruitment of at least 15 students from underrepresented backgrounds to attend William Woods on scholarship to participate in the CLEAR Scholars program, an individualized coaching program to assist students in developing innovations through entrepreneurship aimed at revitalization of their hometowns; the creation of a new Community Leadership and Entrepreneurship Certificate for community members who have entrepreneurial ideas but lack the focus, leadership or business acumen to launch them; experiential learning opportunities like executive in residence programs, perspective forums, think tanks, conferences, undergraduate research opportunities, community projects, internships, and large-scale events.
At WWU, we have always prided ourselves in being an industry leader in innovative workforce development, producing graduates who are ready to fill the jobs and needs of the 21st Century economy. Project CLEAR is the next big thing in that ongoing commitment, and it is thrilling to see the highest levels of Missouri State Government agree. Look for more from Project CLEAR in the coming year.
Happy Holidays, everyone!