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MSU hires state's higher education commissioner

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Missouri State University hired a Show-Me State government executive as part of a restructuring effort.

Zora Mulligan, who has served since 2016 as commissioner of the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development, was named to the new position of executive vice president at MSU, according to a news release. Officials say it’s the No. 2 administrative position to President Clif Smart.

“We asked President Smart to develop a position that would be a clear second in command and hire someone who could run the university,” said Carol Silvey, chair of the MSU Board of Governors, in the release. “We also asked him to hire someone who would be a strong candidate for president when he retires. Zora’s reputation and accomplishments clearly demonstrate that she meets these requests.”

Mulligan had applied for MSU’s provost position, which opens when Frank Einhellig retires this summer. She was named among three finalists to succeed Einhellig.

"During the search process, faculty expressed concerns about hiring a candidate who has not worked as a professor to serve as provost," Smart said in the post. “I am confident that Zora would be an effective EVP/provost, regardless of the fact that her credentials and professional experiences differ from that of many of our faculty members.

"However, after discussing the concerns with Zora, the board and others, I determined it could prove difficult for her to lead effectively if faculty concerns lingered."

As executive vice president starting July 5, Mulligan is charged with overseeing several administrative areas and leading efforts to redesign MSU to meet modern education needs.

"This will involve innovative approaches that target employer and community partnerships, adult and online students, and traditional students and parents who are increasingly skeptical about the value of a college education," Smart said in a May 24 blog post. "I selected Zora because of her leadership abilities, creativity and broad experience in higher education."

Mulligan has experience working as chief of staff for the University of Missouri System and as executive director for the Missouri Community College Association.

With Mulligan's appointment, Smart said in the blog post he would name an interim provost by the time Einhellig retires at the end of June. The position is remaining a permanent job at MSU, said spokesperson Suzanne Shaw. It’s unclear if Meera Komarraju and Magesh Rajan, who were finalists for the provost job with Mulligan, are still under consideration.

Mulligan's contracted salary as MSU’s executive vice president is $240,000 per year, said Shaw, and she’ll receive a $2,000 monthly housing allowance in the first year.

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