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State takes next steps as Mulligan prepares exit for MSU job

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After Missouri State University's announcement Tuesday that Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development Commissioner Zora Mulligan would join the school administration, the state is taking next steps to prepare for her departure.

Mulligan is scheduled to conclude her work for the department July 1 after nearly six years at the helm, according to a news release.

The Coordinating Board for Higher Education yesterday voted to name Deputy Commissioner Leroy Wade as interim commissioner upon Mulligan's exit. Additionally, the board plans to launch a formal search for a permanent successor.

"I extend my congratulations as Commissioner Mulligan takes this next step in her career, and welcome the opportunity to work more closely with Deputy Commissioner Leroy Wade as we continue to work toward increasing educational attainment and workforce participation throughout the state," said Gwendolyn Grant, board chair, in the release.

Mulligan is slated to start July 5 in the new MSU position of executive vice president. Officials say it’s the No. 2 administrative position to President Clif Smart. Mulligan had been in the running for the provost role at MSU, but staff concerns over her lack of experience as a professor prompted the change. An interim provost is expected to be named before Frank Einhellig retires this summer, according to past reporting.

At the state, Mulligan is the longest serving Higher Education commissioner in the past 20 years, according to the release. Among her accomplishments, she led a transition to create the Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development in 2019, a move that involved absorbing two offices housed within the Department of Economic Development. She also co-led an initiative to build a statewide coalition to develop and advocate for workforce programs, such as the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant, a full-tuition scholarship for adults.

“Commissioner Zora Mulligan has been a true asset to Missouri. As a leader, she has done incredible work for higher education as well as workforce development," Gov. Mike Parson said in astatement. "Although we will miss her, we wish her the best at Missouri State University in her new leadership role and thank her for her dedicated service to all Missourians.”

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