WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Zora Mulligan, the commissioner of higher education at the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE), will give the keynote address at Missouri State University-West Plains’ 2018 commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 19, in the West Plains Civic Center arena.
“We are pleased to have Ms. Mulligan, a former resident of our community, speak to our graduates this year,” Missouri State-West Plains Chancellor Drew Bennett said. “Ms. Mulligan has extensive experience in the higher education community.
“Through her positions with MDHE and the Missouri Community College Association (MCCA), she has made it her life’s mission to make education affordable and accessible to the residents of this state, including our students,” Bennett added. “We know she will offer some sage advice and encouragement for our graduates.”
A CHAMPION OF HIGHER EDUCATION
Mulligan was appointed commissioner of higher education by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education in August 2016, according to her biography on the MDHE website.
As commissioner, she oversees the work of MDHE to strengthen the state’s higher education system, expand college access for students, and increase the percentage of Missourians who earn a degree or professional certificate.
In 2017, she completed a statewide review of Missouri’s public higher education institutions, working with a task force of college presidents and chancellors to improve efficiency and effectiveness to ensure high quality, affordable academic programs.
She also led the implementation of a new performance funding model that includes more rigorous accountability measures for Missouri’s public colleges and universities.
Mulligan previously served as assistant commissioner, general counsel and legislative liaison for MDHE from 2007 to 2010. During that time, she participated in the development of the state’s coordinated plan for higher education; assisted with creating policies to implement landmark higher education legislation, including a new need-based financial aid program; and conducted a review of the state’s public college and university facilities to develop a process for prioritizing capital projects.
WORKED FOR MISSOURI’S COMMUNITY COLLEGES
From 2010 to 2014, Mulligan served as the executive director of the Missouri Community College Association (MCAA), which works with the leaders of the state’s 12 community colleges to develop consensus on shared issues and provides professional development opportunities for community college employees at all levels.
Mulligan secured $50 million in federal grants for job-training programs, successfully lobbied for a special appropriation from the state general assembly to provide community colleges with more equitable funding, and increased individual and organizational membership in the association.
From 2014 to 2016, Mulligan served as the chief of staff for the University of Missouri System. In that role, she advised the president, coordinated activities involving multiple departments within the four-campus system, and assisted with the implementation of the university’s strategic plan.
A graduate of West Plains High School, Mulligan holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and psychology from Drury College and a master’s degree in education and juris doctor from the University of Kansas.
For more information about commencement activities, contact the Missouri State-West Plains academic affairs office, 417-255-7272. For more information about Missouri State-West Plains, visit https://wp.missouristate.edu/.