From Dr. Benson: Joining together to create an innovative path for student success

// Posted By Janice Phelan

By Dr. Dave Benson

Lee’s Summit R-7 Interim Superintendentdave-benson-3-1

The progressive collaboration involving Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, the University of Central Missouri (UCM) and Metropolitan Community College (MCC) is noteworthy example of what can happen when we work together on behalf of students.

With the assistance of business partners, our three educational organizations have joined forces to create an innovative path for student success. Since opening in 2012, the Missouri Innovation Campus has literally reshaped the way students experience education, reduced student higher-education debt and accelerated the time needed to earn a college degree. Thanks to the businesses involved in the Missouri Innovation Campus, students also participate in long-term internships, earning highly sought-after skills for high-paying careers.

The unique partnership allows students to earn an associate degree from the community college just after high-school graduation and a bachelor’s degree two years later. Through an innovative financial structure, students not only graduate from college two years earlier than their peers, they have little or no student debt.

Recognized both regionally and nationally as a model for other education institutions, the Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC) is continuing to grow in student numbers and available programs. In its first year, the MIC included 11 students participating in the systems engineering program. Currently the program includes 80 students within four cohorts involved in systems engineering, drafting and design, software development and cyber security. We expect the MIC to continue to grow and are especially excited about opening our new facility in summer 2017. The new school facility is a mutually beneficial partnership between Lee’s Summit R-7 and UCM, designed to improve our learning environment, share resources and save money.

We recently reached out to a few of our partners and asked them to share their thoughts on this groundbreaking partnership.

“We’re very proud of the exceptional relationship between UCM, the Lee’s Summit School District, MCC and numerous business partners that has made the Missouri Innovation Campus possible,” said Dr. Chuck Ambrose, UCM president. “As public institutions that serve students, we owe much gratitude to our governance boards for providing leadership that allowed us to move forward. Our governance leaders were not only visionary, but they demonstrated tremendous faith in our faculty, staff and administrators to enable us to take this program from an idea stage to implementation in a short timeframe to meet both student and business needs.”

“The Missouri Innovation Campus is an innovative program that has produced demonstrated results – graduates who are ready for the workforce,” said Dr. Kirk Nooks, president of Metropolitan Community College-Longview. “It is just the icing on the cake when you get to look a student in the eye and congratulate him or her on graduating with a high school diploma and associate degree within the same week.”

Dr. Sharon Nibbelink is superintendent of the Center School District, one of 14 school districts sending students to the Missouri Innovation Campus. “Being part of the Missouri Innovation Campus provides our students with enhanced opportunities to be immersed in the real world of experience,” she said. “We have to give our kids opportunities to work on projects with businesses and teams that are solving problems. Our students benefit from this partnership because we’re providing collaborative opportunities preparing them for life after high school.”

Business partners have been essential in the success of the program. Andy Cole, university relations program leader of DST, one of the businesses involved, said, “As one of three original corporate partners, DST Systems continues to see great value in our partnership with Summit Technology Academy and the Missouri Innovation Campus. The curriculum continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of our workforce. Our MIC interns are being taught the skills needed in the classroom that allow them to come to work ready to add value and to help solve real business problems each and everyday.  This program is helping to contribute to the long-term health of the Kansas City Tech Community!”

For more information, check out the open house opportunities on Jan. 12 and Feb. 1 at

Through the work of this progressive collaboration, the Missouri Innovation Campus has become a nationally recognized leader in connecting students to an affordable, meaningful education while providing businesses with a skilled, career-ready workforce. We are proud of our students and staff members and thankful for the individuals and organizations contributing to this success story.

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