UCM president says he has 'coolest job on the planet'

December 28, 2010

WARRENSBURG — Creating well-rounded students who are prepared to enter the highly competitive work force is the goal of Charles Ambrose, president of the University of Central Missouri.

Ambrose, whose duties as UCM president began in August, succeeds Aaron Podolefsky, whose contract concluded last summer.

Before accepting the leadership position at UCM, Ambrose was president of Pfeiffer University, a private institution in North Carolina, for 12 years.

He said the transition from private to public college has “been great.”

“I have quite a bit of experience with public colleges,” he said. “This is like going back to the future professionally. I feel at home.”

Before leading Pfeiffer, Ambrose was vice president for advancement at Carson-Newman College in Tennessee and was the assistant to the chancellor for university advancement at Western Carolina University.  

Ambrose said he chose a career in higher education because he was positively influenced by a former college president.

“I thought it would be the coolest job on the planet,” he said.

And Ambrose is hoping his passion for the position will influence other students to follow in his footsteps.  

“The experience is so meaningful,” he said.

Ambrose moved to Warrensburg with his wife and two children, and he said the relocation has been a good experience.

“My daughter attends Warrensburg High School and it is an inviting school to move into,” he said. “The university here is a community filled with great people.”

Ambrose said he believes UCM is a good fit for him because the university’s mission of transforming students into lifelong learners suits his personality.

“There’s not a whole lot of difference,” he said.

While Pfeiffer president, Ambrose was credited with designing and implementing “The Pfeiffer Initiative,” which emphasized service and leadership. And he hopes to drive the service-learning concept home to UCM students as well.

“Our response at UCM is to take students’ sense of knowledge and have them put it into action through civil engagement and volunteerism,” he said.

One of the ways Ambrose is implementing service learning is by partnering with the Independence Chamber of Commerce. University officials recently announced the university will move into space in the chamber’s office at no cost after the first of the year. The partnership is expected to bring a wider range of services for local businesses.

“It makes us a hometown entity,” Ambrose said.

UCM will offer a variety of services at the chamber including help on paperwork. Ambrose said UCM is benefiting from the program because it gives the college immediate feedback from businesses about their needs, allowing the university to tailor its curriculum accordingly.

“This puts us close to what business and industry needs,” Ambrose said.

While Ambrose has only been UCM president for one semester, he has been proactive in helping the university balance its budget amid state allocation cuts.  

UCM recently announced a reorganization that is expected to cut operating costs in 2012 by an estimated $612,000.

Under the revised structure, which will take effect in July, the university will move from a five-college system with 33 academic departments to four colleges with 25 departments.

Ambrose said the reorganization will help UCM “elevate their focus and sharpen their edge.”

As the new year and another semester draw near, Ambrose said he is focused on strategic leadership and governance and providing a positive academic environment for UCM students.

“I am envisioning the incredible potential of the future,” Ambrose said.