Zora Mulligan, Commissioner of Higher Education

Photo of Ms. Zora Mulligan

Zora Mulligan has served as Missouri’s Commissioner of Higher Education since August 2016.  During her time as commissioner, Ms. Mulligan led efforts to restructure state government to bring the agencies responsible for postsecondary education, workforce development, and economic research together to form one new department, the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development.  This transformation was in response to efforts in 2018, when Ms. Mulligan and Missouri’s Director of Economic Development co-led Talent for Tomorrow, an initiative that built a statewide coalition of corporate executives, educators, community leaders, legislators, and members of the executive branch to develop and advocate for a comprehensive suite of proposals to address workforce needs.  Other initiatives resulting from Talent for Tomorrow included funding for public colleges and universities to develop or expand academic programs that lead to jobs in high-demand occupations, and the creation of a full-tuition grant program for adults, both of which were supported by Gov. Mike Parson, and adopted by the General Assembly in 2019.


Ms. Mulligan and her team have partnered with colleges and universities around the state to address equity gaps in higher education, substantially improve transfer for Missouri students, increase graduation rates by offering alternatives to remedial coursework, and implement new rules that give public colleges and universities greater ability to meet statewide and regional workforce needs. 


Ms. Mulligan is a native of West Plains, Missouri, and a graduate of Drury College and the University of Kansas.  She previously served as chief of staff to the University of Missouri System president, executive director of the Missouri Community College Association, and assistant attorney general.  She lives in Jefferson City with her daughter Anna Lea.