Home » News » News Item

November 09, 2021

Commissioner Mulligan recognized nationally among higher education leaders

Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development’s Commissioner of Higher Education, Zora Mulligan has been named recipient of the 2021 Exceptional Leader Award. The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) made the announcement yesterday in conjunction with its national policy conference in Washington, D.C.

The Exceptional Leader award is presented to a current state higher education executive officer who has shown exceptional leadership, a commitment to higher education, a contribution to the greater good, and service to the SHEEO Association within the last year.

Mulligan became commissioner of higher education in August 2016, serving on SHEEO’s Executive Committee since 2020. She was nominated as an exceptional leader, in part, because she is always looking for ways to improve policies and outcomes. She is often heard saying, “education changes lives,” and meaning it. She is passionate about the work of her staff and prides herself on offering hope for a better tomorrow to the citizens her team serves.

“Zora is a dedicated and passionate leader who is committed to bringing lasting opportunities to Missourians all across the state. She always welcomes a challenge and is at the forefront of aligning our workforce development and education priorities to better serve all Missourians. Zora is a tireless advocate for higher education in Missouri, and we are fortunate to have her in this state,” said Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. 

During her time as commissioner, Mulligan has led efforts to restructure and transform state government to bring the agencies responsible for postsecondary education, workforce development, and economic research together under one department. This transformation was in response to efforts, in 2018, when Mulligan co-led an initiative to build a statewide coalition that developed and advocated for a comprehensive suite of proposals addressing workforce needs. These initiatives included funding higher education institutions to develop or expand academic programs for high-demand occupations and the creation of a full-tuition grant program for adults.

Mulligan and the department have partnered with colleges and universities around the state to address equity gaps in higher education, substantially improving transfer for Missouri students, increasing graduation rates through alternatives to remedial coursework, and implementing new rules that give public colleges and universities greater ability to meet statewide and regional workforce needs.

“We are privileged to have seen first-hand Zora’s efforts and success in our state. She is a dynamic leader who is esteemed throughout Missouri, and highly respected by her staff, peers and state officials,” said Joe Cornelison, Chair of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. “We are proud of Zora and look forward to working with her in continuing the effort at moving the state toward achieving its strategic goals.”

About the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development: The department works to empower Missourians with the skills and education needed for success. More information about MDHEWD can be found at https://dhewd.mo.gov or on Facebook and Twitter @MoDHEWD.