In speaking with faculty applicants considered for recruitment via MizzouForward, a few things stand out. First, in almost all cases, candidates are eager to come to Mizzou because a colleague here is well known in the field and the unit that is recruiting has a strong national reputation. Second, all candidates are committed to excellence in research (i.e. reproductive health, maternal and child health, the study of stroke using animal models, the use of electron microscopy to better understand cells, and disease) and to creating inclusive learning environments through their areas of inquiry (i.e. the use of IT to understand violations to human rights and the creation of policy to address these violations, the use of 3D models to track ancestral heritage in order to protect cultural property rights of indigenous people, the use of game theory and network science to study aspects of social identity that relate to marginalized groups) or the composition of their labs and their mentoring of first-generation students. Many of these candidates also address the social and mental health challenges of emotional, interpersonal and health-related issues, including substance abuse, that can be resolved via clinical interventions, the creation of the right regulatory policies to help deliver solutions, and the role of schools, families and school mental health services.
Candidates almost always share that having colleges of agriculture, medicine, engineering, veterinary medicine, nursing, and health sciences, on the same campus with hospitals and clinics, a research reactor, and schools of education and human development, law, business, and journalism is unusual and exciting. COVID certainly taught us the need to see each other and be seen. The fact that Mizzou’s human and physical assets are all located in one campus is an asset that we should not take for granted. They are attracted by who we are, what we do, and what our goals for the future are.
While MizzouForward is an investment, it is really the creation of Mizzou’s flywheel. According to Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Turning the Flywheel:
Picture a huge, heavy flywheel….Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward, moving almost imperceptibly at first. You keep pushing and, after two or three hours of persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn.
You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns … four … five … six … the flywheel builds up speed … seven … eight … you keep pushing … nine … ten … it builds momentum … eleven … twelve … moving faster with each turn … twenty … thirty … fifty … a hundred.
Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh! … its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand.
The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum. Now suppose someone came along and asked, “What was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?” You wouldn’t be able to answer; it’s just a nonsensical question. Was it the first push? The second? The fifth? The hundredth? No! It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction. Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave—no matter how large—reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effect upon the flywheel.
MizzouForward may just be the first turn of Mizzou’s flywheel. Everything we do as faculty, staff, students, and alumni feeds the momentum that can propel the flywheel. Years from now the first turn is forgotten, and what matters is the distance travelled and the excellence achieved.
Latha Ramchand, PhD
Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs