Opening Remarks by Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter
January 12, 2017 UMMC
January 19, 2017 Oxford
I am really pleased to be here with you today as we launch this new effort. I am particularly gratified how quickly the Flagship Constellation Initiative is coming to fruition from when I first announced it during my investiture speech in November. Let me take a moment to thank Noel Wilkin and Josh Gladden who have helped jumpstart this effort.
I think it is fair to say that when you think about the definition of a constellation, it is related to a group of stars forming a recognizable pattern. Today, I want to encourage everyone to shift gears and think about constellations as configurations of ideas, brilliant clusters, and outstanding groups that are related in some way and have the ability to influence an outcome.
The configuration of ideas of our Flagship Constellations will address compelling challenges where no one discipline has all the answers and only collaboration and deep insights from multiple points of view will discover solutions. The outstanding groups of our Flagship Constellations will include faculty, staff, students, alumni, and other partners. Our brilliants clusters will focus on high-impact, multidisciplinary initiatives where we at the University of Mississippi can be leaders and attain national and international prominence.
Our new definition of constellations presents us with an enhanced opportunity to bring together people and ideas in fresh and unique ways that have the potential to result in endless achievements, added resources through grant funding, and scholarly visibility.
This past fall, on the Oxford campus, we had the honor of hosting Walter Isaacson, noted biographer and CEO of the Aspen Institute. He encouraged us to imagine what we can do when we intersect the arts and sciences, humanities and technology to reveal the nexus where true innovation flourishes. In his book, The Innovators, Isaacson summarizes that innovation occurs when ripe seeds fall on fertile ground; that in the annals of invention, great advances come when the time is right and the atmosphere is charged. I contend that our time is right and our atmosphere of innovation is certainly charged.
Intersecting our disciplines will take many forms. As an example, imagine what we can do if we focus on an interdisciplinary effort in data science and big data, which will inform and support discovery and decision making across the spectrum from health and medicine, to science and engineering, to the arts, humanities and social sciences. And this is just one example. Across our campuses, we have hundreds of combinations that can occur with our tremendous capabilities and areas of expertise.
I was really pleased to read a recent article about how our Medical Center outpaces other institutions in relative research productivity. I think this really confirms what most of us already knew —Mississippians make do. Or as our Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at UMMC, Dr. Richard Summers said, “We have a history of make-do, can-do strategies and being able to do more with less.” I see the Flagship Constellations as another avenue for us to facilitate doing more with the incredible talent we already have in place.
I recognize that bringing together a wide range of groups to address some of the most difficult and complex problems facing our nation and world is a lofty goal. But as a great public international research university and the state’s flagship university, we have a responsibility and an obligation to tackle the pressing issues of our time.
In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “We aim above the mark to hit the mark.” I say, let our purpose and aim be high. In fact, let’s shoot for the sky and see what we can hit — It’s still duck season in Mississippi so we might hit a few ducks along the way!
Thank you for being here today. I urge you to stay connected and be on the look-out for upcoming information sharing events. I am eager about what will result from this exciting, new initiative including the growth of our cross-disciplinary research and creative achievement. I look forward to seeing the leadership role and contributions all of you will have on the success of our Flagship Constellation Initiative.