When I was named the preferred candidate to become University of Mississippi chancellor, one of my first priorities was to visit the Medical Center to meet and get to know our gifted faculty and staff through a listening session at the Jackson campus.
Shortly after I officially accepted the chancellorship in December, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs, hosted me on an extensive tour of the Medical Center, where I received a “crash course” on the exceptional clinical and research facilities at the state’s only academic health sciences campus.
While I walked through the Guyton Research Center, the Conerly Hospital for Critical Care, the Children’s Cancer Clinic, the Adult and Pediatric Emergency Departments, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Mississippi MED-COM, and other locations, I was treated to an impressive display of how much this Medical Center means to the state of Mississippi and to the nation.
The University of Mississippi is one university, and the campuses in Oxford and in Jackson are each incredibly important components. We have the synergy and the opportunities to collaborate, grow, and expand, and we have a real competitive advantage if we can improve how faculty at both campuses work together. Faculty members achieve so much when they build upon each other’s connections, strengths, and insights, and it is my goal to facilitate vital links between the two campuses as we go forward.
The robust infrastructure and inspiring team in place at UMMC are a testament to those visionary leaders who understood that solving the state’s health issues would require a long-lasting commitment in resources and intellectual capital. I especially value strategic planning and understand how critical it is for universities to build academic excellence through collaboration and a shared vision with business, the community, alumni, and research leaders.
The burgeoning landscape at UMMC is impressive — from the new School of Medicine and Translational Research buildings rising on the north side of campus to the four thriving hospitals, six schools, and countless research endeavors, not to mention the expanded services in Lexington, Grenada, and throughout Mississippi via a nationally prominent telehealth program.
UMMC is an economic powerhouse, creating medical and scientific innovations on a regular basis. As a strong supporter of entrepreneurship and translational medicine, I want to contribute to a vibrant future for Mississippi. It is my charge to help advance the quality of life for all its citizens by supporting you in advancing the quality of the health care, research, and education we provide.
During this semester, I will be embarking upon a comprehensive listening and learning tour called the “Flagship Forum.” As a core value, I believe deeply in engaging the entire university community so that the best ideas come forward. Through numerous interactions, I will be visiting with faculty, staff, students, alumni, business leaders, public leaders, and friends — in Oxford, Jackson, and throughout Mississippi and beyond.
My overarching goals for the Flagship Forum are simple: I want to get to know you better, and through you, to get to know UMMC better. The priority of the first forums will be in the areas of academics and students. I look forward, with your help, to learning a great deal about UMMC in a short time. I am very interested in your perspectives on what makes us great and what makes us distinctive.
I am also very interested in beginning a dialogue about what would make us even greater. I want to hear your thoughts on what I can do as chancellor to help you advance and enhance the excellence that is so apparent throughout the Medical Center. I will be looking for opportunities to engage with you directly, in weekly visits to UMMC and in other venues, and I encourage you to do the same. And if you are a Twitter user, I hope you will follow me at @UMchancellor.
To kick-start the dialogue, I have identified the following issues after conversations with various stakeholders — including UMMC faculty and staff. I would be interested in your sense of relative priorities and what may be missing:
* Advancing and accelerating academic excellence by 1) continuing to increase the value of a UM education; 2) continuing our “student-first” mentality by inspiring and challenging our most prepared students and by providing an accessible and affordable education to all qualifying Mississippi students; and 3) capitalizing on our newly minted designation as an R1 highest research activity institution under the Carnegie classification system, which reinforces our flagship status and positions us to be an even stronger economic driver for our state and nation.
* Fostering a diverse environment by creating a multicultural and inclusive climate for students, faculty, and staff, with an eye to a global society.
* Serving Mississippi through sustained efforts to make our state a better place to live and be a visible leader in community engagement, innovation, and service.
* Engaging globally to extend our reach to become a great public international research university by tackling grand challenges, building international ties, and educating leaders to prosper in a global society.
* Collaborating and innovating by 1) promoting a spirit of teamwork and entrepreneurship and 2) adopting a clear strategic vision.
The Medical Center is a crucial part of higher education in the state of Mississippi. The leadership team at UMMC is very strong. As chancellor, I will work to advance the university, help bring in the necessary resources, and develop relationships with the state so we, as a university, can be as successful as possible.
I accepted this role as your chancellor with humility and with an urgent sense of purpose. Thank you for your support and thank you for what you do each day to transform lives and serve our community, state, and nation. I look forward to our ongoing conversations.
Jeffrey S. Vitter
Chancellor and Distinguished Professor