COLUMBIA — Mizzou Advantage, a program meant to make MU more competitive in higher education, will get a boost this month when its first visiting professional arrives.
Glen Nowak, senior adviser to the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accepted a part-time, one-year appointment as the inaugural Mizzou Advantage Distinguished Professional.
His appointment began Jan. 1, and his first stint on campus will be Feb. 27-March 2.
At the CDC, Nowak leads efforts in science communication, health communication, risk communication, news media, social marketing and public engagement. He has worked on risk management strategies for areas including vaccine safety and food-borne illness risks.
Before working as senior adviser, Nowak was chief of media relations at the CDC and an associate professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Georgia. There, he shared an office with Glen Cameron, who holds the Maxine Wilson Gregory Chair in Journalism Research at MU.
"He's on a first-name basis with health and science journalists all over the country," Cameron said of Nowak. "It's amazing to see the top journalists in the contact list on his cellphone."
As a visiting professional, Nowak will work on communication strategies regarding science, health, environmental issues and risk management. He will work with campus groups on crisis and risk communications to use in an emergency. In addition, he will give lectures and hold workshops on these topics.
Nowak will work on one of four Mizzou Advantage initiatives: "Media of the Future," which draws on the School of Journalism's leadership in media research and hands-on training and creates new ways to communicate.
"I'll have a chance to learn from some of the best faculty and students in the country," he said.
Once on campus, Nowak will map out a plan for his year with Mizzou Advantage.
"Visibility and impact on funded research are the two things he can really bring," Cameron said.
Mizzou Advantage, a long-term strategic plan to raise the stature and impact of MU, is the brainchild of Provost Brian Foster, said Meg Phillips, director of Mizzou Advantage. She said that starting in 2007, faculty, staff, students and alumni worked to identify some of MU's areas of strength over the course of three years.
The program rolled out in 2010 with five initiatives to capitalize on those strengths.
In addition to Media of the Future, the initiatives are: "Sustainable Energy"; "Food for the Future"; and the convergence of human and animal health, called "One Health, One Medicine."
An announcement from the the provost on Thursday said the fifth initiative, "Managing Innovation," is common to the other initiatives and, rather than standing on its own, will now be emphasized in the context of the other topics.
Nowak said one reason he is looking forward to his work on Mizzou Advantage is its focus on faculty, researchers and students working together across disciplines.
"Projects work better when people from different areas of expertise work together to achieve a common goal," he said. "The project is stronger as a result."
As the first visiting professional, Nowak is helping to achieve one of Mizzou Advantage's goals of utilizing professionals from a variety of backgrounds to create an interdisciplinary learning environment.
"Nowak is a huge figure in public health," said Charles Davis, facilitator for the Media of the Future initiative of Mizzou Advantage.
"I can’t imagine how much stuff is going to spin out of it," Davis said. "We couldn’t bring in a better professional to help us achieve the Mizzou Advantage goals."