Radical Collaboration

Welcome to the Fall 2021 semester! We now have all our schools and the college in session, and it is a true joy to be here at Wake Forest with all of you.

From Wente's Desk logoAfter this truly challenging past year and a half, and with the new impacts of the COVID-19 Delta variant, I am especially thankful for the thoughtful commitment of our faculty, staff and students as we further launch the returns to in-person teaching and programming. It is extraordinary how we continue to adapt and support one another across this vibrant community. I am excited for what this semester will bring, and I hope you are looking forward to it with enthusiasm as well.

This is the first blog post of what will be a monthly post from me. It is my desire to use this platform to share thoughts and explore big ideas with all of you. My theme today is radical collaboration. I have recently used that phrase in different forums, and I want to take the time to delve more fully into what I mean when I say it.

I am a biologist who has spent years studying cells and their functions. In my research lab, we took a “normal cell approach,” where we asked questions and explored how a normal cell works and how its functions could be altered. Our goal was to accurately determine the underlying mechanisms of cell physiology and function so that we could more quickly understand impacts on human health.

In a cell, each organelle has a distinct structure and purpose, but they all must work in tandem so that the cell functions properly. Furthermore, single cells throughout the body must be linked together to make it possible for tissues, organs and the entire body to function well. Thus, collaboration is happening both within cells and among cells. Each part offers its expertise for the good of the entire cell and body. That’s an analogy for how I envision radical collaboration.

Radical collaboration in our Wake Forest community means building partnerships and working in concert in ways that inspire individuals to offer the best of themselves, encourage all to seek out the opinions of others and drive our community to develop solutions to the problems of the day.

Digging into this a bit deeper: first, radical collaboration inspires individuals to offer the best of themselves for the good of each other. If we have learned anything during the pandemic and time of social upheaval, it is that we must rely on one another — in our departments, on our campus and in our community — to achieve what needs to be done. We cannot work in isolation; we need one another. Radical collaboration happens when we work together, even — and especially — when there is no direct or evident benefit to ourselves.

Second, radical collaboration encourages us to seek out the opinions of others. A university is composed of experts who have spent time learning and expanding their knowledge. As a learning community, we encourage one another to seek out experts to fill the gaps in our own viewpoints and experiences. We need a rich and deep diversity of perspectives and skills to accomplish what is in front of us. Radical collaboration also asks us to think differently than we have before. It asks us to find new connections, push beyond typical partnerships and be willing to invite more into the conversation.

Third, radical collaboration drives communities to develop solutions to the problems facing society now and for the future. We recognize the complex and difficult challenges of today, which will require the work of many to examine and solve. This kind of partnership upholds the essence of Pro Humanitate. Wake Foresters are at our best when we are contributing and teaming up together in creative ways — valuing the insights and experience of those around us.

Ultimately, embracing this kind of radical collaboration within and among our community will take trust in one another. As a newcomer to campus, what has been very evident in my first several weeks is the devotion of everyone here to use their gifts and talents to help each other and Wake Forest thrive. We all approach our work with a similar mindset: We want what is best for our community. With that as our common foundation, I ask each one of us to take up this call to radical collaboration.

Strive to find new partnerships that enable you and others to reach your full potential; seek out the opinions of others who have an expertise that you do not possess; and help point toward solutions as we face the challenges of our day.

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