Inside Mizzou Podcast:
Anniversary, Ep. 1

Anniversaries are a special moment, particularly a first anniversary.

In August 2017, both Chancellor Alexander Cartwright and rising sophomore Jonathon Potochnic arrived on Mizzou’s campus to begin their Tiger journey. They traveled here from vastly different places — from Buffalo, NY and St. Joseph, MO — and for vastly different opportunities: the Chancellor as the leader of Mizzou, Jonathon as a freshman.

This week, the two of them are celebrating their first anniversary at Mizzou together. They’re sitting down to discuss their first year here, their favorite experiences on campus and in Columbia and what the future looks like for the university.

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Moderator: [00:00:12] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics, the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year every year.

Moderator: [00:00:21] This is Inside Mizzou — a new podcast where Chancellor Alexander Cartwright sits down with students, faculty, staff and alumni to explore the real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community. Today’s episode is called “Anniversary.” This month, Chancellor Cartwright is officially celebrating his one-year anniversary at Mizzou. Joining him in the studio today is Mizzou rising sophomore Jon Potochnic, a double major in history and film who is also celebrating his one-year anniversary.

Moderator: [00:00:56] Thank you both for being here, and congratulations on the achievement. I want to start by asking you both what you learned about Mizzou over your first year that makes it such a special place. Jon, let’s start with you.

Jon Potochnic: [00:01:08] For me, my favorite part of Mizzou and something I anticipated enjoying but not, I guess, to the regard that I did was the teachers that I was able to engage with — both the professors and the TAs. I was excited to engage and learn alongside them, but I was surprised to build a lot of close relationships than I anticipated. And that really made that jump from high school to college a lot easier and a lot more smooth, and that’s with both my majors and a lot of other areas that I was less, I guess, interested in in high school than my focus areas. That, I guess, is really what’s surprising and made it easier. And a lot of those relationships I hold today. Whether it be with History and the Kinder Institute or some people I’ve met in film production, it’s really been a great experience so far. Really for me the educators have been my biggest take away from what I’ve learned, and one thing I would share with people looking at Mizzou.

Moderator: [00:02:08] Chancellor Cartwright, how about you?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:02:09] Right. Jon, that was terrific. If I was to say one thing, I’d talk about the community, I’d talk about how everybody is connected — our faculty, our students, our staff — and how they actually all of then interact with the community around us — the local community. So, that collective body of everybody that’s engaged with the university and how much they really do care about this great institution — that’s what I think makes it special. We can also, of course, talk about the the great campus itself and how beautiful it is. But I think it’s the people that really make it special.

Jon Potochnic: [00:02:42] Yeah, I would completely agree, and I guess my point would just kind of, you know, take what you said and just expand on that quite a bit — zoom in on the teachers and whatnot.

Moderator: [00:02:53] So, both of you mentioned the people that got you to this point. How have you grown as a leader, as a student over your first year, and how did those people influence you?

Jon Potochnic: [00:03:03] Well, I guess if I were to discuss who stood out to me I’d like to introduce them. First of all would be my girlfriend who brought me here. She’s helped me along the way being an independent student coming out of a bad home life and stuff. She’d been alongside me the whole way. But I guess with teachers, a TA Ms. Sarah Lirely McCune. She’s History and Women’s and Gender Studies, and I’ve got to learn quite a bit from her. And to this day I hold many conversations with her, and I look forward to meeting with her again when I get back to Mizzou. I know she’s teaching at another school in Columbia right now as she’s graduating from grad school and stuff. And at the time she was my TA, but I learned quite a bit from her, and she helped me get into history. I initially was only a film major, and she helped get me into that and eventually study abroad as well. So I think that helped quite a bit. I’m also in the Kinder Institute. Jay Sexton and Christa Dierksheide are also two people that not only helped me along the way and were more understanding or were able to work with me but also helped foster my interest in history into something bigger than I expected going into Mizzou.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:04:16] You know, if you think about being chancellor, I mean the biggest component of that is just understanding how you communicate, how do you talk to people, how do you get your message across. And I would say that we’re making progress in that, and I’m starting to learn more and more that you can’t communicate enough. You need more and more communication out there. And I think balancing all of the time commitments that you have as chancellor — where should you be, what should be most important, and how do you help move the institution forward. I’m a big proponent for any time that you’re a leader — leaders are not about themselves but rather about the institution that they’re leading. And that, I think, is what’s really critical is to understand that everything that I’m doing is for the institution. And so how do I prioritize what’s best for this institution — not necessarily what’s best for me individually.

Moderator: [00:05:11] And you mentioned something about moving forward, so the university moving forward. How have you seen the university evolve within this first year that you’ve been here?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:05:21] When I came here last August, I saw an institution that was a great institution that I think wanted to be optimistic for the future, to see that we could move forward. The challenges that we had with our budget, the things that were happening with some of our enrollment were challenges that I think made people have concern for where we were headed. And I think what you’re seeing now is a transformation of the institution, where this coming fall we’ll have 4,700 students coming in. That’s a big increase over last year. The financial situation, you know we’ve been thinking about that as a two to three-year challenge, and we see that going away in the next couple of years. And I think people are starting to see the future that this institution can be back to as great as it was for sure and even, in many ways, I hope better than it’s ever been.

Moderator: [00:06:24] And for Jon, you’re not the Chancellor, but you are a student within your first year. So, how do you see kind of your journey going through Mizzou?

Jon Potochnic: [00:06:33] Well, my journey has been a bit crazy. I wasn’t even sure I was going to Mizzou, but Sarah and I visited, and I really liked what they had going here, and I was, you know, really interested in the community like you guys said as well as the sports. But also as somebody coming out of an abusive household and not having a lot of money, this was far enough away for me to feel comfortable. Colombia is a great city and stuff, and it has a lot of places for somebody interested in film and the arts to engaged with. But also I guess some developments over the year that really helped me grow my appreciation for Mizzou was the Land Grant Compact. That’s going to help me big time. So, obviously again like I said I didn’t really have any money going into college, and that was a big stress point as it is for most students. That’s something that’s synonymous with everybody. It’s an anxiety we have. But the Land Grant Compact and being part of the Honors College now is going to help cover everything. That’s huge. That’s a big weight off my shoulders. It also allows me, you know, without that stress, to focus more on my future, my academics, and I guess trying to be a creator in whatever field I decide to go down, or at least try to.

Moderator: [00:08:03] So, just to kind of round it out, what are some favorite things that you’ve loved about being at Mizzou or being in Columbia in general? Because I know both of you talked about kind of the community aspect of it.

Jon Potochnic: [00:08:17] So, I guess this is kind of a freshman thing to say, but firstly I’d like to say that I guess the personal autonomy you have — you know being in college, having a lot more freedom to pick your classes and stuff. Once I got out of my house — there were a lot of controlling factors going on in my home — and once I got to Mizzou,  there was a lot more freedom to do a lot of the things I liked. I worked on MUTV, did a film production and stuff. I went to the Citizen Jane Film Festival and covered a lot of the films there, and I got to engage with communities that I, again, hadn’t anticipated — you know outside of Mizzou. But also, you know, film production here, obviously with True False and some of the other film festivals we have going, it makes it easier for somebody like me in film production to engage with the community, like you said. I know for a couple of short films that I worked on over the last year, I was at a couple locations around Mizzou, and being able to coordinate with people in the local area has been great. And everybody here has been really fun to work with and engage with. It’s been a good experience along those lines.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:09:17] Well, Jon, I’m hoping that the Land Grant Compact will be one of our future traditions because you’re the type of person that we had in mind when we actually established that. We want to make sure that we give opportunity to people like you to achieve your dreams. And thank you for coming. It’s tremendous to hear what you’re doing.

Jon Potochnic: [00:09:36] If I could add something real quick, too. I also had the opportunity to study abroad second semester. And going into college, that was something that I never anticipated — I was just like, “I’m never going to have the money. I’m just worrying about school right now.” And the Kinder Institute and Ms. McCune and, like I said, some of the other members of the history department helped make that a lot more, I guess that price point, a lot more approachable, and it was a bit more of a discount than I anticipated. And not only that, but being in film production they actually gave me like a sort of a job offer, and I filmed lectures and stuff there, and they gave me some equipment. And I was able to really engage with both sides of my double major. So, that was a really great opportunity, and being able to go to — I ended up going to Oxford University and studying global history — and that was crazy. I had never been outside the United States, and for them to make that so much more feasible, it was awesome. I guess that’s the only word I can really say for it. I never really thought that would’ve been possible for me, and just because I had a relationship with some of the history teachers they’re like, “No, let’s make this work. We can get you there, and we’ll figure it out.”

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:10:57] That’s terrific. I mean going internationally is certainly a transformative opportunity for many people. When you see other countries and get to understand the context of what we’re doing in society it makes a huge difference for all of us. So, I think it’s a great word to use awesome.

Jon Potochnic: [00:11:13] Yeah.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:11:14] You know, in terms of the other traditions that I would mention of course are some of the things that I saw — Tiger Walk and Homecoming and all of the things that we have going on here are tremendous. One that I find particularly memorable was the ROTC pass in review that they conducted on the Quad — a truly impressive ceremony that I think if anybody has the opportunity to participate in that next time they do it. I would really encourage more people to be part of that. It’s tremendous. It’s just amazing to see those tremendous young people — all that they do, all the work that they’re putting in, and then having an opportunity to participate and celebrate what they’ve done.

Moderator: [00:11:55] Well, to kind of, in conclusion to close it out: I know that we have a big event actually coming up within the next month or so. So, Chancellor Cartwright, would you like to take it away?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:12:06] Yes. On August 22nd at 10:00 a.m., I’m going to actually give a presentation that is reflective of what has happened in the last year of me being here. So, it’s really going to talk about the things that we’ve done and also then where we’re going. It’s an exciting time, I’m looking forward to it, and I hope everybody at least listens in or comes to it. We’re really looking forward to that address.

Moderator: [00:12:33] Once again, thank you both for being here today, and there’s going to be one more thing before we leave the studio. So, bear with me. Brace yourself for this. Why did the mushroom go to the party?

Chancellor Cartwright and Jon Potochnic: [00:12:54] Uh…I don’t know.

[00:12:55] Because he was FUNGI.

Chancellor Cartwright and Jon Potochnic: [00:12:58] [Laughing] Ah!

Moderator: [00:12:58] [Laughing] Oh, my gosh. I thought I would get a little bit more of a chuckle from both of you.

Chancellor Cartwright and Jon Potochnic: [00:13:01] [Still laughing]

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:13:01] Good. That was good.

Moderator: [00:13:13] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is “Forest Park Rhapsody” composed by MU undergraduate and music composition major, Ben Colagiovanni. You can find more information about Ben and his piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time, and keep an eye out for the chancellor’s newsletter to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou.

Moderator: [00:13:39] Thanks for joining us on this episode of Inside Mizzou. See you around the Columns!