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Columbia College kicks off LEAN initiative with help from zombies

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Columbia College students, faculty and staff participated in a kick-off event to introduce a new initiative called LEAN, a widely used efficiency concept in which individuals identify and correct organizational inefficiency. The event featured a bit of a twist - participants navigated a LEAN-themed maze, complete with zombies representing inefficiency.

“We’re passionate about innovation at Columbia College, and we believe a good idea can come from anywhere,” said Mara Roberts, assistant dean for Academic Affairs at Columbia College. “We’re asking our campus community to help us make the college a better, more efficient place and what better way to get people excited and shake things up than to lean on our zombie friends for inspiration.”

After completing the event, participants received a brief tutorial on the LEAN initiative, as well as what they could do to help the college. This initiative, one of the main goals for Dr. Terry Smith, interim president of Columbia College, will have far-ranging implications, touching all of the college’s 35 campuses. Columbia College students, faculty and staff can submit ideas on processes they believe to be inefficient, or non-student friendly.

“It was actually surprising how zombies fit so well into the LEAN higher education model proscribed by Dr. William Balzar,” said Roberts. “Sometimes we make the same decisions over and over. We used zombies instead of ‘CAVE people,’ in this scenario, but the impact is the same.” CAVE, which stands for Citizens Against Virtually Everything, is an analogy used by University of Iowa LEAN consultant, Richard See.

Founded in 1851 in Columbia, Mo., Columbia College has been helping students advance their lives through higher education for more than 160 years. As a private, nonprofit, liberal arts and sciences institution, the college takes pride in its small classes, experienced faculty and quality educational programs. With more than 30 Nationwide Campuses across the country, 18 of which are on military instillations, students may enroll in day, evening or online classes. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association. Columbia College educates more than 31,000 students each year and has more than 74,000 alumni worldwide. For more information, visit