KRVN Interview for April 18, 2015

Listen in on my recent interview with KRVN, discussing the annual CASNR week festivities -

http://real.unl.edu/podcast/IANR_Radio/ianr041815.mp3

 

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Nebraska FFA Convention Recap

Listen in on my recent interview with KRVN, discussing the Nebraska State FFA Convention –  http://real.unl.edu/podcast/IANR_Radio/ianr041115.mp3

Also, check out the highlight video of the FFA members time on campus - https://youtu.be/J_ZYQ67Ms0o

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News of Interim Change of Appointment

By now, you will have likely seen the news from Chancellor Perlman regarding an upcoming interim change in my appointment and responsibilities.  I am extremely humbled by the opportunity to serve UNL as the interim senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, while continuing to serve as the NU vice president and IANR Vice Chancellor.

I wanted to assure all of you in our IANR family and community that I only accepted this charge from Harvey after a lot of thoughtful consideration.  I am confident in the talented leadership team we have in place across IANR, particularly with the steady and highly capable hand in daily operations of associate vice chancellor Ron Yoder and the collective IANR Leadership Council.  I know we will not miss a beat in continuing on the upward trajectory of the Institute.

It might also be helpful for you to know this is not the first time that such service in both roles has occurred, having been done so ably and effectively before under Irv Omtvedt in the 1990’s.  I am privileged to count Irv as a dear friend and mentor – and expect I will lean on his wisdom from that experience in the coming months.

It has been a wonderful experience with you since July 19, 2010 and the coming fiscal year, starting on July 1, will be even more exciting!  Thanks for all that you do every day.

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Leadership Transitions, Momentum, and Bright Futures

By now, most of you will have seen the statement by Chancellor Perlman indicating the fact that the coming academic year will be his last as our UNL leader. This news also comes at a time when we have recently said goodbye to University of Nebraska President J.B. Milliken and are about to welcome his successor President Hank Bounds. Sometimes the uncertainty associated with leadership transitions can be unsettling, in this case and at this time at the University of Nebraska, I feel exactly the opposite. The future is very bright, not the least of which is due to Harvey’s and JB’s impactful and enduring leadership.

It goes without saying, but I want you to know, that I have had the rare and precious opportunity of being able to work with both of these leaders in the unique role in which I have the privilege of serving where I report directly to both of them. What a phenomenal time that has been, one that has been unparalleled for me personally and professionally up to now, and likely to be so in the future.

I have no doubt that Chancellor Perlman will long be thought of as a truly transformative leader who really changed UNL in so many positive ways. Some of these have been referenced today in the press around his announcement this morning, and will likely be discussed a lot in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Positive risk taker, visionary, smart, savvy, astute, aspirational, intellectually talented, strategic, and gifted mentor are all terms that immediately come to mind for me in describing Harvey. He also has become my friend, so even though I have known this was coming for some time, seeing the words in print that define a transition in our professional relationship is still a bit surreal.

As Harvey said in his message to the campus this morning, UNL is indeed on a phenomenal trajectory as a major and world-leading public Land-Grant university. That in itself is exciting, but as I have described to you in IANR in the past year, we also are at an inflection point where that trajectory is only pointing up on all fronts. While the present is exciting and exhilarating, I am convinced that UNL’s best times lie ahead from the strong foundations that have successfully been laid.

It is going to be a wonderful adventure and opportunity this coming year working with Chancellor Perlman and incoming President Bounds. I am extremely bullish on the future of the University of Nebraska and especially UNL, and even more pleased to be here at this place, at this time than at any point since beginning this journey with you in July of 2010. As Harvey said so well this morning, only opportunity and bright futures lie ahead!  We owe much of that to Harvey Perlman.

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Honoring a Great American and a Great Nebraskan

Some of you will have recently seen news reports concerning the fund raising efforts to build a new Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance at UNL (click for press release).  This Institute has been conceived in collaboration with Dr. Clayton Yeutter, former US Trade Ambassador, Secretary of Agriculture, Advisor to the President, and director of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.  Clayton is a Nebraska native and UNL alumnus of the Department of Agricultural Economics and the College of Law. The earliest days of his career were spent here at UNL as a faculty member in agricultural economics.

Last September, we were very pleased to honor Clayton, as one of the four Nebraskans who have served as US Secretary of Agriculture, with the placement of a beautiful life-size bronze statue in the Legacy Plaza of our campus.  The statue has been temporarily located immediately east of the Dairy Store overlooking the Yeutter gardens, which are placed there in memory of Clayton’s late wife Jeanne.  When Legacy Mall landscaping renovations are completed as a part of the East Campus Student Commons project, the statue will be relocated immediately to the west of the current C.Y. Thompson building.

On March 17th, I was honored to participate in the launching of National Agriculture Day in Washington, DC, as a part of a panel discussion on innovation in food and agriculture sponsored by Agri-Pulse on Capitol Hill.  As a wonderful part of the celebration, we honored Clayton with the debut of a video highlighting his life of service to agriculture and global trade. More than 300 leaders from across the ag and food sector and colleagues from Clayton’s long career were present for the debut.

The video tribute to Dr. Yeutter, along with a fund raising version of the production can be seen at:

Yeutter Tribute:  https://youtu.be/hPY8a1p317c

Yeutter Institute Fund Raising:  https://youtu.be/WqtqshNWo-A

The video debut was also the kick-off of a fund raising effort to endow $5M in private funding to establish the Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance.  An additional $5M is currently under consideration by the Nebraska legislature in LB 496 graciously introduced by Sen. John Kuehn from Heartwell.  At the time of the March 17th announcement, we had already raised $3.1M, with a substantial lead gift of $2.5M in that total from Dr. Yeutter himself.

When the fund raising is completed, the endowment will support the establishment of three Presidential chairs at UNL – one each in the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Business Administration, and Law.  These three endowed professors will form the core of the Institute, with one of them serving as its director, along with additional faculty to be marshalled into the effort across the three colleges.  In addition to research and graduate education enabled by the Institute faculty focused in this area, a new undergraduate minor/certificate program is envisioned at the core of the Institute’s activities and outcomes.

This is a wonderful development for us at UNL and adds to the drive that we have underway for the raising of new Presidential and endowed chairs for IANR.  With the addition of the “ag” chair in the Yeutter Institute, we now have 12 such chairs – with our eventual goal to be 25.  All but three of these have been put into place since 2011!  This adds to the more than 40 endowed professorships held by members of the IANR faculty, and truly reflects the world-class nature of our efforts.

I am so pleased to see the Yeutter Institute for International Trade and Finance becoming a reality.  Never before has there been more need for students to understand and be prepared to be successful in the global trade arena.  I am deeply appreciative to Dr. Yeutter for his vision for this Institute, and as he says on the video he has great expectations for its success for many generations to come.  Once again, UNL is leading globally by providing such a unique opportunity – and in the process, honoring the legacy of one of the all-time great Nebraskans and UNL alumni.

Thank you, Clayton for your vision and your impact — and to all who have and will contribute to the endowment of the Yeutter Institute for International Trade and Finance.

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KRVN Interview for March 28, 2015

Listen in on my recent interview with KRVN, discussing the Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance at UNL - http://real.unl.edu/podcast/IANR_Radio/ianr032815.mp3

 

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Challenging the Senses of the East Campus Community

I have had the pleasure of shouting from the mountaintop, so to speak, for the past few years about the phenomenal growth being experienced by IANR at the present.  Growth in student enrollment, faculty expansion, research productivity, private and industry funding, endowed chairs and professorships, public-private partnerships, and physical plant capacity across the state are indeed combining to make this a remarkable time in UNL and IANR’s history.  It has been a great privilege to work with your IANR leadership team to bring this growth to reality, and as I shared with the IANR community earlier this year, I do indeed believe we are at a major inflection point.

In January’s IANR ALL HANDS meeting, I emphasized the fact that we have either just completed, are in the process of, or about to begin, construction projects totaling $245M in scope.   These range from bringing online the new Food Innovation Center and Greenhouse Phenomics Complex at Nebraska Innovation Campus this summer to a long list of new facilities and improvement projects across the state.

We are now on the cusp of the largest amount of building projects to occur at one time on our UNL east campus since the 1960s-70s era.  The East Campus Recreation and Wellness Facility is now nearing completion and will be open for our community with the new school year in the fall.  The new east campus “gates” have been completed and landscaping is now being completed on that site extending the mall down to Holdrege Street for pedestrians.  The former apartment housing facilities to the east of the Barkley Center have recently been removed.  We will celebrate groundbreaking on the construction site of a new $45M veterinary diagnostic lab on April 29th.  And as many on campus will have noticed in the past 10 days, the preparation for the demolition of old Biochemistry Hall to make way for a new 370-student residence hall has been started with removal of trees from the site.  This will be followed by relocation of all programs from the building by May, and demolition during the summer and early fall to allow construction to begin for completion by fall 2017.

I am aware that there are some campus community members who are not in agreement with the siting of the new residence hall at that location, having amongst other concerns particularly the fact that it requires the removal of most of the trees from the site.  I met with some faculty members who voiced these concerns to me earlier in the planning process, and I shared those views and concerns with the facilities planning team working on the project.  Unfortunately, it is my understanding that there was no way for the trees to be saved in the project. I, too, regret the loss of beautiful trees and shrubs as I have shared with the campus community a number of times that one of my passions in my personal life is managing landscapes.  In this case, it is unavoidable.  On a positive note, the Nebraska Forest Service did save some of the lumber from the site.

Change rarely comes without giving up or sacrificing some good things to make progress for the greater public.  This is indeed one of those cases.  We have badly needed new residence hall facilities for our students on east campus for a number of years.  So when we had the opportunity with the campus master plan supported by the Board of Regents to finally move the project forward to grow the campus in this way, we welcomed the chance to contemporarily serve the needs of many future generations of UNL students.

The site was selected to move the students into closer proximity to the core of the campus, and to be located next door to the dining hall facilities in the Nebraska East Union (for which needed renovations are being planned) as well as the planned new student learning commons facility in the existing C.Y. Thompson library and a new classroom nexus facility being planned for the first floor of the existing Food Industry Complex (following the move of the Food Science & Technology Department to Innovation Campus this July).  The quad area of the new residence hall, Filley Hall/existing Food Industry Complex, the renovated C.Y. Thompson, and the Nebraska East Union is envisioned as becoming the “core” of the campus once all of the construction and renovation is completed – what we are now referring collectively to as the EAST CAMPUS STUDENT COMMONS.  To add additional beauty to this campus core, the green space area connecting these buildings has been renamed Legacy Plaza and will also be re-developed to make the space attractive and inviting as a gathering area for the campus.

As is the case with most things, not all members of our community agree in principle with change to accommodate growth.  Some would like to stay the same in size and scope to focus efforts.  Some would like for the campus to have the same character without being disturbed as has existed for many decades.  Some would prefer that students not be in the core of the campus, but instead be on the periphery to reduce traffic and human impact on the landscape.  I appreciate all of those views, but, I fundamentally disagree with them as I believe the growth we are now experiencing is bringing IANR to the level required to meet the global needs reflected in our tri-partite mission.

We are a world-class institution, and our campus should reflect that same world-class capacity for learning, scholarly activity, and outreach to the greater public that we serve.  Core to that mission is that we are an institution first and foremost of higher education – i.e., we must serve the needs of our students.  As a faculty member, a parent, and now a campus administrator, I absolutely believe that students are indeed at the CORE in every way of what we do, and welcome the opportunity for greater numbers of our student body to be in, on, and around our campus as their home.  The vision of this new east campus “student commons” area reflects that vision.  I envision a busy, active, exciting place full of engaged students – that reflects the nature of an engaged, impactful, world-class IANR.

Until the expected completion time of these projects in late 2017, the construction will no doubt challenge the campus’ senses in such a large construction zone area, which while unfortunate in the short term, will lead to long-term health for the campus, our students, and our stakeholders for what we hope will be the next century or more.  The preparation now occurring at the Biochemistry Hall site for demolition later this summer/early fall is the first challenge to our collective senses.

We thought we had adequately prepared the campus community for this as it has been discussed with faculty and staff on multiple occasions over the past 18 months, including most recently in January as a part of the IANR ALL HANDS meeting.  I was away from campus last week when the tree work commenced, and was not aware that it was to begin quite this early.  I regret that I was not given a heads up so that I could write this blog and note to all of our faculty, staff, and students in advance so that all of us were more mentally prepared.

In order to allow all of our campus community to be “plugged in” to this process, I will cover in much greater detail all of the plans for the construction in the IANR ALL HANDS meeting in September.

I am tremendously excited about the fact that we need more capacity and academic infrastructure for our teaching, research, and translational extension efforts.  On behalf of all of the IANR leadership team, and the UNL facilities team, we beg your patience and cooperation over this coming time of creation of the expanded campus across the state, and especially on east campus in Lincoln.

I eagerly look forward to the fall of 2017 when we all will be able to experience a rejuvenated, vibrant 21st-century learning core for our campus.  In the meantime, thanks for all you do every day to make a difference.

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KRVN Interview for March 14, 2015

Listen in on my recent interview with KRVN, discussing the Nebraska Hall of Ag Achievement Banquet that was held on Thursday - http://real.unl.edu/podcast/IANR_Radio/ianr031415.mp3

 

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KRVN Interview for March 7, 2015

Listen in on my recent interview with KRVN, discussing the upcoming Heuermann Lecture - http://real.unl.edu/podcast/IANR_Radio/ianr030715.mp3

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KRVN Interview for February 28, 2015

Listen in on my recent interview with KRVN, discussing the budget request we have before this year’s unicameral for the Rural Futures Institute -

http://real.unl.edu/podcast/IANR_Radio/ianr022815.mp3

 

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