Budget Reallocations in a Time of Major Growth and Momentum for IANR and UNL?

I am sure many of our IANR community members were puzzled and perhaps even perplexed when Chancellor Perlman announced to the campus community in February that once again, UNL would need to adjust its state-aided budget in order to achieve a balanced budget in the current year and moving forward.  Unfortunately, this is an all-too familiar process and situation for our campus.  However, this time it may seem quite illogical that we should be required to make budget cuts when we have been experiencing such rapid growth and momentum, particularly in IANR.  After all, haven’t we seen 9 consecutive years of student growth in CASNR, record growth in support for our research and extension programs, a very robust and sound agricultural economy, all leading to increased support from the state of Nebraska in the current biennium with no tuition increase for our resident students?  And, furthermore, aren’t we just completing the largest hiring initiative in our faculty in over 40 years, resulting in 61 new faculty joining our IANR team since 2012?  That does not sound like an environment where a budget cut should be required!

As the Chancellor has since explained to the campus, this is a result of a carry-over deficit of $2M in fiscal year 2013 coupled with a $2.65M deficit that has been added in the current fiscal year.  The campus leadership had thought our growth in student numbers might address the deficit moving forward, so we found ways internally last year to cash flow the deficit on a one-time basis.  Unfortunately, that did not come to pass, and we find ourselves now needing to fix this issue moving forward.  As Harvey pointed out in March, part of the reason for this deficit at the campus level is an increasing level of distance education tuition that now resides in the Colleges resulting from the policy established several years ago to incentivize the development of distance courses, leaving an operating deficit at the campus level.  Unfortunately, that policy was enacted not expecting the majority of such tuition to be generated over time from resident students.  Moving forward this will be addressed with a new policy to prevent this situation from occurring in the
future.

In the meantime, that has left us with a $4.65M deficit to fix in this year, and as you know that process has been moving forward over the past couple of months.  The administration proposed that the deficit be eliminated primarily from a 1% reduction in the proposed 3% salary increase pool for all faculty and staff.  This would account for $3.2M of the amount required, leaving $1.45M to be contributed proportionally across the campus operating units.  Under our standing UNL policy, this means that IANR is responsible for covering 28%, or in this case approximately $400K of the remainder.

We carefully analyzed where this $400K would come from in our permanent state-appropriated budget.  You may recall that several years ago, the former Communications and Information Technology (CIT) unit of IANR went through a re-formulation as a part of two budget reduction cycles.  The then newly formed Educational Media (EdMedia) unit was reduced in personnel and was moved to a cost recovery model with approximately $1.1M of state-funding still budgeted annually across the IANR divisions for purchase of such services, especially from UNL Extension.  That is the model we have been operating under since 2011.

We have been evaluating over the past year how this model has worked to date, and have determined that significant further reform of the unit is needed, which will be done in the coming months as a part of this budget reallocation process.  In short, we have determined that our cost structure for delivery of these services is higher than should be the case based on the market, and thus we need to bring this important part of our operations into a higher level of financial sustainability and accountability.   In an earlier blog on March 28th, I described the charge of a task force currently at work on state-wide optimization of our resources across IANR being led by associate vice chancellor Ron Yoder.  The task force has also been asked to carefully review the needs of IANR in the educational media arena and come forth with a proposal by July 1st for how we can effectively deliver the services needed for all of IANR’s diverse portfolio across our teaching, research, and extension missions under a re-formulated budget model.

We are very sensitive and empathetic to the fact that any time a budgetary adjustment process is done, there are ultimately people who are directly impacted by such change.  There is uncertainty associated with change and transition, and in the educational media support area, that is the certainly the case for both staff in the EdMedia organization, as well as customers and consumers of the services provided.  We are committed to getting this right for the long term, and I am confident the new model that emerges will put IANR in a better position than currently exists for relaying our story to the greater public across the board.

In the mean-time, please know for all involved that we are seeking a great future for IANR in this area and will assure our needs will be met better than ever before, while being sensitive to this being a time of great change for some of our staff and faculty in this area.

So, yes, we are growing IANR in unprecedented ways (and expect to continue to do so for years ahead), but, we also are committed to a healthy operating budget for our University and see this as an opportunity to develop a highly successful and sustainable educational media support services structure and system for all of IANR.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Growing Chairs and Professorships to Grow a Healthy Future. . .

The strength of any university is built upon the quality of its people – its faculty, staff, students and alumni.  Without a doubt, the core of that strength is the talented collective pool of faculty who mentor and educate students, conduct cutting edge scholarly research and creative activity, and translate their work for application to the greater public.  In our highly engaged and dynamic Land-Grant university here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, we pride ourselves on our world renowned faculty, and, nowhere is that more evident than in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Our faculty are routinely recognized in their various fields for their work – and it is a pleasure to celebrate with them throughout the year as these awards come their way.  These recognitions come from their peers nationally and internationally across various fields of the biological, physical, and social sciences, scientific societies, non-government organizations and foundations, private industry, as well as all levels of government.  The numbers of these recognitions continue to increase annually for our faculty, and provide a testament to the growing global reputation of UNL-IANR across the spectrum of natural resources, agricultural sciences, and human sciences.  While it is not possible to highlight every one of these awards as they happen – it is indeed both gratifying and humbling to see them come to our faculty members.  The most recent example was close to home as Don Weeks, professor of biochemistry, was recognized by the University of Nebraska system as one of two recipients of the 2014 Outstanding Research and Creativity Award.  Congratulations, Don – well deserved!

Recently, we have embarked in a directed way to increase the number of our faculty who hold prestigious UNL or NU chairs and professorships.  To be named to an endowed chair or professorship is the highest honor that a faculty member can receive within the University.  While we are very fortunate in UNL-IANR to have a relatively large number of such endowed chairs and professorships, we would like to see this number increase due to the highly deserving level across our faculty for such recognition.  Currently, we have 28 named chairs and professorships awarded by IANR to our faculty, with an additional 16 of our faculty members who hold UNL-wide professorships (13 Cather-Bessey, 2 Rosowski, 1 Holmes).  In recognition of the priority focus on agriculture and natural resources at NU, we are fortunate that the highest level chairs across the system, the Presidential Chairs, currently are only awarded to UNL-IANR faculty.

In the past month, it has been a pleasure to name three of our faculty to new chairs and professorships.   George Graef has been awarded the newest NU Presidential Chair – the Nebraska Soybean Board Chair.  George, a professor in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, is highly deserving of this honor, enabled by a partnership between Bayer CropScience, the Nebraska Soybean Board, and UNL-IANR.  George was awarded the medal for this chair in March.  He joins Stephen Baenziger as the other holder of an NU Presidential Chair – the Nebraska Wheat Growers Chair, under a similar partnership enabled by Bayer CropScience and the Nebraska Wheat Growers.

Roberto Lenton, founding executive director of the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, was awarded the medal signifying his appointment as the Daugherty Endowed Chair in late March.  Roberto is also dually appointed as a professor in our Department of Biological Systems Engineering.

Ntinos Giannakas, professor of agricultural economics, and director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Industrial Organization, was named as the Eberhard Professor of Agricultural Economics earlier this semester.  He joins Suat Irmak, professor of biological systems engineering, who was named as the Eberhard Professor of Agriculture last fall.

Over the past year, we have developed a goal of significantly adding to our availability of Presidential and endowed chairs – in fact we have identified a target of having an additional 25 such chairs by 2025.  We are well on our way with four added since we began this drive, we have two additional chairs to soon announce, and an additional proposal was made to an organization for a new Presidential Chair in the past week.   This is amongst our highest fund-raising priorities and we are pleased to be making gradual and consistent progress on our goal!  I look forward to soon announcing the next wave of new faculty being so honored.

It is humbling to be able to serve in a role working to enable talented people who are changing the world every day.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Celebrating National Ag Day Across Nebraska!

This year, celebrating National Ag Day will be a little different for me.  I have the pleasure and privilege of traveling across Nebraska with Governor Dave Heineman, Nebraska Department of Agriculture director Greg Ibach, and Nebraska Farm Bureau president Steve Nelson.  I have no doubt that it will be a fun day as we travel to Valentine, Lexington, and Central City to draw attention to the phenomenal importance of agriculture, its people, and the huge productivity of our food system and the natural resources stewarded through it.  I regularly call attention to the fact that there has never been a more exciting time in agriculture, with its global epicenter being right here in Nebraska – and today while the nation acknowledges National Agriculture Day, it is wonderful to be able to share that with Nebraskans in three areas of our great state.

While on this whistle-stop tour, I will be drawing attention to the fact that our agricultural industry and food system has a huge opportunity and challenge ahead as we seek to meet the nutritional needs of three billion more people around the world in the next 40 years, including significantly increasing the availability of high-quality animal protein for the world’s growing middle class.  No place in the world is better positioned to deliver on that challenge than Nebraska where the diversity of our natural resources, the availability of a sustainable water supply, and the ability to continue to innovate our production with increasingly targeted technology and know-how brings it all together.  I firmly believe we can meet the challenge of producing twice as much with fewer and sustainable resources, and Nebraska will continue to grow in its impact and importance on the world stage as we move forward.

One huge area of opportunity for Nebraska is to significantly expand our livestock industries to meet these global demands.  We recently released a report jointly with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, authored by a team of our faculty in the UNL Department of Agricultural Economics, which was highlighted earlier this month at the Governor’s Ag Conference in Kearney.  The full report is available at:  http://agecon.unl.edu/livestock and I encourage you to read it.  Outlined in the report is a scenario of expansion in Nebraska of swine finishing, beef feedlot finishing, dairy production, and egg production.  While Nebraska already ranks as the #1 commercial red meat production state in the U.S., collectively these expansion scenarios would further value-add our current crop and biofuels production sectors (the so-called “Golden Triangle”), resulting in substantial projected economic activity (over $1.4B and 19,000 jobs). This is exciting, and today as we celebrate National Ag Day, I will be drawing attention to this huge expanded opportunity for all Nebraskans.

Before agreeing to travel the state with my colleagues today, I had been invited to participate with a group of leaders in dedicating a statue of Norman Borlaug, the father of the green revolution and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, in the statuary hall of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.  That event is also happening today, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Dr. Borlaug’s birth.  I was really taken by an interview that was published in the Des Moines Register with Dr. Borlaug’s granddaughter, Julie Borlaug, leading up to the statue’s unveiling.  In the interview, she really challenges our community to do a better job of telling the success story of meeting the world’s food needs with technology.  It is well worth reading and can be found at:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20140322/BUSINESS01/303220042?nclick_check=1 I could not agree with Julie more – well said on all fronts.

I hope that today you will each say a thank you to all who are involved in the food and agriculture system.  It is phenomenal that the average U.S. farmer and rancher is responsible for stewarding the resources under their care to produce a bountiful food supply and nutrients for 155 other people.  That is truly a success story that Abraham Lincoln would marvel at today were he with us.  And, thanks to all of you at the University of Nebraska and our Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources for what you do every day to help meet the grand challenge of the future as the legacy of Lincoln’s vision that established the Land-Grant University system, the USDA, and all of the bounty that we now enjoy.  Happy National Ag Day to all of you.

A few additional items for you to enjoy:

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Living in 2014, but Thinking Ahead for IANR to be the International Leader in Growing a Healthy Future – Optimizing Resources

Many of you will have heard through various channels about the IANR Statewide Resource Optimization Task Force that I have recently appointed.   We first mentioned this at the January IANR ALL HANDS meeting and more recently this was one of the subjects at three town hall sessions hosted by the IANR Liaison Committee.  The task force began its work in early March, by soliciting information from faculty and staff through a survey.

I am convinced that this is amongst the very most important planning groups we have had working over the past several years as we have sought to focus our mission and develop strategies that will ensure that the University of Nebraska, through its Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is the world leader in growing a healthy future through education, research, and engagement in all important areas around food, fuel, water, landscapes and people.

UNL-IANR as we know it was formalized in our current organizational structure in the early 1970s via legislation adopted by the Nebraska unicameral.  This legislation was enacted due to the concern that the greater University was not emphasizing agricultural and natural resources sciences at the level required for the long-term needs of the state.  The legislation has served the state and the University extremely well.

However, in the 41 years since, there has not been a comprehensive study of whether the resources held, managed, and stewarded by UNL-IANR are optimized to the degree needed to meet our mission today, and even more importantly, moving forward in the decades ahead.  Currently, we manage resources spread across the great state of Nebraska located on over 39,000 acres of land.  We are indeed fortunate to have such a bounty of resources to work with in our unique “state-wide” campus – and these resources continue to grow with substantial additional gifts to the University of Nebraska Foundation.  Just this past week, we were pleased to have the ground-breaking near Grant for building the Henry J. Stumpf Wheat Research Center.

It is in times of growth and expansion of mission that it is most important to evaluate optimization of resources and systems, a time that we indeed find our organization in at the present.  We are growing at unprecedented rates in terms of faculty, students, research productivity, new academic programs, and private giving.  But, MOST IMPORTANTLY –  the grand challenges lying ahead for global food and agriculture require “doubling down on our investment” when we sit at the global epicenter of these issues in Nebraska for  generations to come.

It is for these reasons, that I have asked IANR Associate Vice Chancellor Ron Yoder to chair a task force (charge and composition shown below) to work during the remainder of this fiscal year to study whether our physical infrastructure resources are currently optimized.  The work of the task force is to include consideration of all of our resources across Nebraska, including the campuses in Lincoln and Curtis, and our out-state research and extension locations, as well as the newly developing Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln.  I have asked them to be bold and to tell me if there are resources we currently have that are excess to our needs, or are not located optimally for what is needed.  I also have asked them to identify what we might not have that we need to deliver successfully on our mission, including new infrastructure, as well as needs in the area of technology and communications.

While engaged in this study, I have asked the group to also take a look at whether we are organizationally optimized in terms of leadership/management structure.  The group will be evaluating the current district structure of our research and extension efforts across the state to identify whether the management can be better optimized.  In this particular question, I have not asked the task force to be concerned about total numbers of people or work-force, but instead about the structure of how our people are led and managed organizationally.

Lastly, I have asked the group to take a look at the IANR leadership structure to determine if we are appropriately staffed and invested in senior administration at the Institute level.  This was last reviewed in 1996-97 when then Vice Chancellor Irv Omtvedt asked an external review team the same question.  We want to make sure that we are getting the job done – with no more or no less administrative cost as necessary for IANR to be efficient, responsive, and operate like a well-oiled machine, i.e., I want to ensure that our administrative overhead is optimized and not over-subscribed in resource use.

This task force has a huge charge, but in thinking carefully about who to ask to serve in this very important capacity, I feel confident that the people on the team are up to the charge, are taking it with the utmost in seriousness and diligence, and will have the best interests of IANR and all of our future stakeholders in mind every working minute as they deliberate on these questions in the coming months.

Many thanks to the servant leaders who have eagerly stepped up to work for us all.  I am looking forward to a report that will outline major opportunities for further building of IANR on our journey ahead.

IANR State-Wide Campus Resource Optimization Task Force

Objective:  To comprehensively evaluate the land, facility, and personnel resources of the IANR teaching, research, and extension missions across the state-wide campus of Nebraska, and, to determine if opportunities exist for more effective use and management of those resources to meet long-term needs for growing a healthy future through research and education in the areas of food, fuel, water, landscapes, and people.

Time Horizon of Vision:
Scope should be in thinking to 2050.

Time Horizon of Task Force Work:
Initiation by March 1, 2014 with substantial completion by June 30, 2014.

Task Force Composition:

  • Chair:  Ron Yoder
  • Co-Chairs:  Archie Clutter and Chuck Hibberd
  • Don Adams
  • Stephen Baenziger
  • Larry Berger
  • Linda Boeckner
  • Homer Buell*
  • Chuck Burr
  • Dan Duncan
  • Galen Erickson
  • Richard Ferguson
  • Eugene Glock*
  • Tiffany Heng-Moss
  • Lisa Kaslon
  • Keith Olsen*
  • Larkin Powell
  • Mark Schroeder
  • Kim Todd
  • Ex-Officio:   Marjorie Kostelnik, Ron Rosati, Steve Waller
  • Staff Coordinator:  David Jackson

*External stakeholder representative.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Heuermann Lecture – April 22

“The Role of Water and Food Security in Early Childhood Survival and Development:  A Global Perspective,” is the focus for the Heuermann Lecture at 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 22 in the Great Plains Room of the Nebraska East Union on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s East Campus.

A 2:30 p.m. reception in the Union atrium precedes the free lecture.  Free parking for those attending the lecture is available in the Area C Dental College parking lot, which is located between the Animal Science Complex and the Dental College.  The lot is east of the Nebraska East Union, and signs will point the way.

The world has seen progress in reducing world infant mortality rates, but while more babies survive, millions remain at risk for foundational brain and early childhood development.  We know good nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life is crucial to body and brain development, as is good water quality. We know with links shown among improved health and nutrition and education and a country’s economic growth, lack of adequate food and good water for children has significant effects for individuals, and for nations struggling to raise themselves out of poverty.

These and more are the topics for a panel discussion by:  Dr. Chris Elias, president of the Global Development Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr. Joan Lombardi, former deputy assistant secretary and inter-departmental liaison for early childhood education at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Dr. Nurper Ulkuer, former head of the Early Childhood Development Unit and senior adviser for early childhood development at UNICEF.

Panel moderators are Dr. Marjorie Kostelnik, dean of the UNL College of Education and Human Sciences, and Dr. Helen Raikes, Willa Cather professor, UNL Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies.  For more on the lecture visit http://heuermannlectures.unl.edu.

Heuermann Lectures in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL focus on meeting the world’s growing food and renewable energy needs while sustaining natural resources and rural communities.  They’re made possible by a gift from B. Keith and Norma Heuermann of Phillips, long-time university supporters with a strong commitment to Nebraska’s production agriculture, natural resources, rural areas and people.

The lectures stream live at the Heuermann Lectures website, and are archived at the site soon after the lecture.  Heuermann Lectures also appear at a later date on NET2 World.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

KRVN Interviews

KRVN does a weekly segment focusing on the latest happenings in IANR, catch up on last weeks segments by going to http://real.unl.edu/feed/IANR_Radio.xml

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Heuermann Lecture – February 27

“Our Culture War Over Food and Farming” is the topic Thursday, Feb. 27 at the 3:30 p.m. Heuermann Lecture in the Hardin Hall auditorium.  A 3 p.m. reception in the Hardin Hall lobby precedes the lecture by Dr. Robert Paarlberg, the Betty Freyhoff Johnson ’44 Professor in the Department of Political Science at Wellesley College.  I hope you’ll come, and bring your students and friends.

Dr. Paarlberg will discuss how what’s happening in the cultural marketplace in regard to modern industrial food and farming systems in the U.S. commercial marketplace affects not only agriculture in the U.S., but worldwide.  More on the lecture is available at http://heuermannlectures.unl.edu.

Heuermann Lectures in IANR are made possible by a gift from B. Keith and Norma Heuermann of Phillips.  Lectures focus on meeting the world’s growing food and renewable energy needs while sustaining natural resources and rural communities.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Holiday Greetings from IANR!

We have much to be thankful for this holiday season!  2013 was one for the record books and 2014 is shaping up to be even greater.  Enjoy this lighthearted video (http://ianrhome.unl.edu/holiday-greetings) and have a safe and relaxing holiday break.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving Message

Colleagues and Friends –

If you are like me, you can only marvel at the fact that another calendar year is quickly coming to a close.  The march to the end of the year is always marked in my mind with the onset of the holiday season beginning with our traditional week of Thanksgiving.  While there is much road to travel in the next five weeks before we formally ring in 2014, there is something very special about taking the time with our families and closest loved ones to pause, reflect, and be thankful for the abundance in our lives.

While it seems that we are often prone to look for what we do not have – or perhaps wish to have – I am thankful daily for all that we are blessed to have right here at the University of Nebraska, and in our Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

To be in a place where our mission is of such ultimate importance to the state – and the people around the world who are impacted by the resources that we steward and the sustenance that we produce from them – is a privilege.

To have the opportunity to touch the lives of bright and talented students who will be the future leaders, innovators, public servants, and contributors to our society in these critically important areas touching food, fuel, water, landscapes, and people – is a huge responsibility – and honor.

To be blessed with a multitude of resources from many different sources equipping one of the world’s top group of scientists to innovate in our fields through cutting edge and applied research to seek to produce more of the highest quality food products in increasingly sustainable ways for future global generations – is exciting, exhilarating, and fulfilling.

To have one of the very top extension programs of any Land-Grant University in the nation allowing us to fully extend the value of Mr. Lincoln’s “people’s” university to all Nebraskans – through what I recently referred to as both the “front and back door” of the University of Nebraska – is phenomenal.

To be able to welcome over 45 new faculty to IANR in this 12-month period – something no other U.S. university can say – is extraordinary.

To have world-leading new initiatives like Water for Food, Buffett Early Childhood, Rural Futures, and Global Engagement – provides unprecedented opportunity.

Our new issue of Growing magazine (see http://ianrhome.unl.edu/growing) highlights just a sample of things for which we can be both proud and thankful.

While the Thanksgiving holiday has its roots in celebration of the bounty of the harvest season, I hope that you will also take time to count the many blessings of your own home and hearth – including the people, professional accomplishments, and opportunities that you have every day in life.

Please know that everything that each of you do every day is valued, appreciated, and impactful. As someone said to me a few weeks ago – thanks for all that you do – but most importantly for being you.

Enjoy the holiday and then come back energized for the run to 2014 — Happy Thanksgiving!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Has it only been a week?

Has It Only Been A Week?

Most of our days and weeks have a normal ebb and flow.   Then there are those occasional times when everything seems to happen at once.  That would certainly be a more apt description for the past week which brought together a very unusual set and sequence of events.  As I am riding the skies somewhere above New Mexico on my way from southern California to DC, it gave me pause to reflect on the phenomenal week that just elapsed.  Here is a quick replay . . . I think you will see why it was a head spinner of a week!

  • On Nov 2, we finalized planning with a group of senior faculty to lead a new effort to increase our translational capacity in plant biotechnology through a new Consortium for Integrated Translational Biology.  This will be led jointly by Tom Clemente, Tala Awada, and George Graef and will significantly re-invest in our greenhouses, growth chambers, and field resources integrated around the coming of the new LemnaTech plant phenotyping system for UNL.  More later on this effort.
  • Most of you know that I am a beef guy at heart, so I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to spend the evening of Nov 2 contemplating the future of Nebraska and UNL being the global epicenter of the beef industry with the Cornhusker Beef Council.  Great people, great passion, great fun, and a great steak with my best friend Jane all in one.
  • The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program has already become a major success story in its first few years of life and it was a pleasure to catch a part of the program’s stellar students presenting their work to the EAEP Advisory Board at their meeting the morning of Nov 3.  He did not know it was going to happen, but we also presented Tom Field with the medal from the University of Nebraska Foundation signifying his appointment as the Engler Chair – there is no one anywhere on the planet that could be better suited to leading this program — it is a big deal to have Tom Field as the UNL Engler Chair!
  • And of course then we were treated to how human beings can do an emotional 180 degree turn in 4 seconds with the amazing end of game play in Memorial Stadium the evening of Nov 3 against Northwestern.   As my avid Husker fan wife Jane says, skyboxes are where quiet fans sit.  I think even she was surprised when the whole NU Foundation box we were hosting that day went ballistic!
  • I often mention the importance of balance in life to our IANR family – I found some on Sunday, November 3rd by doing one of my favorite things in all of the world—singing with daughter Kelli for our church family at Sheridan Lutheran Church in Lincoln.  It really hit home for me that we no longer live in a rural town when doing a vocal performance involves three services and over 1,500 people . . . if you want to listen in to the video, it can be found on my facebook page.
  • Nov 3-5 brought to the forefront the progress that the University of Nebraska Rural Futures Institute (RFI) has made in its early days of development when 540 participants packed the Cornhusker Hotel Conference Center for the 2nd Annual National Rural Futures Conference.  Participants from across the University system, communities across Nebraska and the Great Plains, and friends and partners from 22 states and around the world made good on the conference theme of “stepping beyond boundaries”.  As I said to the assembled crowd at the opening session on Nov 3, just like Northwestern players tipped up the ball from Ron Kellogg, III’s “hail mary” pass the night before, we have to catch the RFI ball and score.  With Chuck Schroeder coming on board as the founding director of RFI, and the obvious desire for engagement from so many people, partners, and places – I have no doubt that this is the start of, to quote President Milliken, “something big, audacious, and great that is going to make the University of Nebraska the WORLD leader in re-imagining rural”.  If you were unable to attend, I would strongly encourage you to go to www.ruralfutures.nebraska.edu to listen in to the presentations from Clay Jenkinsson (portraying Thomas Jefferson), Tom Kolopolous from the Delphi Group, and Chuck Schroeder.  There was a panel of young people in the session on the morning of Nov 5 that is also awe-inspiring and well worth a listen.
  • The morning of Nov 5, Chancellor Perlman and I had the opportunity to further develop our partnership plans with ConAgra on Nebraska Innovation Campus in a meeting with ConAgra CEO Gary Rodkin and VP for R&D Al Bolles.  We are tremendously excited about how this is developing and the opportunities it is creating for our food science and technology program to be at the core of a unique “food innovation center” that will lead the nation and US in this arena.  Great meeting for the four of us enabling us to move to the final steps of planning as the building process is moving forward to allow us to be moved in by summer 2015!
  • The afternoon of Nov 5, we were so pleased to host the honorable Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture, to jointly deliver the 2nd Heuermann Lecture of the academic year as well as be the keynote closing speaker for the National RFC.  It was indeed an amazing presentation from the Secretary where for 90 minutes he passionately spoke to issues of importance in rejuvenating rural people and places, how the Farm Bill is much more than food assistance and farm support, and how he challenged the young generation to step up and be successful in feeding and fueling the world ahead.  I have heard Secretary Vilsack speak on many occasions since he became the 30th US Secretary of Agriculture in 2009, but never have I heard him more direct, powerful, and passionate than last Tuesday afternoon.  I highly recommend that you go to listen if you missed it at  www.heuermannlectures.unl.edu.  Tom also serves as the chair of the White House Rural Council and following the lecture he met with rural development directors from an array of states who were in town for the RFC.  We are fortunate to have such a great public servant in his role.
  • I then headed west to Irvine, California for the 6th and final meeting of a National Academy of Sciences/ National Research Council review board I have been serving on this year that is charged with a review of the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program.  It has been a pleasure to serve as one of the 16 accomplished and talented appointed members of this group (and only sitting Land Grant University agriculture and natural resources leader) and I am confident we are coming forward with very useful recommendations for how the competitive grants program of USDA can be improved to better serve the needs of agriculture and food sciences innovation in the future.  We met at the National Academies Beckman Center on the campus of the University of California-Irvine – a really beautiful facility in its own right.
  • I am now headed to the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities in Washington, DC to network and hopefully learn something from administrative leaders of the nation’s public university system.  By the time this blog is posted, our very own Tiffany Heng-Moss from the UNL Department of Entomology will have been named the national winner of the USDA Excellence in Teaching Award from APLU and USDA.  All of us are so happy for Tiffany to be recognized nationally as we have long known her as one of the very best in the world in (and out of) the classroom.  Tiffany is only the second University of Nebraska faculty member to receive this honor – the other being our very own Ron Hanson.   She is tireless in her efforts for student learning – and most recently has been the lead in planning the undergraduate life sciences core curriculum (including the new LIFE 120/121 courses being offered for the first time this year) and in establishing our new Science Literacy for Food and Ag effort that is already being recognized as a national leader in this space.

It has been a fabulous last week +, ever-more reinforcing in my mind that we are indeed growing a healthy future like never before in and through IANR and the University of Nebraska.

Next up — having the wonderful chance to address all of UNL Extension on innovating for the future on Nov 14 and then on a plane to China on Nov 16.  What a wonderful life full of wonderful opportunities.

In the meantime – here is a shout out to all of our veterans who have done so much to protect our freedoms through their service.  We should all be deeply thankful.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Email
  • RSS
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment