As is often the case, the confluence of traveling abroad coupled with the commemoration of an important holiday this past weekend, put me solidly in a mode of reflection and introspection. This has been particularly poignant for me this Memorial Day weekend of 2015 for a number of reasons. First, it is the first Memorial Day in my 54 years of personal life that I am celebrating without any of the parental generation in our family still here with us, following the passing of my mother Frances Cahoon Green in Virginia this past fall. Secondly, I have been abroad this past week evaluating possible partnership work of IANR with Ataturk University in eastern Turkey. Thirdly, two weeks ago our family saw the last of the four Green children enter the final transition to adulthood as our daughter Regan Emily Green graduated from high school and now heads to UNL this fall to follow the path of her three older siblings. And, lastly, this past year has been a phenomenal one in our institutional history, YET, the coming year promises to be an almost unbelievable one both for IANR, and for me personally as I take on some new challenges for the greater UNL community.
Sitting in Istanbul today on the end of this trip, I found myself counting a lot of blessings.
The blessing that we are so well equipped to deliver on our mission of being one of the major world leaders in higher education in food, fuel, water, landscapes, and people was prominent on my mind for a whole host of reasons.
- We continue to receive an amazing level of state support from the State of Nebraska – with our latest budget for the next two years signed into law by Governor Ricketts this past week including important and long-awaited additional support for NCTA and for the new Yeutter Institute for International Trade and Finance. Ask any of your peers in most other states and you will learn quickly how fortunate and blessed we are to have this continued (and proportionally high) level of state support. We owe a great deal to all of our many stakeholders – especially to the Agriculture Builders of Nebraska and our supporting organizations of Nebraska Extension.
- We have absolutely amazing faculty who are on the cutting edge of the agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences which we have been able to significantly expand to increase our reach and impact in the past 2.5 years – with even more additions underway in the next year. When we complete the current round of faculty hiring, we will have added over 20% to our capacity in tenure-track faculty! Our faculty professionals are making a phenomenal difference as I am continually reminded – from being recognized locally, nationally, and internationally to what they deliver every day in the classroom, lab, field, and to the public in extending the University and its mission to the state and the greater world. Examples most recently include Professor Martha Mamo and Professor Charles Wood being recognized by NU as winners of the OTICA (Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity) and ORCA (Outstanding Research Creativity) awards, respectively, as well as our Department of Entomology being recognized by NU as the recipient of the UDTA (All-University Departmental Teaching) award. No other part of the University is so continually and frequently recognized for its excellence! And that is only the beginning as so many of our faculty will be recognized across the US and internationally this summer for their work – as happens year after year. This week I traveled with Professors Suat Irmak and Haishun Yang in Turkey – and as always, I marveled at the work they are doing and its impact around the world – they are just one small sample of the full breadth and impact of our over 750 faculty professionals.
- For the opportunity of having so many named endowed chairs and professorships – now with the addition of Professor Concetta DiRusso as a University Holmes Professor this spring and the recently announced funding now in place for a new Yeutter Presidential Chair for International Trade and Finance and Nebraska Corn Growers Presidential Chair – we are at 13 endowed chairs and 41 professorships amongst our tenured faculty. Nine of these endowed chairs have been enabled in the past four years – and we are well on our way to our goal of having 25 in place by 2020!
- For the blessing of an amazing team of staff professionals across IANR who are committed to our mission, and work endlessly and passionately to support our faculty and students, often with little recognition or limelight. From the custodial professionals up through our business professionals, facilities and grounds, and technical support staff – we are blessed to have them all pulling on our team and making us successful – and look good – every day.
- For the blessing of an amazing leadership team that is talented, dedicated, on the ball, and moving us forward every day in our divisions, departments, and centers and institutes. I pinch myself every day in having the opportunity to work with all of these talented servant leaders – and know they are as excited as I am about the future path ahead.
- For the blessing of being able to impact so many students who are going to be the leaders who meet the challenges of the coming generation and beyond. We graduated our largest class in history a few weeks ago – with next year promising to be even larger. I was so impressed and amazed to hear of the plans of our AS (NCTA), BS, MS, PhD, DPH, and DVM graduates – with very few not having a well-defined professional path forward to make a difference in Nebraska and around the world. Our undergrad and graduate students continue to increase in their academic credentials even as we are moving in to our 4th year of historical record enrollment – an amazing statistic in and of itself.
- For the phenomenal year we have ahead with moving into and further building of new physical infrastructure across our state-wide campus. Anytime you are involved in almost $250 million dollars of physical infrastructure work in a short period of time you know you are fortunate – and that is indeed where we are with Nebraska Innovation Campus’ new Food Innovation Center, Innovation Commons, and Greenhouse Phenomics Center; the new East Campus Recreation and Wellness Center; the new Stumpf International Wheat Research Center; the building of the new Veterinary Diagnostic Center; east campus residence hall; and the planned renovation of CY Thompson and the Food Industry Complex into the East Campus Student Learning Commons. Wow, is all I can say.
- For the blessing of over $140M raised in the University of Nebraska Foundation’s recently closed capital campaign in support of IANR programs – largest of any unit of the University outside of athletics! And if I am betting right, we have a huge year ahead of us with several major gifts set to occur in 2015-16. The generosity of our donors continues to be both humbling and overwhelming. None of that occurs without the offering of servant leadership of Ann Bruntz, Josh Egley, Kaye Jesske, and their colleagues at the University of Nebraska Foundation.
- For the blessing of major moves forward in our global engagement under the current leadership of Assistant Vice Chancellor Josh Davis and his team in the IANR Global Engagement office. We have so many international activities underway it could make one’s head spin – both at the individual faculty member level as well as institutionally across the world in China, India, Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Turkey as well as a number of regional efforts in the water and drought mitigation arena. We will soon be announcing a MAJOR new effort that will be engaging our College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources with an unprecedented building of higher education capacity for food security in central Africa – that will further expand our reach and impact in unprecedented ways. Keep your ears tuned as we come forward with that announcement this fall!
- For the blessing of new opportunities to make a difference. As you know, I was asked by Chancellor Perlman to serve dually in the coming time period ahead as both NU VP/IANR VC and interim Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs beginning on July 1. As the time for this approaches, I can hardly contain my excitement and enthusiasm for having the chance to serve the University in this way. There is so much to do – and so much potential – I am chomping at the bit to get to work. The only way I can even begin to take this on is because I have such strong people supporting me – the collective team of IANR deans, leadership council, the amazing staff team in the IANR Vice Chancellors office, and most importantly four people named Ron Yoder, Jill Brown, Jeff Bassford, and Murd Holland. I look forward to working with the SVCAA office team and a talented team of academic deans across the campus. It is going to be a blast!
So, this Memorial Day weekend, I am reminded of just how fortunate we are to be at the University of Nebraska, at this time working every day to make the world a better place.
I hope you all had a chance to pause this past weekend and say thanks in your own way to those who have come before us to allow us to live in this country where we deeply cherish freedom, democracy, education for all, and human rights. While sometimes it may seem we are a raucous and rowdy bunch politically, we are fortunate to live in the freest and most prosperous society in history here in America. I am so thankful for those who have given of themselves through their lives to make that true for us today – including my now departed parents and in-laws and the many generations before them. And, I so look forward to the giving to the world of the blessings of our children, grandchildren, and all of their many colleagues who will boldly lead us into the future. Oh, what excitement they have ahead of them in their lives to come!
Thanks so much for what you all do every day in fulfilling our mission as Nebraska’s Land-Grant University – the people’s University. It is a blessing to be here every day and I am humbled to serve all of you.
Have a wonderful and productive summer!
Share and Enjoy