[an error occurred while processing this directive]
December 4, 2001
Dear College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Faculty and Staff:
Who could have imagined how different our world looks now than it did when we began our fall semester? It certainly has been a challenging and difficult time for our College and for our nation, and yet I sense a resolve among our faculty, staff, and students that will most assuredly help us become stronger and more united than ever.
I don’t say this to dismiss the weight of the challenges that face us, but rather to let you know how proud I am of your continued dedication.
Despite recurring state budget cuts totaling $2.98 million, or 2.84 percent, (with an additional one-time budget cut of 2.7 to 4.0 percent anticipated) our students and the public have seen few cuts in services. That’s because you all have found innovative ways to work around budget problems. Indeed, thanks to your tenacity, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has emerged as the leader in grants and contracts at N.C. State University, more than tripling these awards from more than $17.2 million in 1991-92 to more than $54.7 million in 2000-01.
As I mentioned in a recent Bulletin column, this funding helps create a better learning environment for students, brings state-of-the-art research equipment to the university and expands our extension programs’ quality and reach. Our faculty members continue to do excellent work both here and abroad to address agricultural, life sciences, environmental and educational challenges.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, for example, we are pressing forward in the field of genomic science and, most recently, proteomics, the study and analysis of protein structure and function. Researchers with our Fungal Genomics Laboratory, working with their counterparts at Yale, recently completed the first analysis of all of an organism’s important proteins, developing a new high-throughput procedure that allowed them to quickly analyze how the 5,800 proteins in yeast interact with each other, with DNA and with lipids. The work has important implications for the analysis of other living organisms and, thus, for managing diseases that threaten the food supply and that endanger animal and human health.
Meanwhile, faculty members are using newly awarded Golden LEAF Foundation funds to continue our efforts to help producers pursue new enterprises, such as meat goats, industrial sweet potatoes and organic produce. And with recent funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, our Agromedicine Institute partnership with N.C. A&T State and East Carolina universities is working to address such issues as human metabolism of pesticides, farm-vehicle safety and heat-related illness in field crop workers. The Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology’s new building, dedicated in October on the Centennial Campus, will certainly aid this effort.
Farther from home, five college faculty members are working under a U.S. State Department grant to help their counterparts at Moldova’s agrarian university modernize their curricula to reflect the latest trends in science, education and agriculture. While this former Soviet state struggles to assemble a modern economy, the people of Honduras are recovering from Hurricane Mitch’s destruction. Over the past 18 months, they’ve had the help of four N.C. State faculty members and students who’ve used U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to address food safety in milk and cheese production.
Of course, there are many other excellent examples of the ways that our faculty have earned competitive grants that help us carry out our land-grant mission of teaching, research and extension in the agricultural and life sciences.
The quality of our work and our demonstrated commitment also inspire individuals and groups to entrust the college with monetary gifts. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, such trust proved an important factor in enabling us to experience our best fund-raising year ever. Our College Advancement unit registered nearly $27.6 million in contributions – more than any other N.C. State college.
On Friday, we celebrated this success during “The Spirit of America at NC State” gala in the Research Triangle Park. Nearly 400 people attended the event, designed to honor those who have generously funded scholarships, fellowships, professorships, and other endowments in our College. The College currently has more than 375 endowments totaling more than $100 million. These endowments fund more than 650 student scholarships and fellowships and 32 professorships for distinguished faculty.
As we embark on the university’s new capital campaign, I foresee significant increases in endowed fellowships, scholarships, professorships and programmatic support.
Such support allows us to recognize, reward and retain some of our finest faculty members. Last week, we had the pleasure of honoring Sterling Southern, in the Department of Entomology, as a Philip Morris Professor. And earlier in the year, we named seven highly deserving faculty members as William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professors. They are:
· Dr. Wendy Boss, Department of Botany
· Dr. John Brake, Department of Poultry Science
· Dr. Allen Foegeding, Department of Food Science
· Dr. Mason Pharr, Department of Horticultural Science
· Dr. Michael Roe, Department of Entomology
· Dr. Michael Walden, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
· Dr. Alan York, Department of Crop Science
Such individuals exemplify the College’s commitment to improving our world through education, research and extension. People are truly the heart of this college.
But, of course, if we are to retain such stellar faculty and staff members, we need to make sure that our legislature and the higher education leaders in this state understand who we are, what we do and how we make a difference. One of our most significant challenges is achieving equity among teaching, research and extension programs when it comes to salary funding.
Based on what we’ve heard from legislators and legislative staffers, it appears that we have made significant strides in helping the legislature understand this issue. Still, salaries for faculty members involved with academic programs were spared from state budget cuts while position funding for faculty and staff paid from the Agricultural Programs budget – that’s research and extension in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences – was cut by about 2.8 percent.
So as I approach the end of a year that has been among the most trying in our history, I recognize that we face significant challenges. But when I look around and see so many of you doing such good work under such trying conditions, I can’t help but be proud and optimistic about our future. And I can’t thank you enough for your commitment and your willingness to press forward, despite the obstacles.
Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday and for the New Year.
James L. Oblinger