July 30, 2004
As we begin a new academic year, I thought it an appropriate time to look back on the 2003-04 year and reflect on some of the major events in our College. As always, I believe faculty and staff throughout the College have worked hard to accomplish the land-grant mission, to provide an academic environment that will prepare our students for the future, to conduct research that solves problems and makes life better in North Carolina and beyond, and to provide educational opportunities through Extension to people throughout the state.
Providing relevant educational opportunities and conducting meaningful research are not static enterprises. We must continuously evaluate our programs as well as how those programs affect the society and world in which we live. That evaluation was particularly apparent in Academic Programs.
We developed a new undergraduate minor in Agroecology during the 2003-04 academic year, while also making major revisions in the Landscape major in Horticultural Science and the Agronomic Sciences, Agronomic Business, Crop Production and Turfgrass Management concentrations of the Agronomy major. We also made minor curricula revisions in five other undergraduate majors and four minors. We also developed 23 new undergraduate courses, revised 15 courses and dropped one. In addition, we also changed the curriculum of the Poultry Option of the Livestock Management and Technology major in the Agricultural Institute.
We conducted undergraduate program reviews and assessments for all College programs, including comprehensive reviews and assessments of the Agricultural and Extension Education undergraduate program and all academic programs in the departments of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Microbiology, Soil Science and 4-H Youth Development. At the graduate level, we developed a new masters degree program in Microbial Biotechnology, which will be offered by the Department of Microbiology. In addition, we developed seven new graduate courses and dropped one.
Early in 2004, we began planning the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center. This facility, which is being funded with a $36 million Golden LEAF grant, will be located on the Centennial Campus. To be completed by 2006-2007, this state-of-the-art facility will be collaborative with the College of Engineering. The Center will allow us to provide training that will help North Carolina remain among the top biotechnology regions in the nation and help our students find 21st Century jobs in North Carolina.
I believe efforts such as these, which keep our course offerings relevant and look to the future of both our state and our students, are a major reason we enrolled 4,705 students for the fall semester in 2003. That was our highest enrollment since 1998. Our growing enrollment speaks to the value students place on our programs.
While I am confident we are preparing our students well to become contributing members of society, many still face a difficult job market, resulting from an economy that continues to be less than robust. Certainly, Extension experienced the effects of this continuing economic slowdown when Mecklenburg County cut funding for several Extension programs. The Buncombe and Richmond County Extension programs also suffered budget cuts, and cuts were also threatened in Cabarrus County.
Clearly, budget shortfalls, particularly in urban areas where residents may not be familiar with Extension, represent a challenge. Cooperative Extension is moving to meet this challenge. Extension has embarked on an initiative to create a coordinated, strategic marketing plan to ensure that the organization remains relevant, responsive and respected as North Carolina’s leader in lifelong education. To guide this marketing and change management initiative, Extension hired Carolina PR/Marketing, a Charlotte-based firm. During seven district conferences last spring, Carolina PR representatives explained the initiative’s goals and discussed the importance of high-impact educational programs. Next, Carolina PR plans to survey key audiences about Extension, guide workshops in which employees discuss Extension’s future and develop a county relations strategy.
Extension is moving forward in other ways as well. Largely as a result of Extension efforts, the first Change Agent States for Diversity national diversity conference will be held in Greensboro in the spring of 2005. At the same time, the North Carolina Diversity Catalyst Team, a group of Extension employees, is working to develop a diversity plan for Cooperative Extension. The College also made a commitment to enhancing the recognition and importance of diversity by named Dr. Brenda Alston-Mills to the newly established position of Assistant Dean for Diversity.
Of course, Extension continued to provide programs that make life better for North Carolinians. We estimate that North Carolinians involved in producing field crops, fruits, vegetables and turfgrass increased their income by $88.45 million during the year through the efforts of Extension agents and specialists. Likewise, we estimate Extension programs helped North Carolinians involved in animal, poultry and aquaculture production realize increased income of $10.97 million.
With our Extension programs helping North Carolinians now, many of our Research programs are looking to the future. I believe strongly that the health of North Carolina’s agricultural future will depend to a large degree on how successfully we integrate value-added agriculture into our programs and develop value-added alternatives for North Carolina agriculture. We’ve hired faculty with bioprocessing expertise to enhance the efforts of faculty already working in this area. I believe we’ve made a good start toward helping North Carolina retain a viable agriculture.
Whether focused on production agriculture or the life sciences, our research programs remain strong. While I see evidence of that strength every day, I think it is particularly telling that an international effort to determine evolutionary relationships and explain similarities and differences among flies, mosquitoes, gnats and midges is being directed from the College. The effort is part of the National Science Foundation Tree of Life project and is funded with a $2.4 million NSF grant. At the same time, a $2 million USDA RAMP program grant was awarded to develop a Sweetpotato IPM Advisory System that will allow growers, shippers and packers to reduce reliance on calendar-based pesticide applications by modifying site selection, production and postharvest handling practices. These are only two of many new grants received this year. The college received an additional $55 million of new awards this year. We also exceeded our $35 million private fund-raising goal by securing $40.9 million this year. Our continued success in obtaining resources is a tribute to our excellent faculty and staff.
I am reluctant to recognize individuals in this letter simply because so many of our faculty members are honored by various awards and it would be difficult to name them all without missing someone. However, I would like to recognize the following individuals.
· Dr. William R. Atchley, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Genetics, Statistics and Biomathematics, was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
· Dr. Bruce S. Weir, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Statistics and Genetics and Director of the Bioinformatics Research Center, received the O. Max Gardner Award, the highest faculty honor presented by the UNC Board of Governors.
· Dr. Eugene J. Eisen, William Neal Reynolds Professor and Graduate Administrator of Animal Science, and Dr. Major M. Goodman, Williams Neal Reynolds Professor of Crop Science, received Holladay Medals, the highest honor bestowed on faculty by the Board of Trustees and the University.
· Dr. Kerry Smith, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, was named to the National Academy of Sciences.
· Dr. Robert Patterson, Department of Crop Science, received the UNC Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching.
· Dr. Fred Gould, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Entomology, received the 2004 Alexander von Humboldt Award, one of the most prestigious awards for agricultural research in the United States.
All these awards are well deserved, as are the many other honors received by faculty members each year.
As anyone who has moved about our campus is aware, we are in the midst of a building boom, and several construction projects affect our College. The new Undergraduate Science Teaching Laboratory along with several new greenhouses opened in January, while a renovation of David Clark Labs is underway, scheduled for completion in 2005. Renovation of Schaub Hall began in May and is scheduled for completion in 2005 as well. Renovations of Polk Hall, Williams Hall and South Gardner Hall are scheduled over the next several years. While I realize construction can make life difficult in a number of ways, we will do all we can to ensure that projects will be well worth the inconvenience.
We continue to face budgetary challenges during the 2003-2004 year. This will continue again this year as we receive an additional budget reduction of 1.47 percent. I am cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind us. Despite the fiscal difficulties we’ve faced in recent years, I believe our programs remain strong, among the best in the nation, thanks to the hard work of all our faculty and staff. I am pleased to be working with an excellent administrative team during this challenging time.
Please be assured that we in administration are keenly interested in your ideas and concerns. Feel free to give me a call, or better yet, drop me an email if you have any issues you would like to discuss.
Thank you again for all you do for our College and our state.