Perspectives Online

Thinking Outside the Box


CALS Dean Johnny Wynne
Photo by Becky Kirkland

Ventured and Gained," "A Burgeoning Industry," "Seller's Market," "Workplace Wellness."

Some of this issue's story titles alone reveal that there is exciting, important, impact-making work being done at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. And the stories that accompany those headlines fulfill their promise — bringing news about College programs characterized by innovation and ahead-of-the-curve resourcefulness.

In fact, thinking out of the box is literally what is taking place in our Academic Programs, where a biology lab course provides a way for distance learning students to have a hands-on lab environment away from campus. As part of their course pack, these students receive a box full of the tools to conduct home experiments in illustration of general biology concepts. With this lab and an accompanying distance-ed lecture course, the College is bringing science into the homes of students across the state and around the world, as reported in this issue.

A word to the wise: Read here about "Women in Science and Engineering" (WISE), an N.C. State program to enhance the academic success of female science, mathematics and engineering students. The program seeks to reverse the downward trend of women entering professional science and engineering careers. Dr. Barbara Kirby, associate director of CALS Academic Programs, notes that our College has a strong number of women in the life sciences and animal science and that WISE directs them to potential career paths as it helps them network with faculty and mentors. In this issue we visit WISE Village, a living and learning community on campus open to first- and second-year female students in our College and the colleges of Engineering, Natural Resources, Textiles and Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

One "woman in science" CALS graduate is Dr. Sarah Spayd, who has returned to oversee the College's wine grape research and extension efforts as its new viticulturist and professor of horticultural science. Learn here about the roles Dr. Spayd, Extension associate Connie Fisk and food scientist Dr. Trevor Phister will play as the College supports and responds to the evolving needs of the state's grape growers and winemakers.

Much leading-edge research has been focused on alternative energy resources, such as biofuels. In our Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Dr. Jay Cheng is exploring ways of deriving ethanol from cellulose-rich plants such as Bermuda grass, a preferable source for ethanol than corn, in terms of land-use and expense. Furthermore, there's an environmental advantage as the Bermuda grass is grown in fields fertilized by hog manure: It absorbs the hog-waste nutrients so they do not reach water sources. More about the advantages of cellulose-derived fuels and other projects being piloted by Dr. Cheng is detailed in the article "Viable Alternative."

Dr. Arnie Oltmans, the subject of this issue's College Profile, predicts a future "marked by innovation and change" for agriculture.

When it comes to innovation and change, for the College the future is now.

Johnny Wynne, Dean
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences