Dean’s Blog – March 2017 – In Like a Lion Edition

The Blog has warmed up after being frozen stiff by Stella, a most unwelcome mid-March storm that ripped through Newark on the 14th and 15th. To make matters worse, February brought near-record warmth that pushed Forsythia, daffodils, Saucer Magnolias, and other early bloomers. It was really looking like an early spring, and I had not shoveled snow a single time since the Snowmageddon event of January 2016. But no, Stella had to remind us all that we had weeks to go before spring would arrive. I wanted to scream like Marlon Brando in that famous scene from A Streetcar Named Desire.

The good news was that the students got a snow day, and faculty and staff got a chance to catch up on mid-semester tasks. The snow blanketed campus for a few days and made for some beautiful pictures. As I write, Spring Equinox sunlight is melting the last remnants of Stella away, and the grounds crew is rounding up tree limbs that were brought down. Newark is ready to bloom again.

So, as you’re enjoying the harbingers of spring outside of your window, here are a few things that are happening in the College:

Worrilow Hall. My middle initial is W, but I rarely use my middle name (Weston). Given my persistence in rallying interest for upgrading Worrilow Hall, many would guess that the W stands for “Worrilow”. Well, all the effort has finally precipitated a decision point – we’re approved for a $30 million upgrade of Worrilow Hall! The College must raise $10 million toward the project, but with more than half of that amount in hand today, I am confident that we can reach our goal. Virtually every CANR student has a class in Worrilow Hall, and many students conduct research projects there alongside our talented faculty and staff. Faculty housed in Worrilow generate millions of dollars in grants annually, and the resulting research is cited hundreds of times. It is the heart of the CANR knowledge engine. A Worrilow upgrade gives us a chance to provide our students, faculty and staff a state-of-the-art learning lab, which in turn, will produce even more in terms of impactful science and career-ready graduates. We envision a problem-based learning lab, core facilities such as analytical chemistry and flow cytometry, and larger, more flexible research spaces. The design of the Harker Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab is our model – if you have not seen this building, make sure you stroll through it the next time you are on the main campus.

In fact, we have already started to create new spaces in Worrilow. By this time next year, we’ll have a 3000-square foot Food Pilot Plant and Creamery expansion in place. We can begin now because we’re upgrading a fairly autonomous space in the far corner of the building, so the construction won’t affect our research and teaching lab plans. We’ve raised over a million dollars for this space, and need to raise another $500,000 for the pasteurization equipment needed to handle the milk from our dairy herd. Eventually, we’ll make new products like cheese and yogurt to complement our existing line of ice cream products. We’ll even brew beer as part of our Fermentation Science course, and make wine from grapes grown on the Newark farm. The Pilot Plant is essentially a food and beverage “maker space”, where students can explore new products in a real-world setting, applying their classroom learning and becoming entrepreneurs. We hope to double the enrollment in our Food Science program with this facility.

Reaching our fundraising goal for Worrilow will require a new level of donor participation, so I hope that many of you will consider a gift toward the project. No gift is too small, and every gift brings us closer to our goal of providing the best facility possible for our students, faculty, staff and stakeholders. Please visit to learn more.

UDairy Creamery comes to Wilmington on Wednesday, May 3!

Right after winter storm Stella, I saw people sitting outside of the Creamery eating ice cream on a sunny, but cool 47° day. There was still snow on the ground, but that didn’t deter their enthusiasm for our award-winning ice cream. Now those are the kind of customers that we’d like to see more often! And we’ll have another location for all our UDairy fans in downtown Wilmington soon. Opening on Market Street in early May, this location will be staffed by students in UD’s Associate in Arts program, which is also located in downtown Wilmington. The idea is to provide the same hands-on, entrepreneurial learning experience for the Wilmington-based students as we do for students in Newark. We will be closing a block of Market Street for a few hours in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 3rd, so please join us if you can. The event details will be posted on the Creamery website:

Enrollment projections for Fall ’17 up! Thanks to Chris Lucier, UD’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, and many others in his shop, the enrollment projections for the Class of ’21 are looking very good. At this point the admission process is completed, and now we’re working on yielding the best students in the group. In CANR, our admissions are at record levels. We’ve admitted 640 students this year compared to ~500 in previous years, so we can project a ~20% increase in the incoming class this fall. This single-year increase is larger than the last three years combined! We look forward to welcoming each and every one of them next fall.

Retirements, searches and personnel changes

Searches for new faculty and staff positions continue as the college has been experiencing a relatively large number of retirements. Here’s an update:

  • Jennifer Clem has taken a position nearer to her home in Lewes, Delaware. While with us only briefly, she did an excellent job as sponsored programs coordinator, traveling between Newark and Georgetown locations to cover Extension.
  • Mark Baker is retiring on April 1. He worked on the Newark Farm for many years, and we wish him well as he moves on to other pursuits.
  • The dairy manager position, soon to be vacated by Richard Morris’ retirement, has attracted several good candidates who will be interviewed in the next few weeks.
  • Wei Qian will join us as the newest Assistant Professor of Statistics this June. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. We look forward to having him complete our Stats team in the department of Applied Economics and Statistics.
  • Renita Chakrabarti has joined the CANR business team as sponsored program coordinator. She comes to us from Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, and has already made improvements in our grants management operation.
  • Melissa McDerby has joined CANR in the role of Extension 4-H support, a position vacated by Joyce Witte.
  • I have made an offer to the top candidate in our search to fill a plant molecular biology position in Plant and Soil Sciences, to be located at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. We should have this wrapped up in a few days, and look forward to welcoming the new person to CANR. I am grateful to Randy Wisser and others on this search committee.
  • Two extension faculty positions are being filled in departments of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and Plant and Soil Sciences. In each of the two closely related searches, we have had over 25 applicants. Once these folks are on board, we’ll complete a strong, interdisciplinary “crops team” in Sussex County, with expertise in agronomy, entomology, pathology, weed science, plant breeding, and horticultural crop management. Special thanks to Mark Isaacs, Carvel Center Director, and Michelle Rodgers, Extension Director, for leading this effort.
  • We are conducting a nationwide search for the next Chair in our strongest research department, Plant and Soil Sciences. Bob Lyons has come out of retirement to lead the department in an interim role until we complete this search later this year. We thank Bob for stepping in and look forward to interviewing applicants for this important position in the coming weeks. Feel free to nominate worthy individuals – the position is advertised here.
  • Alumnus and former Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee will be joining the College next fall as an Executive in Residence. In this role, Ed will help strengthen existing relationships with industry and agency, and build new partnerships. He will be in residence about once per month to interact with faculty, staff and students and bring in folks from outside of UD to do the same. I look forward to working with Ed as we broaden the reach and relevance of the College throughout the Delmarva region.

Special thanks to all of the faculty and staff that have served on search committees and done the behind-the-scenes work to bring the best candidates to the CANR family.

Michele Walfred wins Excellence in Service Award! I am pleased that Michele has won this award, as her enthusiasm and commitment to excellence in her role as Communications Specialist II are boundless. Michele works at the Carvel Center in Georgetown, but through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other digital media, her presence is felt throughout the state. She has been behind the scenes in so much of what we do as a college, I’m glad that she is being recognized with this distinguished award.

Like March, the blog is going out like a lamb to find spring. It returns in May as we prepare for commencement.

Dean’s Blog – January 2017 – Happy New Year Edition

With the start of a new year, the Blog has resolved to switch things up a bit and come to you in odd-numbered months. This is due, in part, to missing the deadline for the December Blog (!), but also, it allows me to emphasize annual activities in the College that I haven’t before, and should be more interesting as 2017 unfolds (no guarantees, of course).

January truly is a unique month at the University of Delaware. Unlike many other universities, we have maintained a “J-term”, AKA Winter Session, which is a 5-week term that allows us to teach special courses on topics such as making ice cream, floriculture, the science of wine, and international agriculture via study abroad. All told, about 1,000 Blue Hens are studying on six continents, having experiences that they’ll never forget. Another 5,000+ students are taking classes on campus to enrich their academics or simply catch up on something they missed. Of course, this is a big change from the 22,000 students here fall and spring semesters, so it is relatively quiet in Townsend Hall. Many faculty use the time to write grants and papers, update courses and attend professional meetings, so they are enjoying the informal atmosphere of Winter Session. It is a good time to knock out a few things that you’ve resolved to get done.

As you continue to ring in the New Year, here are some updates on things that occurred during the close out of 2016, and some items to ponder for a new calendar year.

Assanis Inauguration. Our 28th president, Dennis Assanis, was inaugurated on December 7, 2016, in a grand ceremony that featured speeches by Vice President Joe Biden and Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities. It was only the second inauguration ceremony that I have been involved with in my 30 years in academia. It was great to have a bird’s eye view from the platform along with the deans, vice presidents and others seated in our caps and gowns behind President Assanis. It was an inspirational ceremony, complete with musical performances, followed by a symposium highlighting key strengths of UD. The president’s mother made the trip from Greece to attend, as did several of Dr. Assanis’ former colleagues. Clearly, it was an emotional day for him and his family. I predict that 2017 will be a year of change—for the better at UD; the blog will keep you up to date on the latest news.

20 by 20 plan. As mentioned in his inauguration speech, President Assanis would like to see UD grow by 1,000 undergraduate students in the next five years and by about 4,000 graduate students over the next decade. This is particularly welcome news to all of us in CANR, as we have been growing.

At the Fall Faculty Meeting in December, I challenged faculty and staff to work toward raising enrollment and teaching activity 20 percent by the end of 2020 – the “20 by 20” plan. I think we can do it. Between 2012 and 2015, we increased the size of the incoming undergraduate class by 12 percent, increased credit-hour production by 16 percent and increased graduate enrollment by 23 percent. This is within our reach in a four-year timeframe. In fact, recently we learned that application volume for incoming freshman for Fall 2017 was up 14 percent compared to last year and up 33 percent compared to Fall 2015! We have a long way to go before we know our final numbers for 2017, but we’re on the right track.

We need everyone to help drive potential students our way because high school students are often unaware of the great careers associated with agriculture and natural resource degrees. According to a recent article by, agriculture graduates experience the second lowest rate of unemployment of any college major—only 1.8 percent, which is well below the national unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. Couple that with about two job opportunities for every graduate, you can see that our students are in high demand! We’re revising our curricula and importantly, our marketing strategy, as we rise to the “20 by 20” challenge. Please help spread the word about opportunities in the college.

Scholarships and internships. CANR enjoys the largest portfolio of endowed scholarships of any college at UD, which is truly astounding given that we are the second smallest college in terms of student (and consequently alumni) numbers. Our alumni and friends have been quite generous over the years, establishing 79 endowments that provide much needed financial assistance to students as they pursue their studies and engage in internship experiences. Private donors also support over 20 students each summer who work on the Farm, with Cooperative Extension, in the lab, or in the UD Botanical Gardens gaining valuable experience that gives them an edge when it comes time to apply for jobs.

We are so very grateful to all who have contributed to student support over the years—there are literally hundreds of folks to thank. Student support is one of our highest campaign priorities. I hope that we can count on many of you to continue this tradition of excellence as we launch the capital campaign later this year.

Upcoming awards and recognitions

CANR Excellence in Teaching and Staff Support Awards. Please think about nominating faculty and staff for our 2017 college awards. The faculty award is for excellence in teaching and student learning, and the staff award is for administrative support. The awards carry a monetary gift and recognition on the platform at graduation. We recently sent a formal call for nominations, so please send me your thoughts on worthy candidates, and we’ll reach out to them.

Distinguished Alumni and Worrilow Awards. It is not too early to be thinking about candidates for these awards, as spring nomination time will be here before you know it. Each department in the college can recommend one distinguished alum, and college-wide, we select one young alum (who graduated fewer than 20 years ago) for the Distinguished Alumni Awards. The Worrilow awardee is selected by all past Worrilow awardees (like the Heisman trophy). However, if you have ideas for nominees, I can funnel them to the group. One of the great pleasures of being a dean is meeting many of our successful alumni and hearing their life stories, and I know there are many, many potential candidates. Please let us know who you think deserves consideration.

Another first in the First State. We are pleased to welcome Georgie Cartanza as our new poultry agent in Sussex County. Right after her start date, we found out that she was selected as a 2017 Nuffield Scholar. This prestigious program, which is named for Lord Nuffield and originated in the UK in 1950, focuses on bringing together an elite group of agriculturists from around the globe to take part in a year-long series of international visits and workshops. She is the first ever Nuffield Scholar from the United States, so we are beaming with pride that one of the CANR family was selected to represent the USA in this outstanding program. She will bring back a wealth of ideas to Sussex County. What a great way to start a new career!

Retirements, searches and personnel changes

In the last blog, I commented on filling positions throughout the College, as we have experienced relatively large numbers of retirements recently. Here is a brief update on key positions.

  • Sherry Kitto, a professor of plant science, retired at the end of 2016 after 32 years at UD. She was an excellent instructor and ran a research program in plant tissue culture for many years.
  • Joanne Whalen, our extension specialist in entomology, retired at the end of 2016 as well. She was one of the most well-known CANR employees as she traveled tirelessly throughout the region for decades, solving pest management problems and saving countless acres from insect damage.

Searches for two new faculty positions that are nearing completion yielded incredibly large pools of candidates, indicating that CANR is attracting excellent talent: over 160 applicants for the Plant Molecular Biologist position and over 50 for the Statistics position. Both search committees commented on how hard it was to narrow the pool to three interviewees.

  • Richard Morris, longtime dairy manager and research associate will retire in 2017, and we’ve already begun to look for someone to fill his shoes.
  • Joyce Witte has retired from her role in supporting Delaware 4-H after several years of outstanding effort serving the state’s youth.
  • Alice Moore, who has worked as an administrative assistant in Extension for years, has moved up to become a business administrator for Cooperative Extension, a position that we have intended to fill for a long time.
  • Kimberly Allen just came on board as the lab manager at our Lasher lab in Georgetown, taking over the responsibilities of Brenda Sample, who retired last summer.
  • Betsy Morris has joined New Castle County Extension as a 4-H agent.
  • At the Carvel Center in Georgetown, Sharon Webb has stepped up to the business administrator position vacated when Barb Stephens retired last fall. Sharon won the award for excellence in staff support two years ago, so I am sure that business ops at Carvel are in good hands.

We welcome these new faces, and hope we continue to see those who have retired regularly. I thank all of the faculty and staff that have served on search committees and done the behind-the-scenes work to bring the best candidates to the CANR family.

Sending our best wishes to outgoing Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. A recent article in UDaily highlights the many accomplishments of Ed Kee, a giant in the field of agriculture and a tremendous supporter of our efforts at CANR. It’s a fascinating read, as Ed reflects on his stellar career, which began at the University of Delaware, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1973 and a master’s degree in plant science in 1975. He returned to obtain a master of arts in liberal studies in 1996. He also shares his thoughts on the future of agriculture. On behalf of everyone in the College, I thank Ed for his outstanding service to the College, the State of Delaware, and to the agricultural industry.

Remembering Stephanie Dann. Regrettably, I leave you with the sad news that Stephanie Dann, UD alumna and daughter of former CANR Dean George M. Worrilow, passed away Saturday, December 24, 2016. Stephanie was one of the last people to live in the historic Wilson Farmhouse on the Newark Farm, as that is where the Worrilow family lived for a time when he was dean. Stephanie recalled her days growing up on the Newark Farm and fond memories of the College when I visited her in Tampa about two years ago. The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the George M. Worrilow Scholarship Award via UD’s website:

The blog will return in March as we say goodbye to winter. In the meantime, I leave you with a special note by a student expressing gratitude for a scholarship that will enable her to realize her dreams. I join her in thanking all of you!

Dean’s Blog – October 2016 – Homecoming Edition


Typically, I would write about a chill in the air, sunny but shorter days, the first frost and other autumn themes in the October edition. However, on warm days this month, the temperature required shorts and a T-shirt for many.

While the variable rainfall pattern and unusual warmth throw Delaware farmers a curve ball, students in my Sustainable and Organic Farming course enjoy the weather as we spend every Friday on the farm practicing what’s preached in class. They work in teams to produce kale, broccoli, cauliflower or lettuce—all cool season crops. This reinforces the challenges farmers face with weather. As the season turns over Homecoming weekend, we will soon eat kale and lettuce, along with broccoli and cauliflower by Thanksgiving. The grand college tradition of Homecoming falls on the last weekend of October, so it’s a great time to reflect on certain events.fallfest

Fall festivities

Fall Fest Success! The first ever CANR Fall Fest was a great hit in September. Designed as a “welcome back” event for our students, we hosted over 200 students, faculty and staff on a gorgeous fall afternoon. The menu included UD Fresh to You organic garden produce and UD-raised Angus hamburgers. A great time was had by all. In addition to Grace Wisser, our event coordinator, I am grateful to many who worked hard to develop this event:

  • Scott Hopkins and the UD farm team (Richard Morris, Mark Baker, Ron Gouge, Charlie Willis, Albie Nojunas, Sam Reynolds, Rodney Willis, Larry Armstrong and Wayne Bartsch)
  • Mike Popovich (UD Fresh to You)
  • Chef Carl Zampini and catering team
  • Sara Dietz and the sisters of Sigma Alpha Professional Sorority
  • Matthew Bogdan and the brothers of Alpha Gamma Rho
  • Alpha Zeta
  • Agricultural College Council
  • Ag Ambassadors
  • UD Creamery
  • Communications team (Wenbo Fan, Catherine Hamrick, Christy Mannering and Adam Thomas)

By the way, we still have Angus burgers for sale in the Creamery—get ’em while they last!burger

George M. Worrilow and Distinguished Alumni Awards. Each year at Homecoming, the College recognizes its most distinctive alumni through the presentation of special awards. On Friday, October 28 in the Townsend Commons, we recognized this year’s recipients.

Distinguished Alumni:

  • Gary D. Curl, Class of ’74 B.S, Class of ’76 M.S., Founder and President, Specialty Consultants LLC
  • Gary Smith, Class of ’78 B.S., Landscape Architect
  • Cynthia M. Stewart, Ph.D., Class of ’91 B.S., Class of ’94 M.S., Global Cultures and Food Protection Technology and Innovation Leader, DuPont Nutrition and Health

Distinguished Young Alumnus:

  • Andrew Short, Ph.D., Class of ’02, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas

George M. Worrilow Award:

  • Wayne L. Currey, Ph.D., Class of ’65 B.S. and Class of ’67 M.S., Founder and President, Weed Systems, Inc.

Congratulations again to all of these talented and successful alumni! I thank everyone who nominated individuals for these awards and those who worked very hard to organize the event.

Other awards and recognitions

David Townsend elected National FFA president! We are beaming with pride this month as David Townsend, one of our students with double majors in Agriculture and Natural Resources and Plant Science, has been elected President of National FFA. This organization is 650,000 students strong with over 7,800 chapters throughout the U.S. and its territories. David will spend a year in this role, traveling over 100,000 miles to represent FFA to students, teachers, corporate sponsors, politicians and the general public. This is the first time that Delaware has had a national officer in FFA since 1969. Moreover, it’s the only time a Delawarean has assumed the position of FFA President. Way to go, David, and best of luck with your presidency! For more on the story, click here.

The Garden Club of America Commendation. The University of Botanic Gardens (UDBG) and the Plant and Soil Sciences Department jointly received a formal commendation from The Garden Club of America in October:

“GCA 2016 Zone V Horticulture Commendation: In recognition of their longstanding commitment to education of the community and their leadership in the field of horticulture within the zone and nation.”

A special thanks goes out to John Frett, Melinda Zoehrer and others at UDBG, The Garden Club of Wilmington for its nomination, and all of the faculty, staff and students in Plant and Soil Sciences who earned this wonderful recognition!

Annual Extension Awards. The Delaware Cooperative Extension Annual Conference was held on October 26, with joint participation from both University of Delaware and Delaware State University Extension personnel. Their annual Friends of Extension Awards were given to the following people in each of four programmatic areas:

  • Ornamental Horticulture: Richard Pratt, Certified Arborist
  • Family and Consumer Science: Debra Roney, volunteer
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources:
    • John W. Thomas, Kent County grain producer
    • Arthur O. Tucker, Emeritus Professor, Delaware State University
  • 4-H Youth Development:
    • The United Way of Delaware
    • Rhonda Reynolds, Blessed Givings (family outreach non-profit)

We’re grateful for all of their support of Cooperative Extension over the years and for the way that their efforts complement our work. Congratulations to these well-deserved awardees!

President’s Report on Philanthropy. The 2016 President’s Report on Philanthropy recognizes all UD donors, including the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ community of supporters. Such generosity impacts scholarships, faculty research, facilities and much more. We hope you will join us in acknowledging these generous individuals by clicking here to view the report. On behalf of the College, a sincere thank you to all of our supporters!

Retirements, searches and personnel changes

In the August Blog, I failed to mention that Judy Hough-Goldstein, professor of Entomology, began her retirement sabbatical year and will retire officially in June 2017. Judy worked on biological control of invasive plant species, notably the mile-a-minute weed, and served UD for 35 years. She is also a great fiddle player and frequently played bluegrass music at Ag Day. Hail and well done, Judy; we will miss you!

As Judy and several others retire, we’re working quickly on searches to fill important positions throughout the College.

  • In Plant and Soil Sciences, we seek a molecular biologist to work on crop genetics, genomics and related topics. This person will join other CANR faculty located in the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.
  • In the same department, we will hire an agronomist with primarily Extension responsibilities early in 2017.
  • Accompanying the agronomist will be an Extension entomologist in our Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology. That search is well underway.
  • The Department of Applied Economics and Statistics plans to fill three positions in statistics, two predominantly focused on teaching and the other a teaching/research split appointment. These searches, combined with other recent hires in statistics, will renew the statistics side of the department in just three years!
  • In Extension, we will shortly announce the next poultry agent who will be housed at the Carvel Center in Georgetown, serving Delaware’s largest agricultural industry. Details will appear in the December Blog.
  • At Carvel, Sharon Webb has filled the position of business administrator, replacing Barbara Stephenswho retired this month after 43 years of service. Sharon will keep Mark Isaacs straight. Sharon’s old position will be posted soon. A new lab coordinator will oversee the critical function of our Lasher Laboratory for poultry disease diagnostics.
  • We will also fill a business officer position that will be a great asset to Michelle Rodgers in managing the fiscal complexity of Delaware Cooperative Extension.
  • Last, we will welcome a new financial coordinator to the dean’s suite in early 2017, as we look to build the personnel infrastructure to support CANR’s position as the third largest College at UD in terms of sponsored programs. I thank all of the faculty and staff who have served on search committees and done the behind the scenes work to bring the best candidates to the CANR family.

Congratulations to staff members who were reclassified recently.

  • Mike Popovich, who manages the UD Fresh to You and Garden for the Community enterprises that bring local, organically grown vegetables to both the Newark area and the Food Bank of Delaware, has been reclassified to farm manager. This well-deserved and long overdue reclassification recognizes all that Mike does to enhance teaching, research and Extension in the College.
  • Katie Daly was reclassified to academic program manager in recognition of her tireless efforts in recruiting and advising undergraduate students. As tuition dollars provide the majority of the College’s budget, we couldn’t exist without Katie’s efforts and those of her colleagues in Undergraduate Student Services.

I thank Kawkab Rasheed, Kathryn Thoroughgood, Chris Towers and others who prepare and review reclassifications.

UD to grow under Assanis administration

Our 28th president, Dennis Assanis, has been developing plans for the growth of UD as he settles into his new role. The deans and other administrators have met frequently throughout the fall to plan for growth, which includes 1,000 new undergraduate students and a doubling of graduate student numbers within five years. To accommodate such growth, we look to hire 250 new faculty members over the same period.

And we don’t simply want to grow quantitatively; we will endeavor to enhance the quality of our teaching, research and outreach as well. It’s too early to say how we will grow in terms of buildings and infrastructure, but UD’s skyline will clearly change as we bring in more students, faculty and staff. Obviously, this has created a lot of excitement across campus as we imagine new possibilities. Indeed, Delaware will shine in the coming years!sunset-farm

Speaking of shining—the days may be getting shorter, but the sun always rises beautifully over CANR, whatever the season.  Happy Homecoming and Happy Halloween. Go Blue Hens!

The Blog will return in December in time for winter break along with a final 2016 roundup of our research in the news. We continue to grow our presence in traditional print and new media. For example, here is a quick snapshot of our September placements. I invite you to follow us on social media!sept-digital-media-report

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Dean’s Blog – August 2016 – Summer Is Over Edition


Say it ain’t so! Another beautiful summer in Delaware is coming to a close. On the bright side, this year’s hot weather means that we’ll be in for summer fun until a bit later this year. But the heat hasn’t kept our College of Agriculture and Natural Resources from an active summer on the Newark campus.

Record numbers of student interns worked in our dairy, creamery, organic garden and botanical gardens this summer, along with many Extension Scholars spread across the state. A large crew of students worked with Mark Isaacs on the Thurman Adams Farm in Georgetown (below).


As we get ready for another academic year beginning in just a few days, here are the latest summer highlights in the CANR community.

Incoming Class. Imagine being a member of the Class of 2020—great expectations to be sure! We will welcome the new class to UD on August 29. Before you know it, we will watch them head out to change the world in June of 2020 (with 20-20 vision for their futures!).

The size of this incoming CANR class matches last year’s number. Importantly, the class is our most diverse ever, with about 20% of our students coming from underrepresented groups. In fact, CANR led all other UD colleges in this respect.


To ensure the best educational experience possible for the Class of 2020, we’ve made some improvements to the Fischer Greenhouse complex, Townsend Hall, the O.A. Newton Building, the Animal Anatomy Lab and our Newark Farm. Our students will enjoy some upgrades both in and out of the classroom as they dive into their studies.

Creamery Expansion. Speaking of upgrades, one of many exciting developments the Class of 2020 can look forward to is the build-out and opening of the UDairy Creamery expansion. Thanks to the Unidel Foundation and generous donors, we’ll move forward on a $1+ million construction project that will provide both greater production capabilities for the Creamery and a great “maker space” for our Food Science and related programs.

We will create about 2,000 square feet of food-grade workspace in Worrilow Hall, and over time, we will build infrastructure to make new dairy products like cheese and yogurt. We’ll also use the space for brewing beer and other fermented beverages as part of our Fermentation Science and Science of Wine courses, and we’ll be able to pasteurize and bottle beverages such as teas and lemonade.

In addition, we are in the developmental stages of a beverage management minor that we’ll offer jointly with UD’s Department of Hospitality Business Management (formerly Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management) to give the students a place to put their studies into practice.

With the Delaware craft beer industry skyrocketing, as exemplified by Dogfish Head, Iron Hill, 16 Mile and other breweries, we’re partnering with industry to develop relevant academic programs. We will even be growing hops on our farm next year, again thanks to a generous donor who provided funding to install a hop yard. The learning opportunities are endless.

A New Tradition: Fall Fest. College life is full of traditions. From Homecoming weekend to Spring Break to Ag Day, the academic year is punctuated by events that began decades ago. This year, we’re starting a new tradition—Fall Fest—when we will welcome students back to campus as we enjoy the bounty that our farm has produced over the summer from grass-fed beef to fresh, organically grown vegetables. As we take time to celebrate the harvest tradition with our students, this event reinforces the fact that they are an important part of the CANR family.

Departures. This summer, several CANR folks have moved on to the next chapters of their careers. We are grateful for their time, talents, knowledge and service.

  • In June, the legendary “Dr. T,” Carl Toensmeyer, began his retirement leave year. Throughout his career, Dr. T influenced many students. Thanks to his tireless efforts with the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA), some have gone on to run their own successful agribusinesses or achieve executive status in major companies.
  • Larry Cogburn III, one of our poultry science faculty, also began his retirement leave in June. Our pre-vet students will remember him for the physiology course that he taught; although tough, it prepared them well for the challenges of veterinary school.
  • Richard Taylor, an Extension specialist in agronomy, retired in June. He received an outstanding Extension educator award at the Northeastern Extension Directors annual meeting in Pittsburgh in June, a fitting tribute to an impactful career.
  • Chuck Mason, one of our agricultural entomologists, retired in June after 40+ years of service. Aside from being a great scientist and teacher, Chuck gave much time and effort helping to grow Alpha Gamma Rho, the agricultural fraternity at UD.
  • John Pesek will begin his retirement leave year at the end of this month after a successful career as a professor of statistics. John, a great research collaborator, taught several courses in our vibrant MS-STAT program.
  • On August 16, we held a wonderful retirement reception for Tom Sims, our former T.A. Baker Professor of Soil Science. Tom had a stellar career as a professor and then served the college as deputy dean for almost a decade and a half—as a fantastic colleague and friend. He and his wife Connie will retire to beautiful Watkinsville, Georgia, near the University of Georgia. He’s pictured here at the center of a group of former students and colleagues. (Apparently, they all share a love of hats!)


  • Cathy Kinney, the dean’s administrative specialist, retired on July 29 after serving four CANR deans over many years. Most of all, I will miss her warm smile and pleasant disposition.

New Additions. On the incoming side, we have a few new faces to announce, even as we’re vigorously seeking to fill several positions.

  • Ivan Hiltpold, an entomologist, is our newest faculty member; he will start on September 1. Ivan is from Switzerland originally, worked briefly in Missouri, and is now moving all the way from Australia to join us. He brings a wealth of talent and experience to our Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology even at this early stage of his career.
  • Catherine Conrad will join us on September 6 as an administrative specialist following Cathy Kinney’s departure. She’ll be working next to Kathryn Thoroughgood, Kathy Lyons, and Catherine Hamrick in the dean’s suite. I’m not kidding. So if you drop by the dean’s suite asking for “Catherine,” you may get a lot of attention! We’ll have to come up with some nicknames….


CANR in the News

Below is a list of recent stories from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Originally published on UDaily, they were picked up by national and international news organizations either organically or through coordination with UD’s Communications and Public Affairs Office:

Link to original UDaily story: Clean Produce: UD professor develops UV light oven to fight off foodborne pathogens

Picked up by:

Link to original UDaily story: Cat Scat: UD research examines food habits of snow leopards

Picked up by:

Link to original UDaily story: Wooden Breast Chickens: UD researchers investigate wooden breast in broiler chickens

Picked up by:

The News Journal ran an article on recent graduate Sarah Morrissey’s work on poultry lighting which was covered on UDaily back in February and was also featured in the Morning Ag Clips: Delmarva edition.

The News Journal also featured John and Jeanne Frett’s work making blankets, and Limin Kung was profiled in the New Zealand Dairy Exporter.

In addition, the following stories were featured in the Delmarva edition of Morning Ag Clips:

Dean’s Blog – June 2016 – Graduation Edition


Graduation ceremonies are always bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s our job to produce career-ready graduates, yet on the other hand, we’re sad to see these fine young people walk out of our classrooms for the last time. In a small college like ours, we get to know them as they grow significantly in four short years.

Most of the 250 eligible grads at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources “walked” on May 27 and then had beautiful, warm weather at commencement the next morning. It was a great weekend. Like most other deans, I participated in five ceremonies in 36 hours.  I can honestly say that I enjoyed each one, despite losing a few pounds of water weight at the outdoor ceremonies! These newly minted Blue Hens joined a global network of over 160,000 UD alumni and are in very good company. We wish them well as they endeavor to feed the world and protect the planet.

Alumni Weekend—a great success

After the university sends off about 4,000 graduates each year, we welcome back about 6,000 alumni the following week for Alumni Weekend. Of course, the college plays a significant role in this event. We kicked off with a special welcome reception on Friday, June 3. The potential for rain chased us inside, but that didn’t dampen enthusiasm; we had more than double the number of attendees as in previous years. On Saturday, our faculty and staff gave tours of the UDairy Creamery, UD Botanic Gardens and Apiary. Many alumni were involved in a behavioral economics experiment to illustrate the capabilities of our Center for Experimental and Behavioral Economics. I hope that some of you were able to attend, and if you couldn’t, please mark your calendar for next year’s event (the first weekend in June).


Strategic hiring plan in process

The college has experienced a number of retirements or departures in the last 12 to 18 months, and we anticipate several more in the coming year. (I have blogged about the individuals involved previously.) We decided it would be a good time to drop back and develop a strategic approach to all of the hiring occurring after July 1. We’re in the final stages of planning. Each major unit of the college submitted their needs and anticipated retirements for the next five years, and all of this information was aggregated into a college-level plan. One guiding principle was that we were not simply replacing positions that were being vacated, but were rethinking each one and aligning potential hires with our strategic plan, the 2013 Master Plan. It was not an easy process, but we capitalized on a golden opportunity to make strategic change at a time of relatively high turnover in our workforce.

In academia, the best time to implement strategic change is during hiring, as we are, after all, an institution built on human and intellectual capital. The plan is being discussed at the provost’s level and will be out early in the next fiscal year. It will allow us to strengthen an area called One Health, which I blogged about after attending the third Global Risk Forum (GRF) One Health Summit last fall. This aligns the college with a national movement to strengthen the relevance of agriculture and natural resources to chronic human health issues, many of which are related to diet and the environment. The plan also allows us to improve unique strengths in sustainable food systems and the human dimensions of agriculture and natural resources. This time next year, I look forward to welcoming several new hires who will help lead strategic change in the college.

Department chair searches conclude

Another item of business that we just completed is the placement of three permanent chairs in departments that had been operating with interim chairs. This solidifies our administrative team and provides stability as we move into a new fiscal year that will be highlighted by the beginning of a new presidential administration at UD. More about that in the next section, but let me present our new department chairs:

Tom Ilvento, Applied Economics and Statistics. Tom Ilvento’s name may be familiar to many of you, as he was chair of the department for 12 years, ending in 2011. Tom decided to throw his name into the hat after the rather sudden departure of the former chair last summer. I am pleased with the progress he made as interim chair over the last nine months. He is perfect for the role as he brings experience, and importantly, expertise in both economics and statistics. I thank Jake Bowman for chairing this search and Steve Hastings, Kent Messer, Leah Palm-Forster and Shanshan Ding for serving on the search committee.

Janine Sherrier, Plant and Soil Sciences. Janine also served as interim chair since last September.  The faculty and search committee strongly endorsed her to become the permanent chair of the department. She has been with UD since the late 1990s and was one of the first hires placed at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. Her research has been at the interface of plant and soil sciences, literally, as she studies soil microbes that have beneficial impacts on crop plants. She brings a lot of energy, enthusiasm and out-of-the-box thinking to the role. I thank Del Levia for chairing the search and Jules Bruck, Harsh Bais, Yan Jin, Mark VanGessel and Nicole Donofrio for serving on the search committee.

Limin Kung, Animal and Food Sciences. Limin has completed two years as interim chair of his department and will complete the remainder of a five-year term with the “interim” removed from his title. He did yeoman’s work guiding the department through a transition period, which is why he was endorsed strongly to become the permanent chair. Limin is a world-renowned dairy nutritionist and holds the S. Hallock DuPont professorship in this field. He has been with UD for 30 years. I thank Tom Ilvento for chairing the search and Ryan Arsenault, Melinda Duncan, Kali Kniel, Mark Parcells, Dan Severson and Changqing Wu for serving on the search committee.

28th President’s first day of work


On June 6, 2016, UD welcomed its 28th president, Dr. Dennis Assanis, formerly provost at Stony Brook University. Before the day had ended, President Assanis and his wife Eleni enjoyed UDairy ice cream at the annual staff picnic. Great way to start! At 9 a.m., he held his first President’s Roundtable, which is a meeting of all major administrators on campus, including the deans. We learned a little about what he is thinking and what he may tackle during his first few months on the job, such as hiring a new communications director, as this important position is currently vacant. Dr. Assanis and his wife enjoyed ice cream with us again on June 17, when we hosted Representative John Carney for a brief tour and discussion about the college. We will try to make this a regular event as our new president gets adjusted to campus. We will be hearing a lot more from President Assanis as he gets settled into his new role and new home here in Newark, Delaware.

Wishing you a Happy July Fourth!


CANR in the news

Below is a list of recent stories from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Originally published on UDaily, they were picked up by national and international news organizations either organically or through coordination with UD’s Communications and Public Affairs Office:

Link to original UDaily story: “Plant Communications: UD researchers identify two enzymes that regulate communication channels in plants”

Picked up by:

Popular Science: “How Plants ‘Clot’ after Being Wounded”

Modern Farmer: “When Plants Are Cut, They Bleed, Sort Of” (Discovery News and The Huffington Post also published this version of the story.)

Link to original UDaily story: “Parasitic Wasp: UD, USDA researchers study natural enemies of tree-killing emerald ash borer”

Picked up by:

Entomology Today: “USDA to Release Russian Wasps Against the Emerald Ash Borer” “Tiny Wasp Sniffs Out, Picks Up ‘Good Vibrations’ to Battle Ash Borer”

Link to original UDaily story: “Rice Husk Research: Scientists look at use of rice husk to reduce arsenic levels in vital grain”

Picked up by: “An Eco-Friendly Approach to Reducing Toxic Arsenic in Rice”

Rice Farming: “Incorporating Rice Husks into Soil May Cut Arsenic Uptake by Plants

Link to original UDaily story: “CANR Discovery Learning: UD students get hands-on farm experience in beef and sheep capstone course”

Picked up by:

American Farm Publications

Dean’s Blog – April 2016 – “Ag Day and Arrivederci Edition”

agday-blogThe month of April brings a college tradition to the University and Newark communities — Ag Day. This 41-year tradition outstrips all but very few of us in terms of number of years of service. This year’s theme is “sustainAGbility,” which reflects one of our fundamental values, as defined in our strategic plan. “Feeding the world while protecting the planet,” as we say in the college, is truly one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. We certainly hope that everyone who attends Ag Day 2016 will leave with an enhanced understanding of how CANR rises to meet this challenge. Many of the traditional displays and activities will be in place, along with some new ones, so I hope to see all of you between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 30. And don’t forget about food, live music, arts and crafts, ice cream and audience participation activities.

Thanks in advance to the dozens of people involved in planning, executing and volunteering for Ag Day: the steering committee; students who serve on the planning committee; student ambassadors; AGR and SA members who volunteer; faculty, staff and Extension agents who work displays and events (including those who play the music!); the farm crew who bring the animals and hay bales; the Master Gardeners and plant sale volunteers; and many more. I also express thanks to Grace Wisser, who recently joined our staff to coordinate events; she has done yeoman’s work in tackling logistics and other details. It takes a college-wide effort to bring this fantastic day together!

Promptly after Ag Day, I will say arrivederci to campus for two weeks, as I head to Italy for a brief lectureship. I will be at the University of Palermo in Sicily, teaching a course in tree physiology with one of my former students, now an associate professor of horticulture. In academia, it’s a “bucket list” thing to reunite with a former Ph.D. student and engage in academic pursuits, so I am really looking forward to this! Embarking on a plan to offer part of their curriculum in English, the university has invited U.S.-based scholars to visit for a brief period and teach. I only hope that I can learn alcune parole dell’italiano from them in return. We’ll see — bet on them, not me.

Spring is always a busy time on campus, and here are few highlights to share with you this month.

creamerybirthdayUDairy Creamery’s fifth birthday

This may be hard to believe, but the UDairy Creamery is five years old this year. While the planning began before 2011, the Creamery opened its doors five years ago and has been successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. More than 250 students have worked or interned there, producing more than 1 million servings of ice cream in five short years. The Creamery has become one of the most visible symbols of the college, and it speaks volumes about entrepreneurship and application of knowledge as a fundamental value in our curricula. I frequently say that a better educated student is the real product of the Creamery, and the ice cream is the by-product (though that sometimes gets me in hot water with the management!). After Ag Day ends, we will celebrate the Creamery’s birthday at 6 p.m. in the Trabant University Center. I hope you can join us to celebrate this milestone.

Pre-vet program success

We have always known that our undergraduate pre-vet major places students in professional school at a rate well above the national average, but this year our graduating students set a new bar: 27 out of 28 students from the pre-vet program who applied have been accepted to either veterinary school or medical school next fall! That acceptance rate exceeds 95 percent, compared to the national average of about 40 percent. I am so proud of our students and the faculty and staff who guided them through the demanding curriculum. This may be the highest acceptance rate in the country, and it certainly reflects the quality of the program we have in the Animal and Food Sciences Department. Best of luck to all of these smart, hardworking Blue Hens!


Congratulations to recent award recipients

Recently, our faculty, students and staff received a number of awards. Here’s a sampling:

The inaugural Excellence in Extension Award goes to Richard Taylor, an Extension specialist in agronomy, soil fertility and crop management at UD for more than 31 years. During his tenure, Richard conducted applied research and Extension programs on major field crops, alternative crops, cover crops and cropping systems.  More recently, he expanded into the areas of nutrient and turf grass management. He has been a key member of the IPM team in field and forage crop areas as well as no-till and soybean systems. Richard will retire in the next fiscal year, so we’re glad that he will be honored for his hard work at convocation before beginning a new chapter in life.

The Excellence in Staff Support Award goes to Richard Morris, who manages the dairy operation on the Newark farm. Richard meets and mentors many of the animal science students in the college, offering excellent hands-on opportunities for students who wish to work with large animals. He also provides leadership for the AGR fraternity, whose young men reflect well on the college. Richard will receive his award on stage at convocation this year, when his son will walk in graduation. May 27 will be a great day for the Morris family, who has done so much for the college.

Maria Pippidis, New Castle County director and Extension educator, received the Jeanne M. Priester Award at the National Health Outreach Conference for her work. Maria partnered with Maryland colleagues, developing a literacy education program that helps individuals make the best health insurance choices for their families, with training offered in 32 states.

Joanne Whalen, Extension specialist, is the recipient of the 2016 Ratledge Family Award, which recognizes the contributions of University of Delaware faculty, staff and students who exemplify excellence in public service to the citizens of our state.

Nancy Gregory, Extension agent, received an individual award at the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) meeting. She served as chair of the National Database PAC from 2010–2013. Nancy also led and directed the effort in pursuing funding from the Farm Bill for the One Standard Fungi Name Project.

Christy Mannering was honored at the Women of Promise Celebration, an annual event that promotes positive mentoring relationships among women faculty and students. Christy, who is pursuing a master’s in Public Administration, keeps the college looking great on the website and in digital media.

Remembering Bill Brown

Reflecting on the many talents and accomplishments in the CANR family brings to mind Bill Brown, our Extension poultry agent in Sussex County, who died in an accident on his farm on April 14. Bill was one of the best Extension agents in the Mid-Atlantic region, and he worked tirelessly on issues related to poultry production, Delaware’s #1 agricultural industry. In recent days, many have shared their memories of this extraordinary individual. The following is a fitting quote from his colleagues on the Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge Committee with whom Bill worked in recent months:

Bill was a good listener who sought to understand the viewpoints and concerns of others before advancing his own opinions. He was very generous with his time and was passionate in the quest for win-win outcomes for agriculture and the environment. Bill was an active poultry grower, the poultry Extension specialist with the University of Delaware, and a leader in his community and church. Bill was not just a colleague; he was also our friend. His presence and contributions around the Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge leadership table will be sorely missed. We offer our most sincere condolences to Bill’s wife, Mary Lou, and the rest of his family.

You can view a brief tribute video of Bill at the following link:

Please keep Bill’s family in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time. In lieu of flowers, Bill’s family has asked for contributions to a scholarship in his name. Please send contributions to the University of Delaware, Gifts Processing, 83 E. Main St., 3rd Fl., Newark, DE 19716. Make checks payable to “University of Delaware” and include on the memo line “Scholarship in memory of William R. Brown III.”

* * * * *

Before the next blog post in June, we will send off another class of agriculture and natural resource leaders to change the world. Please join us on May 27 at 4 p.m. in the Bob Carpenter Center for the 2016 CANR Convocation.

Dean’s Blog February 2016 (late edition)

Well, the Blog is running a bit late again. And this being a leap year, there really is no excuse for getting a February blog out in early March. A whole extra day — where did it go? Like most days in the College, there’s a lot to do and great people to work with, so before you know it, time has slipped away.

Be sure to mark your calendars for Ag Day, April 30(2)Last year’s February Blog was a tad critical of Punxsutawney Phil and his (misguided) weather prognostication. But I have to say that he was close to the mark this year, foreseeing an early spring after a winter that will go down in the books as mild overall. Except for the blizzard that brought a season’s worth of snow in 36 hours (and a UD snow day), the El Niño weather pattern has really kept temperatures above normal. And we will take it after the two previous winters!

I can see buds moving on the saucer magnolias, some color on the early ornamental plums, and red maples turning red in southern Delaware, so spring is not very far away based on plant phenology. Soon, our UD Botanical Garden will come alive with color and we will be busy prepping for Ag Day. (By the way, you may want to mark your calendars for Ag Day — Saturday, April 30). So while you’re enjoying the longer day lengths and gradual transition to spring, here are a few highlights from the early weeks of 2016.

Fundraising success! In January, the College received its largest gift in quite some time — a $4.2 million charitable trust that was given for Worrilow Hall expansion and upgrades. It is all the more important to receive a large gift for your number-one fundraising priority, so we are goals for 2016doubly grateful for this incredible gift. To put this in context, this single gift is roughly the amount of money we raise in a typical year. The donor wishes to remain anonymous, like so many of our supporters, and we will certainly respect their wishes. I’d like to thank Dan Sarkissian and Martha Mitchell in UD’s Development Office who worked through the complexities of the gift agreement and made sure everything was in order. Adding our recent $500,000 Unidel gift to this brings us to almost $5 million for gifts targeted at Worrilow in the past four months. This is a great start, given that UD’s official fundraising campaign has not yet reached the public phase. We have a lot more work to do to reach our goal, but this gift helps us make the case for further support among our alumni and friends.

New Communications Director. I am pleased that Catherine Hamrick has joined the College as the Director of Communications. She started just this week, and is already working the hallways and holding meetings with key stakeholders. She has held many positions over her career, ranging from book editor to English instructor, and importantly, many of her projects were horticulturally themed, like the work she did for Ortho books and Better Homes and Gardens. We look forward to her vision and direction in telling the story of the College and increasing awareness and understanding of all the good things we do. I thank Michelle Rodgers and the rest of the search committee for conducting a thorough, yet expedited search that resulted in the best outcome for the college.

More new faces. Another great hire was Jen Clem, who was already working for us in a different capacity at the Kent County office in Dover. She will provide much needed support for grants and contracts, and will be in Newark one day a week and at the Carvel Center other days. I thank Kathy Lyons for chairing the search and many others for screening applicants, interviewing and providing input. Welcome, Jen! Grace Wisser joined the dean’s office staff about the same time as Jen. Grace is doubling our front desk service capacity, providing much needed help with event planning and logistics, and finding many other ways to help out. She has been a delight to work with and has helped us get back on track after a few positions were vacated recently. Stop by the dean’s suite and welcome these new folks to the family!

goals for 2016(1)Enrollment update. It looks like the college is on track for another good year in enrollment of new students. We’ve had about the same number of applications to the College as last year, and thus we’re holding at relatively high numbers compared to recent history. The admitted group is just slightly less than last year, but very talented based on grades and scores. Similarly, overall UD admission offers are slightly lower than last year, prompted by our need to reduce the incoming freshman class, as we’ve exceeded our target for two years in a row. The target is about 3800 rather than the 4100–4200 in previous years, when we’ve experienced overcrowding in the dorms and in freshman classes (by the way, this is a good problem to have).

Some admission decisions are still going out, and we’ve had only one “Decision Day” thus far, where admitted students and their parents come to campus to take a closer look at the opportunity that UD presents. In the College, our goal is to yield as many of the admitted students as possible, which will take a lot of phone calls, emails, and follow-ups over the next several weeks. Most of our admitted students are also admitted at three to four other great universities in the region, so they have choices. If you know any of our admitted students, please encourage them to schedule a private tour of our campus through Kim Yackoski, senior assistant dean. We’re happy to accommodate parents and other family members as well. We conduct over 100 such tours in a typical year. Many of the students who tour our campus end up enrolling here — once they see what we’ve got to offer, how could they say no?

Lesa Griffiths named T.A. Baker Professor. Congratulations to Dr. Lesa Griffiths, a professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, who was named the T.A. Baker Professor after an exhaustive search to fill the slot vacated by Tom Sims‘ retirement in January. The T.A. Baker Professorship is awarded to a faculty member who has had significant impact on the college; in Lesa’s case it was impact on students and teaching. Lesa has done an outstanding job with our students, in and out of the classroom. Her appointment is for a five-year term.

The Blog will return in April when winter will be just a distant memory.

Dean’s Blog – December 2015 – Happy Holidays Edition

holidaypartyI can’t believe we’re just about ready to bid farewell to 2015 and ring in the New Year. For the College, 2015 was not boring. We had our share of ups and downs, and thankfully, we’ve ended the year in a good place overall, so maybe that’s why it seemed to fly by so fast. Every week was different. Although the last few weeks of the semester have been as frantic as ever, on December 11th we took time out to have a wonderful holiday party in our newly renovated Townsend Commons (photo). It was a nearly packed house of faculty, staff, students, retirees, friends and family members, engaged in merriment of all sorts. It was really great to see about as many adults with painted faces as children! Mostly, we enjoyed the opportunity to set aside work for two hours to tell stories, catch up, and have a few laughs at the end of a busy and eventful year. This month’s Blog will cover a few noteworthy year-end items, and then settle down for a long winter’s nap.

UD’s next president. By now, many of you have heard that Dr. Dennis Assanis, Provost at the State University of New York-Stony Brook, will become the next president of the University of Delaware on July 1st 2016. If you haven’t, you can read a bit more about him here. I was able to spend half an hour with Dr. Assanis during his three-day visit to campus in November. I gave him copies of our strategic plan, the related Milestones document (see next item in Blog), and a copy of our recent Annual Report, just in case he didn’t have enough to read from the other six deans! We discussed many things about the college and university in our brief time, and one thing stood out in my mind. He asked if there was a university-wide sustainability studies program, and if so, what our college’s involvement was. While there isn’t such a program (yet), I assured him that we would be at the forefront of such an effort, as sustainability is one of our fundamental values and most of what we do relates to sustainability of agriculture and natural resources. My first impression? Dr. Assanis is a personable, thoughtful, and visionary administrator who makes you feel like you know him almost immediately. I am sure that UD is in good hands as we usher in a new administration in 2016.

Master Plan Milestones. During the latter part of 2015 we revisited the college’s strategic plan, the 2013 Master Plan, to chart our accomplishments and progress two years into implementation. The resulting Milestones document has been vetted with faculty, staff and stakeholders, and is now posted to our web site. I have been pleasantly surprised by the positive comments received to date, and I certainly appreciate the thorough review that people have given the document. Here is a sample of the milestones that the faculty, staff and students have accomplished in the execution of our strategic goals:

  • Since FY12, the incoming class size has grown 12.7%, student credit hour generation has grown 17.1%, and undergrad and grad enrollments have grown 8.2 and 23.8%, respectively. Total enrollment is just under 1000 students and growing!
  • Since FY12, sponsored program expenditures (a proxy for our scholarly activity) are up 7% to $28 million for the year ending last June. Our faculty and extension professionals have done a great job in garnering external support for their programs! Cooperative Extension has grown their portfolio from $3.1 million to $4.3 million and has made significant progress on their goal of increasing external funding.
  • The college’s budget has improved significantly since FY13. In that year, our contingency was a mere 0.1% of our total budget – a razor-thin margin. This year (FY16) we are projecting a contingency of ~2% (over $1 million), and we’re able to devote dollars to badly needed deferred maintenance issues, launch a few faculty searches and implement strategic initiatives like internal seed grant programs. We’ve doubled annual fundraising compared to pre-2012 averages, which has helped enhance the quality of all of our programs. We had to do some belt tightening to get here, but the financial picture has brightened considerably in the last two years.

We still have a long way to go to reach many of our goals, but we’ve definitely taken the first steps toward a brighter future as we’ve implemented the strategic plan.

Case for philanthropic support. Speaking of the budget, one of the things we’ll be launching in 2016 is an ambitious fundraising campaign for the college. We have been working in the “silent phase” until now, and already we’ve raised over $20 million toward our goal of $39 million. As we move into the “public phase”, we’re laying out the case for support, i.e., why fundraising is so important to our future and what the main priorities are for gifts received. Our case document is being vetted with past donors and future prospects and will be finalized in early 2016. The many opportunities for investment in the college will be pursued through three broad priorities: investing in students (through scholarships, internships and experiential learning), investing in infrastructure and programs (re-envisioning the potential of Worrilow Hall, funding innovation in Extension), and investing in faculty (through professorships and gifts to support specific programs). So, why is fundraising so important to the college? It allows us to pursue unique and impactful goals that we simply could not otherwise, like giving scholarships to students with financial need, allowing faculty and staff to develop new programs, and creating 21st century facilities conducive to discovery and innovation. The next Blog item gives an example of what a well-placed gift can do.

Many of you who read the Blog are also donors and supporters, and with a joyous holiday spirit, I’d like to thank all of you for your generosity over the years. You have enabled us to build a thriving environment for learning and discovery that has impacted thousands of faculty, staff and students. As I reflect on the true meaning of the holiday season, I am inspired by your willingness to give so that we can continue to produce top notch graduates and tackle some of the grand challenges facing agriculture and natural resources.

UDairy Creamery expansion planned. Speaking of fundraising, we just received a $500,000 grant from the UNIDEL Foundation to expand the UDairy Creamery! This gift will be matched to raise the approximately $1 million required to build a production facility to make new products such as cheeses, yogurt, butter, cream and of course, ice cream base. Currently, the Creamery employs 20-25 students per year and produces solely ice cream products. As we branch out into more diverse line of products, we’ll be able to employ many more students who will be engaged in far more sophisticated production, technology and marketing opportunities. It will greatly reinforce our value proposition of authentic, hands-on learning for students that enroll in the college. The need for faculty involvement will increase as we undertake pasteurization, fermentation, aging and other complex aspects of food science. Some have suggested involving sheep in the operation, given the popularity of cheeses made from sheep’s milk. And there are probably many other endeavors that we haven’t yet considered. As I frequently say, the real product of the UDairy Creamery is a better educated student; the by-product is the ice cream. As we expand, we won’t lose sight of our fundamental mission, we’ll just make it a much more interesting pursuit.

Retirements and departures. As 2015 comes to a close, we will wish the best to a few faculty and staff as they enter retirement or move on to other opportunities. Tom Sims, the TA Baker Professor of Soil Science, will retire in January after almost four decades of service to the college as a professor and administrator. Tom Pizzolato, a professor of plant sciences will retire in January as well after a similar career with CANR. Bill Ritter, a professor and chair of the former Biological Resource Engineering Department will retire in early 2016, as will Pat Nelson who served for many years in Applied Economics and Statistics. Blake Meyers, professor and former Chair in Plant and Soil Sciences, will begin a new chapter in his career at the prestigious Danforth Plant Science Center in Missouri. Nancy Gainer, the CANR Communications Director, will become the Executive Director of Communications for West Chester University, and we are grateful for all that she has done to improve our visibility and strategic communications in recent years.

We will miss them all, but hopefully they will continue to engage with the college for years to come. Please take a moment and thank them for their loyal service, and all of the lives made better by their tireless efforts.


The Blog wishes all of you a joyous holiday season, and will return in February following a mild winter.

Dean’s Blog – October 2015 – Halloween Edition

The past few mornings, I’ve definitely felt autumn in the air, as days grow shorter and cold fronts bring crisp, Canadian air to Delaware. I took the blog with me on a trip to Europe during the first two weeks of October, so the stark change in weather and fall color were more amplified for me than in most years. Halloween décor seemed to appear all of a sudden given that when I left, there were still signs of summer around the neighborhood. I did not know that Halloween was also celebrated in Europe, at least in the few countries that I was able to visit. I was in a department store in Switzerland, and one entire section was devoted to Halloween costumes and clothing – it looked like I could have been at the Christiana Mall. In Austria, I ran across a Starbucks with a sign for “pumpkin spiced latte”, and saw pumpkin being used in all sorts of snacks and desserts. I really thought that I could avoid all-things-pumpkin by being out of the USA in October, but no, the Europeans seem to have latched on to the pumpkin craze as much as we have. All in all, it made me reflect on how similar we are, even though we speak different languages, wear different clothes, drive different cars, and often adopt different worldviews. Halloween is something we can all relate to.

But I wasn’t in Europe just to observe the culture. I attended the 3rd Global Risk Forum on “One Health” in Davos, Switzerland. “One Health” is the label for a new paradigm in which the health of humans, animals and ecosystems is considered to be strongly interrelated. It follows that tomorrow’s human health solutions have to be developed in much broader contexts by highly interdisciplinary teams, including the types of researchers you find in our college. In the 2013 strategic plan, we declared One Health as one of our unique research strengths. While the end-game for us is not necessarily curing cancer in humans, the One Health paradigm challenges us to work more collaboratively with folks in medicine, biology and public health. I’ll say more about the conference below, but my belief that CANR is at the center of One Health was reinforced ten-fold after hearing speakers from all over the world describe research and outreach that sounded a lot like us.

Please, feel free to get yourself a pumpkin-spiced snack or a piece of Halloween candy and allow the blog to bring you up to speed on a few things happening in the college.

chulabhornOne Health in CANR. I’ve been to a lot of conferences in my career, but never one that opened with a live performance by opera singers and a keynote speech by a princess (I took a picture of the soprano singer because I didn’t think people would believe me). By the third performance, I knew I wasn’t just going to see a bunch of talks and posters. The keynote was given by Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn of Thailand. She is a professor of chemistry and an honorary member of the Royal Society of Chemistry of England. Not your typical monarch! She gave a talk on human health as a key factor in sustainable development, in which she showed that people from urban environments in Bangkok, Thailand had a significantly higher cancer risk than rural people. The poor air and water quality of the city environment had resulted in higher levels of carcinogens and greater DNA damage in people from the city when compared to rural populations. That’s One Health – an unhealthy environment correlates directly with greater health risk, and in this case the human health solution lies at least partly in the realm of environmental sciences. She speculated that these issues have to be dealt with in order for cities like Bangkok to develop sustainably. That’s the way the rest of the conference went; talks from people all over the world studying zoonotic diseases like Ebola and rabies, avian influenza, vector-borne diseases like chikungunya and malaria, associations between environmental health and wildlife health, antibiotic resistance in animal production and consequences for human health, and so on.

In most every talk, I could see relevant programs in CANR. In fact, our faculty easily could have given presentations at this conference. Obviously, we have strength in avian health and are at the forefront of avian influenza surveillance and management. Our food scientists are working on ways to reduce food-borne illness in people. Our soil scientists are studying ways to reduce arsenic content in rice and by extension, human health issues associated with arsenic. Our animal nutrition folks are studying metabolism in animals with implications for humans. Our entomologists are studying bee and pollinator health by looking at the plants they forage, and in turn how this might affect ecosystems and agriculture. Our natural resource economists are studying the policy and economic issues surrounding viable ecosystems and agricultural lands, with implications for the health of everything. Extension family and consumer scientists are teaching people about healthy diets, exercise and handling food safely. Ryan Arsenault, one of our newest faculty in animal science, is working on a course in One Health. I could go on, but the blog is telling me I’ve made my point (!). The College is clearly at the center of the One Health movement. But one thing is lacking – an awareness of our integral role in One Health – by both internal and external constituencies. So please tell someone today about One Health and how the College is at the forefront of this emerging area of study.

Homecoming festivities. Homecoming is a great fall tradition at UD, and is the time that the College recognizes some of its most distinctive alumni through presentation of our Distinguished Alumni and Worrilow awards. We’ll do that on Friday, November 6, in the Townsend Commons. Homecoming is Saturday, November 7, when our awardees will attend a special tailgate followed by Blue Hen football. Join us in the Commons if you can! This year’s recipients are:

Distinguished Alumni:

  • Mary Denigan-Macauley, ANFS ‘88, Assistant Director, Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Government
  • Devan Mehrotra, STAT ‘91, Executive Director, Clinical Biostatistics, Merck
  • Kenneth Raffa, ENTO ’76, Beers-Bascom Professor of Conservation, University of Wisconsin
  • Don Tilmon, APEC ‘67, Professor, Retired, University of Delaware

Distinguished Young Alumni:

  • Jared Ali, ENTO ‘08, Assistant Professor of Entomology, Michigan State University.

George M. Worrilow Award:

  • Charles C. Allen, III, AGRI ‘71, Past President, Allen Family Foods

I thank everyone who nominated individuals for these awards and those who have worked very hard to organize the event.

Staff reclassifications. Congratulations to several people on our staff who were reclassified and/or received adjustments in the past month. Annually, we nominate staff members for reclassification and/or salary adjustments that have experienced substantial changes to their roles over the years. The latest group includes: Albert Nojunas, Charlie Willis and Wayne Bartsch (Newark Farm); Melinda Litvinas (UDairy Creamery); Tammy Schirmer and Sharon Webb (Carvel Center); Alice Moore (Extension) and Cindy Rechsteiner (Plant and Soil Sciences). We absolutely, positively could not operate the College without the valiant efforts of our staff, and I am glad that we can properly recognize their efforts. I thank Kawkab Rasheed, Kathryn Thoroughgood, and Chris Towers who spent a lot of time preparing and reviewing the cases.

Worrilow Hall. As many of you know, we have been considering a renovation and possible expansion of our primary laboratory building, Worrilow Hall, for several years. This week at the Dean’s Council meeting, the topic of Worrilow came up in the context of capital priorities across campus. The good news is that Worrilow is officially listed as a “project under consideration” in the UD four-year capital plan, which is the first time I’ve actually seen this in writing. It is just one of many projects that will be presented to the Board of Trustees in the coming weeks as a potential capital project to undertake. One major change to the thinking about the renovation has occurred – Worrilow is being envisioned as a multi-college, interdisciplinary science building, and I agreed to chair a group including the vice president for research and deans of Arts & Sciences, Health Sciences, Engineering and Earth, Ocean and Environment to develop a concept for a broader, larger Worrilow expansion and renovation. Of course, I’ll be advocating strongly that all of CANR’s proposed needs be met through the project. That’s a given. Having faculty and students from other colleges collaborating with our folks in new, state-of-the-art space is one of many positive outcomes. I could see problem-based learning classrooms in the new Worrilow given the success of this approach in the Harker ISE lab; why not extend that success to south campus?  I’m sure you can think of other benefits as we conceptualize what Worrilow could become, not just for our College, but for all life sciences at the University. I’ll be reaching out to you for input over the next several weeks.

Awards and minigrants coming soon. Attention faculty, staff and students! We have three awards and two intramural minigrant opportunities coming soon. The award categories are staff excellence, excellence in research by faculty, and excellence in Extension. Each carries a monetary award, recognition at the 2016 CANR graduation ceremony, and a brick engraved with the awardee’s name in the Dunham Garden patio (south end of Townsend Hall). Please nominate deserving individuals for these awards. On minigrants, Associate Dean Eric Wommack is launching a round of research minigrants and I am launching a teaching minigrant RFP very soon. All proposals must tie in strongly to the Master Plan, the College strategic plan. More details will follow, but please get your teams together and get your ideas on paper!

Happy Halloween, and enjoy this wonderful October weather while it lasts. The blog will return in December prior to another set of holidays.

Dean’s Blog – August 2015 – From the Blogosphere

The blog comes to you from an inspired 38,000 ft this month, as I travel with associate dean Eric Wommack and assistant professor Deb Delaney to Lima, Peru (the “from the blogosphere” pun is from Deb). We’re headed to La Molina University to recruit Peruvian students who might wish to obtain an MS or PhD degrees in the college. The Peruvian government has an attractive scholarship program that supports students seeking higher degrees in the U.S., and UD has executed an MOU with the scholarship officials that should increase the likelihood of students coming to us. I’m optimistic that we will attract our fair share.

I should bring the blog with me more often on trips, as this is the first time in years that I have been upgraded to first class, for free. Man, this is great! Legroom, wide seats, wifi, and a hostess that brings you orange juice before the cabin door is closed. Not sure about the whole hot towel deal, but it does make one feel special. So this is how the other half lives? Woohoo! Take your time, Captain.

As we lift off and gain altitude out of BWI, the late August sun glimmering off the Chesapeake Bay reminds me that the summer is almost over, and a new cohort of students is about to descend upon Newark, DE. (Thank God – it’s been too quiet around here these last few weeks). But what an interesting summer it has been; here are a few highlights.

Incoming class. This fall, we’ll welcome somewhere north of 170 students in the incoming undergrad class. While not a record high, we’re within 5% of last year’s record, continuing a three-year uptick in enrollment. Since 2012, we’re up about 13% in incoming class size thanks to the hard work of the faculty and staff who have been diligently recruiting for the last several months. I do not yet have the numbers for graduate students, but last year we topped the 200 mark, putting us up over 20% since 2012. All of this suggests that we’re on the right trajectory in terms of enrollment.

New faculty. We welcomed four new faculty this summer. Amy Biddle is an equine scientist, and she will oversee the equine minor and do research on equine nutrition and metabolism. Ryan Arsenault is a new food animal biologist. He brings expertise in proteomics, and broadens our reach in molecular biology. Both are in Animal and Food Sciences. In Applied Economics and Statistics, Jing Qiu has joined the statistics group from the University of Missouri, and she has already reached out across the college to develop collaborations. Leah Palm-Forester is a new resource economist from Michigan State, also in Applied Economics and Statistics. She is the first hire in resource economics in several years. Please join me in welcoming them to the CANR family as you see them in the hallways this fall.

Departing faculty. We’re sad to see two faculty leaving us this fall and winter for jobs elsewhere. Earlier this summer, Titus Awokuse accepted a position as chair of an applied economics department at Michigan State University. This is a near perfect fit for Titus, as the department is known for its strength in his field of expertise, international economics. Just this month, Blake Meyers accepted a position at the prestigious Danforth Center in St. Louis, which is one of the finest institutions of its type in the world. Blake will be leading a large lab at Danforth in his area of specialization, plant genomics. Blake will also have a faculty appointment at the University of Missouri. While we hate to see such great talent leave the college, it’s a testimony to the strength of our faculty and college when our people are actively recruited by the very, very best in the business. We wish them both the best as they enter another chapter in their distinguished careers.

New chairs. Since both Blake and Titus were department chairs, I’ve appointed two interim chairs this summer. Tom Ilvento will take the helm of Applied Economics and Statistics, again, as he chaired the department for many years before Titus’ appointment. I am grateful to Tom for stepping up at a time when the department has just turned over 25% of its faculty. Janine Sherrier will assume leadership in Plant and Soil Sciences, succeeding Blake Meyers. Janine spent a year as interim associate dean in 2013, and brings a unique perspective and appreciable experience to the interim chair role. I look forward to working with both Tom and Janine this year to keep strategic initiatives rolling in their departments.

New 4H program Leader. It’s official – Doug Crouse is now the permanent 4H Program Leader in Extension. Doug has stepped up from the interim role that he assumed after Mark Manno’s untimely passing last year. Doug is perfect for the role – with extensive experience in 4H and extension leadership, Delaware’s youth are in very capable hands. He is putting on a lot of miles commuting between Kent County and Newark, but that’s the great thing about being in a small state. Could be worse, Doug, could be Texas!

Budget. I believe I spoke about the roller coaster budget year we had in FY15 in the June blog, so I won’t belabor the issue here. When the FINAL final numbers were published in late July, I found that we did better than I had expected. Despite cuts during the FY15 year, we were able to eliminate our structural deficit, pay off debt, and bank a small surplus. Three elements of our revenue stream contributed to the rosier-than-expected picture: a large increase in undergrad tuition revenue due to increased credit hour production, a large increase in self-paying grad students, and a 10% increase in F&A returns compared to the previous three year average. I have opened a search for an assistant professor in entomology already, and we may be able to make 1-2 more hires this year as a result of the increased revenue. Suffice it to say that FY16 looks good, which is as far as I can see in my crystal ball right now.

My eardrums are telling me that we’re beginning the descent into MIA, so I’ll have to wrap it up. But the quiche breakfast was yummy, and it came with real plates and real silverware. Amazing. I probably won’t be so lucky to get an upgrade on the leg from Miami to Lima, so I’ll have to enjoy the last few minutes of first class travel. And I hope you all enjoy the last few days of summer.

The blog will find its way home by October.