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 msn.com-money, 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: www.udel.edu/alumni-friends/give/.

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!

Comments are closed.