Happy summer! I hope that all of you are able to take some time with family and friends during this time of the year and step out of your normal routine. Summer allows us to escape the whirlwind of the school year and focus on strategic initiatives, such as international collaborations, new programs, budgets, and of course, preparations for the next wave of incoming students, which is just weeks away. Here are a few summer updates:
Argentina Collaboration. In June, I had the chance to visit the Catholic University of Cordoba (UCC), Argentina to discuss possible collaborations with our college. Michelle Rodgers and Eric Wommack traveled with me, and I think I speak for all of us when I say they really made it a productive and memorable visit!
Cordoba is the second-largest city in Argentina, located in the north-central part of the country amidst vast agricultural holdings and excellent game bird hunting lands. It is a historic town, dating to the late 1500’s, and there are over 100,000 college students who attend one of several universities, with UCC being among the smallest (~12,000 students). The University is non-denominational, taking students of all religious backgrounds, but is grounded in the Jesuit tradition of community service. The connections to Extension and service learning were clear and abundant. Like us, their largest major is veterinary medicine, and they also have a five-year “Agronomy” degree. I use the quotes because it is a very broad, well-rounded program covering all aspects of agriculture, but referred to as Ingeneria Agronomica (Agronomic Engineer). In research, there were several common themes such as soil health, sustainability, animal health and welfare, plant pathology, agricultural economics and molecular biology. Some of the funding for their research comes from sales of soybean and beef from their 18,000 acres of research and teaching farms. Overall, I believe there are many opportunities for mutually beneficial collaborations with this institution for our faculty, extension professionals, and students.
Having a southern hemisphere partner with similar crops and agricultural constraints should be quite beneficial for research, teaching and extension. The vast range of climatic zones and ecosystems provides opportunities for collaborations in natural resource and environmental sciences. The next step is to have a UCC faculty member visit us, likely next winter, and we will host a student as an Extension Scholar next summer as they fulfill their requirement for community service. The LEADelaware group, led by Michelle Rodgers, will visit UCC and other sites in Argentina in January, 2018.
Fall ’17 enrollment. In the May blog, I mentioned that we were on track for a record incoming undergraduate class for Fall, 2017. At that point, we had 196 students signed up, giving us a great start on our “20 by 20” goal of raising enrollment 20% by Fall, 2020. Well, the story gets even better – as of mid-July, the College expects 216 new students to enroll, with potential for more transfer students to matriculate in the next several days. Our typical incoming class size has been in the 160-180 range, so we’re encouraged by this positive trend.
Progress on Worrilow. In March, I blogged about receiving a “green light” on a Worrilow Hall renovation and upgrade. We have been approved for a $30-million project, and out of this total, the College has to raise $10-million. In March, we were a little more than halfway to this goal, but I am pleased to say that as of today, we’re at 70% of our goal! The majority of the increment came through a very generous $1.5-million gift from the Longwood Foundation. Periodically, the University of Delaware can submit one, and only one, proposal to the Longwood Foundation for funding infrastructure projects. President Assanis allowed us to prioritize Worrilow for their consideration, a clear statement of his support for the project. On behalf of the entire College, my sincere thanks goes to the Longwood Foundation for making this generous gift that will benefit research, teaching and outreach in Delaware agriculture and natural resources.
Special thanks to Ann and Billy Willard for their generous gift toward the Worrilow project. Billy is CEO of Willard Agriservices and Chair of the CANR Advisory Board. Their son, Matthew, is a 2013 graduate of our College.
I’d also like to thank Jackie and Roy Perry for their generous gift in support of Worrilow. Jackie is a long-time UD Botanic Gardens supporter and a member of the CANR Advisory Board, so we thank her for the many ways that she supports our efforts. Roy is a graduate of the Lerner College of Business and Economics. Meredith Perry, their daughter is a graduate of our pre-vet program (2007). Meredith currently practices veterinary medicine in Houston, Texas.
In terms of planning, a faculty steering committee has been meeting with an architectural firm to consider redesign and upgrade options, and by early August, we’ll have a broad vision of the new Worrilow Hall. I’m grateful to Eric Wommack for chairing this group, which represented all of the departments and Cooperative Extension. We’re working with SmithGroup, LLC, who did the original analysis and planning for Worrilow in 2014; they are also the lead architectural firm on the 200,000 ft laboratory building that will be the next addition to the STAR campus, across the street from us.
Please remember that no gift is too small, and strong participation from all of us – faculty, staff, alumni, students and stakeholders – sends a very positive message to other prospective donors that we are “all in” as we move closer to breaking ground on Worrilow!
Fall Fests to be held on September 7 and 9, 2017. If you’re a student or a faculty/staff member, you’re invited to a Welcome Back Fall Fest scheduled for Thursday, September 7th at 4 p.m. We had the first ever event of this type last year and it was a great success. The event will be held in the same location as last year, on our Newark farm next to the historic Wilson Farmhouse.
Two days later, we’ll be hosting an invitation only event for stakeholders, alumni and donors, elected officials, members of our Board of Trustees, and administration and advisory board members for an all-Delaware food and beverage event in the same location for a Farm Fresh dinner. President Assanis and Provost Grasso will join us on the 9th to welcome the many people who have supported the College in a variety of ways.
The menu for both events will be derived largely from our Newark Farm – fresh, organically grown produce, Angus beef, and UDairy ice cream. On the 9th, we’ll enjoy libations from some of Delaware’s finest: Iron Hill Brewery, Harvest Ridge Winery, and Painted Stave Distillery, celebrating the rapidly growing craft beverage industry in Delaware. Look for the big white tent next to the historic Wilson Farmhouse!
Budget update. Those of you that follow Delaware politics know that this past fiscal year was a real nail-biter in terms of prospective budget cuts and their impacts on universities and state agencies. Without going back through the details, I am pleased to say that the cuts to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources were much less than what we had anticipated, and our current budget is roughly the same as the previous fiscal year, which was my best year as dean of the College. In the end, the cut to our state appropriation that supports agriculture and natural resources research and Extension was just 2%. UD’s budget model (termed “RBB” or “Responsibility Based Budgeting”) was abandoned as of June 30, 2017, and in the current year we’re operating on an ad hoc basis until a new budget model is created. All of this added to the anxiety and uncertainty over the state budget cuts, but we should be able to forge ahead largely as planned and make several important faculty hires soon. We greatly appreciate the consideration of our Delaware legislators who continued to provide critical funding to college programs during a tough budget year. Rethinking the budget is one of those summer tasks that I’m glad to see fade away like a spring flower. Onward!
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:
- Jarrod Miller has accepted the extension agronomist position in Plant and Soil Sciences and will start on September 1, 2017. Jarrod is currently an extension agent on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore, and thus brings a wealth of relevant knowledge and experience to the position. He will be located in Georgetown, so he doesn’t have to travel very far to make the transition. He will teach a course in soil fertility and perform applied research as well. Special thanks to Dr. Amy Shober and Dr. Mark VanGessel for their leadership on the search committee, and all of those who participated in the search process. Welcome Jarrod!
- Calvin Keeler has assumed the role of interim Director of the Avian Biosciences Center, formerly directed by Dr. Jack Gelb, who is in the process of retirement. Dr. Mark Parcells is interim co-Director of the Center. Their goal is to redefine the mission and vision of the Center, as well as the responsibilities and benefits to its membership and stakeholder groups. We welcome suggestions from any of our alumni or stakeholders regarding future initiatives in the area of Avian Biosciences.
- David Owens has accepted our offer to become an Extension Specialist I, working in the area of insect pest management. David received his BS and MS degrees at Virginia Tech, and his PhD from the University of Florida. Since graduation in 2016, David has held two post-docs, one with the USDA-ARS in South Florida, and another with NC State. Interestingly, all of his graduate and post-doc work was performed at research and education centers outside of the main campuses at Virginia Tech, Florida, USDA and NC State, which makes him ideally suited to joining the crops team at the Carvel Center. We look forward to his arrival on November 1, 2017.
- We welcome several others to CANR:
- Sara Golden (Senior Sponsored Programs Coordinator)
- Joseph Anderson (Farm Assistant II, Newark Farm)
- Eight Extension Scholars are out and about in Delaware this summer, shadowing our county agents. Some are CANR students, applying what they’ve learned on campus to real-world situations. We thank Chick and Barbara Allen along with a few other donors for making generous gifts to support this group.
Remembering Herbert James Murphy, Jr.
It is with a heavy heart that I leave you with the sad news about the passing of Herbert James Murphy, Jr. Herb passed away on Sunday, July 16 just two days shy of his 90th birthday. Herb earned his degree from UD in 1951 and proudly served his country in World War II. He began his career in the poultry industry in New Hampshire then joined Perdue Farms in 1954, where he was one of the first field service employees. He proudly worked for 37 years for Perdue before his retirement in 1991. Herb is survived by his son, Bernard D. Murphy who is a CANR Advisory Board member and recipient of a CANR Distinguished Alumni Award. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held 2:00 pm on Saturday, July 22, 2017 at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, E. Chestnut St. in Delmar, MD.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in memory of Herbert J. Murphy ’51 to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Delaware. Gifts will support the planned renovation of Worrilow Hall. Please send contributions to: 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 “in memory of Herbert J. Murphy ’51 “. Gifts can also be made on the University of Delaware’s secure website, www.udel.edu/makeagift
The Blog will return with the students in September.