In Vivo: Passing the Torch

Grow editor Joan Fischer reflects on her time at CALS.

It was baptism by manure.

My first story for Grow, as the new editor, was talking with students in John Parrish’s reproductive physiology class over in the Old Dairy Barn during their first attempts to artificially inseminate a cow.

Grow editor Joan Fischer retires after more than six years with CALS.

This was only one of many hands-on tasks students performed as they learned the fundamentals of modern cattle breeding, including syncing a cow’s reproductive system and using ultrasound to determine pregnancy. But as students prepped for the procedure with gloved hands and arms, one could see it was the most daunting.

“The students are nervous,” I observed. “The cows, not so much. But only because they don’t know what’s coming.”

It was a great introduction to CALS. The openness and patience of the instructor, the enthusiasm and good humor of the students, the pursuit of knowledge that promises tangible improvements to our world: those were all qualities I came to recognize and value as the CALS signature, and I had the good fortune to see them again and again over the course of six-plus years and 20 magazines in stories that I wrote and edited.

As you may have surmised, I am moving on—heading off to retirement in California, where I grew up. In departing I am joined by two other retirees: Diane Doering, a graphic designer with CALS for 38 years—she designed Grow when it launched in 2007, and she’s designed every issue since—and Sevie Kenyon, whose superb photographs have graced so many issues (see the beautiful sunflower on page 2), in addition to his other communications and audiovisual work with CALS over the past 15 years.

But no worries, we will be succeeded by talented people who will keep Grow strong. I say this with certainty because we’ve already got a great new editor, starting with the next issue: Nik Hawkins (photo left), who comes to us from the UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, where he has been director of communications and public relations since 2012. His duties included serving as the chief editor, writer and photographer for the school’s flagship publication On Call, which Hawkins last fall transformed from a tabloid newsletter into a magazine.

Hawkins is excited about coming to CALS. “I’m a longtime admirer of Grow, and I’ve always been impressed by what it showcases within its pages,” he says. “CALS and its alumni seem to produce an endless supply of wonderful work that can improve the lives of people in Wisconsin and beyond. And so often this work engages the people it’s designed to help in the search for better solutions. Through Grow, I hope to continue telling compelling stories of these partnerships.”

It has been a genuine pleasure to highlight these compelling stories and share them with the wider world. Thank you, CALS community, for making my job so gratifying.