Throughout its remarkable 128-year history, CALS has continually embraced change. To keep us at the forefront of the agricultural and life sciences, our leaders have seized new opportunities just as other endeavors have passed from the picture. In fact, our college formed in response to great change, during a time when Wisconsin’s farmers began to recognize the vital role of scientific agriculture in their success.
But one does not have to delve far into the past to find other examples of such adaptation. Only a decade ago, the departments of Forest Ecology and Wildlife Ecology merged, partly to put themselves in a better position to address new challenges related to natural resources.
Today is no different. We face a constant flow of change — in higher education, in funding, in scientific advancement, in our disciplines. Except the changes seem to have picked up the pace. Now the need for expertise is growing ever more rapidly as our challenges expand, from the threat of new invasive species to the difficulties of feeding a growing population. And the tools we use have advanced dramatically in the last two decades. We find our-selves in a postgenomic era where the mining of massive data sets has become as commonplace as microscopes. What, then, do we do?
The answer: we become more flexible, more responsive, more focused. But this cannot be achieved without careful thought about how we select and support our priorities in CALS. This is why, in late 2016, we began an orga-nizational redesign process for our college. Led by a multidisciplinary team of our faculty and staff, we are undergoing a thorough analysis of the trends that affect our work as well as the strengths of our departmental programs. Based on their findings, our team will propose a new conceptual design for the college, one that helps us concentrate our work where it can have the greatest impact, and one that positions us to be more responsive to global challenges, changing scientific opportunities, and student needs.
As we go forward, this proposal will be thoroughly vetted by the CALS community and guided through the implementation phase. This fall, our team is presenting the design options it has distilled for CALS, which will be followed by exciting discussions about shared priorities and vision, and how we can work together in the future. We look forward to reporting on all of this activity as this process continues. And if you would like more detail about the redesign now, please visit orgredesign.cals.wisc.edu.
In the meantime, one important change has already happened. After much deliberation over the past two years, including discussions among the faculty and administration and consultations with students and alumni, the departments of Landscape Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning have merged to form the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, effective July 2017. This new department will be housed in the College of Letters & Science, but we will always embrace those who earned their degrees from CALS as our alumni.
Change can be difficult, but this is an exciting time, and I am optimistic about the opportunities it will bring.