As I complete my time as interim dean, my thoughts turn toward the future. While I look forward to returning full-time to my duties as chair of the agronomy department, teacher and researcher—the sweet corn is calling!—this period of service has provided insights and food for thought that will stay with me as I continue working with all of you in support of CALS.
I move on with the knowledge that CALS is on course. We receive more research awards than any other land-grant college in the nation and rank among the world’s top agricultural colleges in scientific impact. Recent achievements include discovering a key gene linked to obesity and diabetes, pioneering a sustainable way to grow potatoes that serves as a model for other crops and leading cutting-edge research on biofuels. Important discoveries at CALS continue apace; for more examples, see our feature on tech transfer success stories beginning on page 28.
While our current excellence is clear, our ability to sustain it is less so. State funding is declining and tuition hikes will not make up the losses, yet these two elements comprise the base budget that supports teaching and research. In coming years we will turn more to philanthropy to fill the gap.
In an environment of limited resources, it is more important than ever to make our priorities clear. Our new dean, Kate VandenBosch, will work with faculty, staff, students and the UW Foundation to define those priorities when she arrives in March. But a few areas are so central to our mission that they are certain to stay at the top:
• Need-based financial aid, which is offered at CALS through the Wisconsin Rural Youth Scholarship fund (see page 37 for more info). Forty percent of CALS students demonstrate significant financial need, and that percentage is likely to rise. We simply have to help our undergrads.
• Creating more endowed professorships, which enables us to hire more faculty. The college has lost 120 faculty positions since 1980. Since faculty members do almost all of CALS’ research and teaching, more positions mean more courses for students, more research dollars flowing into Wisconsin and more support for Wisconsin’s industries.
• Annual giving, which allows the college to put funding in areas of the most acute need. More annual gifts are needed in the current economic climate to help fill the gap between the cost of educating students and the dollars available.
Funding our future will be a challenge—but it’s a challenge we must meet together. Here at CALS, we look forward to supporting Dean VandenBosch’s leadership over the coming year and beyond.