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The Road Ahead

By the time you read this issue of Grow, I will have had the honor of serving CALS as dean and director for nearly four months.

I want to thank all of you in the CALS community—students, faculty, staff, alumni and our partners and stakeholders around the state—for giving me such a warm welcome. And even more, thank you for sharing so many valuable insights, concerns and hopes for agriculture and the life sciences in Wisconsin.

We have a need for such discussions now as we address an immediate task at hand, namely, to establish our college’s priorities. What are CALS’ greatest strengths and opportunities—and how can we make the most of them now and in years to come?

Such thinking falls under the heading of strategic planning, a term that often, unfortunately, sounds more onerous than exciting. We picture reams of paperwork and an end product growing dusty on the shelf. That’s not my goal. What I want is something we will reach for on a daily basis to help us make critical decisions. A strategic plan provides a framework that weaves together what we’re doing in key areas: resource allocation, educational design, faculty hires, facilities planning, and development objectives—so that they are all part of the same cloth.

Being purposeful and establishing priorities that have a rationale are critically important at a time like this.

As for why we need one now—as we all know, we are living in an extremely challenging fiscal environment. Being purposeful and establishing priorities that have a rationale are critically important in a time like this. We have to focus on establishing our priorities and how best to further them.

We have made a good start to a process that will require input and engagement from a wide range of CALS community members in the coming months. We’ll be seeking your input through various channels, including via an e-mail account set up for that purpose (your ideas welcome at stratplan@cals.wisc.edu).

In the meantime, I invite you to consider the following questions:

1. What are CALS’ critical advantages—what things do we do exceptionally well? Of these, what are our signature strengths—things we do well that are unique or tied to this state or region?

2. What are the grand intellectual challenges in our areas of inquiry? Looking toward the future, what are the big issues in the life sciences, agriculture, health, energy and the environment?

3. Most exciting, where do the answers to those questions overlap? What are the big issues that we at CALS are best positioned to address? Where can we have the greatest impact?

These questions are inspiring to think about. The work we do at CALS improves people’s lives and the world in so many ways. Putting more of a strategy behind our work will, I believe, allow us to do it better.