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Common Ground

Photo of the Torchbearer statue on the UT Knoxville campus

UT Honors Students & Faculty for Excellence

Last month, several students and faculty were recognized for their excellence in annual awards and honors bestowed by UT. The university's highest student honor, the Torchbearer, was conferred upon animal science senior Hunter Jones. Jones is among nine undergraduates to receive the recognition. Bonnie Ownley, professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, received the Notable UT Woman Award. Associate professor Joanne Logan of the Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science department received a 2018 Excellence in Advising honor.

UTCVM students Leonard Jordan, Casey Clements, and Kathryn Duncan were among the honorees, as well. Jordan was recognized as a Top Collegiate Scholar and received the Extraordinary Professional Promise Award. Clements and Duncan also received Extraordinary Professional Promise Awards.

A UT team known as Water for Agriculture was recognized for its success in multidisciplinary research. Fourteen of its eighteen members work in the Institute. Read about the team and its members.

In USDA Secretary's Visit, a 4-H Moment & a Selfie

A photo of USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue taking a selfie with State 4-H Council members, and the selfie they took together

Four State 4-H Council members were present at a public forum on agriculture at the Knox County Farmer's Coop, and so was USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. The secretary is known for his interest in youth involved in agriculture and made sure to have time to interact with them...even to take a selfie. Last fall the secretary was present for Ag Day and its annual connected meetings. He also toured campus and met with our students, faculty, and staff. We appreciate his involvement and support of UTIA.

A photo of the opening

McIlwaine Pavilion Opens for Gardens Friendship & Learning

A new pavilion has opened in the UT Gardens, Knoxville. Named the McIlwaine Friendship Pavilion and Outdoor Classroom, the facility commemorates the late Sandra and Henry W. McIlwaine Jr.'s love of gardening.

Funds from the couple joined with those of the Friends of the UT Gardens and classroom improvement support funds from the dean of the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources to make the structure a reality.

The pavilion is welcome to everyone to take shelter, whether to enjoy the Gardens' beauty of nature, plants, and flowers; learn the science of photosynthesis; or celebrate love in wedding ceremonies that decorate the rafters with tulle.

Billboards to Share Healthy Eating Messages

Image of billboard artwork

The Tennessee Nutrition and Consumer Education Program (TNCEP) is launching a billboard campaign across the state. The campaign uses peer-developed messages to promote healthy eating for caregivers of school-age children, with an aim to improve healthy food choices in the home. The campaign focuses on four themes, "Better Food Now Means Better Health," "Healthy Eating Can Be Budget Friendly," "Healthy Eating Can Be Simple," and "Healthy Eating Makes You Feel Good." Here is more about the campaign.

Madison Co.'s Verell Is UT Extension's Farmer of the Year

Photo of the three generations of Verrell farmers

A third-generation farmer who started with fifty acres and now manages 5,050 is UT Extension's honoree as Farmer of the Year. Along with growing his family's operation, John Verell III has met and overcome challenges, such as the destruction wreaked by the Super Tuesday tornado outbreak that devasted the Jackson, Tennessee, region in 2008. Find more details here.

Photo of freshly picked green onions

Sign Up for Shares of Student-grown Produce

Organic fresh fruit and vegetables can be yours through a share of Vol Supported Agriculture (VSA). A VSA is the same as community-supported agriculture with the added benefit that you're supporting UT student interns, who plan, maintain, and harvest the produce to gain hands-on knowledge and skills in small business management.

A $600 share brings you a half bushel for twenty weeks, starting the third week of May and continuing through early October. Produce in the box changes as the season progresses and is expected to include broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, fresh herbs, peppers, squash, melons, potatoes, carrots, and, the students promise, much more. The produce will be available for pickup from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. in parking lot C4 on your choice of Monday or Thursday. For more details and to purchase your share, please visit tiny.utk.edu/VSA

Rewriting Those Myths of College

Screenshot of the video showing a student in graduation gown and cap

May is graduation month for students at the University of Tennessee and schools across the country. To earn a degree, students must first put in years of hard work. Their commitment to that work runs counter to a belief that college is just for partying. Charles Denney of the Marketing and Communications department has more on the demands students face and what may be a changing image of college life. Watch the video.

Message from the Chancellor

May carries with it the moment when students finish their UT degrees and go on to further studies or launch their new careers. As we celebrate these special moments for graduates of CASNR and UTCVM, we are preparing another type of launch, as well.

A committee has been appointed to coordinate the search for a dean for AgResearch. The search committee is in the process of posting the announcement and recruiting top-quality candidates for this important leadership position. Caula Beyl and Robert Burns are serving as co-chairs and have assembled a great committee. I appreciate the committee's work and look forward to appointing a new dean later this year.

Cool, wet weather has slowed down planting across the state, but variety testing, field day demonstrations, farmers markets, and Extension programs are already in full swing. Here's to a great growing season!


P.S. Be sure to follow me and the latest Institute developments on Twitter at @UTIAChancellor.

A Moment in UTIA's Fifty Years

Photo of Sue Hamilton, Harold Elmore, and Doug Crater, as they break ground on the woody phase of the Gardens

Thirty-five years ago, Doug Crater, professor and head of the then-known Department of Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design, initiated the first trial beds of plants, ones that would leaf and bloom into the UT Gardens, Knoxville, we know today. Crater is pictured here in 1992 with Sue Hamilton and the late Harold Elmore, center, as they break ground on the woody phase of the Gardens.

Crater and every other serious gardener in the area knew the challenges of gardening and landscaping in East Tennessee's extreme summer heat and humidity and frequent winter freezes and thaws. He envisioned the Gardens to serve as important proving grounds for seeds and plants. Susan Hamilton, current director of the Gardens, was with Crater from the start, first as his research associate, then from 1983 to 1995, overseeing the trial gardens and assisting in plant evaluations.

Hamilton and Crater shared a vision in the late 1980s for the variety trials and the surrounding grounds to be developed into a more complete university garden. They also created a Gardens membership program, so pivotal to fulfilling the vision for the Gardens' teaching, research, and outreach roles, one Elmore was instrumental in leading.

Today UT faculty use the Gardens to evaluate the heat and cold tolerance of plants and their flower production, uniformity, and size, as well as their pest resistance, drought tolerance, and landscape appeal. Students use the Gardens' grounds for landscape design projects and as a site for learning labs and internships in the popular public horticulture major. These possibilities are enhanced with the addition this fall of a new landscape architecture degree.


Common Ground is published monthly by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. Send comments and suggestions to commonground@tennessee.edu. The University of Tennessee is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution in the provision of its education and employment programs and services. All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment and admission without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, genetic information, veteran status, and parental status.

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