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Common Ground


To our UTIA family and friends,

As we prepare for this season of holidays, I want to express my thanks to each of you for what you do to advance UTIA's mission to better the lives of the people we serve. You make a difference, whether it's through scientific research and achievements; educating and advancing students in our two colleges; caring for animals through the Veterinary Medical Center; or assisting and strengthening people and organizations in communities throughout Tennessee.

I wish you a safe and joyous holiday and happy times with family and friends.

Looking forward to a great 2017!

Go Vols,


Scholarships So Often are Lifelines for Students

by CASNR Dean Caula Beyl

Very few students who attend university today have unlimited financial resources, and this is particularly true of the students enrolled in the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR). As I think about the diverse life stories I have heard from our students, I recall that many involve single-parent homes, out-of-state students with a passion for UT but limited income, and ones who are facing catastrophic circumstances, such as loss of parents, divorce, serious illness, or disasters like fires or flooding.

For many of these students, their lives had come down to one, very clear goal of just hanging on long enough to earn their degree from the University of Tennessee.

The primary thing that has helped so many students overcome these life challenges and successfully graduate has been the generosity of our donors in establishing and supporting the CASNR scholarship programs. CASNR alone provides $800,000 to $1 million in scholarship aid to our students, and helping us are senior gifts from graduating students. More ...



CASNR Confers First-Ever Honorary Doctorate

Jim Herbert '62 Celebrated for Leadership & Commitment to Students



"There is nothing like coming back home," was one of the sentiments shared by Jim Herbert, UT Knoxville alum and 1962 graduate of the Department of Animal Science. Herbert delivered the commencement address last week for the university's fall graduating class.

During the ceremony, Herbert himself became a December graduate, when he was presented the first-ever Honorary Doctor of Science degree in agriculture that CASNR has conferred. The honor recognized his impacts at Neogen Corporation, which consistently ranks among America's leading companies. Herbert has been central to Neogen's growth and success. Today it is a world leader in the development, manufacturing, and marketing of products for food and animal safety.

The honorary PhD also recognizes Herbert's passion, shared by his wife Judi, in promoting higher education and creating opportunities and support that enable students to excel. Learn more...


Scientific Society Honors Gu for Advancing Field

Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science professor Baohua Gu is one of four UT scientists to receive the outstanding career honor of being chosen as 2016 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The AAAS Council elects fellows whose "efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished."

Gu, whose bio page is here, holds a joint appointment as a distinguished Senior Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He is being honored for his achievements in environmental sciences research and technology development.

Gu's specific impacts recognized include his work involving biogeochemical transformation of contaminants, trace metals, and natural organic matter in natural water and soil. In the course of his career, he has authored more than 250 publications relating to environmental science and pollution, including mercury, uranium, and soil organic carbon transformations.

The newly elected fellows will be inducted in February 2017 at the AAAS annual meeting in Boston. The association is the world's largest multidisciplinary scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals. It was founded in 1848 and includes 254 affiliated societies and academies of science serving 10 million individuals.




UTIA Unites to Assist Fire Victims


Wildfires ravaged East Tennessee in October and November. Lives were lost, property was destroyed, thousands were temporarily displaced, and many lost everything they owned. The heartbreaking situation led to quick responses by members and units of UTIA.

While the many ways our people have contributed and continue to do so shines a light on the diversity of the Institute's expertise and resources, it also makes clear our unity in assisting others, in good times and bad. Look for a story soon at the UTIA website about our fire-related outreach and efforts.


Golden Now in New Role Assisting President DiPietro

In late November, UTIA members gathered to celebrate Food Science professor David Golden for his contributions to the Institute and those ahead in his new capacity at the university. Today Golden is in his second week as executive assistant to UT President Joe DiPietro. Golden follows Keith Carver in that position.

At UTIA Golden has had many significant impacts—as a long-time professor of food microbiology in the Department of Food Science; as a respected colleague; and as an inspiration to hundreds of our students. Many alums are quick to cite his imprint on their personal and professional lives and credit him for their success. Golden’s tenure at UT also includes service as interim associate director of the University Honors Program; as a faculty fellow of the Haslam Scholars Program; faculty member of the UT Board of Trustees; and former president of the UT Knoxville Faculty Senate.

Reflecting on his changing roles, Golden says, "I spent twenty-three wonderful years in the Department of Food Science, and I worked with some amazing people throughout the Institute of Agriculture. I never went to work a single day reluctant to face the day ahead. I am particularly fond of all the interactions I had with students, both in class and through advising. I advised a few hundred and taught a few thousand! There is no doubt in my mind that I will miss my daily interaction with students. That will truly be hard to leave behind."

Golden says, though, that he looks forward to the responsibilities of executive assistant to the President. "I will be interacting with all of the campuses and institutes within the UT system. I am excited about the new challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and continuing to go to work every day with the same positive outlook as I've done for the past twenty-three years."


Thanking Our Faculty & Staff for Years of Dedication




Faculty and staff across all four units of the Institute were recognized for their many years of service at a reception held December 12. All UTIA employees with more than twenty-five years of service were invited to attend the celebration, as well as their spouses and family members. The photo above shows some of our Institute family who were celebrated for thirty years of service. In all, thirty-two employees received service awards, including ten with twenty-five years of service, thirteen with thirty years, seven with thirty-five years, and two with forty years.

Interim Chancellor Tim Cross thanked the honorees in attendance for their dedication to the Institute and the state of Tennessee and recognized the spouses and family members who support their loved ones in their work.


Supporters Make Big Orange Give a Big Success



The fourth Big Orange Give online giving campaign gave UT many reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving season. The campaign, which ran the week prior to Thanksgiving—November 14-18—exceeded nearly every fundraising goal it set!

CASNR quickly passed its original goal of $20,000 by Tuesday of the campaign. They finished the week raising over $34,000. UTCVM exceeded its goal of $12,000, raising more than $17,000 by week's end. Donations to individual VOLstarter crowdfunding projects helped three projects achieve their goals, with a fourth reaching 100 percent funding a few days after the week of the campaign. Three of the four fully funded projects are UTIA projects. The VOLstarter project for the UT Gardens, Knoxville, raised more than $22,000 to support research, education, and community outreach in the State Botanical Garden. The support thrilled UT Gardens, Knoxville, staff (pictured above) and the amount set a new record—a high one—for giving to UT crowdfunded projects. More ...


UTIA International Programs Welcomes Emily Urban

Emily Urban joined UTIA’s Office of International Programs on November 7. She came to UT from the University of Georgia, where she earned a master’s degree in agricultural and environmental education with a focus in international agriculture.

Since her undergraduate years at Penn State, Urban has been involved in various international activities, including studying abroad in the UK and Brazil, working in Mozambique with the USAID Feed the Future Peanut and Mycotoxin Innovation Lab, and co-leading an undergraduate embedded program to Romania.

At UTIA, Urban will assist in expanding the Institute’s international portfolio. Her primary focus relates to managing the upcoming Rwanda Smallholder Farmer Broiler Alliance project, which involves a collaboration of multiple UTIA faculty, USAID, Zamura Feeds Ltd., Rwanda, and the African Sustainable Agriculture Project Foundation (ASAP). Her additional efforts include office outreach activities, study abroad promotion, and involvement with other international projects.

Urban developed her passion for agriculture, as well as a love of horses, through growing up on a small farm in Pennsylvania. When she packed her things to move to Knoxville, her horse came along, too: a nine-year-old thoroughbred that she hopes to continue competing in the sport of eventing.


Choosing Holiday Gifts? Say Cheese!



Share your enthusiasm for UTIA with family and friends by giving All Vol cheese as presents. The Department of Food Science offers 10-ounce blocks of several varieties of cheeses (they're all wonderful!). You can also select among them to create custom gift boxes.

Order the cheese online and either pick it up at the department’s main office, Room 201 of the Food Science Building, or indicate you want it shipped. The deadline for mail orders is December 21. The last day to pick up orders on campus is December 22. For information and to order, visit here.


I am UTIA—
In Knoxville, Meet Emily Gray

CASNR Instructor and Career Services Director



What do you do in your position?

As a member of the CASNR Dean’s office, I teach computer applications courses and assist students with all career-related facets of their college experience.

How long have you been with the Institute?

I have been blessed to work in CASNR for eighteen years.

What is the best part of your job?

Working with students. It is very satisfying for me to watch them mature throughout their college years and get good jobs or continue their education. My teaching and career development activities are closely related because in addition to teaching students how to operate the computer programs, I emphasize transferable skills such as communication and teamwork in my classes. Development of these skills serves students well in educational pursuits as well as future jobs. I also provide career development help such as resume preparation, interviewing tips, and job search alternatives. I organize and manage the annual CASNR Career Fair which brings employers on campus to visit with students regarding internship and job opportunities.

Other thoughts?

While juggling work and family priorities, it took me nine years to complete my PhD in educational psychology and research with a concentration in collaborative learning. I am proud to be among UT’s fall graduating class. Because I’ve experienced it myself, I know the importance of continuing education and hope, by my example, to inspire students to work hard and persevere through challenges to meet their goals.


Graduation & Far More



A delighted mother joining her graduating son in a photo and then tweeting it. A student on Facebook proudly showing the activity pin she earned through academic achievement and engagement. An unforgettable photo with UTCVM Dean Jim Thompson after being promoted to the rank of US Army major. That image with then-student Matthew Riley (at center) is from a special ceremony that the college hosted for Riley's promotion. The major on the right flew in from Washington state to offiate. And how great was it that Riley’s major professor, Stephen Kania, was the one to pin the new rank on Riley's uniform? Last week Riley joined other graduates as he participated in the UT hooding ceremony and received his PhD in comparative and experimental medicine. All are among the members of our fall graduating class.

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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 without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, or covered veteran status.



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