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Common Ground


As I write my last Common Ground article, I just want to say what a pleasure it has been to serve with the UTIA team. I have formed many friendships within UTIA and across the state of Tennessee. Each year in the Employee Orientation Program, I talk to our new employees about what makes UTIA great and what we value. I always make the following points:

  • We strive for a warm, friendly atmosphere where we think of ourselves as family.
  • We support our colleagues. We enjoy our work.
  • We are science-based.—Real. Life. Solutions.
  • We value customer service.

I hope that you will hold true to these values. I am pleased that Dr. Tim Cross has agreed to serve as interim chancellor. I know he will do a good job of moving UTIA forward with your support.

Happy Trails,


From CASNR Dean Caula Beyl—

Larry's Lasting Legacy

For the past five years, Dr. Larry Arrington has led the Institute of Agriculture as chancellor with dedication and passion. He has also been a true advocate for the teaching mission and takes genuine delight in the talent and potential of our students.

Personally, I have learned much from Larry and his approachable and humble leadership style. I have also been able to broaden my use of the colorful and regional expressions that he uses so ably at just the right time in exactly the correct context. I have a collection of these phrases that I call "Larryisms." My list of them, in fact, has recently totaled thirty-four, and I hope to reach fifty before he retires next month. I would like to share a few with you, so we can all benefit from his wisdom and humor. Read them here.

Access this column and other content linked to this newsletter in a single PDF here to share with coworkers who lack Internet access.


Interim Appointments Announced



While a search for a new chancellor of UTIA is conducted, UT Extension Dean Tim Cross has agreed to serve the Institute as interim chancellor. To ensure efficiency of operations, Dean Cross has asked Delton Gerloff, head of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, to handle day-to-day responsibilities for UT Extension as interim dean. Professor Christopher Clark will step in as interim head of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. The appointments are effective September 6.


UTIA Presents Top Awards, Promotions for 2016
32 Faculty & Staff Celebrated Across the State

Thirty-two faculty and staff members were recognized at UTIA's annual Awards and Promotions Luncheon held in early August. Many of the awards they received were gifts made possible by past faculty, alumni, and friends of the Institute.

"We are so proud of the many talented and dedicated people working for the UT Institute of Agriculture across the state," says UTIA Chancellor Larry Arrington. "It was an honor to recognize all these award winners for their hard work."

Don Tyler, pictured on his soapbox, is a recently retired professor in biosystems engineering and soil science who was recognized with the Institute's AgResearch Impact Award.

Tyler's research has saved literally millions of acres of top soil through no-till agricultural practices—where one crop is planted on top of the residue of a past crop without plowing the ground. In 2015 he was honored by the White House as a "Champion of Change for Sustainable Agriculture." Congratulating him are AgResearch Dean Bill Brown, left, and Chancellor Arrington.

You can see the names of everyone receiving promotions and awards, along with descriptions of the achievements that merited the awards, by clicking here.


UT Extension Associate Dean Named ASABE Fellow

Robert Burns, P.E., associate dean of UT Extension, has been named to the Class of Fellows with the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Burns received the organization's highest honor at the annual international ASABE meeting, held last month in Orlando, Florida.

Burns was honored for his outstanding contributions to improving environmental stewardship of animal production worldwide as an administrator, researcher, Extension engineer, and for his twenty-two years of service to the professional society.

Burns has led in the development and maintenance of USDA curriculum that trains service providers to implement nutrient management plans for animal feeding operations.

Without the training and certification program, the U.S. would have had inadequate numbers of technical service providers. Burns' work has also assisted extension and research programs in Bulgaria, China, Croatia, South Korea, and Romania. More ...


Spotlight on
The UT Department of Plant Sciences



The UT Department of Plant Sciences holds a mission to discover, develop, and disseminate science and technologies to serve the teaching, research, and outreach needs of students, stakeholders, and peers in the agronomic and horticultural plant sciences. Its vision is to be an innovative and leading source for information and technologies in agronomic and horticultural plant sciences.

With forty-six faculty across the state active in various facets of the discipline, Plant Sciences is the largest academic department in staffing and arguably has the broadest and most diverse scope in the Institute of Agriculture.

Learn about the department in a profile written by head Scott Senseman. More ...


Learn How to Start a Company—
by Starting a Company!

AgResearch, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, and several sponsors have united to offer UT students, faculty, and staff throughout the state the opportunity to take their dreams of launching a business into reality.

If you have an idea for starting a business and just don't know where to begin, or if you've ever wanted to be involved in a startup, but didn't have an idea that you thought would work, then the upcoming Ag 3-Day Startup (Ag 3DS) boot camp is for you.

The intensive, three-day event will be held September 30 through October 2 on the Institute campus in Knoxville. The goal of Ag 3DS, which is free to attend, is to start five to seven new ag-based companies. Any company that emerges from the program will receive $1,000 towards start-up costs. Learn more ...


A Future So Bright
Esteemed Faculty Attract Argentinian Scholar



A Fulbright Scholar with the opportunity to pursue an advanced degree anywhere in the world has chosen to study in the UT Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Because a program in agricultural economics is not offered at universities in her native Argentina, Maria Celeste De Matteis' desire to earn a degree in the field seemed an elusive target, but never underestimate the power of determination. After working a decade in a grain brokerage company, she was granted the Argentine Presidential Fellowship in Science and Technology to pursue a master's degree. This was her opportunity to enter a program anywhere in the world. Celeste chose UT because of her regard for the work of associate professor Edward Yu (pictured above) and to learn more about his research in biofuels and the related coproducts, areas useful to her country as it endeavors to incorporate biofuels in its energy matrix.

"The reputation of the University of Tennessee and being in a department that is focused on master’s students were also important factors," Celeste says. More ...


I AM UTIA—
In Knoxville, Meet Christopher Stripling
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communications



What do you do as assistant professor?

I am a faculty member in the Department of 4-H Youth Development/Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. This department is a social science unit within UTIA. As social scientists, we are a link between agricultural scientists and the general public. I have the privilege of training formal and nonformal educators who improve agricultural literacy, train the next generation of agriculturalists, and disseminate research conducted at land-grant institutions like the University of Tennessee.

In addition to teaching educators, I primarily conduct research on teaching and learning in two settings: (a) colleges of agriculture and (b) school-based agricultural education. I believe teaching and learning is a complex process that involves interactions between the educator, learners, and the content. My research investigates these interactions and possible mediating factors. I believe my research interests support the land-grant mission by contributing to our knowledge of the social processes involved in teaching and outreach and are appropriate given my 100 percent teaching appointment. Furthermore, I am currently a Co-PI on a USDA-funded grant that has developed a Global Thinking Academy for college of agriculture faculty representing eight universities. The Global Thinking Academy is a two-year faculty professional development experience that culminates with an international experience in Belize. The primary goals of the Global Thinking Academy are to improve explicit critical thinking instruction and faculty participants' ability to teach globally relevant food, agriculture, natural resources, and human science topics. This grant requires 10 percent of my time until September 30, 2018.

Lastly, my service activities support teaching and learning at a variety of levels but focus on school-based agricultural education. I am a member of the Tennessee Department of Education's agricultural education committee, chair of the Tennessee Department of Education's student development committee for agricultural education, and a member of the Tennessee State Board of FFA Directors. I also volunteer with the Tennessee FFA Association by judging and serving at FFA career development events.

How long have you been with the Institute?

I am currently in my fifth year with UTIA and look forward to serving the Institute and the state of Tennessee for many more years.

What is the best part of your job?

Seeing my students succeed and interacting with FFA members and agricultural educators from across the United States. As a former high school agriculture teacher, I cherish the moments I am able to spend with school-based agricultural education teachers and FFA members.

Other thoughts?

Albert Einstein said, "Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty."

I am an educator by choice not by chance. I have chosen to teach for three main reasons. First, I teach because of the positive impacts that educators have had on my life. Secondly, I teach because I enjoy helping others reach their educational goals. Thirdly, I relish the challenges that teaching presents, such as motivating learners, developing lessons based on the needs of learners, and determining the most effective ways to lead learners through the learning cycle. As an educator, I am responsible for designing quality learning experiences that are meaningful, have continuity, and are based on the needs of the learner. I hope my teaching personifies Albert Einstein's statement and communicates my desire to see others succeed.


Zika Concerns



UTIA specialists are in demand to answer questions about the Zika virus and risks it poses to humans and animals. In June's Common Ground, we shared tips from UT Extension entomologist Karen Vail on how to reduce mosquitos around home. This month here are videos featuring two other faculty media are consulting concerning the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Melissa Kennedy, an associate professor and director of the Virology Laboratory at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, talked with Beth Haynes at WBIR about Zika and pets. Haynes asks, "Can animals become sick from the Zika virus?" Answer: There is a lot of research ongoing with this virus, and there is no evidence that domestic animals are affected. Haynes asks, "There's strong evidence linking the Zika virus infection in pregnant women and the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and brain defects. Can this happen to pets, and can pets be a reservoir for the Zika virus?" Answer: No, pets are not affected nor a reservoir for the virus.

Assistant professor Becky Trout Fryxell, a medical and veterinary entomologist with the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, has been studying mosquitoes in Knox County for years. Knoxville station WATE met up with her in the lab to learn about her work. "We're collecting mosquitoes. We're identifying them. We're screening them. We’re running basically the gamut of different things we can do with them," she says.

On the risk of Zika being borne by mosquitos here, "Two mosquitoes that have been implicated in transmitting Zika virus, we only have one of them, the Aedes mosquito, and it may not even have the abilities, the genetics, to actually do the transmission." Trout Fryxell's team sets out traps around Knox County to get mosquito eggs, which are then brought back to her lab where they're hatched and studied. Learn about her work here.


The UT Bridge to Student Success



The UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources estimates some 1,400 undergraduates are joining us this fall. For freshmen the transition to college can be a challenge. UT has a program to help students in the weeks before they begin their academic careers.

CASNR's Craig Pickett, coordinator of Student Life and Diversity programs, is one of the leaders of the UT Bridge program. Bridge is a great introduction to life at UT, and students learn much more than just good study habits. Watch a video here.


Heifer & Turf Field Days, Fall Gardeners' Festival Ahead

Although Labor Day arrives soon, it's still summer and that means it's still prime time for AgResearch field days and special events. Three are coming up in quick succession.

August 25 marks the debut of the Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Center Field Day. Hosted by the UT Beef and Forage Center, the event takes place at the Beef Heifer Development Center at the UT Dairy AgResearch and Education Center in Lewisburg.

On August 30, it's the Fall Gardeners' Festival at the always beautiful UT Gardens, Crossville. The Garden is located on the grounds of the Plateau AgResearch and Education Center.

Then, on September 8, the highly popular Turf and Ornamental Field Day returns. This time, though, the field day has shifted from Knoxville to a golf course, the Little Course, in Franklin. The remaining two events on the 2016 calendar are heritage festivals in October at Milan and Ames Plantation in West Tennessee.



UT Extension Plant Pathologist a Top Tweeter— Greenhouse Management magazine has named Alan Windham one of their Top Twitter 25 of 2016. "Alan's tweets use vivid photos to help him explain disease topics in 140 characters or less." You can follow Windham on Twitter @UTPlantDoc. More ...



Plateau Center Named Friend of Ag—The Cumberland County Farm Bureau has named the Plateau AgResearch and Education Center its 2016 Friend of Agriculture. Also recognized were Center director Walt Hitch and Robert Freeland, retired superintendent of the Plateau Agricultural Experiment Station, which was the facility's name during his tenure. More ...



Jim Byford, UT Martin Dean Emeritus, Now 4-H Hall of Famer—Byford is one of sixteen individuals selected to join the national 4-H Hall of Fame for his service and dedication to the organization. Before joining UT Martin, he spent more than twenty years as an Extension wildlife specialist, eighteen in Tennessee, where he had numerous, lasting impacts on Extension wildlife programs. More ...


Calling UT Women and Wives!

UT has a multifaceted University Women's Club. All exempt and nonexempt women employees are encouraged to consider joining, as are wives of faculty, staff, and retirees. The organization meets monthly for luncheons that feature guest speakers and has special interest groups and other opportunities for fellowship and networking. In addition, the club funds scholarships to help adult women returning to college.

Women are invited to a free introductory tea reception from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., Friday, September 9, at the UT Visitors Center on Neyland Drive at Kingston Pike. RSVP by September 2 to Therese Leadbetter, telhome46@aol.com, or 865-690-0445.


Battle of the Habitat Playhouses



Our Vols take on Virginia Tech at the Bristol Motor Speedway September 10 in what's expected to be the largest crowd ever at a college football game. The "Flying J Battle at Bristol" should draw 150,000 fans.

Meantime, leading up to kickoff, UTIA Construction Science students are competing against their Hokie counterparts in a friendly competition. And what the students build will benefit a worthy organization—Habitat for Humanity in the Tri-Cities. Watch a video here.


Does Your Dog Have What it Takes to Make History?

The East Tennessee History Fair has gone to the dogs. This Saturday it features a "History Hound" Dog Costume Contest that challenges area canine to strut their historic stuff. Dr. Bob Denovo, pictured below (at right), one of the top dogs in the UT College of Veterinary Medicine—associate dean for Administration and Hospital Programs—joins WBIR news anchor John Becker and professor and head of the UT History Department, Ernest Freeberg, as celebrity rufferees (judges).

Your canine companion has the opportunity to compete for "Most East Tennessee Spirit" and "Best Historic Costume." So if you have a Joan of Barks, a George Washinbone, or a Winston Furhill, dress them up for some pawsome pooch fun. Other outfit suggestions include a coal miner, Civil War soldier, Abe Lincoln, moonshiner, Davy Crockett, or pioneer dog.

Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. in Krutch Park in downtown Knoxville. The contest starts at 10:15 a.m. The event is free to attend and participate, with primo prizes for doggie history stars. More ...





Ag Day will start four hours prior to kickoff (time to be determined). A block of tickets will be available for Ag Day attendees only. Contact Robin Haefs in the UTIA Office of Advancement at rhaefs@tennessee.edu or 865-974-1928 for football ticket purchase information.

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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.


Real. Life. Solutions.