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Common Ground

Welcome to Common Ground. We want Common Ground to be a tool for communicating news within the Institute of Agriculture about our people, programs, and successes. I encourage everyone to use Common Ground as a vehicle to communicate important news. You may submit items to commonground@tennessee.edu. Be sure to include the name Common Ground in the subject line.

By now you have probably heard the news that UT Knoxville and UTIA worked collaboratively to gain the 2015 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. This reflects our strong commitment to collaborate with community partners to address our society's most pressing needs. UT joins a group of fifty-two universities with the “very high intensity” research classification and the engaged status designation. A big thank you goes to Elizabeth Burman, director of Community Engagement and Outreach at UT Knoxville, and Tim Cross, dean of UT Extension, for their leadership on this effort. Great job!

As we begin 2015, I am pleased that we are implementing our new branding effort. Thanks to our team in Marketing and Communications for their leadership on this effort. The new branding will help us better communicate our missions across the state of Tennessee. I encourage you to become familiar with the changes and begin to use them with your programs and activities. A celebration of the new brand will be held at 1:30 p.m. (EST) this Thursday in Hollingsworth Auditorium on the Institute’s campus in Knoxville.

The General Assembly has started the 2015 session. We will be monitoring several issues during the session. First and foremost is the budget for the UT System and UTIA. We are hopeful that there will be funds for salary increases and programmatic support. We have two important capital projects on the list: 1) the 4-H Center in West Tennessee and 2) the replacement of Ellington Hall. We are hopeful these projects will be funded. Finally, we are working during the session to solve the issue of UT Extension involvement in animal cruelty investigations. We will try to keep you informed of these issues as the session continues.

Customer service is an important value within the Institute of Agriculture. I want to give a shout-out to all of our employees who work in the CVM Veterinary Medical Center. Since returning from the holidays, I have received three notes from clients letting me know about the compassion, kindness, and skill they experienced in the medical center. Congratulations on the culture you have established. It is noticed.

Go Vols,


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

Meet UTIA’s New Brand Promise


As 2015 gets underway, we are excited to launch a new look and brand promise for UTIA. This new visual identity is designed to better reflect the Institute and its family of units—UT Extension, UT AgResearch, the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, and the UT College of Veterinary Medicine—along with our many departments and programs.

Why is this important? Branding is the most efficient way to show existing and potential stakeholders what our organization is all about. It’s reflected visually via the logo and design elements as well as through verbiage in marketing materials, our new slogan, and informational copy. Read more ...

Institute and UT Knoxville Earn Carnegie-Engaged Designation

The prestigious Carnegie engagement classification recognizes colleges' and universities’ commitments to strengthening the bond between campus and community. Extension Dean Tim Cross worked with a broad base of campus and community advisors and with Elizabeth Burman of the UT Office of Research and Engagement to chronicle UT and UTIA’s commitment to benefiting the greater community.

To achieve the designation, campuses must document their collaborations with local, regional, state, national, and global organizations "to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching, and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good."

An event to celebrate the Carnegie designation will be held this spring. Read more ...

About the New Name for the Chancellor’s Newsletter and Your Input for Future Issues

Thanks to everyone for your great suggestions of new names for this newsletter. A project team selected Common Ground because it conveys how the Institute unites people from so many diverse fields in the shared mission of advancing society and improving people’s lives.

Stay tuned in 2015. We have big plans for Common Ground. We’ll be adding new content that highlights how we at the Institute are making a difference. We’ll also be helping everyone get to know each other better because it’s hard in a swiftly moving, statewide organization to keep up with one another. So, starting this issue, we’re adding a new feature in which we introduce members of the UTIA family and share what they do. We’d love for you to nominate someone to profile in a future issue. We’ll also be inviting you to contribute your thoughts and ideas in other ways. Watch for opportunities ahead!

New Technologies and Innovations Make 2014 a Stellar Year for AgResearch

Exciting new technology development and impressive grantsmanship marked a highly productive year for UTIA faculty. Several multimillion-dollar competitive grants were awarded to UTIA faculty. Twenty invention disclosures were developed in 2014, originating from most UTIA departments including the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Additionally, fourteen patent applications were submitted with eleven national and international patents awarded in 2014, demonstrating the mission orientation of UTIA’s work. Many of these awarded patents resulted in faculty-driven startup company formation along with new innovations that were highly sought after by private companies for licensing opportunities. Read AgResearch Dean Bill Brown's thoughts on 2014 and the year ahead ...

Statewide Partnership to Boost Tennessee Beef Industry

UTIA, TDA, and Tennessee Farmers Co-op Launch Effort to Assist State Producers


In a joint effort to rebuild a declining Tennessee beef herd, the Institute, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and Tennessee Farmers Cooperative announced a unique public-private partnership in December. UTIA will make room at its Dairy AgResearch and Education Center in Lewisburg for 100 beef heifers consigned by farmers from across Tennessee for a development program with the goal of increasing cattle numbers in the state.

Nationally, Tennessee has dropped from ninth in beef cattle production to thirteenth in the past two years due in part to a decrease in the state’s herd caused by economic and weather-related factors. Currently, the state hosts about 864,000 beef cows. The goal of the new Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Program is to increase that number, which is consistent with the recommendations of the Governor’s Rural Challenge. Read more ...

Early CVM Graduate Charts Nearly Perfect Record of Sustained Support

When asked about his life, Welch Agnew’s response is, “I just fell into it. I couldn’t have been any luckier.”

Although luck may have something to do with his series of successful careers, he still remembers the organizations and institutions that helped launch him. The 1980 graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine has a near perfect annual giving record.

Perhaps his spirit of philanthropy and drive to succeed can be traced to a sick little boy in the 1940s and a different brand of luck. Read more ...

Pioneering Interventional Radiology Suite Now Online at VMC

With the opening of the Interventional Radiology Suite at CVM’s Veterinary Medical Center, clinicians are now able to use advanced real-time imaging equipment and minimally invasive procedures to intervene in disease processes.

Minimally invasive means that it requires no major surgical incisions. This improves patient comfort and recovery and may also lead to improved outcomes since it minimizes risks associated with traditional surgeries. Read more and watch a video ...

Statewide Turfgrass Impact Survey Underway

Green grass puts green in the state’s coffers, but the question is “how much?”

Institute researchers intend to profile Tennessee’s turfgrass industry and measure its economic importance through an online survey.

Jim Brosnan, a UTIA plant scientist, says an accurate measure of the value of the industry is needed. “Turf affects everyone across the state, and we need to capture a more complete sense of its value,” he said. “No one has measured the industry’s breadth and impact since the mid-1990s, when the industry’s impact was listed as $868.1 million. We expect to see a dramatic increase in the value of the state’s green spaces,” he said. The survey is available online, and the link will remain open through January 31. Read more ...


The Institute’s East Tennessee Grain and Soybean Conference is focusing on improving production in the region. Topics include disease, insect, and weed control; when to run the fan; and managing crops from the ground up. The conference takes place this Thursday in Knoxville. Read more.


Congratulations are in order for Rutherford County Extension agent Michael Shirley and wife, Amy. The American Farm Bureau Federation honored them this month as one of three runners-up for the Excellence in Agriculture Award. Read more.


The Institute will host the 2015 West Tennessee Grain and Soybean Producers Conference on February 5. Talks will cover Farm Bill updates, crop insurance alternatives, soil fertility, and seed treatment options for soybean, wheat, and grain sorghum. Read more.

Peers Honor Entomologist Specialist Karen Vail

Karen Vail, professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, will receive the Entomological Society of America–Southeastern Branch Distinguished Award in Urban Entomology at the 2015 Southeastern Branch Meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi, this March. The honor recognizes and encourages outstanding extension, research, and teaching contributions in urban entomology.

EPP department head Parwinder Grewal nominated Vail for the outstanding award. “Dr. Vail is a model Extension professional,” he said. “She is responsive to the information needs of Extension agents, pesticide application professionals, and of the citizens of Tennessee.”

Join us in congratulating Karen on her outstanding accomplishment! Read more ...

Support Entomology and Plant Pathology now.

In Memoriam

Margaret Louise Clem, 92, retired program leader in former District 3 Extension. Clem retired in 1987 with thirty-seven years of service to the Institute. She was a home economics specialist in Knoxville prior to her assignment with District 3. (Name links to obituary.)

In Knoxville, Meet Sabrina Klepper, Licensed Veterinary Medical Technician

What do you do at CVM?

I am a licensed veterinary medical technician in community practice at the Veterinary Medical Center. Community practice is one of the required rotations each CVM fourth-year student must complete before graduating. Community practice focuses on preventative medicine, and our goal is to arm the client with as much information as possible regarding vaccines, parasites, dental care, and microchipping.

How long have you been with UTIA?

I have been here just over ten years. I began my career at UT as a veterinary assistant before earning my veterinary medical technician degree from St. Petersburg, Florida. I recently obtained Senior Veterinary Technician Level 1 and am pursuing a technician specialty in clinical practice (canine/feline).

What is the best part of your job?

I feel fortunate to be able to watch pets grow from an early age throughout adulthood.

Other thoughts?

I wanted to become a veterinary technician so I could be an advocate for the best patient care possible and work to strengthen the human-animal bond. One of my missions in life is to encourage feline friendly handling techniques that reduce stress for the patient during a visit to the veterinarian.


Extension’s West Tennessee Irrigation Conference takes place January 28 in Dyersburg. The event will include multiple presentations as well as an industry-sponsored trade show. Presentations will focus on aquifers, irrigation sustainability, and furrow irrigation. Breakout sessions will be held for row crop producers and those working in the vegetable and horticulture industries. Read more.


Congratulations to administrative specialist Kim Rutherford for being honored as the CVM Employee of the Semester for fall. She was praised for routinely going above and beyond her duties, providing critical assistance to programmatic reviews, and serving with discretion, grace, and efficiency.


Farmers who plan to sell products at farmers markets will have an opportunity to learn about regulations and more at six Farmers Market Boot Camp workshops to be held across Tennessee in February. Food safety regulations for products will be covered, as well as liability risk, and other pertinent topics. Read more.

Icy Weather, Oh, Stay Away!

No one wants to see weather of this kind, but hope as we will, it could happen before spring days arrive. Blake Brown captured this wintry scene of barbed wire fencing at the UT AgResearch and Education Center at Milan, where he serves as director. His photo was an entry in the Institute Photo Competition. Watch for the call for entries for this year’s contest soon.




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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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