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Common Ground

I am pleased to provide an update on the progress of our futuring exercise that is being led by our UTIA Priorities Steering Committee. It is critical that we envision 2030 and identify UTIA priorities across all of our mission areas. Using a famous quote, "We need to skate to where the puck will be." If we do not determine our priorities, someone else may do it for us.

Another reason this process is more important than ever is driven by recent changes in how we submit state budget requests for our non-formula units. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has revised the process so that our request must center on specific initiatives that contribute to Tennessee's future. For this year, we were able to request $3.8 million of recurring funds around the Governor's Rural Challenge. Future budget requests will need to be rooted in our UTIA Priorities outcomes. This is our chance to build for the future.

At this point, the steering committee is engaging faculty, Extension agents, and AgResearch and Education Center directors in the discussion. I encourage you to participate in the process.

Neal Schrick chairs the steering committee. Its members are Joseph Donaldson, Scott Senseman, Bobby Simpson, Mike McEntee, David Anderson, Connie Heiskell, and David Perrin.

I appreciate the willingness of Dean Tim Cross and David Golden, professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology and UT faculty trustee, to serve on the search committee for the next UT executive vice president. President DiPietro has just launched the search.

Across the state, we're seeing the glowing colors of fall. This harvest season, I invite you to think about the many ways agriculture touches our lives each day—not just through our work at UTIA, but also in the clothes we wear, the food on our table, the turf in our home lawns, the balls our children play with—the countless magic moments of our daily lives. Join me in telling agriculture's story through our TN Magic Moments social media campaign. Learn how you can be involved by visiting the TN Magic Moments website.

I wish you a happy Thanksgiving and good times with family and friends,

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

CASNR's Enrollment is Up, Up, Up
Undergrad Size 86 Percent Higher Than 2003

This fall, 1,472 undergraduate students are enrolled in CASNR, along with 181 master's and 83 PhD students. The number of undergraduates has almost doubled in size in fifteen years. Associate Dean John Stier credits a hot job market for the boom.

"Right now there are essentially two jobs open for every graduate, and data published in 2015 indicates that agriculture is one of the top 5 highest-earning degree programs," Stier says.
More ...

White House Honors AgResearcher Don Tyler

The White House has recognized UTIA researcher Don Tyler as a Champion of Change. Tyler, a soil management researcher and professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, is one of twelve Americans celebrated in October for doing extraordinary things that inspire and empower their community members.

Tyler was cited for contributions in sustainable agriculture—specifically for leadership and innovation in agricultural production and education of no-tillage cropping systems.

"I am happy and humbled to receive this distinction," Tyler says. "I think it represents a team effort on the part of a number of UTIA researchers, Extension agents, specialists, and other government agencies that were successful in advancing the adoption of no-till agriculture."

Tyler is based at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson. That Center and the AgResearch Center in Milan are pivotal to UTIA's no-till research and education impacts and successes. Learn more about Tyler and his achievements ...

We're Engaged in the Community, Now What?

Higher education institutions across the nation are discovering something that UTIA has known for years: engagement with external stakeholders leads to positive impacts and strong institutional support.

Engagement also results in scholarly achievements, economic development, and experience learning by students.

In a column for Common Ground, UT Extension Dean Tim Cross explores facets of engagement and what future engagement by UTIA might be, spanning engagement on campus, interdisciplinary scholarship and research, and teaching and learning opportunities. More ...

AgResearch Launches AgInnovations Program—
Will Size Up UTIA Ideas to Speed Their Flow to Society

Accelerating new technologies and ideas from the lab to the market is the goal of a groundbreaking new program launched this fall by AgResearch.

Ambitious in scope, the program has been several years in the making. AgInnovations provides an early business perspective to ideas percolating in the labs and minds of UTIA employees.

Through the program, an experienced entrepreneur pairs with inventors at the start of the development process to identify the value an idea or technology may potentially hold for targeted customers, its possible financial viability, and its manufacturing and distribution options. More ...

American Cattlemen Spotlights Animal Science

Look for a profile of our Animal Science program on the cover of the December issue of American Cattlemen magazine. We're proud the magazine also profiled the department's teaching program in its annual college issue last April. You can read the articles at americancattlemen.com.

Copies of the December issue will be distributed at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association convention in San Diego and the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California. Department head Neal Schrick hopes the coverage will recruit graduate students. With a record 600 students, Animal Science's undergraduate program is going strong. Attracting larger numbers of graduate students is a priority to meet strong industry demand.

Borlaug Scholars at UTIA for International Research

Adapting policy for climate change, improving groundwater use, and preventing contagious disease in cattle are the issues that brought a trio of researchers from Jordan, Algeria, and Kazakhstan to UTIA this fall to work with faculty as Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows. Their UTIA mentors will travel to the fellows' home countries next year to continue the cooperative investigations. A fourth Borlaug Fellow will conduct research at the Institute next semester.

The scholars are shown here capturing a TN Magic Moment with Smith Chair Tom Gill, right, and Knoxville News Sentinel reporter MJ Slaby, left. Read more about the fellows in Slaby's feature article.

Institute to Advance Rural Farm Opportunities

Thanks to $75,000 in funding put together from the USDA and three private and public partners, the Institute's Center for Profitable Agriculture and Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics are preparing to launch projects aimed at developing rural farm opportunities throughout Tennessee.

Center director Rob Holland sees a clear multiplier effect of the investment. From new farming businesses, to beef processing and grape and wine production, the external funding has the potential to help agricultural businesses and rural economies grow.

"Helping agricultural businesses is our mission, and we are pleased to focus on these specific needs within Tennessee agriculture and our state's rural communities," he says.

Holland is pictured with project partners Susan Shuff, USDA rural development area specialist (center), and Faye McEwen, USDA rural area development director. The three met recently to discuss the project's implementation. More ...

Two UTIA Professors Named Fulbright Scholars

Joe Bozell of the Center for Renewable Carbon and Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries and Brad Collett of the Department of Plant Sciences are serving as Fulbright Scholars this academic year.

The Fulbright Program is a prestigious international exchange initiative that awards about 1,100 grants to American scholars each year.

Participants are chosen for their leadership and academic merits and their abilities to teach, conduct research, and contribute to solutions for shared international concerns.

Bozell is already in Belgium conducting research at Ghent University in sustainable production of chemicals and fuels from renewable feedstocks. Collett is bound for Slovenia in February to teach at the University of Ljubjana. His project title is "Low Impact Development: Opportunities for a Society in Transition." More ...

Trained volunteers with the College of Veterinary Medicine's H.A.B.I.T. program (which stands for Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee) take pets on visits to nursing homes, assisted living residences, retirement centers, mental health centers, homes for children with special needs, hospitals, and much more. There are more than 250 volunteers involved with seventy different programs. Donations are critical to its operations.

With the holidays fast-approaching and everyone's calendars starting to fill up, H.A.B.I.T. would like to take a chance now and claim November 20 from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m. on your schedule. The joy of the H.A.B.I.T. holiday event is simple. The program requires nothing of you. There is no event you need to attend, no location you need to find, and no small talk you need to make with people you don't know.

The program is bringing you an "event" that you can reserve on your calendar so that when someone tries to schedule your time that evening, you can respond with a simple, "I'm sorry, but I have the H.A.B.I.T. event that evening. What's H.A.B.I.T. you ask?" And then, feel free to launch into all the wonderful things H.A.B.I.T. accomplishes and how it touches lives throughout the year. Nothing in life is free—and that includes free time. How much is a guilt-free, stress-free night of freedom cozied up in the house worth to you? A night where you can do whatever you want? Visit here to explore donation options. In a hectic holiday season, H.A.B.I.T. would like to bring you an evening of tranquility with its Do Nothing Fundraiser.

UTIA Launches Study of Organic Dairy Production

With a goal to provide research-based information on forage for organic dairy herd operators in the Southeast, UTIA is launching a four-year project funded by a $1.8 million grant from the USDA. Led by Animal Science associate professor Gina Pighetti, the project aims to help producers increase the profitability of their herds, which in turn may boost the productivity of dairy operations in the region and meet rising consumer demand for organic dairy products.

The University of Kentucky is a cooperator on the project, and its findings will advance the Southeast Quality Milk Initiative, a six-university partnership that includes UTIA. Launched in 2013, the Initiative is working to reverse declines in the Southeast's dairy industry through research, outreach, and education. More ...

In Knoxville, Meet Garry Menendez
Associate Professor, Department of Plant Sciences
and School of Landscape Architecture

What do you do as associate professor?

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have landed where I am today. Whether its taking my students literally into the field to take part in a "native plant rescue" (legally relocating plants threatened by development) or touring them around some of the most picturesque gardens across the globe on one of my study abroad garden tours, I feel extremely fortunate. I often hear "you're so lucky" when I describe my career to others. I realize this every day I come to "work" and for that I feel very blessed.

While most professors boast of a very clearly defined specialty, I relish in the diverse nature of my profession as a landscape architect and professor. Courses I currently teach or have taught in the past include: Fundamentals of Landscape Design, Supplemental Graphics, Professional Practices, Living Systems, Specialty Landscape Construction, Computer Aided Design, Advanced Landscape Design, and Study Abroad. In addition to teaching I fill the summers of my nine-month appointment by practicing as a licensed landscape architect focusing on residential and ecological design and, of course, traveling. You could probably get a pretty good read of my professional interests by visiting my Facebook page or checking out my website, garrymenendez.com.

How long have you been with UTIA?

I began my path at UT in 1989 as a "non-tenure track, one year, don't get your hopes up" appointment. I have long since been awarded tenure and am currently in my twenty-seventh year and still enjoying every day.

What is the best part of your job?

Students. Pure and simply put, I attribute my positive outlook and energy to being surrounded by amazing and equally passionate students. Every day brings new challenges and rewards. As a self-proclaimed "time freak," I understand the value of being efficient and organized with my time and especially that of my students. Every minute of every day counts and it really does matter how wisely you expend your energy and use your time. I also live by the "work hard and play hard" philosophy and by making the best use of my time this allows me to keep my priorities in sight and stay balanced both professionally and personally.

Big Orange Give Exceeds Expectations

The one-week online UT giving campaign, Big Orange Give, had a big goal, but even greater success.

The Knoxville campus, in conjunction with UTIA, sought to raise a grand total of $1 million in one week, with smaller goals for each college. With 80 percent of all gifts under $100, UT surpassed its goal and went on to raise nearly $1.5 million. This is the third year of the annual campaign.

Thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and the College of Veterinary Medicine each reached their collegiate goals!

Both UTIA colleges met their original goals by the second day of the campaign, prompting new goals to be created...which they then met with resounding success. CASNR raised more than $24,000 in one week and CVM raised approximately $10,000. More ...

4-H'er Wows Homecoming Crowd at Vols Game

Bedford County 4-H'er Sarah Beth Thomas and her Tennessee Walking Horse named Masquerading's Glo Girl showed their stuff during the Homecoming game Saturday between the North Texas Mean Green and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium.

Sarah Beth is a high school senior who has done exceptionally well in the show ring. Jeffrey Hester is her 4-H agent. UT Extension Bedford County director John Teague says Sarah Beth considers the ride the highlight of her life and that she and her family "still haven't come down out of the clouds. They are so appreciative of the treatment they received, how she was escorted in the stadium, and her whole experience." Sarah Beth cherished that she was able to ride over to a young girl with special needs who was clearly captivated with Glo Girl so the girl could pet the horse.

This is the second consecutive year a Bedford County 4-H'er has been chosen to ride at Neyland. Members of the Department of Animal Science and the College of Veterinary Medicine team up to select the youth and horse they believe are the most outstanding representatives of 4-H and the Tennessee Walking Horse industry for the event.

DNA testing will now be included in the evaluation of cattle in the UTIA Bull Test Center. The Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center will host an open house for the program on December 10. Guests can view all bulls on the test and attend educational presentations. More ...

Delegates from across the United States have elected CASNR agricultural communications major Nick Baker as the organization's national secretary for 2015-16. National officers commit to a year of service to the National FFA Organization. Each travels more than 100,000 national and international miles to interact with business and industry leaders, thousands of FFA members, and teachers, corporate sponsors, government and education officials, state FFA leaders, the general public, and others. More ...

CASNR's six 2015 Farm Credit Scholars will give presentations on their summer internships this Thursday from 3:40 to 4:55 p.m. in 260 Brehm. The Farm Credit Scholars Program is the college's most prestigious scholarship program, combining financial assistance with stellar experience learning opportunities. Come see what the students have to say!

Thank Our Farmers

As we approach Thanksgiving, Amanda Mathenia of UT Extension Perry County, says please remember to give thanks to all of our farmers. The agricultural and natural resources and 4-H youth development agent incorporated 2015 figures on farmer productivity from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service with an image of her father, Harry Mathenia of Trenton.

The 74-year-old checks his Limousin and commercial cow herds twice daily, farms acres of high-quality Bermuda grass, hunts rabbits, and has a special seat at the local cattle sale every Wednesday, where he socializes with other area producers.


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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