Neal Stewart’s Comparisons between Songwriting and Science
By Bill Brown, Dean, UT AgResearch

Sometimes hearing concepts described from a different point of view can drive a point home and serve as an excellent learning moment. Dr. Neal Stewart’s recent article in Science, comparing his renewed activity (and challenges) in writing, recording, and selling country music songs to his faculty life of writing grant proposals and journal articles, conducting research, and training graduate students and postdocs represents an interesting intersection of disciplines with common themes. The full article can be found in the Working Life section​ of the July 24, 2015, issue of Science magazine.

Songwriting has given Dr. Stewart a renewed appreciation for the federal agencies that support his work. Neal is highly successful in securing extramural funds to support his program, and in contrast to the Nashville music scene, at least he receives comments when, on occasion, his proposals are not funded. After a drink or two and a few choice words regarding those who reviewed and denied his proposal, he appreciates these comments, which he uses to strengthen the proposal for resubmission. In contrast, Neal indicates that “the music industry is like a black hole where songs disappear forever”; “it’s discouraging not knowing the outcome of a pitch most of the time and not hearing from publishers and producers about how I can improve a song.” Thus, comments from grant reviewers and journal editors provide value.

Pitching songs has taught Dr. Stewart a few practical lessons about pitching grant proposals and journal articles:
  • You have to tell your story in three minutes. If the proposal, paper, (or song) does not grab the reader’s (or listener’s) attention very quickly, your chance is gone
  • You need a memorable hook. Great songs have a phrase or melodic line that sticks in the mind of the listener: the hook. A science story or funding proposal must relay why a piece of science is important.
  • Keep it fresh. Papers and proposals must be novel.
  • Don’t go solo. Most hit songs have multiple writers and producers. In science, collaborations enhance competitiveness and multiply results.
  • Inspiration isn’t everything. Stories exist of hit songs being written in a few minutes; however, most songs, like grant proposals and journal articles, are rewritten several times. Reviewers can tell which proposals and papers are pieced together quickly.
Good thoughts to keep in mind as we live our daily faculty lives and serve the UTIA mission.

#GrowTheHerd—Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Center to Open SoonPilot Program Launches in October
By Ginger Rowsey

Administrators of the new Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Center are screening nominations for the first class of consignment heifers. They will select up to one hundred heifers to participate in the pilot program, which starts in October. The Beef Heifer Development Center is located at the Dairy AgResearch and Education Center in Lewisburg.

The inaugural class will arrive at a new facility built specifically to develop and breed heifers. The weaned heifers will spend eleven months at the center, where they’ll undergo intensive management practices that will result in optimum reproductive efficiency as mature cows.

“Using the management practices that will be demonstrated through this program will help ensure that new additions to a herd are more fertile and productive, which translates to those animals staying in the herd longer and generating more profit,” says Justin Rhinehart, assistant professor, UT Department of Animal Science. Rhinehart and Kevin Thompson, director of the Middle Tennessee and Dairy AgResearch and Education Centers, are the program’s codirectors.

In April, the heifers will be bred using artificial insemination. Pregnant heifers will be returned to their owners in September. The decision to host an end-of-program heifer sale will depend on consignor interest and will be scheduled at a later date. An annual sale will be a standard part of the program when full capacity is reached in future years.

While Tennessee’s beef cattle numbers have dropped in recent years, the state herd is currently experiencing a rebuilding phase. The goal of the Beef Heifer Development Center is to enhance the repopulation of the state’s beef herd by providing management protocols for the most costly aspect of beef cattle production.

“Replacement heifer development is expensive because of the time and resources it takes until she produces a marketable calf of her own,” says Thompson. “This program will demonstrate proper replacement heifer development to beef cattle producers and increase the opportunity for custom replacement heifer development.”

The Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Center is a partnership between UTIA, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and Tennessee Farmers Co-op. For more information, visit the Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Program site.

UT Arboretum Auditorium Debuts
By Doug Edlund

After nearly a year of construction, the new auditorium at the UT Arboretum in Oak Ridge is ready for its debut.

Nestled among the pastoral landscapes of the Arboretum, the new auditorium boasts nearly 2,000 square feet of open floor space. Its rustic setting is perfect for meetings, wedding receptions, retreats, and educational programs.

“With our new auditorium, we will be able to further carry out our mission of research, education, and community service,” says Kevin Hoyt, director of the Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center. “It’s a magnificent building that will play a vital role in helping the Institute continue to fulfill its land-grant mission well into the future.”

A massive stone fireplace constructed by a local artisan is the focal point of the interior, which lends itself to a park-like lodge ambiance. Exposed Douglas fir roof beams enhance the facility’s beauty and warmth and will be appreciated by all who visit.

The building features a number of conveniences including a small kitchen, full bathroom, electricity, water, and parking for approximately fifty cars.

“It took a lot of support from the Institute, donors, volunteers, and the community to make this a reality, and I can’t thank everyone enough,” Hoyt says.

Special Thanks to Steve Sutton

Colleagues of retiring Tennessee 4-H Youth Development director Steve Sutton share their thoughts of his leadership and impacts on the program and the countless youth it served during his forty-seven years with University of Tennessee Extension.

“Steve has literally spent his entire life in the Tennessee 4-H program. It is impossible to measure all the ways he has benefitted 4-H as he served in a number of different roles and leadership capacities. He’s been a valuable part of our Extension administrative team, he’s provided an outstanding role model for agents, volunteers, and youth, and he’s been a great friend. I know he’ll be missed by many, and we all wish him the very best in retirement.”—Tim Cross, Dean, UT Extension

Wow, what a career—what an impact! From County 4-H agent to State 4-H director, Steve has left a legacy for Tennessee 4-H. Steve took the time to actively engage with youth, volunteers, and stakeholders. He let people know that he cared about them and was truly interested in their issues and concerns. He encouraged young and old to push themselves to reach lofty goals and accomplish great things.

Over the past seven months, Steve mentored me on everything “Tennessee 4-H.” He was invaluable in my orientation and transition from Illinois. For that, I want to say a sincere thank you. Please join me in wishing Steve a wonderful retirement and hopefully a few more 4-H volunteer experiences over the years to come.—Richard Clark, Assistant Dean and Professor, 4-H/Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication

“Steve Sutton epitomizes 4-H! As a 4-Her, volunteer and agent I always looked up to ‘Mr. Sutton’ and wanted to have the same level of dedication to 4-H as him! As his coworker on the state 4-H staff for several years I was able to see, first hand, his commitment to 4-H. Steve Sutton put in 70+ hours of time weekly to ensure our 4-H program was the top program in the nation! He's the most dedicated Extension employee I've ever known. He WILL be missed.” —Justin Crowe, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

“Steve is a mentor to many 4-H professionals, including me. Much of the wonderfully efficient and effective system with which we recognize 4-H youth in Tennessee has been cultivated and designed by Steve.” —Daniel Sarver, Extension Specialist for 4-H STEM and Camping

“During Steve’s career, I think his ability to listen to Extension employees and provide leadership for many areas has enabled the 4-H program to reach the level of success that it has. I could always depend upon him to listen to our needs at the 4-H Center and felt confident that he would make sure we were successful in our endeavors.”—Terri Quillin, 4-H Center Manager, UT Ridley 4-H Center, Columbia

“Steve’s priority has always been helping the youth of Tennessee reach their full potential. No matter where a 4-H member was from, he would do anything possible to assist them in reaching their goals. As we all know, Tennessee is a “long” state. But, Steve never let that 300 miles stand in his way if he was called upon to assist with a county or regional event.

“Steve truly led by example. His hard work and dedication to the Tennessee 4-H Program epitomizes what all 4-H professionals should try to achieve. It has been said, ‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.’ There has never been a question on how much Steve Sutton cared about the 4-H Program, or his vast knowledge of the same.”—Neal Smith, Western Region 4-H Area Specialist, Jackson

I have always felt so proud to have Mr. Sutton representing the program that I stood for. It's inspiring to watch someone work for a program that they love so much that they dedicated their life to it. I know that Mr. Sutton truly believes that young people of today can do great things tomorrow. This is what makes him such a great leader. Because of the program that he lead, I felt beyond prepared for a successful college career and future. I know how to lead and how to serve. Mr. Sutton influenced my life in many more ways than one and I will be forever grateful.—Claire Martin, 2013 Governor, 4-H Congress, and nine-year 4-H member