Outgoing Director’s Message
Leadership transitions are a good time to reflect on accomplishments, identify new challenges and opportunities, and provide a bit of parting wisdom.
Here are a few accomplishments to reflect on from the past five years at NWREC:
- We celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the new ARTB facility in fantastic fashion;
- We said goodbyes to several dedicated, long-time faculty who retired—Lynell Tanigoshi, Debbie Inglis, Susan Kerr, and Tim Miller;
- We have managed three cuts to the core budget totaling 25%, while maintaining [and even growing] our overall research operation and productivity;
- We have celebrated new hires and programs in Entomology (Bev Gerdeman), Food Science (Bri Valliere), Soils (Deirdre Griffin-LaHue and Gabe LaHue), Weeds (Steve Seefeldt), and the Ag Weather Net (Jon Contezac), and will soon celebrate a new Plant Pathology hire;
- We saw commitments to new faculty endowments for the Bread Lab, the Washington Red Raspberry Industry Development, and in Vegetable Seed;
- We were provided a couple of new graduate student scholarships in vegetable seed;
- We made a number of facility upgrades and transitions to accommodate significant program growth;
- And we started construction on the first phase of a new facility expansion through full community-based funding support that should be completed in a couple of months.
While the director gets the “credit” for a lot of these things, the reality is that these accomplishments are a team effort between faculty, staff, students, and our community partners—and nothing good happens unless everyone is pulling together toward the same objective.
The continuing challenges for NWREC are likely to fall in the same general domain—managing personnel and program transitions, continuing to expand, renovate, and equip space for a state-of-the-science research campus, and building a more diversified and sustainable core financial portfolio. To continue to be successful, we will need new investments in support of facilities, faculty, and students to remain competitive in an ever-evolving landscape. I suspect that five years from now this story will still be the same. The only questions will be what specific opportunities or challenges will drive the need for investment or change.
The idea behind the Land Grant University is that it is an institution that is engaged with the community in the tri-part discovery, instruction, and outreach mission. NWREC is the ultimate example of an engaged part of the Land Grant University. The history of this Center is one defined by community engagement—it is in fact one of the most powerful community engagement stories at WSU—and I believe over the past five years we have strengthened the community engagement through intentional communication, strengthening existing and cultivating new partnerships, and mutual advocacy toward common objectives.
The days of a fully publicly funded Land Grant University or regional Research & Extension Center are long-since past. In fact, I believe we have entered a period in which public funding for core functions and operations is also a “thing of the past” and that we will need to develop new models for how the Land Grant University partners with communities to support the core operational capacity for critical community-based investments such as NWREC. We’ve scratched at the surface of this with our most recent faculty hires in soils and plant pathology—but I think we are going to need to go further in finding creative ways to maintain critical capacity investments for mutual benefit. Thus, my “parting wisdom” is that the faculty-student-community partnership needs even more attention and focus, and that this focus needs to be forward-looking. We generally do not reflect on our successes often enough, but it’s also easy to get trapped in the status quo of what you currently have or are. Success comes from understanding where you came from, learning from your successes and failures, but most importantly from keeping your eyes focused on where you want to be in the distant future.
I wish you all the best and look forward to future opportunities to “check in” and see the amazing successes you will continue to have together in partnership.
Outgoing Director, Mount Vernon NWREC