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From the Dean — September 2016

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Dear colleagues,

Students are back, campus is buzzing, and Blacksburg is bustling with activity. This can only mean one thing: another academic year has begun!

I hope everyone is getting back into the swing of things and the new semester is off to a great start.

But before we start looking too far ahead, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the accomplishments of our faculty and staff over the previous year. We had a great annual summer picnic, when we were able to get together and celebrate the good work we all do. Photos from the event can be found on the college’s Facebook page.

Among the people who were recognized during the picnic was Kim Niewolny, who was named this year’s recipient of the Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award. The award recognizes faculty whose creative accomplishments help fulfill the land-grant mission of addressing state and national needs through teaching, research, and Extension. Kim personifies this award by enthusiastically promoting agriculture education through Extension and outreach efforts. She helps cultivate interest and provide knowledge of farming to those who are already in the profession as well as to those who are thinking of going into it. The award includes $2,000, plus an additional $2,000 in operating funds.

The annual Award for Excellence in Applied Research was given to Lee Daniels in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. Lee received the award for his significant contributions to restore disturbed mining land into environmentally and agriculturally valuable resources, which has a tremendous positive impact around the globe. Lee received $5,000 from the college to support his research.

The 2016 Award for Excellence in Basic Research went to James Westwood in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science. Jim was recognized for his pioneering contributions to genomics research aimed at understanding how parasitic plants manipulate their hosts and cause devastating crop losses. He received $5,000 from the college in support of his work.

Each year a CALS Employee of the Year is selected from among the twelve recipients of the previous Employees of the Month. David Dunaway, an agricultural technician at the Eastern Virginia AREC, was this year’s recipient. Congratulations to David.

Amy Loeffler, science writer in the Office of Communications and Marketing, and Joe Hunnings, director, planning and reporting, professional development and civil rights compliance of CALS and VCE Administration, split the annual CALS Diversity Incentive Fund award of $2,000.

Amy is bringing Karen Washington to campus to discuss diversity and inclusion and how it can improve food systems. Joe will be spearheading a project to train Extension faculty and staff about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community and advancing the work of Extension to increase diverse environments. Details on both events will be coming soon.

David Bevan, a professor of biochemistry, was recognized with the Diversity and Inclusion Service Award. David is the co-principal director of the Department of Biochemistry’s Initiative to Maximize Student Development, one of the most diverse academic programs at the university. David goes out of his way to make the college and welcoming environment for all.

In other news, many individuals from the college were able to join about 80 alumni and friends in Colonial Heights at the annual dinner the night before the Ag Expo. The dinner event is a great opportunity to engage with our alumni and friends of the college. You can see some photos from the event at the Keystone Truck and Tractor Museum on the college’s Facebook page. The following day, the Ag Expo event in Dinwiddie was highly successful. Many thanks to everyone who assisted and presented highlights of research and Extension.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Ninth Annual Summer Reception in celebration of our retired faculty. It was wonderful to connect with so many friends who still maintain close ties with the college. They have done so much for the college and continue to do so today.

The proposal to establish the new School of Plant and Environmental Studies in the college has garnered very positive support. Following a recent vote by the faculty in the departments of Horticulture, Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, and Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, the proposal will now be making its way through University governance this fall.

I hope to see many of you at the Sept. 3 at the CALS Homecoming Tailgate as the Hokies kick off the football season. You can RSVP online. If you would like to have an exhibit space, contact Jamie Lucero at jlucero@vt.edu.

Thanks to everyone for all that you do and I wish you a fun and productive fall semester.

Sincerely,

Alan Grant

Dean

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From the Dean — May 2016

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Greetings,

This is the time of the year when the university announces many faculty and staff members and students for the annual Awards of Excellence. Congratulations to those in CALS who are being honored:

  • Alex Niemiera, professor of horticulture and CALS assistant dean of student programs is receiving the 2016 William E. Wine Award for Teaching Excellence. The selection process includes nominations of candidates by students, faculty, and alumni in each college, and the selection of three faculty members across the university. Each Wine Award winner receives an automatic induction into the Academy of Teaching Excellence.
  • Nada Tamim, director of undergraduate programs for animal and poultry sciences is receiving the university’s Alumni Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising. Established by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the award is presented by the Office of the Provost to a Virginia Tech faculty member who has been particularly effective and dedicated to undergraduate student advising. Recipients are nominated by colleagues or students and are selected by a committee of former award winners.
  • Ted Ellmore, retired programmer in Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences is receiving the university’s 2016 Staff Career Achievement Award. Created to recognize retiring staff members, the award is presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves through exemplary performance and service during their university careers.
  • David Close, consumer horticulture specialist and Virginia Cooperative Extension state master gardener coordinator, is receiving the 2016 Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension – Specialist Category. Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension is presented annually to two Virginia Cooperative Extension faculty members – one specialist and one agent – who have made outstanding contributions to the land-grant mission of the university.
  • Steven B. Hopkins, Virginia Cooperative Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Orange County, Virginia, is receiving the 2016 Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension – Agent Category.

Over 160 CALS faculty and staff members with were honored recently at the University’s Service Recognition luncheon and dinner events. The events recognize employees who have served the university for 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 45 or more years. We appreciate and thank everyone for their dedication over their many years with us.

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From the Dean — April 2016

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Dear colleagues,

The college hosted a networking event for students, faculty, and industry leaders at the Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade in Richmond March 7. More than 60 attendees had the opportunity to share career advice and talk about agricultural trade over a reception and dinner sponsored in part by First Bank & Trust Company. Gov. McAuliffe spoke at the conference and announced that Virginia saw $3.19 billion in agricultural and forestry exports in 2015. Virginia Tech continues to be a significant partner in growing exports through research, outreach, and education initiatives.

March 21 marks the two-year anniversary of the opening of the HABB1 Building — 93,500 square feet of pilot plants, research labs, and support facilities focused on a wide range of food science and biological systems engineering research. We can point to multiple success stories, the most recent of which is the new ­­­brew house and malting system that adds another component to the fermentation program. Many of our students now have additional opportunities to study the science of fermentation and its application in the food processing and pharmaceutical industries, and our faculty is better able to serve these industries through related research and Extension programs.

I hope you take the time to attend the next Beyond Boundaries Town Hall Meeting Monday, April 4, from noon to 1 p.m., in the Squires Commonwealth Ballroom. President Sands, Provost Rikakis, and the leadership team will report on the progress of this major initiative in which CALS will play an important role.

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From the Dean — March 2016

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Dear colleagues,

I encourage everyone to view Provost Rikakis’ recent presentation related to the proposed destination areas and the Beyond Boundaries initiative. The link is in the provost’s Feb. 16 email message to the university community, or you can access it by going to the Beyond Boundaries website.

Provost Rikakis has outlined a broad road map for further developing five interrelated destination area themes. The development of these themes as well as the connection to the overall Beyond Boundaries visioning process are detailed in the presentation. Faculty members will refine the proposed destination areas through a series of workshops in the coming weeks. CALS will continue its involvement and has an opportunity for significant involvement in these areas that are now receiving immediate attention. Small groups of faculty members are being invited to be a part of the university-level discussions and workshops to further define the overall missions of the five destination areas. Later in the spring after the areas have been further refined, workshops will be opened to all faculty members interested in these five areas. Additional destination areas will also be considered for development in the future.

As explained in the presentation, the destination areas will also be early steps in charting the courses that will be described in the Beyond Boundaries initiative. Many faculty and staff members have provided input for the Beyond Boundaries discussions. I refer you to the letter, originally in the Feb. 5 Virginia Tech daily email, for some updates to the Beyond Boundaries initiative. Also, watch for updates in the Campus Notices section of the Virginia Tech Daily news email. For example, updates were included from the Preparing Students for the Future group on Feb. 24 and from the Campus of the Future group on Feb. 25.

Sincerely,

Alan Grant
Dean

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From the Dean — December 2015

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Greetings colleagues,

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. In addition to an opportunity to reflect on the many people and things we are thankful for in our lives, the Thanksgiving season also reminds us that the end of the calendar year is quickly approaching. Of course, the cooler temperatures and shorter days have also reminded us that we’re approaching the winter months!

Several of us from CALS and Virginia Tech recently returned from the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities where we had opportunities to learn more about issues, opportunities, and challenges in higher education and research. One of my roles with APLU is chairing the Budget and Advocacy Committee of APLU’s Board on Agriculture Assembly, where we prepare recommendations for annual budget requests for USDA NIFA funding. Among the many priorities is our continual financial request for core capacity lines (Smith-Lever, Hatch, McIntire-Stennis, Evans-Allen, and 1890 Institutions Extension), as well as additional support for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. We’ll learn more about our potential for increased funding when President Obama releases the fiscal year 2017 President’s Budget Proposal after the first of the year. In the meantime, we hope to receive final budget numbers for the federal fiscal year 2016 budget this month.

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From the Dean — November 2015

­­

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Dear Colleagues,

On Oct. 8, many faculty and staff members and graduate students from the departments of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Horticulture, and Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science gathered for a picnic, giving those who would be part of a new School of Plant and Environmental Sciences an opportunity to mingle and socialize. The get-together was at the excellent suggestion of John Galbraith and others, who with the significant input from Jamie Lucero, organized the event at the Schmidt Pavilion on the grounds of the Turfgrass Research Center. Over 100 attended the event. Progress on the plans for the proposed new School continues among the various working groups.

SPES event

Faculty, staff, and graduate students from three departments mingle at the Turfgrass Research Center and talk about the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, the college partnered with the Virginia livestock industry to honor five new inductees into the Virginia Livestock Hall of Fame. The ceremony was held at the Alphin-Stuart Livestock Arena and included the unveiling of portraits of the new members, who hail from academia and industry and have demonstrated significant contributions to the agricultural industry and its people in Virginia and beyond. The portraits are permanently displayed in the arena. This year’s inductees are: Olive K. Britt (honored posthumously); Richard H.L. Chichester III; Allen F. Harper; Gary Minish; and David Notter. Read more about these exceptional individuals in the Virginia Tech News release.

 

The college’s annual Scholarship Banquet was held on Oct. 29 at the Inn at Virginia Tech. Over 400 students, family members, scholarship donors, special guests, and faculty and staff members gathered to congratulate the scholarship recipients and to thank the donors who support the students and our programs. Many thanks to our speakers Daniel Giraldo Herrera, student in HNFE and biochemistry; and Turner Gravitt, director at Southern States Cooperative for sharing their experiences and thoughts during the evening program. The college is very fortunate that so many individuals provide support for so many students and many of the programs in the college. A big thank you goes to Jamie Lucero and staff members for an outstanding event.

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Deans’ Forum recording

If you weren’t able to attend the Deans’ Forum on Sept. 22, you may now view it online. It will take a minute or so to buffer before playing.

If you have any questions, please contact Crystal Tawney.

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From the Dean — October 2015

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Dear Colleagues,

As many of you learned at the recent Deans’ Forum, this is an exciting time for the college — student enrollment is growing, new faculty members continue to be recruited at on- and off-campus sites, sponsored awards are at all-time highs, and various initiatives are underway to increase the impacts of programs. A recording of the forum can be found online.

Among the many new initiatives underway is the formation of the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, which will include the people and programs of the departments of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Horticulture, and Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science. Many of you are assisting with this initiative and are members of working groups tasked with providing the planning committee with recommendations on numerous items to ensure a successful transition. Thank you for all of your work on this process.

The vision for the new school is to bring people together from many of the plant and environmental sciences disciplines to fuel innovation and productivity.

The increased collaborative activity will serve our external stakeholders better, and it will also give faculty members opportunities to revise and develop new curricula that will attract more students who will be prepared for careers that encompass these disciplines. Our new provost, Thanassis Rikakis, has championed a goal of becoming more transdisciplinary in our work, which aligns well  with the goals of the new school.

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Dean’s Forum – Save the date

There will be a Deans’ Forum on Tuesday, Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Fralin Auditorium. If you are unable to attend or are located off-campus, you may access the forum via the WebEx directions below.

Topic: Deans Forum September 2015
Date and Time: Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015 10 a.m.
Event number: 644 849-755
Event address for attendees

To receive a call back, provide your phone number when you join the event, or call the number below and enter the access code.
US TOLL FREE: 1-855-749-4750
US TOLL: 1-415-655-0001
Access code: 644 849 755
Toll-free dialing restrictions

If you have any questions, please  contact Crystal Tawney.

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From the Dean — September 2015

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Dear Colleagues,

Among the many field days in Virginia is the Ag Expo, which is the state’s largest annual field day and took place this year on Aug. 6 at Brooke Farms in Locust Grove, Virginia. CALS was well-represented at this year’s event. The research and Extension presentations by many faculty and staff members were well-received by several hundred attendees at the event. More than 150 exhibitors and sponsors showcased the latest equipment, technology, goods, and services.

A popular event organized by Jamie Lucero and the CALS Alumni Organization has been our CALS Alumni and Friends Event the evening before the opening of the Ag Expo. This year we gathered at Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery in Leon, Virginia. Our keynote speaker was Kang Xia, associate professor of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, who challenged us about opportunities to preserve water quality and quantity. More than 80 alumni and friends attended.

For those who attended the opening of the new Dairy Science Complex on July 17, we can report that the cows are now in their new home. Numerous individuals have contributed to the successful completion of Phase 1 of the dairy relocation. Shane Brannock (dairy farm superintendent), along with Dwight Paulette (college farm coordinator), and their farm crews, were essential and played significant roles in the entire relocation process. We owe a great deal of thanks to these folks for their hard work and dedication to this project which now allows our faculty and students access to state-of-the-art facilities. Planning and design for Phase 2 of the project is well underway and will include the addition of an intensive metabolism research building, an applied reproduction facility, and an education and research facility.

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