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Dean’s update

Gregory J. Weidemann

Gregory J. Weidemann

As we move into spring, this is an opportune time to update everyone on a number of issues that have come up since my fall update.

Although it’s not yet official, the Department of Kinesiology has asked to move to our College from their current home in the Neag School of Education.  The proposed move has been approved by the Deans’ Council but must receive Board of Trustees approval.  If approved, Kinesiology will join our College on July 1.  Along with the move, the Deans’ Council recently approved a proposed name change for our college to the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.  This name will better reflect our focus on food, health and the environment.  Our proposed name change must also be approved by the Board.

Dr. Mary Holz-Clause is leaving her post as the University’s vice president for economic development and joining our College as assistant dean and director for global programs.  Dr. Holz-Clause will bring much needed leadership to our international endeavors.

I am pleased to announce that Darshana Sonpal will be joining us as the new assistant finance director in the Business Office, replacing Tuula Fitzgerald. In this role, Darshana will have overall responsibility for budget administration with our Business Office team.  Tuula will continue to work with us part time to ensure a smooth transition.

The College’s Academic Planning Committee has delivered their draft plan to the College administration.  I would like to extend my personal thanks to the committee for their hard work on behalf of the College.  The plan is now being revised by the Executive Council prior to distribution to the College community for further comment. With the release of the campus Academic Plan, we need to ensure that our plan is aligned with the campus vision.  Our revised plan is to be submitted prior to the close of the spring term.

As of this writing, we are wrapping up our few remaining faculty hires for the next fall. If our remaining searches are successful, as many as 12 new faculty will join the College family this fall.  This would be one of the largest increases in our faculty in a number of years and will help us address the remarkable enrollment increases we have seen in recent years.

By Gregory J. Weidemann

Dean Weidemann’s update

GregWeidemannAs a college, we made significant progress during the fall semester. Of course, completion of the Young Building renovation is one clear indication of that progress.  Although we will continue to have to address items that were overlooked in the renovation for some time yet, we were very pleased with the outcome of this renovation. As I stated during the re-dedication, although I was thrilled to see this project completed, we have five more buildings in need of a similar renovation or replacement so there is much work yet to do.

Despite the promise of new funding from Next Generation CT, UConn is facing a significant budget shortfall for next year before financial pressures begin to ease.  Next year, UConn is facing a significant projected budget shortfall due to an unexpectedly large increase in the fringe benefit rate, reductions in our block grant and other factors. Although the administration is doing its best to find savings in the non-academic part of the budget, I would anticipate some impact on the College’s budget, and we are taking steps to free up some funds to address any potential reductions. Despite that caution, we are filling more than a dozen faculty positions for next fall.  Eight of those are new positions obtained through the Hiring Initiative or Eminent Scholars Program.

Our budget is doubly impacted due to the reduction in our federal funds due to sequestration. Fortunately, it appears that Congress has reached a compromise on the federal budget, which we anticipate will return some of the sequestered funds and prevent another round of budget cuts. We will not see all the funds restored but should see some relief.

The campus academic planning committee will be wrapping up its work soon as the various work groups complete their work on the nine identified themes. The College fared pretty well in that process, with both of our primary themes included as campus themes. The provost has made clear that Next Gen funds will flow predominately to those areas identified as priorities in the campus plan. As a college, it is imperative that we remain engaged in that process. Attention is now turning to completion of the college and school plans. Our College committee is working diligently to draft the remaining sections that will then be distributed to the departments for comment. I would like to recognize the hard work of that committee. The University has contracted with Academic Analytics to help provide benchmark data for comparison to peer and aspirant institutions as well as for in-house comparisons to help drive investments.

Our international collaborations in China appear to be flourishing. Six students from Renmin joined the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics as the first cohort of the joint MS program, with four more expected for spring. By next fall enrollment is expected near the 30-student maximum established for this program. Four students joined us from Sichuan University for the 3+2 program in three different departments. I recently signed a similar agreement with China Agricultural University in water resource management and we are continuing to explore opportunities with Nanjing University.

As some of you may know, Larry Silbart moved from the Department of Allied Health Sciences to the provost’s office as the new vice provost for strategic initiatives, with responsibility for oversight of the Next Gen initiative. While he is missed, we were fortunate that Nancy Bull has returned to the College and agreed to serve as the interim head of AHS while we conduct a national search. Dr. Bull recently agreed to serve as executive director for the Northeast Extension Directors on a part time basis and will split her time between both roles.

As you may have heard, the faculty of the Department of Kinesiology have voted to move from the Neag School of Education to our College. As dean, I have remained open to adding them into the College as long as it was done in a budget-neutral way. I have met with the faculty on two occasions to discuss the transition and have walked through their existing space.  Several of their faculty members are jointly appointed in AHS or the Department of Nutritional Sciences and I see that their addition will create synergy in the area of health and wellness. The provost has indicated that now that issues surrounding the health-related sciences have been addressed he will forward our request for a name change for the College through the appropriate channels.

Recently two of your colleagues were recognized during the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. Jack Clausen received the USDA teaching award for the northeast region, and Cathy Love received the Pharos Award for her contributions to diversity, access and success. In addition, Mazhar Khan received the Friendship Award from the Chinese government for his work on bird flu, and Richard Anyah was awarded the Al Geib Professorship in Environmental Engineering Research and Education.

Although we will still have to address some fiscal challenges in the new year, I believe we are continuing to make forward progress as a college. When I arrived several years ago, I’m not sure I would see the Young Building renovation completed or anticipated the growth in our faculty that we have seen.

Dean Weidemann’s update

Watercolor painting of the W.B. Young Building by Norm Freyer, class of 1958. Presented to the College in 2013.

Watercolor painting of the W.B. Young Building by Norm Freyer, class of 1958. Presented to the College in 2013.

Cornucopia was once again a great success on a picture perfect New England day. Members of the UConn community and general public had the opportunity to learn a bit about what we do in our College to serve Connecticut citizens.

Our fall has been highlighted by the rededication of the Young Building on October 11. More than 200 faculty, staff, alumni and friends turned out to celebrate the reopening of the newly renovated building.  W.B. Young’s daughters along with several other family members attended to help us celebrate this event. Attendees received prints of a painting of the building presented by Norm Freyer (class of 1958). Two spaces in the building were named to honor generous gifts by Don (class of 1954) and Gail Maynard and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Alumni Association. The event provided a great opportunity to celebrate the long-awaited face lift to this signature building.

Later that evening, Herm Weingart received the UConn Alumni Association Service Award for his dedicated service to UConn and our College for many years and Dr. Morty Ortega received the Undergraduate Teaching Award. That same weekend, Dr. Nancy Bull was inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame in recognition of her lifetime of service to 4-H.

In November, Dr. Jack Clausen will attend the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) annual meeting to receive the USDA Teaching Award for the Northeast Region and Dr. Cathy Love will receive the newly created Pharos Award from the APLU Commission on Access, Diversity and Excellence to recognize her lifetime commitment to addressing issues of diversity, access and success.

By Gregory J. Weidemann

Dean’s update

As a new academic year begins, I trust everyone had a restful summer as we welcome our students back to their campus home.

Although student numbers are not official until after the tenth day of classes, enrollment in our College is expected to have substantially increased for the fall term. As of the latest enrollment figures, freshman enrollment is expected to increase by up to 66 percent!  Transfer enrollment is also expected to increase by 14 percent. This is a record increase and continues our trend of annual enrollment increases. The Storrs campus is expecting to welcome more than 3700 new freshman to this fall well, above the number anticipated. My thanks to all the departmental advisors and the Office of Academic Programs for working diligently to get our students into the classes they need. These are exciting times at UConn, and many Connecticut students want to be part of that excitement.

The Young Building renovation has been completed and everyone moved in just in time for classes. While the builders continue to address those last-minute items, everyone has been busy unpacking and settling in. If you have not yet had the opportunity to walk through the building, take the time to do so. I think you will be pleased with the newly renovated face of our College. In October, we will formally rededicate our college home so stay tuned and join us for the celebration. (more…)