Dean’s update

Dean Gregory J. Weidemann
Dean Gregory J. Weidemann

It is my pleasure to once again update you on our progress as a College. As of a few weeks ago, we are now the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). This name change was a faculty-led initiative that I fully supported. Although we did have to negotiate the final name a bit, the new name better reflects the diversity of our College and its importance at the intersection of food, health and the environment. In addition, we will welcome a new department to the College in July when the Department of Kinesiology joins us as our eighth academic department. We still have much work to do to ensure a smooth transition for your new colleagues.

Although new funding will be directed to UConn through Next Generation CT, the university must overcome a projected structural deficit for FY 15, 16 and 17. The College was asked to provide 1.5 percent of its annual state budget to help address the FY 15 deficit. This was achieved through attrition and the return of funds obligated under the Faculty Hiring Plan. We have been asked to plan for a 3 percent rescission for FY 16. We will do our best to address this through attrition and will carefully evaluate every vacancy as it occurs. Despite these budget setbacks, our total number of tenure-track faculty and base budget has actually increased. With the end of sequestration, our federal funds have been restored and will actually increase slightly. Nationally, the funding picture for higher education has changed dramatically and UConn is not exempt from these pressures despite new state investments.

With the completion of the UConn Academic Plan, attention has now turned to completion of the college and school plans and implementation of the Academic Plan. New funding through Next Generation CT will be key drivers for the thematic priorities identified in the Academic Plan. These themes are intended to be multidisciplinary, and resources will be used to support multidisciplinary collaborations. It will be imperative for our College to be active participants in several of these thematic initiatives, particularly the sustainability and health and wellness initiatives. Sometime this summer a call for proposals will go out for funding aligned with thematic priorities and we need to be prepared to respond effectively.

Our own College strategic plan is nearing completion. All departments have had an opportunity to suggest changes to the draft document developed by our college-wide committee. The College administration will now make further changes and submit the plan to the Provost by mid-summer. I want to extend my thanks to the committee members for their dedication to this important task.

Our international endeavors continue to grow. Our China collaborations seem to be flourishing and are bringing much-needed new resources to the College. We now need to turn our attention to other potential strategic partnerships. I believe we need to explore a stronger presence in Africa through US AID or other funding venues, and we are working with Global Affairs on this potential initiative. In addition, I would like to see us grow the number of successful study-abroad programs like those we have in place in Florence and South Africa. We are very fortunate to have Mary Holz-Clause join us to give us much needed administrative leadership to these growing programs.

A number of our College initiatives such as grant writing support, common standards for syllabi, faculty mentoring program and space allocation policy are emerging as campus priorities which tells me we have been pretty forward thinking as a college and setting standards for others to follow.

I hope everyone has a restful summer as we take a deep breath and prepare for a new fall term.

By Gregory J. Weidemann