At the reception to honor departing College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Jeff Armstrong last week, Provost Kim Wilcox reflected on the meaning of the word “farewell.” He noted that the word originates from an older English phrase “fare thee well,” in which the speaker shows compassion for a departing friend or colleague by wishing them prosperity, good health and strong social support. He shared that having worked with Jeff and having seen what he can do, he genuinely felt the word “farewell” captured his sense of wishing Jeff and his wife, Sharon, prosperity, good health and strong support in their new role at the helm of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
The economic and state budget news from California isn’t any better than the news in Michigan has been during much of the time Jeff has served as our dean. Within two weeks of his departure to California, the news that the California governor had targeted the state’s investment in higher education for significant budget cuts didn’t seem to bother Jeff at all. He’s dealt with similar challenges throughout his time at Michigan State University. And in wishing him “farewell,” it struck me that the provost’s wishes probably aren’t so much that he would avoid those kinds of challenges – that’s unrealistic. But with the kind of support implicit in “farewell,” Jeff and Sharon will lead Cal Poly with the confidence and optimism that they need. So in that spirit, I’m pleased to repeat Provost Wilcox’s parting comment: “Farewell, Jeff and Sharon.”
Saying goodbye to Dean Jeffrey Armstrong isn’t easy, but I am extremely pleased that Provost Kim Wilcox has announced that he will recommend Dr. Doug Buhler to the Board of Trustees to serve as interim dean of the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Doug has served CANR well and in a variety of capacities since arriving in 2000. Dr. Buhler is currently research associate dean of the CANR and associate director of AgBioResearch (formerly the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station). He is a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, for which he served as chairperson from 2000 to 2005. His appointment is pending approval by the MSU Board of Trustees, and if approved, Dr. Buhler will begin as dean Feb. 1 and continue in the position until a permanent dean is identified through a national search process. While he was department chair, Doug also served as an interim state leader in Michigan State University Extension for agriculture programs for about 18 months, so he is well aware and supportive of MSUE’s role and mission. Doug and Dean Armstrong are working closely already on making a smooth transition of leadership during what are challenging times.
You may have already seen a notice from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Dean Jeffrey Armstrong announcing his imminent appointment to the presidency of California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. You can read more about Cal Poly and the official announcement of his selection at www.calpoly.edu.
I remember when Dean Armstrong came to Michigan State University (MSU) in 2001 to guide our college, and the sense of optimism and can-do spirit that he brought with him. I’ve been fortunate to serve with him in several capacities during his term as dean, and I really think his positive and optimistic outlook has changed the way I look at the world. It’s been a tough ten years in Michigan. Our budget has been challenging, the industries and communities we serve have been challenged economically and in the public policy sector.
Yet through it all, the dean has shared with us all a spirit that we can persevere through these challenges and actually improve our college and the people we serve in these challenging times. There is no giving up in Jeff’s world. That spirit, that sense of optimism, has been especially important to us in MSU Extension, as our organization has often been at the front of the line in facing challenges. I will always be grateful for the trust and support Jeff has given me as a member of his leadership team, and the tremendous latitude and support he has given us in making the case for MSUE with decision makers. I’m not at all surprised that Cal Poly would tap him to provide the same spirit of leadership for their university. He thinks and leads like a president.
As happy as I am for Jeff as he launches into this new career opportunity, I’ll confess that it amps up the anxiety about the change process underway in MSUE and in the college. It adds uncertainty for us, but as with all of the other uncertainty we’ve faced in recent years, this gives us another opportunity to explore and create new ways of doing business, and new ways of understanding our mission. At the end of the day, we’ll each go home from work each day knowing that we have new opportunities to help people across Michigan improve their lives, regardless of who is at the helm of our college. We’re better positioned to do that thanks to Jeff’s leadership over nearly 10 stormy years. And we’re pretty well conditioned to stormy conditions, so I’m confident we’ll manage through the next few years of change. For now, I’m pleased to see our dean and my colleague and friend have an opportunity to lead an entire university. And for his sake, I hope things aren’t quite so stormy in California.
Dean Jeffrey Armstrong presented a summary of the proposed changes in the organization and operation of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) in a meeting of the College Advisory Committee (CAC) last Friday. The plan includes consolidation of CANR’s 13 academic units into eight units and the streamlining of administrative support to foster more rapid and more efficient processes as Michigan State University incorporates new administrative information systems for budgets, personnel and grant administration. You can find out more about the reframing at the CANR Shaping the Future website: http://www.canr.msu.edu/canrhome/shaping_the_future_home.htm. At that site, you can find documents from the dean and from the faculty groups working on the individual unit consolidations and a video of the dean’s presentation to the CAC last Friday. Given the close integration of MSU Extension with CANR, these changes will affect our ability to build on the priorities identified in our institute’s core programs. Look for links to make comments or send them directly to email@example.com.