Ag Illustrated is a quarterly publication of the Auburn University College of Agriculture.

Katie Jackson
Leigh Hinton
Jamie Creamer


Teresa Rodriguez

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Auburn University
Auburn, AL

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Roosevelt Street Diary

Ed Richardson
Ed Richardson

For this issue of Ag Illustrated, we asked Auburn University Interim President Ed Richardson to update our readers on his agricultural initiative. The following is his guest column on the subject.

The face of agriculture is changing, not only in Alabama, but also in the United States and throughout the world. It is necessary that land-grant institutions with traditions rooted in agriculture change, too, to be reflective—and, in fact, anticipatory—of a new, expanded approach to agriculture and related sciences that is both broader and less traditional.

It is my plan that Auburn University will soon be home to a new institute that will better encompass that new breadth and, as a result, better prepare our students for 21st century jobs that focus not only on agriculture, but disciplines—such as those related to resource conservation and life sciences—both supportive and related to it. Arthur Hecker, an executive with Abbott Laboratories, said recently, "There are quite a few land-grant universities in danger of becoming insignificant." Auburn hopes not merely to remain significant, but to position itself as a leader among the "new" land-grant institutions.

On June 17, I presented to the Auburn University Board of Trustees an outline of AU's new yet-to-be-named institute. That outline was based on the work of a committee of stakeholders led by John Jensen, my adviser and a former interim dean of the College of Agriculture. The group proposed that the institute initially include the College of Agriculture, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES) and Alabama Cooperative Extension System. A review of departments and programs in other schools and colleges that might be more appropriately placed within the institute should be completed by April 2006.

The formation of the institute would also necessitate a hard look at our experiment stations, resulting in a reduction in their number and better definition of the specialties or objectives of those that remain active. Already three experiment stations are "mothballed." Others likely should be. A study should be conducted to determine how funds could best be generated from inactive stations and funds from any sales or leases of AAES lands, as well as other targeted contributions, should be earmarked for a quasi-foundation used to better support the institute. Tenured faculty positions funded by AAES should be reviewed. Those positions likely could be reduced, with some being reassigned and placed under the budgets of more appropriate programs. This should increase the resources that can be devoted to research and extension and move the discussion beyond just agriculture.

Other necessary steps include a review of Cooperative Extension, AU Outreach and other of the university's community services with the intent of consolidation, reduction of costs and better focus for the current university-wide strategic planning process. I am also convinced that we should take advantage of our state's natural resources and establish within the institute a major in eco-tourism, one of the most rapidly growing dimensions of the tourism industry.

It is my hope that the AU Board of Trustees will take the action necessary to formally approve this institute during its September meeting. Using the guidelines outlined above, I am confident that we can build an institute that is far more relevant than our existing programmatic structure. We appreciate the support of our alumni and stakeholders in continuing Auburn's land-grant tradition in a new and positive way.

–Ed Richardson, Interim AU President