UF/IFAS is one of the best agricultural and natural resource programs in the world because of you. The depth and breadth of our organization is respected globally, and we are well positioned to continue its upward trajectory. It was an honor, therefore, to be asked to lead this amazing organization as your vice president.
We meet at a time of great uncertainty, living through a global pandemic and subsequent recession. Please know that I will lead UF/IFAS through this with transparency and integrity. I promise that you will know why decisions are made and be included in feedback loops with opportunities to weigh in on those decisions. My role as a servant leader is to support teaching, Extension and research efforts. My values include commitment to open communication and shared responsibility.
The financial collapse of 2008 and the devastation it caused at all levels of our society is similar to what we are living through now. I was dean at the University of Georgia at the time, and we saw a 25% budget reduction over three years. At first, we were shocked by the magnitude of the cut, then we moved to sorrow, and then to acceptance. All the while, we maintained our resolve to bounce back. We reaffirmed our core values of people first, process second, through discussions of what was most important to protect and to position UGA for continued excellence. I’m proud that we never laid off a single employee. We made hard decisions, and we kept sight of the fact that the recession would end and we would regain what had been lost.
However unsettling the current state of affairs—the public health threat, the many lives already lost, the economic devastation–we have reason for optimism about our future. The people of UF/IFAS are resilient, as you’ve proven time and again through recession, hurricanes, a major oil spill, and the challenge of meeting the rising demands that comes with a swelling population. Florida, the United States, and the world have come to expect you to rise to the occasion, and perhaps now more than ever they need and appreciate the work you do to reduce human suffering.
As our chief storyteller and advocate, I will strive to get to know the students, staff, and faculty of UF/IFAS as soon as possible and practical. In the meantime, I want to hear about your hopes and aspirations for advancing UF/IFAS.
Together, we will prevail over the current threat and emerge more committed and better positioned to lead the world in teaching, Extension, and research to address the grand challenges of our time.
Thank you for welcoming me to UF/IFAS as we begin our journey together.