Because of Ute Albrecht, we know more about how to manage citrus greening than we did six years ago. She has worked nights, weekends, away from home and among citrus growers desperate for her to work faster.
Her work is so important to growers that when a schedule conflict prevented her from presenting at the state’s leading citrus science conference, we set up a special webinar as soon as we could. I had the privilege of introducing her to the attending growers as a newly tenured associate professor.
You’ll see Albrecht’s name at the top of the promotion list that accompanies this message. Behind each of the 63 names are 63 stories of impact. This is a roster of achievers, people who have for years distinguished themselves in research, teaching or Extension, and in most cases a combination.
They earned promotion by building a national reputation. Their achievement packets, some of which run to 100 pages, hold testimonials from nationwide peers, records of presentations delivered across the country, and recognitions from their professional societies. Each packet is a story of publishing, submitting grant proposals, teaching and mentoring students and addressing Floridians’ challenges.
We’re in the innovation business, and that comes with risk. Tenure and permanent status are among the best tools we have to enable and encourage risk. It says the university has your back when you pursue a science-backed idea that could disrupt current thinking and chart new paths.
Computer scientist Alan Kay said, “If you don’t fail at least 90 percent of the time, you’re not aiming high enough.” 90 is way too much, but I do expect that my team will fail nearly as often as it succeeds—and they will not be penalized for taking that risk.
In the private sector, you’d be fired for outcomes that hurt the bottom line. But in higher education, we only progress in expanding the frontier of knowledge through taking risks.
In some ways, I can be old-fashioned. I remember decades ago my department chair personally delivering my tenure letter. It conveyed importance, and I’ve asked our unit leaders to do it the way mine did.
At the same time, I’m grateful for modern communications technologies, like this electronic message and my blog where this tribute will also appear, to more publicly celebrate these milestones. I hope you’ll join me in congratulating our newly promoted colleagues and wishing them a long, productive and happy career at UF/IFAS.
Promotion is a check-in on a career-long path to impact. Now that regional Extension agent Ethan Carter has been promoted to permanent status, I hope he’ll set his sights on future promotion by getting even better at identifying pests, recommending treatments and selecting seed varieties to keep Panhandle peanut farmers in business.
I hope a generation of students will blossom into dietitians under the tutelage of new senior lecturer Laura Acosta. Along the way, she’ll add to accolades that include recognition as 2019 UF undergraduate teacher of the year.
Albrecht will continue on a path of building an international reputation and a record of mentoring to achieve the rank of full professor. Carter’s path to agent III will likely take him to many more peanut farms. Acosta now gets back to the work of developing new courses, designing interactive lessons and incorporating new teaching technologies as she builds a case for master lecturer status.
Congratulations to the class of 2022, to all those who preceded them, and to those working so hard to be on next year’s list.