Grand challenges are undisciplined. They’re not confined to particular academic or research silos.
CALS is breaking down academic and research barriers to take on those challenges. We’ve created more holistic groups of departments, aligning 20-plus centers and programs into four interdisciplinary systems to deliver the science, knowledge and innovation our stakeholders require.
Does this systems-based approach make sense? Consider the humble sweet potato. North Carolina farmers needed a better variety that resisted disease and lasted longer. We studied soil, pests and climate and made a sturdier plant. We developed packaging to keep it shelf-stable. Businesses responded with new products ranging from dog treats to vodka.
In 10 short years, our Covington grew to 90 percent of our state’s market. Now the Gates Foundation is paying us to make a variety that will grow in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Innovation like that doesn’t occur unless researchers work across disciplines. We’ve overhauled our college to make interdisciplinary impact the norm.