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Partnerships between CALS and commodity groups celebrated at ‘essential check-in’ meeting

Leaders representing 50 of the state’s commodity groups and agriculturally related organizations were in attendance March 11 at a meeting hosted by N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. CALS Dean Richard Linton presided at the event which brought together the leaders with CALS administrators and faculty members, with a goal of building relationships with the College’s external stakeholders, specifically those who lead the commodity groups, and to thank them for their continued partnerships with and support of the College.

Linton said that one of the main objectives for the meeting was to strengthen relationships and identify collaborative ways to meet the needs of the state, nation and world.

“This is the first meeting of its kind in almost 10 years,” he said. “According to the strategic plan, the ‘student/stakeholder experience’ is at the center of all we do. To ensure we are meeting the needs of our stakeholders and developing future agriculture and life science leaders that will deliver solutions for our commodity groups, a check-in like this is essential.”

“The goals of the meeting were to improve communications with our stakeholders,” said Dr. Tom Monaco, CALS Commodity Relations director, “and to bring them up to date on the status of the College’s strategic plan, of the Cooperative Extension vision sessions, of the ways we are attracting students to our College through the ASPIRE program and 2-by-2 agreements with community colleges, and of new research initiatives.”

CALS Dean Rich Linton addresses commodity leaders.
CALS Dean Rich Linton addresses commodity leaders.

During the day-long event, held at N.C. State’s University Club, the participants first heard from Linton, who outlined the process and implementation progress of the strategic plan in his presentation, “Strategically Moving Forward Toward Our Envisioned Future.” Following Linton were updates (on the topics Monaco mentions above) from associate deans, Dr. Joe Zublena, director of N.C. Cooperative Extension; Dr. Steve Lommel, director of the N.C. Agricultural Research Service; and Dr. Sam Pardue, director of Academic Programs.

After a lunch in the club’s ballroom, the group heard from commodity speakers Deborah Johnson of the N.C. Pork Council, Julie Woodcock of the N.C. Blueberry Council and Sue Langdon of the N.C. Sweetpotato Commission.

Then, the College hosted breakout presentations, from each of the CALS department heads, where the attendees were updated on research activities and programs affecting the state’s commodities and its economy.

Dr. Barclay Poling (right), of the N.C. Strawberry Association and CALS professor emeritus of horticultural science, confers with Extension horticulture's Wayne Mitchem.
Dr. Barclay Poling (right), of the N.C. Strawberry Association and CALS professor emeritus of horticultural science, confers with Extension horticulture’s Wayne Mitchem.

“All 16 department heads had the opportunity to give overviews of their departments to attendees in four separate concurrent sessions, which were repeated once,” Monaco said.

Leading these sessions were Dr. John Dole, Department of Horticultural Science; Dr. Rick Davis, Plant Pathology; Dr. Michael Wagger, Soil Science; Dr. Harry Daniels, Applied Ecology; Dr. Charles Safley, Agricultural and Resource Economics; Dr. Todd See, Animal Science; Dr. Carolyn Dunn, 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences; Dr. Montse Fuentes, Statistics;  Dr. Robert Evans, Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Dr. Jeff Mullahey, Crop Science; Dr. Ed Vargo, Entomology; Dr. Clay Clark, Molecular and Structural Biochemistry; Dr. Jim Flowers, Agricultural and Extension Education; Dr. Chris Daubert, Food, Bioprocessing and Nutritional Sciences; Dr. Mike Williams, Prestage Poultry Science; and Dr. Margot Daub, Plant and Microbial Biology.

“The agenda for the meeting was set by a planning committee consisting of commodity representatives. Participation by the department heads was requested by the committee and represents the first time this has been done in a comprehensive commodity leadership meeting with CALS,” Monaco explained.

N.C. Blueberry Council Executive Director Julie Woodcock (left), shown with CALS' Tom Monaco, was one of the commodity leadership speakers.
N.C. Blueberry Council Executive Director Julie Woodcock (left), shown with CALS’ Tom Monaco, was one of the commodity leadership speakers.

Planning committee members included Langdon, Johnson and Woodcock, along with Debbie Hamrick (N.C. Farm Bureau), Ross Williams (N.C. Nursery and Landscape Association), Roland McReynolds (Carolina Farm Stewardship), Charles Hall (N.C. Soybean Producers Association) and Monaco (chair).

Post meeting, a survey was to go out to attendees to get feedback on the meeting, Monaco said. “A few verbal responses I and others received at the conclusion of the March 11 were very positive. Based on the survey results, we really need to make this an annual event, since this provides us with an opportunity to reach and interact with a large segment of these stakeholders.”

As Linton said in his meeting invitation, “the CALS strategic plan is focused on creating a positive experience for both our students and our stakeholders. For our commodity groups, this means we are committed to being more engaged and partnering more effectively with you. One way we hope to do this is by re-creating an annual meeting with commodity leaders that will help us strengthen our collaborative relationships.

“This meeting will allow you to learn more about the breadth and depth of our College — and also engage with us in a dialogue so that we may better understand your needs and opportunities for collaboration in the future.” – Terri Leith