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PSI Profile: Geoff Bock, Interim Director of Operations

A man wearing a white hard hat at the construction site of the new N.C. PSI building.
One of the first people tapped with turning the N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative vision into a reality was CALS alumnus Geoff Bock.

Geoff Bock, a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumnus, was the first employee of the N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative. Originally hired in 2016 as the project manager, his role has since expanded into the new interim director of operations. 

Bock, a Maryland native, is no stranger to NC State. He earned both his master’s in microbial biotechnology and MBA from NC State in 2009 and 2010. Since then, Bock worked in the Research Triangle Park before coming back to the university.

We talked with Bock about his position and what he’s most excited about with this initiative.

How will you make the role of interim director of operations your own?

An operations director has a lot of balls in the air at all times. Some people describe these kinds of roles, or project management type roles, as keeping the trains moving on time and making sure nothing slips through. How I make it my own is by continuing the approach I’ve had in my role since coming into the N.C. PSI — bringing a sense of calm and attention to detail. I really see it as trying to be that steady force, oftentimes behind the scenes, making sure that the vision of the PSI comes to fruition. I want to make sure everyone involved feels valued.

What are your goals for the position?

Particularly in the near-term, the operations role is focused more towards the building. We are about a year away from construction completion and eventual opening. Especially for someone like me that has been intimately involved with the project, it’s crazy to think about the time before there was a drawing of a building. And of course the vision for the N.C. PSI is not just about the building — it’s the interdisciplinary research that will bring together a diversity of faculty and other stakeholders and spur transformative innovations that will ultimately be disseminated through university extension specialists to farmers in our state. Our new platform leads are helping to chart the course of that research. 

The vision extends beyond the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. We want to include folks from engineering, natural resources and sciences. The building will be a vibrant hub where people can come together and collaborate on issues that are important to plant sciences and agriculture and a place where people feel rewarded and energized to go out and be a part of these projects. From an operational perspective, I want to ensure that they will have the equipment and support they need to be successful. That’s the ultimate goal.

What are you looking forward to the most about your new position?

I’m looking forward to the building being complete, but more importantly, what the building will represent — innovative minds from multiple disciplines working together. I’m excited to play a role in providing our researchers the tools and environment they need to be successful in their work. I’m really excited about supporting the researchers and staff and making sure that they are well positioned to do great things for agriculture and plant sciences research. We also want the building to be welcoming and inviting to anyone interested in learning about the N.C. PSI. The whole first floor will be open to the public and be a place for seminars and other learning experiences for students, faculty and visitors. Basically, I can’t wait until the doors are open and I get to witness these new creative collisions occur in real time.

On the operations side, drywall is starting to go up and they’re working on the interior of the building. To see all of that come to fruition is really exciting. And for someone like me, who’s been involved since the idea of a building was merely a stylized rendering on paper, it’s really surreal. 

What do you love about NC State?

NC State is a place where people come together. There’s an energy here. Our motto is Think and Do, and it’s more than a slogan. The people here, from faculty, staff and students, really embody that mindset. People want to get things done. They want to serve the people of our state, whether it’s as an extension specialist working directly with farmers on issues they’re seeing on the farm or supportive staff who help get things done efficiently.    

A lot of this campus is naturally interdisciplinary by nature. They like meeting and learning new ideas from others, and they can incorporate those ideas into what they’re doing. It truly enhances the spirit that exists at NC State. I love that there’s always people willing to come together, no matter what their discipline is, to experiment and do new things that will ultimately benefit society and North Carolina.

Anything else you want to share about stepping into this new role?

I want to emphasize that the PSI is certainly more than me, and even more than the platform directors, the dean, and those of us that have been involved with it from some of the early stages. I hate to use cliches, but it really takes a village to lift up an initiative such as this. A number of faculty, staff and students, external partners and growers have had their hand in this, and many of them have supported it from the very beginning. We would not be where we are now without the support of all these different groups of people.

On a personal note, this has honestly been the most rewarding work I’ve done in my career to date. It’s been really humbling to be a part of something that I think is going to serve a lot of different people, certainly in our state and hopefully beyond. This is just the beginning and the best is yet to come.

What is your favorite Howling Cow ice cream flavor?  

This might be the hardest question because I’ve enjoyed many of the limited flavors. The banana pudding flavor is really good, and I think they also did key lime pie once that was also really good. In terms of more of the standard flavors — Campfire Delight. That’s been a quarantine staple in our house.