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Adrian Percy’s Year One Reflections

Adrian Percy reflects on the changes and progress of his first year as Executive Director of N.C. PSI, with high hopes for the future.

Adrian Percy and Rich Bonanno

It’s been one year since Adrian Percy joined the N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative as the Executive Director. When he first started, he had to wear a hard hat to visit the Plant Sciences Building. It’s now a bustling research hub with 220 people occupying space inside. We sat down with Percy to reminisce about the past 12 months.

The NC State Plant Sciences Building is unique in both design and build. What have you enjoyed most about the space since the doors opened?

Functionality. Every room, every hallway, every lab was intentionally designed to be flexible and conducive to interdisciplinary team-based science. Because of the building design, we naturally congregate, ideate and collaborate without borders. As new teams move in and new needs are identified, it’s been relatively easy to modify and adapt the workspaces to be most effective. 

In 2021, the leadership team looked very different; it has practically doubled in size in the last year. Who have you recruited to join your team and why was it important to fill these positions? 

Yes, we have an incredible leadership team in place now. We hit the ground running when the doors opened, and it became very evident that in order to reach our goals we needed to expand our team. One of the first major changes to the team was the decision to go from four platforms to five. We determined that the Education and Outreach platform needed to be divided into separate platforms, resulting in the Extension Outreach and Engagement and the Education & Workforce Development platforms. We now have Cranos Williams, Ross Sozanni, Chris Reberg-Horton, Terri Long and Rachel Vann leading our various research, education and Extension platforms. We also have Celeste Brogdon who serves as the Director of Strategic Engagement and Geoff Bock, the Director of Operations.

What are you most proud of? 

The community we are creating. The faculty, staff and students that are part of the N.C. PSI have a passion for improving the world through plant science innovation and they want to share that passion with others. We have used our building to host numerous events for lectures, seminars, educational demonstrations, tours and more. Our community not only seeks opportunities to learn, but also to teach and collaborate. We are working hard to create a culture that celebrates diversity, creativity and collaboration; if you look at all of our various events, I think we are on the right track.

What can we expect in the future from the N.C. PSI? 

We are in the final stages of strategic planning for the initiative. We have some ambitious goals for these first three years, but I am excited to put words into action. We are going to continue to lead discovery and innovation in plant science, but also do our best to get these solutions into the hands of growers and our communities. We expect to host many more opportunities for learning and engagement with our different stakeholder groups.