N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson toured a biology teaching lab, heard presentations on subjects ranging from water quality to genetics and med school admission and engaged in a discussion with College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty, all in an August morning.
The now not-so-new chancellor — he was named N.C. State’s 14th chancellor Jan. 8 — has been spending some of his time getting acquainted with North Carolina (the state) and with N.C. State (the university). Thus far, his travels have taken him from Elizabeth City to Asheville. He’s also visiting the university’s colleges, and Aug. 27 was the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ turn.
The CALS visit began with a meeting with Dean Johnny Wynne, the associate deans and directors of Academic Programs, the N.C. Agricultural Research Service and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, assistant deans and department heads. That session was followed by a meeting with faculty.
Following the faculty session, Dean Wynne escorted the chancellor on a walking tour that wound through Polk Hall, Williams Hall, Bostian Hall, Thomas Hall, Kilgore Hall and Clark Labs.
Along the way Chancellor Woodson met with Dr. Shweta Trivedi, teaching assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science and the director of VetPAC, and some of the students who are involved in VetPAC. VetPAC, which stands for Veterinary Professions Advising Center, is an advising program designed to aid CALS students who want to go to veterinary school after earning their undergraduate degrees.
VetPAC is modeled on another CALS program, the Health Professions Advising Center. HealthPAC was created to aid CALS undergraduates who hope to attend postgraduate health care programs, such as medical school. Dr. Anita Flick, assistant teaching professor of biology and HealthPAC director, was also on the tour.
In Polk Hall, the chancellor met with Dr. Jack Odle, William Neal Reynolds professor of Animal Science, whose research focuses on nutrition for baby pigs but informs human nutrition as well. In nearby Williams Hall, Dr. Rich McLaughlin, professor of soil science, and Dr. David Jordan, professor of crop science, talked about their work. The focus of McLaughlin’s work is water quality and sediment runoff that can pollute streams and other surface waters. Jordan is a Cooperative Extension specialist whose programs focus on peanuts, integrated pest management and weed management. He’s also involved in U.S. Agency for International Development peanut projects in West Africa.
The tour also took in the labs of Dr. David Threadgill, professor and head of the Genetics Department, and Dr. Steve Clouse, professor of Horticultural Science. In Threadgill’s lab, researchers use mice as models to investigate genetic factors that contribute to human health and disease. Clouse’s research focuses on the genetic underpinnings of plant development and how plants respond to the environment.
The trip through CALS ended with a tour of teaching labs in Clark Labs and lunch with students.
During his meeting with CALS faculty, Woodson suggested that the university’s faculty growth may not have kept up with enrollment growth in recent years.
“I’m not so sure I want to continue to see us grow (enrollment) if we aren’t attentive to ensuring we have the best faculty in the country … and I think our faculty are stretched a bit thin right now,” Woodson said.
The chancellor added that he hopes to strengthen graduate programs and also touched on the importance of international programs and, of course, funding. Woodson said state funding for higher education in North Carolina has historically been based on enrollment, but that funding model may be changing and in the future may be based on other measures of quality.
Woodson said the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has and will continue to play a central role in carrying out N.C. State’s land-grant mission.
“This is a great college. We cannot be the nationally regarded university we all aspire to be … if Agriculture and Life Sciences, Physical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering aren’t the strongest in the country. That’s our mission,” the chancellor said.
“The grand challenges that this world faces now are embedded in what we’re strongest in, whether it’s feeding a growing population or dealing with climate change,” he added. “All of the grand challenges that we’ve identified that mankind faces are embedded in technical issues that are underpinned by biological challenges. And this university is ready to shine.”