Nov. 19, 2018

By Shane Burgess, University of Arizona Vice President for Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, and Cooperative Extension

Even if you’re new to CALS, you’ve probably heard Bart Cardon’s name. He was CALS’ dean (1980-1987), is an alumnus and his name is attached to donor endowments for a chair, two teaching awards and the Cardon Academy of Teaching Excellence. He also served in WWII and was stationed in post-war Germany where he helped rebuild the University of Munich's Agricultural School, today the Technical University of Munich.

The day before Homecoming, I read his prescient October 1986 remarks: “Our students will need a broad education. They'll need training in economics and business. Computers. They will really need to know about computers so they can handle and manage the tremendous amount of information that will come their way.” I didn’t know about Bart’s statement when I arrived in 2011, but I hope you remember when I interviewed that I said we should aspire be the most cyber-savvy college of our ilk.

Finding “our ilk” is a challenge in itself. We are very hard to categorize and so compare with others. We are not a “legacy Ag College.” You and our students provide exceptional discipline range and exemplary thought-diversity. During the Great Recession our diversity gave us resilience no matter what UA budget model we were working with. You made us a place that the State Legislature invested in even during massive recessionary budget cuts.

Last Friday, President Robbins launched a UA strategic plan focused on the World Economic Forum’s construct of the “fourth economic revolution” and the challenges this presents to the world. But this isn’t news to us; we have been thinking this way for decades. The CALS Cyberinfrastructure Advisory Group, chaired by Fiona McCarthy, reported on meeting our cyber-savvy challenge today. Mike’s update below describes the three “data-thinking” courses to be launched: colonizing Antarctica, dealing with a zombie apocalypse, and finding love in a modern world. (I have spoken with my wife Jenny and she says I can audit the first two of these courses.)

Please take a look at President Robbins’ summary presentation and review the full strategic plan. You will see how we can fulfill our share of the UA’s task. I have asked Provost Goldberg for specific objectives that we will identify how we’ll meet. Once we know our destination, we can review our own strategic plans. We may realign our focuses, we may start some new things and stop others, and in some areas we’ll just double down so we keep leading as we are now.

Now to my most important message. It is of course based on our foundational goal. I wish everyone Happy Thanksgiving. Please take some down-time. Break away from your work and enjoy your families and friends (or even just being left alone). I will be doing the same for my 17th Thanksgiving here in the U.S. Travel safely! We need you back here, refreshed and energized.

Media contact:
Bethany Rutledge, director of administration and communications