Campus News

Breaking new ground

Dean of agricultural and environmental sciences discusses goals

Columns: What were your main goals coming in?

Angle: My short-term goals were to significantly increase student enrollment, become one of the top two or three research agricultural schools in the U.S., make sure our extension programs can touch every Georgia citizen and establish a comprehensive program to offer every CAES student a chance to participate in a significant learning experience outside the classroom.

Columns: How have things changed?

Angle: My approach was to not try to fix things that weren’t broken. A lot here is nationally recognized. Where things weren’t working, we’ve made changes.

Columns: Have you met any of the short-term goals you set?

Angle: We’re well ahead of schedule. I thought it would take five years to reach many of these goals and that would lead us into a new strategic planning cycle. We’re going to have to move that up to one year from now.

Our student numbers had dropped sharply to 1,031 in 2000. Last year we were up over 1,300, and we expect to top 1,400 this fall. We continue to look for new ways to attract the best and brightest science students.

We were at the top of UGA colleges for research grants and contracts and fourth in the nation for colleges of agriculture. Our research faculty continues to break new ground in agricultural and environmental advancements that attract worldwide attention.

Our Cooperative Extension programs. . .rank number one in contracts and grants for public service and outreach at UGA. Our extension programs easily rank in the top two or three in the nation, and we have the leading 4-H program in the country. This year we established the nation’s first endowed county agent position. We will continue to add new agents and specialists to enhance programs as fast as our budgets permit and have been able to get a jump start thanks to strong financial support from our county government partners.

The Dean’s Promise was introduced to students in the fall semester. We’ve developed a range of internships, study-abroad programs, research and service-learning opportunities and leadership experiences that will help CAES students graduate with a leg up in the job market.

Columns: Did anything surprise you when you started here?

Angle: I said I would visit every county office in the state during my first year. It didn’t take me long to realize that was a bit unrealistic. This is a big state with 159 counties. I have, however, made personal visits with county extension faculty and staff and local leaders in 110 counties so far. I plan to get to the rest in the next six months to a year.

When I took this job I had no idea how much time I would spend on the road. I’m lucky if I spend a day or a day and a half in the office each week. It’s just expected, given the size and complexity of the state and the programs we offer.

I was also surprised by. . . how involved politicians are in the college. They’re quick to do what they can to help us meet our needs, but they have very high expectations and expect them to be met.

Columns: What’s the most immediate issue facing the college?

Angle: Without a doubt, it’s the need to continue to increase our student enrollment. It’s not that we’re striving to reach some magical number.

There’s a great need for our students. The poultry industry has seven jobs for every student we graduate from poultry science. The need is equally great in Georgia’s booming green industry. We must do a better job of recruiting and graduating a well-educated work force.

Columns: What are the college’s most important long-term goals?

Angle: Our most important challenge is to make sure Georgia farmers remain profitable and in business. Agriculture is Georgia’s leading industry, but it’s getting tougher to remain profitable. Our farmers will never again have cheap land prices or cheap labor. It’s up to us to develop technology and sound practices that will keep them competitive with other countries.

Like many surrounding states, we haven’t fully recovered from severe budget cuts. That has left us unable to meet all the needs of stakeholders. We continue to work to improve our budgets to help us be better equipped to meet those needs. . . . We can’t be everything to everyone. We have to decide state by state what we can do well and integrate regionally to cover all areas.

Our county extension connection is our greatest strength, not just for CAES but for the whole university. For many, the extension office is their only physical connection to UGA. We’re dedicated to maintaining that local connection and improving our service to each county. It’s important that we have as many services in each office as we can have to keep us strong.