Ash on my car

A group stands behind a table with baskets and information about the Master Gardener Program at the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival. Behind them is a banner that says "Washington State University Extension" and has info about the Master Gardeners Program.
Attending the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival in Seattle.

If you park near the Ensminger Pavilion or Hulbert Hall, you have noticed ash on your car this past week. It is not Mount St. Helens. This time, it is good news: Johnson Hall is down! The demo crew is on or ahead of schedule. I am hoping the same is true for the construction crew once the new USDA Agricultural Research Service building starts to go up. In the meantime, the views are surely a bit different for faculty in several other buildings.

I had a good time with a few master gardener volunteers in Seattle this past weekend at the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival. The volunteers were talking to attendees about the WSU Master Gardener Program and how volunteers share research-based gardening information that builds a more resilient Washington by protecting natural resources, providing opportunities to connect with nature, and teaching people to grow their own groceries. The booth’s volunteers were primarily from King, Spokane, and Lewis Counties while I was present, but volunteers from across the state helped throughout the five-day event. Many other members of the Master Gardener Program attended the event, and our own Jennifer Buckles from the Mount Vernon Northwestern Research & Extension Center even stopped by to say hello.

Before heading to the Seattle Convention Center, Jennifer Marquis and I met with Tana Hasart, the president of the Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State. Tana kicked off contributions to a campaign to fund an endowed chair for the program and in her role with the foundation plans to continue championing this cause. The foundation is key to advancing education for our volunteers by raising funds for things like curriculum development, expert speakers/instructors, participant scholarships, and an endowed chair whose core responsibility will be volunteer education. What an inspiration Tana is! Her story, her generosity, and her tenacity make her a delight to be around.

We continue to attract top faculty talent. Last week, Jana U’Ren received the National Academy of Sciences Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow Award. Dr. U’Ren is currently a faculty member at the University of Arizona and will join CAHNRS on July 1, 2023. We are eager to have Jana on board!

I appreciate that everyone across CAHNRS is pitching in to help attract both faculty and students and make them feel welcome! Miguel Inzunza and Sandra Crook hosted a CAHNRS alum who stopped in with his family on Friday. Two of his three children are contemplating WSU, with the oldest focused on AgTM, and the middle child setting sights on food science. It might be a bit early for the seventh grader to have a career narrowed down, but Naidu Rayapati and the team at IAREC might say otherwise. They have developed an MOU with Prosser High School to offer experiences that hopefully lead to enrollment at WSU. As a result of offering internships to Columbia Basin College students, two students have transferred into WSU this year and two more students plan to do the same in the fall. The commitment to students extends beyond committing to enrollment. A parent of a WSU student I spoke to this weekend shared how impressed she was that on move-in day, none other than President Schulz and the first lady helped her daughter move into the dorm. We’ll have to keep that in mind on move-in day at the new ARS building.

Scot Hulbert’s been doing some digging into graduate student enrollment numbers and postdoctoral researchers. He shared the following data with chairs and directors:

Overall, CAHNRS has close to 500 graduate students of the university’s total of 2,567 (and 1,865 professional students). CAHNRS has 310 PhD students, and the university total is 1,389.  According to the Office of Research Support and Operations, the university only has 165 postdocs, and CAHNRS accounts for 47% of them.

Scot makes a good point by encouraging us to “keep our foot on the gas training postdocs and graduate students (especially PhDs).  These metrics are very important to research university rankings and the numbers show how critical CAHNRS is to the standings of the university!” Thanks for the data and words of wisdom, Scot!

Apologies for the long post this week. There are so many good things going on and so much I want to share!