Positioning for growth

Grass trials WSU.
Grass varieties are tested for the Pacific Northwest’s climate at WSU’s Perennial Grass Breeding and Ecology Farm at Pullman.

I don’t know about you, but I welcomed the long weekend! On the other hand, I can’t believe it is time to think about the Thanksgiving menu. Before I headed out for the weekend, I had a chance to visit the Perennial Grass Breeding and Ecology Farm. Who knew grass could be so exciting! Michael Neff’s enthusiasm is contagious, though admittedly I see bermudagrass and think about how difficult it is to eradicate from flower beds. Michael shed a new light on it for me. I look forward to the field day next spring.

During the APLU meeting last week, a panel of administrators talked about strategies their institutions have deployed to address faculty and staff stress and associated challenges that persist. A conclusion of the panel focused on the importance of planning for the future using a shorter time horizon such as five-year spurts. CAHNRS is preparing to do just this, with a task force under construction to set the programmatic course for the near future and plans for a strategy that will address the operational side of supporting the programmatic vision. I will share more about these planning processes as they develop.

A separate panel discussed the nationwide challenge at every institution of hiring and retaining employees. I appreciated the sentiment that we can’t expect existing employees to continue carrying the entire load for vacancies. Rather, we need to scale workload expectations  accordingly. I am pleased that we have been successful in recent recruitments to fill some critical positions and have a number of faculty searches underway. I saw a graph of employee numbers last week that suggests we are holding numbers over the last decade for the system, though it may not feel that way in our own units.

There are many conversations underway about expanding our portfolio to work more collaboratively across the system for the betterment of students and Washington. This is exciting to think about, but requires either additional resources or putting aside existing efforts. Many years ago, someone told me the challenge isn’t determining what to do, but committing to what not to do. This holds true today and is a challenge many of us have, particularly when we are passionate about our work and loyal to our clientele and stakeholders who value the work. Personally, I much prefer finding ways to secure more resources so that we can do more.

Later this week I head to the Prosser Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center and the Tri-Cities campus. I had hoped to make it to each Research and Extension Center by the end of the semester. Prosser will be the fourth and last one. I still have many, many Extension offices yet to visit, and am optimistic I can check a few more off this winter. I look forward to meeting everyone and learning about programs, challenges, and aspirations!