Even before Governor Tom Corbett's massive proposed 2011-12 budget cuts for Penn State, the College of Agricultural Sciences was developing what Dean Bruce McPheron terms as structural changes. And, those proposed AG Futures changes are now open for public analysis and comment between now and July 5.
"The point of this [AG Futures] exercise was to identify areas of strategic innovation and growth," explains McPheron, "and to challenge our assumptions on how best to accomplish this in an era of limited resources." This week, he issued an invitation to all to review the proposal and provide comments and questions by Tuesday, July 25.
In brief, the college would shift from 12 academic units to nine departments. The detailed proposal is posted at http://agsci.psu.edu/ag-futures/comments. Assuming it works its way through the university process on schedule, Penn State's Board of Trustees will consider the changes at their November meeting. Approved changes will tentatively take place on July 1, 2012.
Reinventing Cooperative Extension
McPheron doesn't directly mention the Extension programs related to the nine proposed departments. But he says, "Do not mistake my intent. Every new department will have appropriate and significant Extension activity. Translation of our scholarship to practice is a key to the mission of this college. It's a part of every single one of our areas of disciplinary expertise."
Extension is working on a variety of new approaches, he adds. Those plans will be finalized in coming months and integrated with the approved departmental structure.
One change is already underway. The 4-H program will soon be shifted to Extension administration (where many states already have it).
The new Extension model, says McPheron, will focus on these priorities:
• Continued emphasis on local solutions through education
• New business models and new delivery tools to provide those local solutions
• Fewer programs that have broad and significant impact to stakeholders
• Maximized connections between educators in the field and faculty in academic departments
• Reduced administrative investment to maximize educational programming abilities
Here are the nine proposed departments
Food Science: Addresses all aspects of the food system supply chain from harvest to the consumer.
Agricultural and Biological Engineering: It'll provide engineering solutions to a variety of agricultural & natural resource system needs.
Animal Sciences: Address issues from production to the early processing stages for food animal systems, merging Dairy and Animal Science and Poultry Science.
Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences: This would remain a separate department, connected to the state Animal Diagnostic Laboratory.
Applied Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences: Combines strengths in applied economics, sociology, policy and education. Includes collaboration with the Smeal College of Business.
Environmental Microbiology and Plant Pathology: Covers plant protection and microbial roles in environmental health.
Entomology: Continues its role in plant protection and biologically-based pest management strategies.
Plant Sciences: Formerly the Crops and Soils Department, it focuses on the science necessary to maximize genetic potential from the genetic level through physiology and nutrition to cultivation and harvest of food, feed and the "green" industry.
Forestry and Ecosystem Sciences: Addresses natural resource systems management from soils to water to biological diversity.