WHILE university agricultural programs have faced tightened budgets and hiring freezes over the past few years, two colleges of agriculture announced Feb. 18 major initiatives that will increase funding and lead to new faculty positions.
The Purdue University College of Agriculture announced that it has received an anonymous estate gift valued at $65 million, the largest donation from individuals in the university's history.
"This gift is a tremendous vote of confidence for all of Purdue and our College of Agriculture," Purdue president Mitch Daniels said. "Their generosity will enhance Purdue (College of) Agriculture's ability to educate future generations of food and agricultural leaders and scientists, make the discoveries that improve and save lives and ensure that those discoveries make it into the hands of the people who need them."
Jay Akridge, Purdue's Glenn W. Sample dean of agriculture, said, "This is truly a transformational gift, which will dramatically enhance our ability to make a difference for the people of Indiana, our country and the world."
Akridge said the donors want to remain anonymous and gave the college flexibility in how it uses the money.
"Their wishes are that this future funding be used in the best possible way to build on (the College of) Agriculture's tradition of excellence and to ensure that we enhance that excellence in all we do going forward," he said. "This donor will make an incredible investment in Purdue agriculture because they believe in our ability, both today and in the future, to deliver on a research, education and extension mission that addresses our most pressing real-world problems with real-world solutions."
Lisa Calvert, Purdue vice president for development, said the gift also was an endorsement of university leadership.
"Since the announcement of a new administration in June, there has been an increase in broad-base support, including the total number of donors and dollars raised, resulting in a new energy in philanthropy," she said.
Purdue officials also announced that $22 million in gifts and university matching funds have led to the creation of 13 new endowed professorships as part of the "Faculty Excellence Challenge Match" program that was launched last year.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced that it is "strategically increasing" its investment in agriculture and natural resources and is looking to hire 36 new faculty after a decade of budget cuts and stagnant hiring.
Ronnie Green, vice chancellor of the university's Institute of Agriculture & Natural Resources, where the faculty will be housed, said the new hires will come in subject areas that fulfill workforce gaps critical to the global challenges of the future, including expanded and more-efficient food production and improved water and natural resource management.
The 36 new positions, listed at http://ianrhome.unl.edu/web/ianr/growingianr, are primarily in the areas of science literacy, stress biology, computational sciences, healthy humans and healthy systems for agricultural production and natural resources.
"They cover a fairly wide range of areas across the institute addressing contemporary agricultural and natural resource issues," Green said.
"We are absolutely convinced that, as a university, it's time to double down on our investment in these areas around food, fuel and water," Green said. "All of the needs out there indicate that we need to expand our efforts to meet the challenges that are ahead."
By emphasizing areas where the state of Nebraska and its land-grant university already are proficient, "we're building strength on strength," he said.
While this slate of new positions is "a big bang," Green emphasized that the institute actually has been steadily ramping up hiring over the last couple of years and expects to embark on a fresh wave of hiring in about 18 months. This follows several years of university budget cuts and holds on hiring.
"It's a bold statement that we're making. Some would say it's risky to be taking on this much at once," Green said. However, "I'd say it's a calculated, strategic move that's going to pay off big in the long run."