September 6, 2009
Look up the word “commitment” in the Webster’s Dictionary and you might see the following:
Main Entry: com·mit·ment
The act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself; A pledge or promise; Obligation; Engagement; Involvement.
The word “commitment” and all of its various synonyms kept ringing in my head – as I was sharing a meal with our alumni, friends, and stakeholders or having conversations with faculty and staff during department and branch station visits or touring our myriad farms in and around Corvallis or branch stations or visiting the State Fair in Salem.
Commitment is evident in the efforts of faculty who work with undergraduate and graduate students. For example, over the last several weeks, Sujaya Rao, along with several colleagues, hosted approximately a dozen undergraduate students from OSU and from other institutions around the nation on a National Science Foundation grant for Research Experiences for Undergraduates. These bright young women and men were involved in studies at various locations in the state on trying to understand the importance of native bees as pollinators. Similarly, Desiree Tullos engages undergraduate students in her efforts in the area of aquatic ecosystems, ecohydraulics, river morphology and restoration, and bioassessment, helping them develop the skills needed in managing our water resources. These smart, young people epitomize to me the reason why we are a land grant college – i.e., offering access to young people and enabling their success. Listening to the REU student presentations, I am convinced that indeed we are enabling young people to be successful and to be contributing members of society.
Commitment is evident in the research and educational efforts of our faculty and staff in Biological and Ecological Engineering and in Animal Sciences, in such endeavors as to protect our water resources, to obtain bioenergy and biomaterials from plants, or to convert municipal sewage into Hydrogen and “blue” water – imagine that: obtaining water, while also meeting the future energy needs, from sewage; or in endeavors to manage animal wastes or controlling mastitis pathogens, determining the dietary effects of modulating poultry health or poultry reproduction.
As I learned this past week, commitment is evident in the efforts as well of faculty and staff in Horticulture or Agricultural and Resource Economics – working to help develop beautiful and sustainable urban landscapes, including “green roofs and green walls”, teaching students to develop skills in these new approaches, in developing better and more healthy vegetables such as purple tomatoes and fruit and more efficient ways of producing horticultural crops, or helping communities manage rural and urban issues, climate change, land and water use, marine fisheries, market structure, the relationships between yields, production and prices of commodities, and other issues with science-based and more effective public policies. Similarly, by their discovery and educational efforts our research and Extension faculty and staff at our Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center and Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center engage local communities and address their unique issues, enabling them to succeed and thrive.
Commitment is evident in Oregon’s producers of crops, livestock, fruit, vegetables, grass, and seed, and other value added products such as wines or blue cheese, using conventional or sustainable or organic approaches. Every one of the producers I have met – in the various valleys that constitute Oregon west of the Cascades such as the Willamette or Rogue or Umpqua, in the Klamath Basin, in the Columbia River Gorge area – is committed to ensuring a safe and secure food supply to the burgeoning population and to mitigate hunger and poverty, while protecting the environmental and economic stability of their communities. There might be different approaches or different philosophies of producing our food. Rather than engage in arguments that one production method or approach is better, my approach is that we focus on outcomes and utilize every tool – organic, conventional, sustainable, or any other approach – in our research and education toolkit to help our producers address the arduous need and responsibility to feed the nine billion humans in just another thirty to forty years. As a land grant college it is our commitment and pledge to help discover ways of growing crops and livestock in an environmentally benign and economically viable manner. I have said to many – we need to help our producers not just survive, but actually thrive in their efforts to feed people in their backyards or miles away on other continents.
Commitment is evident in the alumni and friends I met during the football game against Portland State University – a game we won 34-7. These are individuals who are proud of their heritage of having graduated from our college. These are individuals who have a connection to agriculture because they grow the crops and livestock or process them into value-added commodities. These are individuals who strive for excellence in their daily lives and careers, and who are about enabling the same – of their alma mater, of the current students, and of their communities – by contributing money and time to scholarships, to fellowships, to professorships, to buildings, and to infrastructure. Without such altruism and support, our college would not be able to strive for excellence.
Commitment was evident as well at the State Fair in Salem in the person of Tyson Snider, a young man from Klamath Falls. Tyson is taking the year off to serve as a state officer with the FFA, and next year will be attending our college to get a degree in Agribusiness and as an ROTC cadet. I was impressed with his maturity and commitment to the FFA and to his own career – he runs a small swine operation, wants to be in the Air Force and keep his hands in agribusiness and, therefore, his interest in the Agribusiness degree, which he believes he will need when he retires from the Air Force at age 39 0r 40! Now that is commitment. In turn, we promise him an outstanding education that will enable him to achieve his dream.
That’s what our college is about – our commitment to enable young people like Tyson and the farmers and ranchers and the food processors and the mothers and fathers and citizens to achieve their dreams.
The spouse of one of our alumni said it best after dinner, and which speaks for all – “we’ve got your back”! With commitment like that we are guaranteed to succeed and move forward.