OSU Dean Tom Coon Announces Grand Opening of New Greenhouse Facility Amid Ongoing Budget ChallengesTue, 30 Jul 2019 14:29:40 CDT
On August 24, 2019, the Oklahoma State University College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources will officially open a new educational greenhouse facility on its campus in Stillwater, Okla. Starting this coming fall semester, students will have the opportunity to begin using these new facilities, complete with a classroom component for on-sight learning and demonstrations. Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays sat down recently with Dr. Tom Coon, vice president, dean and director of Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, to discuss this new facility and how it will help to elevate the current learning environment at CASNR. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“This is a teaching greenhouse. We’ve been operating in some old greenhouses that were built back in the ‘50s for cotton research. So, we’re moving into a new modern greenhouse this fall,” Dr. Coon explained. “It’ll have the latest technology in terms of controlling the environment. We’re really excited about opening it and we’ve had some great support from the industry to make that happen. Our students are pretty excited about it, too.”
This new facility benefits not only the students, but the industries and businesses that invested in the project as well. While students will have the opportunity to learn in these facilities, allied industry partners will have the opportunity to use them for demonstrations of featured technology or techniques. Either way, the goal is the same - to ensure students are educated and equipped with the skills and knowledge they will need to enter the workforce - potentially with those same companies that have been involved.
While the addition of this new facility is welcome news, certain staffing challenges still remain within Coon’s division. Over the past five years, Coon says 25% of the budget for Extension Services and the division’s Ag Research Stations has been cut, effectively reducing those resources by approximately $13.5 million. This has made the situation difficult in terms of addressing current faculty needs. Right now, CASNR has maybe one specialist in each area, sometimes none, where other land grant institutions may have up to three or more. With 85 to 95 percent of DASNR’s budget earmarked for faculty and staff, and a quarter of that now gone - Coon says filling vacancies in his division has unfortunately been delayed.
“I would say we are one of the leanest in our neighborhood,” Coon said referring to other land grant institutions in the south-central US. “But our group works as a team and works well.”
Despite the inherent challenges of operating with a reduced staff, Coon maintains that DASNR is still just as effective as ever. Through creative means, diligence and investment in technology, DASNR and Extension has found ways to manage as this budget crunch has continued on. Next year, Coon says DASNR will be rolling out a new staffing model for Extension that is expected to help alleviate these pressures and still facilitate a state-wide presence. The basic plan is to have one state-funded extension educator in each county in addition to one clerical support staff member. Additional educators may be added but will be funded through supplemental county appropriations.
“That will be our basic plan of how we staff in every county office,” he said. “So, we’ll have that basic level of service beginning July 1 of next year.”
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