September 05, 2006

SIUC's College of Agricultural Sciences Strategic plan guides college's development

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, IL -- The legendary Delyte Morris jotted his grand scheme for Southern Illinois University on an envelope back in the ‘60s during his tenure as president. While the condensed version of the SIUC College of Agricultural Sciences' new, five-year strategic plan occupies the front and back of a sheet of paper, it still could fit inside that envelope — and like the envelope, it gets right to the point.

Boiled down from the formal, long version submitted to Provost and Vice Chancellor John M. Dunn in May, the plan lists the college's priorities, goals and major objectives in bullet-point style on one side of a laminated yellow sheet, with the mission and vision statements on the other side.

Those interested in having a copy can call or e-mail Dean Gary L. Minish and ask for one.

"The plan tells you where the college is headed," Minish said.

"We're giving them out as fast as we can make them."

Over the next five years, the college will focus its research, teaching, outreach and international programs on food, agriculture and forestry.

"We can't be good at everything, " Minish said. "We must focus our efforts in areas of excellence that address the major issues facing the people and stakeholders we serve.

"We have to hone in on those areas where we have strong expertise: soybean research; plant and animal production; human nutrition, health and wellness; environmental resources; hospitality and tourism, among others. We can also substantially increase our enrollments by focusing on areas of excellence and expertise."

Revisions and improvements to the curriculums in the college's seven undergraduate majors have already begun, and the college has hired energetic, talented new faculty members in its designated specialty areas. Drafters of the plan aim to increase undergraduate and graduate student enrollment by 50 percent over the next five years.

Remedying what Minish described as "long-term deterioration" of both facilities and farms will play a crucial role in helping the college meet its goals.

"We have been able to do great things with what we have, but our agriculture building is 50 years old, and the farms have not seen much repair over the last 15 to 20 years," he noted.

"If we're going to conduct cutting-edge research and educate students, we have to do it in modern, well-equipped facilities. Prospective students and faculty see classrooms and farm facilities at other universities, and it makes it difficult to recruit and retain them."

The plan also calls for the college to improve its image. To help achieve that goal, the college aims to rank among the nation's top five non-land grant agricultural colleges. To that end, the college identified six aspirational peers with key characteristics worthy of emulation including Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas Tech University, the University of Kentucky, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and West Virginia University.

"We can't be like each and every one of those, but they do some things really well in teaching, research and outreach that we would like to emulate," Minish said.

Minish said the college began working on its plan last fall, getting input from faculty, staff, students and stakeholders.

"I think everybody has bought into our plan," he said.

"Everything that's been suggested betters the college, and I am very confident it will."

To request the plan summary, call the college office at 618/453-2469 or e-mail Minish at

Becoming the best student-responsive public research university in Illinois is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.