Update from the Chair

posted on November 21, 2017 2:36pm

Titus Awokuse (view larger image)
Titus Awokuse

The Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) recently completed an intensive year-long strategic planning process that involved a thorough assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of our programs while exploring the future challenges and opportunities we face. The positive feedback from the external review panel and the recent global ranking of AFRE as the fourth best department of agricultural and applied economics in the world provides additional evidence of the very high status of our academic programs. AFRE has a growing international reputation as a difference maker in advancing knowledge in the agricultural and food policy arena, and providing solutions to the needs of our stakeholders in Michigan, the nation, and the world. 

We will not rest on our past successes, but will continue our efforts toward seeking new and innovative ways to make a greater impact as we engage in the great debates and challenges of our time. Based on the strategic planning process outcomes, the top seven areas AFRE will devote extra attention to are: 1) Restructuring the graduate programs to improve quality and grow student funding;  2) Increasing the quality of undergraduate programs and diversity; 3) Enhancing the value of extension and outreach programming to stakeholders;  4) Improving our research quality and funding to enhance reputation and ranking; 5) Standardizing and expanding our faculty mentoring program; 5) Enhancing our communication strategies and activities;  6) Developing clearer definition of roles, classifications, and support for fixed term faculty; and 7) Developing better program synergies across AFRE’s diverse missions, stakeholders, and interests. 

Although 2017 has been a successful year filled with many great accomplishments for AFRE, I will highlight just a few notable changes and recent developments. First, we are fortunate to have five excellent new faculty and academic specialist hires added to our ranks (Melissa McKendree, Trey Malone, Michael Olabisi, Simone Valle De Souza, and Shu Wang). Effective June 1, 2017, Bob Myers assumed the role of Associate Chair and Director of Graduate Programs. To better showcase AFRE’s programs and accomplishments to our stakeholders, we created a new communications manager position and recently hired Samantha Ward.

On a sad note, we experienced a sudden and unexpected death of David Schweikhardt, a highly valued faculty member and colleague in AFRE since 1992.  In October 2017, AFRE organized a well-attended special ceremony to remember and celebrate David’s life and accomplishments.

Special thanks to AFRE faculty, staff and students for making AFRE a leading department in the world and building momentum to be even better in the future. In this newsletter, you will read stories about other recent developments in AFRE, including special profiles on our faculty, students, and alumni who are making a difference across the country and around the globe. Please follow AFRE on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to stay informed. Let us hear from you.

Happy holidays to all. 

Titus Awokuse
Chairperson of the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics