University of Minnesota
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CBS-CFANS

Provost's Advisory Task Force

on the potential creation of a new college
devoted to agriculture, natural resources, environmental and life sciences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is this happening now?

A: Dean Robert Elde’s retirement from the College of Biological Science (CBS), along with Allen Levine’s decision in June to step down as dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) and the appointment of Brian Buhr as interim dean, marks this as a time of exceptional change in both CFANS and CBS. Therefore, it makes good sense to pause and thoroughly consider the prospect of strengthening the academic and structural alignment between CBS and CFANS.

While the leadership transitions in CBS and CFANS make this discussion timely, it is crucial to note that consideration of such a college is driven principally by the direction of the life sciences and by trends in research and higher education in agriculture, biological and natural resource sciences. CFANS and CBS reflect these trends. The two colleges are notable for their intersecting interests and close faculty/staff collaborations, and both include applied and basic research geneticists, biochemists, plant scientists, and ecologists whose research, teaching, and outreach often dovetail.

The possibility of a combined college of agriculture, environmental and life sciences has been under discussion for some time by both Dean Elde and former Dean Levine.

Q: Why these two colleges?

A: While the leadership transitions in CBS and CFANS make this discussion timely, it is crucial to note that consideration of such a college is driven principally by the direction of the life sciences and by trends in research and higher education in agriculture, biological, and natural resource sciences. The maturing explosion of biological knowledge in the era of genomics has led to unprecedented opportunities to deploy this knowledge into solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems that dominate the practices of agriculture, environmental sciences, and medicine. Reducing organizational boundaries that separate the foundational disciplines of biology from the translation of this knowledge into applied problem-solving could strengthen the excellence and impact of our research and teaching.

This also presents an opportunity to enhance our partnership and the efficacy of our work with agriculture; by creating a stronger college with agricultural ties, we could ensure those relationships will continue to grow.

Q: Are there plans for other realignments between other colleges?

A: No, although it is conceivable—even if not likely—that some realignments could emerge in the course of the university’s strategic planning process.

Q: Didn’t the school of agriculture just merge with natural resources a few years ago?

A: Yes, CFANS is the result of a merger in 2006 between the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and the College of Natural Resources, plus one department from the College of Human Ecology.

Q: When will a decision be made and who makes the final decision? Will it be put up for a faculty vote?

A: While the timing of a decision is not set at this time, the provost is placing the searches for CBS and CFANS deans on hold for the fall semester, so thoughtful consideration of the prospects can be completed before permanent college leadership is chosen. University and college leadership will take the time necessary to vet the options and discuss the issues thoroughly with faculty, staff, governance groups, and other internal and external stakeholders. The existing policy documents do not call for a faculty vote, but, as discussions proceed, that may be considered.

Q: Are there other options being considered, for example moving departments from CBS into CFANS without a complete merger? Could departments or centers from other colleges (CLA, CSE) be moved into the new college? What about the Institute on the Environment, which involves many faculty members from both colleges?

A: These are all questions that will be considered by the stakeholders. We know of many points of alignment and synergy between CFANS and CBS, but the question of how best to enhance those is precisely what is at issue. It may be that other faculty or centers from other colleges would be interested in joining a newly configured college, but, again, it is premature to speculate on that.

Q: What would be the structure of the new college and which schools, departments, centers, and institutes might be part of it?

A: It’s too soon to know how a new college would be structured or whether there will even be a new college; all we are doing at this time is considering the option and exploring opportunities.

Q: If food and agriculture are key parts of MnDRIVE, how could a new college enhance the U’s relationships with those industries?

A: Enhancing the University of Minnesota’s rich history of leadership in food and agriculture would be a key goal of any new college. A new college should provide us an opportunity to enhance our partnership with agriculture; by creating a stronger college with agricultural ties, it ensures those relationships will continue to grow.

Q: Will alumni and donors have input into this discussion? What about legislators?

A: Strategies will be developed to ensure alumni and donor perspectives are part of stakeholder consultations and listening sessions. Every effort will be made to ensure that a variety of interested internal and external stakeholders are kept informed and have opportunities to offer input—including alumni, donors, government and industry stakeholders, commodity groups, legislators and others. Legislators will not be part of the actual decision making process, but may be solicited informally for input.

Q: How will undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-docs be affected?

A: We will ensure that there are no disruptions in the educational programs of current students.

Q: How will faculty and staff at the two colleges and at Extension be affected? A: It is too early to tell; however, we expect no immediate impact on current faculty and staff.
Q: What are the current enrollments of both colleges? Are they trending up or down?

A: CFANS had roughly 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students as of fall 2012; undergraduate student numbers are trending up. CBS had about 2,200 undergraduate and graduate students in fall 2012; undergraduate enrollment has remained fairly consistent over the last few years. (Fall 2013 enrollment data will be available soon.)

Q: CFANS is known mostly for its applied research while CBS does basic research. How will those two different cultures work together?

A: CFANS and CBS already have track records of working together. The Bell Museum and Department of Plant Biology, both of which have faculty from both CFANS and CBS, are examples, and there are many research projects involving faculty from both colleges. The hope for a new college would be to further enhance this work and provide more opportunities for collaboration—reflecting the growing trend in these areas of study and industry.

Q: Is this happening because Dean Levine stepped down in June and Dean Elde is retiring?

A: No. Both Dean Levine and Dean Elde have been interested in the prospect of a new college of agriculture, life sciences, and natural resources. Their retirements mean, though, that we would now begin the process of recruiting new leadership. To do that, we must be clear about the directions of the work of CFANS and CBS. Therefore, the time to consider whether greater alignment is appropriate is now.

Q: Are the deans of CFANS and CBS leaving on their own?

A: Yes, each dean made his respective decision independent of and prior to this consideration.

Q: How will staff and faculty be updated during this process?

A: We will provide updates on next steps directly from the provost, the dean, and the interim dean. Once a working group is formed, it too will provide regular communications with faculty and staff.

Q: Is this a cost saving strategy for the University?

A: No. The decision to explore the potential of a new college is driven principally by the direction of the life sciences, and by trends in research and higher education in agriculture, biological, and natural resource sciences. In particular, the maturing explosion of biological knowledge around genomics has led to unprecedented opportunities to deploy this knowledge into solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems in agriculture, environmental sciences, and medicine, among other critical areas. A primary motivation in exploration of possible consolidation of resources is to strengthen the excellence and impact of our research and teaching.

Q: What name is being considered for the new college?

A: No names have been discussed. However, agriculture, life sciences, and the environment have all been important terms discussed to date.

Q: Does this consideration impact the current capital request for the laboratory improvement fund?

A: No, this consideration should not affect the capital planning request.

Q: What about the proposed new building on the St. Paul Campus. Does it have anything to do with the idea of a new college?

A: Yes, but new research facilities on the St. Paul Campus will be valuable independent of collegiate structure.

Consider the prospect of strengthening
the academic and structural alignment between CBS and CFANS.

Twin Cities Campus: