Travel Journal
Travel Journal
NCTA: Open access, high quality & Nebraska-focused

NCTA: Open access, high quality & Nebraska-focused

Curtis, NE | April 14, 2015

Welcome to Curtis, Neb...where you can drink a glass of the best-tasting rural water in the country and ride your horse anywhere as long as you stay off the golf course. I’d been looking forward to my visit to the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture for quite some time, and the tour and luncheon with faculty, staff and students arranged by Dean Ron Rosati and his team didn’t disappoint.

NCTA plays a unique and important role within the University of Nebraska, offering affordable two-year programs that meet the needs of our state’s agricultural workforce. New and innovative academic programs are underway, including those in irrigation technology and urban agriculture, and the college’s growth – both in terms of enrollment and its physical presence – is impressive. Taken together, there’s a real sense of momentum and possibility on campus that came alive for me as I listened and learned from students and employees. Students showed me what they’re learning in horse training, equine care and animal handling courses, and I got a firsthand look at the work being done by talented faculty and staff…including a surgery on a cat who’d eaten a penny! While I was touring, it was bathtime for a large snake named Monte. I passed…this time.

With my own background in agriculture, I understand well the vital role agriculture plays in ensuring Nebraska’s continued economic strength. The 380-plus students enrolled at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture should be congratulated for choosing to pursue their education in a field where the jobs are good and demand is high. NCTA is enjoying great success in meeting workforce needs and forming mutually beneficial partnerships with industry leaders, including the Nebraska Cattlemen, Farm Bureau, Corn Growers Association and the Wheat Board, that advance Nebraska agriculture. This campus is on an exciting trajectory. I can’t wait to return!


On top of the world…

On top of the world…

North Platte | April 13-14, 2015

What a treat to end Day 2 of my Nebraska tour with dinner at the beautiful Golden Spike Tower, which offers a panoramic view of the world’s largest railyard. The scenery was stunning, the food was delicious, and the conversation with university stakeholders was rich and engaging. My thanks to those who participated, including the Chairman of the Board of Regents, Bob Phares, who hosted us in his hometown.

The next morning, to kick off Day 3 of my tour, I had breakfast with faculty and staff from our West Central Research and Extension Center. WCREC was created more than a century ago to study water – and we’re still doing that today (along with many other disciplines). In fact, in 2015 our focus has never been more important. The world needs someone to lead the conversation about using our water resources more efficiently and productively, and I believe the University of Nebraska can be that leader. We need to own the global conversation on water. From what I saw in North Platte, we are in a great position to do that. I had the opportunity to hear from several faculty members about their research in beef nutrition and reproduction, entomology and other areas critical to the success of Nebraska agriculture. I even got to tour WCREC’s wind tunnel, which fosters important research related to pesticides, weather and more.

I’m grateful to the faculty and staff who joined me for dialogue, and in particular to those who took time to show me around WCREC and give me a taste of their research. The West Central Research and Extension Center, the university’s “front door” in West Central Nebraska, is meeting important needs in this part of the state and I am impressed with what I saw. The work being done here could not be more timely or locally and globally relevant.

Next stop: the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis!


Life as a Loper
Photo credit KRVN

Continuing west

Lexington & Gothenburg | April 13, 2015

After leaving Kearney, we were back on the road, heading west toward North Platte. En route, we made a quick stop at KRVN radio in Lexington for a meet-and-greet with the news team and community leaders. I had a great time visiting with news director Dave Schroeder, checking out the station and meeting people who care about their university and its role in serving agriculture in particular. You can see more from my KRVN visit here.

Next, we visited the Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg. Located on a 324-acre research farm, the learning center is focused on helping farmers achieve their yield and productivity goals with an emphasis on water use. It fosters important research in water and agriculture and also serves as a learning center for members of the media, the public and others interested in these critical topics. The sustainable use of water for agriculture, of course, is a high priority on the University of Nebraska’s research agenda and one in which we are positioned to take a global leadership role, through our Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute and other efforts. Seeing the Monsanto center made me more convinced than ever that Nebraska can make a real difference in meeting the world’s water and food needs.

A jam-packed Day 2 continues!


Life as a Loper

Experiencing #LifeAsALoper

Kearney, NE | April 13, 2015

It’s a great time to be a Loper. That much was clear during my visit to the University of Nebraska at Kearney today, where faculty, staff, students and stakeholders gave me a very warm welcome. And I loved being greeted by the Archway on my drive into town! There’s a real sense of energy and momentum on the UNK campus, and for good reason. UNK is doing more than ever to serve the Kearney community and the region – meeting student needs, producing talented graduates, driving the economy and enriching the quality of life for Nebraskans.

The campus is an educational and economic hub for rural Nebraska. Many Lopers come from rural communities, not unlike the one I grew up in back in Mississippi, and are the first in their family to go to college. That 70 percent of UNK undergraduates receive financial aid is a testament to the campus’ commitment to access. The education that these students receive when they arrive on campus is second to none, thanks to talented faculty whose first priority is serving students. And we are working hard to expand their opportunities even further. The Health Science Education Complex, a joint effort of UNK and UNMC opening later this year, will make way for many more nursing and allied health students who can help meet critical workforce needs in rural Nebraska. Discussions are underway between UNK and UNL for joint engineering programs that will create a more robust pipeline of STEM workers for our rural communities. Both of these are excellent examples of cross-campus collaboration that demonstrate that the University of Nebraska really is one university.

The campus’ footprint is expanding, too. The new University Village, a public-private, mixed-use development which will transform the way UNK interacts with the Kearney community, represents an exciting opportunity for UNK to enhance its role as a hub of regional economic growth. The Board of Regents recently approved the anchor project for University Village, a student residence complex, and it will be exciting to see this development get underway.

Many thanks to Chancellor Kristensen for hosting me on his campus today, and to all the students, UNK colleagues and community members who joined me for an engaging discussion about UNK’s opportunities for the future – and how we can share the story of UNK’s success even more widely. Next year, UNK will celebrate its 25th anniversary of becoming part of the University of Nebraska system. I can’t wait to see what kinds of success stories we’ll be telling in another 25 years. UNK’s future is bright!


Raising Nebraska

Raising Nebraska, and Nebraskans

Grand Island, NE | April 13, 2015

What a way to start Day 2 of my Nebraska tour. The Raising Nebraska site in Grand Island – a collaborative effort of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the State Fair – was unlike anything I’ve seen. I hope every Nebraskan will take the opportunity to visit this facility to learn how food gets from the farm to our tables. The exhibits are interactive, fun and educational. I got to “walk” my 1,500-mile travel route on an interactive map…a less demanding experience than driving it! An engaged and impressive group of community leaders and university stakeholders joined me and our Regent host, Kent Schroeder, for breakfast at Raising Nebraska and we had a productive dialogue about the university’s momentum and opportunity.

My next stop was Grand Island Senior High School, where I talked to sophomores about the power of higher education to change their lives. This is a topic that’s close to my heart. I’ve been fortunate to experience a transformation in my own life because of education and now I want all young people to have that same experience – whether it’s at the University of Nebraska, our excellent state or community colleges (like Central Community College in Grand Island), or some other institution. The point is that students should work hard, find a school that meets their needs, and take the opportunity to discover their passions. I was fortunate to be joined at Grand Island Senior High by Kayla Lindell, an alum who’s currently a sophomore at UNK studying middle education. Kayla is the first in her family to go to college, an impressive young woman with a bright future, and her story was a great inspiration to the students in the auditorium. I thank Kayla for returning to her alma mater today to share her experience, as well as GISH Principal Jeff Gilbertson and his staff for hosting us.

Before I hit the road for Kearney, I stopped by the Grand Island Independent to meet with editorial leaders and staff. We had a great dialogue about some of the current issues in the community and my initial priorities for the university. My thanks to publisher Don Smith and his team for welcoming us into the newsroom.

Amazing how a short time in one community can introduce me to so many important stakeholders: community leaders, university friends and alumni, current and prospective students, members of the news media. It was time well spent. I look forward to returning soon – hopefully with my family to the State Fair in a few months!


banquet

A dialogue with Nebraskans

Fremont & Columbus | April 12, 2015

After leaving Mead, we were back on the road to Fremont, where I was welcomed by a great crowd (and delicious treats from Alotta Brownies) at the beautiful Gallery 92 facility. I shared my thoughts on what attracted me to the NU presidency – starting with the deep connection the people of Nebraska have to this institution – and our responsibility to do even more to grow enrollment, help students graduate on time and with less debt, conduct research in relevant areas like water and agriculture, and continue the good work of Nebraska Extension in serving people across the state. I’m glad I came prepared with my pen and notepad, because our friends in Fremont gave me thoughtful ideas on how the university can be even more successful going forward.

Thanks to new friends in Fremont and Columbus for such a warm welcome on Day One of my Nebraska tour, and a special thanks to Regent Jim Pillen of Columbus for hosting our activities and keeping the conversation lively. On to Day Two!

—Hank Bounds


corn field

Solving the ag challenges of tomorrow, with research today

Mead, NE | April 12, 2015

And we’re off! Today I began a six-day road trip across Nebraska that will help me get to know the state I now call home. Over the next week, I’ll visit roughly 20 Nebraska communities to talk to a diverse range of citizens about how we can work together to build an even stronger university. I have lots of ground to cover in the days ahead, but I’m energized by the opportunity to listen and learn from people who care deeply about the future of their university – faculty and students, agricultural and business leaders, donors and alumni, farmers and ranchers, and community members across this great state. Their passion for, and investment in, this university is inspiring.

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