Dean's Message

Message from CAES Dean and Director Sam Pardue

Dear Friends,

When I announced in January my intention to retire this summer, I realized that searching for and selecting a new dean would create a time of great change and unique opportunities for the college, along with a few challenges as any big change brings. However, I had no idea what chaos the COVID-19 outbreak would cause in the ensuing four months.

All the attributes of this college that made this job attractive to me four and a half years ago have reinforced my whole-hearted belief that the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is one of the strongest, most sustainable colleges of agriculture in America. That great strength is built on a foundation of excellence equally supported by exceptional research, instruction and outreach.

That great strength is shouldered by the outstanding faculty, staff, students, alumni and partners who come together to form the Ag Dawg Nation. The success achieved by each of you elevates the proud tradition of the college and contributes to the promise of this college’s bright future.

During this pandemic, our professors have moved with unprecedented speed to shift from hands-on, in-classroom instruction to safely serve our students with online education to keep their studies on track. They have guided our students and consoled our seniors who face the disappointment of missing out on all the special events of their senior experience, while graduating into what will surely be an uncertain economy.

The graduation planned for October will be unorthodox. But it will be a special and unique experience for the Class of 2020. We will celebrate their achievements with an enthusiasm that reflects not only their academic accomplishments, but our great respect for their ability to persevere.

During the pandemic, many UGA researchers began the journey of searching for a vaccine for COVID-19. Some of our faculty will contribute to that quest. Other CAES researchers found ways to continue to push forward toward discoveries that ensure our safe, abundant food supply, a safe environment, and a robust research agenda for the future. Their work had to be done in a new way, with added restrictions, and extra precautions, but their work carried on.

From our youngest Ag Dawgs in Georgia 4-H to our most seasoned specialists and agents in the field, UGA Extension arose in full force to support farmers struggling to plant and harvest crops, to offer valuable information for families and consumers navigating quarantine, and to add value to school systems and parents suddenly faced with homeschooling their children.

Over the next few weeks, we will share with you spotlights of excellence from the college – important reminders of the incredible future that awaits us from the work that continues from home offices, scaled down labs and research fields across the state. I hope you will find the spotlights interesting and encouraging, and that you will join me in celebrating the college’s success. Today, let me start by updating you on the administrative changes happening in the college.

A national search for a new dean for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is now in full swing. The search committee has been charged and nominations are being accepted. Faculty, staff, students, or community members who wish to nominate candidates for consideration are invited to contact Kate Barry (kbarry@IMSearch.com), a partner at Isaacson, Miller and the consultant leading the search.

While the timeline is certainly subject to change as we navigate the pandemic, the current plan is to review applications, select semi-finalists and conduct initial online interviews by mid-June. Finalists selected will participate in on-campus interviews the first two weeks of August, conditions permitting.

In the meantime, Provost Hu has selected an exceptional interim dean, Dr. Joe West. Most of you know Dr. West and are familiar with his exemplar service to the college over the past 35 years. He retired earlier this year as assistant dean of the UGA Tifton Campus. He has served at every level of the college including an extension specialist, interim department head, and assistant dean. His deep understanding of the college, the state and the industry, coupled with his eminence love of and respect for the institution will serve you all well. He will officially assume his new role on July 1, but he will begin working with us immediately as we address today’s challenges.

Please join me in offering your total support to Dr. West as he leads the college through this period of change and give your thoughtful input and feedback to the search committee as they go about the important job of finding the best candidate to direct the college’s future.

Stacy and I have greatly appreciated the opportunities, friendships, and areas of service the University of Georgia has afforded us. I will officially retire on June 30. In the latter part of July, we plan to move back to North Carolina to be closer to my parents and extended family. Despite being somewhat removed by distance, I will observe with great interest a number of unfinished projects; chief among them the fundraising campaign for a new Poultry Science Building at UGA. I trust that you will join with me in seeing this become a reality.

Go Dawgs!

Sam Pardue
CAES Dean and Director