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MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is tackling some of the world’s biggest problems

Eileen Gianodis
Ron Hendrick, Russ White

Ron Hendrick is dean of Michigan State University’s renowned College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He’s a two-time graduate of the college, and he grew up in Jackson, Mich.

“But I didn’t come back out of a sense of sentiment,” he says on MSU Today. “I came back because of the opportunities I saw in the college and the university. We are a world leader in what we do related to food, agriculture and natural resources.”

Hendrick says the college embodies MSU’s land grant mission of teaching, research and outreach and engagement.

“We remain committed to students – graduate and undergraduate, domestic and international – to prepare them for careers and livelihoods in protecting the environment and growing and processing food.

“Through research our role really is to be impactful at a global scale. And primarily but not exclusively through MSU Extension, our job is to take what we learn through discoveries through our research processes and out into the public. The things that we learn here and discover are put out to the state and its citizens and can be applied in ways that are beneficial to them and to the state.

“Another thing we’re doing in the college is focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. Because we hit every part of the state geographically and because what we do in the college is so important to the state, it’s important for us that we’re able to attract a diverse population of students and attract a diverse audience of stakeholders.

“We want to be a place where faculty and staff want to come and, more importantly, to stay and be successful here.”

Dean Hendrick highlights the expertise and outreach of MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension. And he mentions some of the college’s research and teaching strengths in plant production, environmental protection, resource economics, packaging, landscape architecture, urban planning and interior design.

One of the ways Hendrick has seen students change over the years is that “now we have students who have been exposed to a diverse array of technologies at a very early age. So we need to make sure we’re teaching and students are learning in contemporary ways and that we’re able to keep up with technology. And students often learn in a more social way. We have bright and capable students here and I think overall we’re meeting their needs very well. We partner with our students to make sure we’re getting the kind of feedback we need and they’re getting relevant and impactful educations.”

Moving forward Hendrick believes it’s important for all universities to modernize their infrastructure. And due to a declining demographic of college-aged residents in Michigan and many other states, Hendrick says “we need to make sure we’re relevant to not just today’s students but to an increasingly diverse audience. That means being able to connect and offer educational opportunities to members of the public other than recent high school graduates.

“Everything we do in the college has global relevance and we have a global presence. And all that we do will continue to remain relevant. Our challenge is finding ways to do what we do more effectively and more efficiently and finding new partners on campus and off in which we can meet our mission and the mission of the university as a whole.”

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.

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