Dean's Message - In the Field 2020

A message from CANR Dean Ron Hendrick

Ron Hendrick, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Ron Hendrick, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

So much has changed in 2020. We have moved classes, programming, meetings, lunches, reunions, graduations and conversations all online. At a time when human connections seem so imperative, we are told to keep our distance, wear a mask and stay home.

To be clear, this advice should be observed during this pandemic. COVID-19 has interrupted our normal, and for many of us, comfortable lives. But the effects have been felt unequally.

This global pandemic has magnified many of the inequities of our current business, societal, governmental and academic structures, to name just a few that are not built to include everyone. Far too many have suffered great losses during this time. Recognizing that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are unequally applied is critically important.

There is a moral imperative for us to be more inclusive, especially in academia that hasn’t traditionally been diverse. As a land grant institution, inclusion is also part of our founding mission to bring learning, discovery and the application of knowledge to all.

Since my start here in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, diversity, equity and inclusion have been top priorities for me, and something to which my leadership team is committed.

One of the key members, in fact the leader for diversity, equity and inclusion, is Quentin Tyler, Ph.D. He has established himself not just in CANR, but across the MSU campus and in the local community as someone who gets critical work done with people who are interested in change. He works with those who are seeking more equal footing, a diversity of ideas and an inclusion of more people in all conversations. His progress, of course, is not alone – he has built committees, alliances and teams that are willing to work hard to achieve these goals.

Our intention and prioritization around diversity, equity and inclusion is also critical for ensuring that these goals are achieved. Diversity, equity and inclusion needs to be a scholarly objective, embedded in out teaching, research and outreach. Diversity in thought and experience bring strength to our scholarly endeavors, open doors to new sources of support and venues for disseminating out work, and helps us better connect with the broad range of people and communities comprising the state and, for CANR, the world.

With 75-80% of our faculty, staff and students operating in a remote environment, it’s important that we find pathways for success for all of our community members. While technology gives us ample opportunities to do so, remote teaching and learning also means a convergence – sometimes even a clash of home and work. With more school-aged students learning from home, and family members of all ages living and working in the same spaces, many are called on to be teachers, employees and caregivers, sometimes all at once.

As we continue to approach each other with grace and forbearance during this difficult time, we also work on improving the our approaches to online school, learning and programming. In order for us to improve, though, we need a diversity of thought and experience, an equal opportunity for people to participate and an environment where everyone feels included. My hope is that you see those efforts displayed here, in this edition of In the Field.

This article was published in In the Field, a yearly magazine produced by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. To view past issues of In the Field, visit www.canr.msu.edu/inthefield. For more information, email Eileen Gianiodis, editor, at gianiod1@msu.edu or call 517-355-1855.

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