May 15, 2012 – My column is titled “20/20 – Reflecting Back – Looking Forward” to shine light on the year 2012 as the 20th anniversary of the college. Through the vision, hard work, sacrifice, and accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends, and supporters, the college enjoys one of the strongest reputations in North America and leverages our reach across the commonwealth and into the global arena as well as into the future. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our success and our foundation, which paves the way for us to move forward.
Each of you has your own reflection on your experience with the college. While we all are mindful of our past, our heritage, and our traditions, we must continue to move forward to position ourselves and our students for the future. Can you even imagine what the demands on our natural resources will be in the next 20 years? What tools will we need to assess and analyze our biodiversity and global sustainability, and to link these to human and societal needs? Can we comprehend the new skill sets our students will need to enable their dreams? What leadership roles will they assume and in which organizations? Looking forward is the most difficult work we can do — but must do.
To move forward, we are positioning the college and our work in the most relevant context possible. Relevance with a capital “R” is our singular focus. Relevance attracts the best and brightest, draws resources, creates opportunities, seeds impact, matters to society, and is our best offense. Relevance is the lens through which we must see the future. It’s our currency on the campus, across the state, and around the world.
One thing is certain — the world is changing and will continue to change at a rapid pace. And because of the change around us, we have been changing, too. Changing the college and department names, degrees and degree focus, and course names and content, and creating new courses and a new academic landscape. Broadening our vision of how and where we can make an impact. Expanding the perimeter of our traditional foundation to bring relevance to the larger global discussion of natural resources and sustainability. We must ensure our relevance in a world awash in change.
We asked you in a survey this year to tell us what you think of the college, and nearly 800 of you did in survey responses and 82 pages of open-ended comments. We are using this feedback to help us position the “brand” of the college for the future. We know that perception matters greatly in the discussion of relevance, and this study will help us sharpen perceptions through well-honed words and actions that accurately reflect who we are and the work we do. We want to inform our constituents, reshape misperceptions, and communicate clearly the role of our college, our faculty expertise, and the importance of our academic disciplines. We must shape our message to widen our scope to be more relevant to the world around us.
We have mined the survey feedback into position statements for our learning, discovery, and engagement domains (see below). These statements are how we see ourselves. We believe that our traditional foundation and our future aspirations can be expressed in new language that will resonate with today’s decision makers, stakeholders, students, partners, agencies, organizations, and all individuals and groups with whom we interact.
I assure you we have not lost our footing, and the changes we have embraced have been done so with careful calculation of the probable outcome. We intend to harness the power of words and names to fuel the relevance of our college.
Congratulations to everyone who has been part of our past. Happy 20th anniversary! We head optimistically into the future with our compass set on relevance to address the mounting global challenges facing all our natural resources and their human interactions. We invite you to be a part of our future and thank you for your continued support.
The College of Natural Resources and Environment prepares the future generation of leaders to deal with the complex natural resources issues facing our planet. World-class faculty lead transformational research that complements the student learning experience and impacts citizens and communities across the state and around the world on issues of sustainability, natural resources management, and the environment.
The College of Natural Resources and Environment is nationally and internationally recognized for its undergraduate and graduate education. Programs focus on managing natural resources and preserving the diversity of Earth’s physical and cultural environments. The college’s world-class faculty is dedicated to mentoring students through experiential learning toward the development of sustainable solutions to society’s natural resources-related problems.
The College of Natural Resources and Environment is a global leader in transformational research impacting environmental sustainability. World-class faculty lead interdisciplinary teams that utilize the latest technologies to explore, investigate, and create solutions for the natural resources and environmental problems facing the world. This research creates the knowledge that future generations can build upon to help develop solutions to the world’s complex environmental issues.
The College of Natural Resources and Environment’s engagement program partners with landowners and communities to provide science-based solutions to natural resources and environmental issues facing the world. Its goal is to improve the lives of the citizens of Virginia and beyond by providing information to make better decisions to sustainably manage and utilize natural resources.