The Retiree and Donor Appreciation Event, celebrating the contributions of donors and retirees to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was held Dec. 8 at N.C. State University’s McKimmon Center. The annual CALS Donor Recognition was combined with the annual Retirees Luncheon to create the Appreciation Event, which this year included an opportunity for the guests of honor to participate in a special Cooperative Extension Visioning Initiative.
The event’s Donor and Recipient reception reunited the donors of endowed scholarships, fellowships, professorships and program funds with the students and faculty members who are beneficiaries of their generosity. Retirees were also welcomed in a separate afternoon reception, and then both groups gathered together for the main program, hosted by CALS Dean Richard Linton.
Linton welcomed the group and thanked them for their support of the College and its programs. “What you do is vitally important to move our College forward,” he said, noting that the College had been engaged in a strategic planning process to develop big ideas about moving forward and making CALS programs stand out from those of other land-grant institutions. In listening sessions conducted with stakeholders across the state throughout the past year, he said, “We learned there is an interest in becoming as good as we can be.”
Thus, he said, in view of the upcoming centennial of Cooperative Extension in 2014, “We have embarked on a similar listening tour process to realize what [Extension’s] future should be.”
Linton then turned the program over to Dr. Joe Zublena, CALS associate dean and director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. Zublena talked about the success of Extension in its first 100 years and how it now has to adapt and change to meet current and future challenges.
“Extension has launched a strategic initiative that will take place into May 2014,” he said, including listening sessions and meetings with employees and stakeholder groups to seek feedback and suggestions as Extension moves forward. He then invited the donors, students, faculty and retirees to take part in a listening session at the reception.
“We are asking for your help,” he said. Offering the analogy of a pruned apple tree producing better fruit, he said, “We want your input on what are the most valuable things Extension does.”
He listed the Visioning Initiative Goals as defining the most important programs; strengthening Extension’s impact and value to citizens, the counties and the state; creating a financial buffer to gain flexibility and stay aligned with priorities; and developing a staffing model.
The guests divided into discussion groups and reconvened to share their results.
Bringing the event to a close, Linton thanked the group for their valuable contributions to the overall strategic plan and invited guests to take home a poinsettia, CALS’ holiday gift to them. – Terri Leith