Message from the Director

Looking back at the end of the Fall Semester, I feel grateful that we completed an unusual 2020 with proud successes, thanks to the outstanding efforts by our faculty, staff, and students.

To ensure safety for everyone without compromising instructional quality, our faculty worked extremely hard in redesigning teaching materials to accommodate students’ needs while maximizing their learning experiences. The faculty and staff spent much of the summer preparing spaces for instruction according to safely guidelines. In all the degree programs in the division, as a result, we were able to teach over one half of the lectures and nearly all the labs face-to-face this past Fall. Students were appreciative of the efforts by the faculty and staff, and they themselves worked hard not only in their studies but also in complying with the University safety guidelines to make the semester a successful one.

The Ag Systems Management program changed its name to Ag Systems Technology (AST) in the fall (more details in a separate article). The change reflects a significant shift in the curriculum towards digital technologies, which are playing an increasingly important role in agriculture and related industries. The change will position us as a program for future leaders in agriculture.

Student recruiting was a top priority for us. Amy Marek joined us as our student advisor and recruiter for AST and Food Science. With her coordination, we made a number of recruiting efforts over the year. As a result, we saw sizable increases in freshmen enrollment in both programs, though we still have quite a way to go to reach our targets. Recruiting will remain a high priority for us in the coming years and assistance from alumni and friends will be important.

There have been several changes in the faculty. Drs. Allen Thompson and Steve Borgelt both retired last year but were hired back part-time to teach classes and conduct research. Dr. Borgelt completed his appointment in August while Dr. Thompson continues. Dr. Misha Kwasniewski left Mizzou to join the Penn State University Food Science faculty. Two new faculty members joined us. Dr. Pavel Somavat started as an assistant professor of food science and biological engineering (see separate story about him). Kent Shannon became an assistant teaching professor of AST. After completing his degrees in ag engineering at MU, Kent worked for MU Extension for over two decades. He is an expert in precision agriculture technologies. We have two ongoing faculty searches: one in enology to replace Dr. Kwasniewski and the other in food processing.

The faculty have been active in pursuing grants. Both research and extension grants have increased over last year. The food science and biological engineering faculty are working on a new research theme in “food and bioprocess innovations” by building on our past successes in the area. The AST and Extension faculty are devoting energy to technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT), for digital agriculture and agile responses to needs in agricultural production.

Several faculty members won recognitions. To name just a few recent ones, Dr. Andrew Clarke won the Presidential Engagement Fellow award from the UM System, Dr. Teng Lim won the J.W. Burch Extension State Specialist award (see separate story), Dr. Rob Myers was recognized with a David E. Baker Extension Program Leadership award, and Dan Downing was on the Leaders Honor Roll of Boone Country Extension Council. Our students typically place very well in competitions such as the Quarter Scale Tractor Pull and Dairy Product Judging, but because of COVID, these events did not occur this year.

While we will continue to face challenges because of the pandemic, we are quite optimistic about the coming year as we continue our efforts to deliver the best teaching, research and extension programs. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and encouragement.

Happy and safe holidays!

Jinglu Tan
Director, Division of Food Systems & Bioengineering