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April 15, 2005

Statement by Alan R. Ek, Head, Department of Forest Resources

The University's Strategic Positioning efforts have important implications for natural resources education, research and outreach. I applaud efforts to strengthen these areas. However, the suggestions from the planning process as yet are quite limited--in some areas they do not go far enough, in others they could be very damaging, and in still other areas they omit mention of important existing structures, linkages, and institution building steps. We encourage department faculty, staff, student, alumni and other stakeholder input on this process.

The strategic positioning process is described at the following link: http://www1.umn.edu/systemwide/strategic_positioning/. References to the College of Natural Resources can be found on pages 32-34 of the "Academic Task Force Recommendations Report." The "Statement of Recommendation" for this section reads: "We recommend for consideration that a Task Force be charged with developing and implementing a reconfiguration of the sciences and engineering that best integrates and promotes academic synergies, teaching and research among four current colleges: CBS, IT, CNR and COAFES." The report further states that "Five important strategies must be achieved through this reconfiguration and integration." One of these strategies states: "Realigning and integrating CNR into a broader framework that strengthens environmental science and increases administrative efficiency."

Comment is invited here and readers are also encouraged to contact Central Administration at: http://www1.umn.edu/systemwide/strategic_positioning/feedback.html and
Board of Regents at: http://www1.umn.edu/regents/speak.html or
individually at: http://www1.umn.edu/regents/regent_contact%20info.html.

Posted by schre006 at April 15, 2005 2:33 PM

Comments

As I read the 3 pages of recommendations and once you cut through all the academic rhetoric, what is being proffered up is the creation of an Institute of the Environment under the guise that this will bring this tremendous improvement in quality education and research while at the same time combining (which means cutting) staff and possibly repositioning people in what someone is to determine to be a more effective "geographical" setting. The folks who come up with these ideas are generally those who are lopoking at things from thje inside and often fail to adequately reflect the views of those who are outside the University setting but depend on the institution to educate and graduate quality students. I'm not sure what all the politics are that occur in the U of M organization but I would gather they are at times significant. I cannot for a minute believe that much of the improvements that are focused on in the Positioning Statement could not be achieved by empowering the educators and administrators to make that happen. But what often happens is the knee jerk reaction that things must be realigned, consolidated, repositioned,or whatever you want to call it to have those improvements happen. I'm not sure what is happening with Forestry education programs at other institutions but I would think that the SAF may want to have some involvement with development of a Position Statement concerning this Strategic Positioning Initiative.
I wonder who will sit on the Task Force and whether or not there will be representation from the end user of the product, whether they be an employer, a beneficiary o;f research efforts, or someone utilizing outreach programs.
When I read as one of the five important strategies the the "CNR will be realigned and integrated into a broader framework that will strengthen environmental science and improve administrative efficiency, I can't help but picture the disbanding of the College and the shifting of the program to the Biology Department on the west side of the University. In my humble opinion that is not going to make it easier to attract lhigh quality students who are seeking an undergraduate degree in Forest Management.

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