It’s so green!

Folks have asked me what has been the most surprising thing about my first few months in Oklahoma. Without a doubt, the most surprising has been seeing a green landscape in a state that’s been through a pretty challenging drought. My first hint was the day I drove into Oklahoma. I left Michigan at 5:30 am and drove straight through to Stillwater on that day. I left a state green with forests, orchards and crops, drove through Illinois where the corn was growing tall and green, passed through Missouri’s Ozarks and the lush oak and hickory forests there, and then settled in to roll into Oklahoma’s brown and dried grasslands. What a shock, when I crossed that state line and the Missouri forests transitioned into green pastures and grasslands and the green parklands of the Cross Timbers area! I fully expected to see senescent grasses in the middle of summer. Instead, I saw cattle grazing away as if it were an April afternoon.

Cattle grazing in the morning near Stillwater Ok.

And it hasn’t really changed much since my arrival. Perhaps everyone else is as surprised as I’ve been with the frequent rains we’ve experienced through July and August. You don’t need me to tell you how unusual this is. But I’m enjoying the unique weather we’ve had to kick off my time as a Cowboy. It has fed some of the optimism I experienced when I first visited Oklahoma back in March, and although I know the weather can be fickle, I’m feeling pretty good about the road ahead for Oklahoma, OSU and the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (DASNR). We’re on a good path, and I’m not just referring to the weather. OSU has been in a growth mode for quite some time. It’s clearly reflected in new campus buildings, expanding student enrollment, and increasing donor investments in OSU’s future. For me, and I suspect for any cowboy, green pastures are a sure bet for optimism. And that’s a pretty fitting way for me to start out as a part of the DASNR community. I’m seeing green pastures (and blue skies) in our future.

-Dr. Tom Coon

Now it’s my turn…

When I visited Oklahoma as a candidate for the vice president of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources position, I encountered one person after another who welcomed me with a warm greeting and followed up with incredible hospitality. Since I arrived to begin my new role, that wave of hospitality has washed over me time and time again, like a gentle surf on a sunny beach. And it has come from all directions – from students, faculty and staff, university administrators, and most importantly, our partners in Oklahoma agriculture and natural resource organizations and industries.

I come from “friendly” country – born and raised in Iowa – and spending much of my career as a Spartan at Michigan State University. So I know “friendly.” But I’ve not encountered “friendly” like I’ve experienced here in Oklahoma. My wife, Rhonda, and I have been overwhelmed by the goodwill and warm greetings we’ve been blessed with as newcomers in Oklahoma. I’ve tried to find the best way to express my gratitude for the incredible welcome we’ve received, and it finally hit me on Friday that the best way to receive and respond to that good grace is by passing it on to others. And finally, I’m in a position to do that, with new students arriving on campus and starting their studies this week in Stillwater.

It's a busy first day of the 2014-15 school year in Ag Hall. Aimee Chancey of Henryetta, Oklahoma, and Dat Tiguyen of Vietnam wait for their next class time.

It’s a busy first day of the 2014-15 school year in Ag Hall. Aimee Chancey of Henryetta, Oklahoma, and Dat Tiguyen of Vietnam wait for their next class time.

So this is for all of those new students, freshmen and transfers, and for those who are returning: Welcome to OSU! This is a great university and a great community. We offer outstanding learning and living opportunities, regardless of where you come from, and we will do all we can to make sure that your time at OSU in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources will set you up for success in your career and in your life following graduation. If we haven’t overwhelmed you yet with our hospitality, just wait. By the time you reach the end of this semester, I’m sure you will be able to reflect back on many experiences when a friendly “hello” or “how can I help you” made you feel at home in Cowboy country.

-Dr. Tom Coon