Our mission remains important

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education announced on May 29 that the allocation of funds to all higher education agencies would be reduced by 3.5 percent for the 2016 Fiscal Year. This includes the two agencies within the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources: the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. In addition, Oklahoma State University’s allocation was reduced by 3.5 percent. Provost Sandefur and Vice President Weaver have instructed the Deans to develop budgets based on a 1.5 percent reduction in funding to the academic units. So as we plan for our FY2016 budget, we must absorb these reductions to our three state funding sources.

Budget reductions have become a norm for higher education across the nation and they are factors that I have dealt with for my 16 years as a university administrator. These changes can be disturbing, but they also present a challenge that reinforces the importance of continued evaluation of our work, its impacts and the ways we can meet our mission under changing conditions. I don’t relish these challenges, but I am convinced that as dedicated land-grant faculty and staff, we have the most important resources we need: our mission, our dedication, our educational training and experience, and our willingness to work hard.

Our mission remains important. Research is the foundation and is the way we generate new knowledge and new technology to help people improve their lives, with an emphasis on the sustained use of natural resources for food and fiber production and environmental services. We translate those research findings into practice through our Extension mission and we help to prepare the new generation of workers in this domain through our academic programs.

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What defines us is our dedication to making a difference in the world and to helping people improve their lives. The ability to focus on that role rejuvenates us and stimulates us to continually seek better information, better understanding and better ways of conveying what we know.

I feel fortunate to work with some of the brightest people in the world. Students come to us for enrichment and learning that will sustain them in their careers. Colleagues get up everyday to pursue innovation in our knowledge and technology, get paperwork processed or equipment maintained.

No challenge is too great for us. I’ve never felt I had the best ideas or the greatest innovations. But I’ve found that even when my work is relatively uninspired and mundane, nothing is more assuring than simply doing a day’s work and feeling some satisfaction from its completion. As in running a long race, the task is not accomplished in crossing the finish line, but with each step we take along the way. Work in itself is rewarding by virtue of having advanced one more step, written one more page, composed one more lecture or conducted one more experiment. Ultimately the actions of others will influence our ability to succeed in realizing our mission. But the actions we control most are our own and having stayed on task and completed another day’s work will be what allows us to succeed.

I look forward to the year ahead. I am grateful that our budget was not reduced any more than 3.5 percent. And I am encouraged by the work of each of you as we move ahead in carrying out our mission.