Tuesday, August 2, 2016

New WSU president and agricultural representatives get acquainted


Washington State University, established in 1890, has a long history of working with and supporting our state’s agricultural community. And the diverse array of farming, ranching, processing and growing interests across Washington are well aware of that connection.

WSU President Kirk Schulz and
WSDA Director Derek Sandison
That was confirmed at a meet-and-greet with industry representatives and WSU’s new president, Kirk Schulz, initiated and hosted by WSDA’s Director Derek Sandison. With only 45 days under his belt at the helm of this institution serving more than 29,000 students, President Schulz said he appreciated the opportunity for face time with the 25 agriculture reps who attended the gathering in Yakima on July 28.

In his opening remarks, Schulz noted that he grew up in large urban areas and knew little about ag. “While attending Virginia Tech, I met a student majoring in poultry science – I didn’t know there was such a thing,” he joked.

But his seven years as president of Kansas State University – as well as teaching stints in Mississippi, Michigan and North Dakota -- gave him experience with the vital connection between education, research and agriculture.

Washington Cattleman's Association Executive VP Jack Field
speaks with WSU President Kirk Schulz.
Every person at the meeting acknowledged the importance of their partnership with WSU. Representing fruit, beef, dairy, wheat, grain, wine, potatoes, mint and more – attendees around the table gave the president an overview of their area and sparked discussion of issues important to them.

From the animal diagnostic lab to endowments; the Wine Science Center to on-campus greenhouses, speakers cited examples of how WSU adds value to their industry.

For instance, Jay Gordon with the Dairy Federation, lauded “a neat WSU program that has kids milking cows and making cheese and ice cream.” He noted that veterinary students get to work on a dairy and food science students learn about dairy products. The cheese-making expertise from the famous Cougar Gold brand has broad value, he said.

President Schulz emphasized that he’s a big believer in collaboration and cooperation, across industry interests, as well as with other academic institutions such as the University of Washington and University of Idaho.

He ended the session by suggesting that the group convene regularly.
“It’s important to have these conversations on a regular basis, not just when there are problems,” he said.