KRVN Chat with the Chancellor
Ronnie Green talks about the start to the spring semester later than usual due to the adjusted academic calendar under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Green also reflected on the fall semester and how UNL is applying changes based on insights from the fall. Green also talked about research at UNL that is helping to protect the food supply in the U.S. and initial funding for the planning for a new USDA center to be located on Nebraska Innovation Campus.
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[00:00:00.400]Bryce Doeschot with the Rural Radio Network
[00:00:02.460]and our weekly chat with the chancellor.
[00:00:04.350]This week, we are joined by the chancellor
[00:00:05.930]of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Dr.
[00:00:09.230]Dr. Green, students are returning to campus
[00:00:11.460]in Lincoln for the spring semester.
[00:00:13.210]I wanna look back on the fall and talk
[00:00:15.400]about some of the things you learned amid the pandemic,
[00:00:17.690]and how you're applying that to the second semester
[00:00:19.680]of the school year.
[00:00:20.570]Well, Bryce, you know,
[00:00:21.440]it's an exciting time for us.
[00:00:23.942]On Monday, we have our classes start
[00:00:27.200]for spring semester for this year.
[00:00:29.570]And obviously, in the year we're in,
[00:00:31.550]a year unlike any other
[00:00:32.924]that we've experienced in our lifetime,
[00:00:38.140]we're very excited to have our student body back in person,
[00:00:41.438]on campus, for the start of spring semester.
[00:00:45.360]You know, we did have a great fall semester last fall.
[00:00:49.488]We were one of the leading institutions in the country,
[00:00:53.480]both in terms of when we decided we would come back
[00:00:56.620]in person or have our students together
[00:00:58.930]on campus as much as possible for their fall semester.
[00:01:01.915]And we were very pleased, under the conditions,
[00:01:06.308]of needing to modify the way that the semester ran
[00:01:09.858]and the need to practice social distancing,
[00:01:14.050]in particular, to be able to conduct our classes.
[00:01:16.694]We were very pleased with the way that the fall went.
[00:01:21.700]We did learn some things, you know,
[00:01:24.330]through that fall semester, by, you know,
[00:01:27.540]having to really be careful, to protect our community
[00:01:31.358]under COVID-19 and have the social distancing
[00:01:35.310]in all of our classes.
[00:01:37.170]We had the intent and the goal
[00:01:40.010]to have as much in-person instruction as possible
[00:01:44.514]under those conditions, so we really pushed every class
[00:01:49.064]to have an in-person component as much as we could,
[00:01:52.148]which meant for many of our classes, most of our classes,
[00:01:57.150]they were hybrid in nature, where a part of the students
[00:02:01.600]on a given day would be in the classroom,
[00:02:03.880]and the rest of the students would be, synchronously,
[00:02:06.850]in the class online for that day.
[00:02:09.904]And we've learned from that.
[00:02:12.400]That's worked really good in a lot of respects,
[00:02:15.298]but it's not ideal, obviously.
[00:02:18.522]And we decided for the spring semester
[00:02:22.308]that we would remap all of our classes
[00:02:25.350]across the institution.
[00:02:27.350]And we're able to this semester
[00:02:29.540]have all of our classes that are 75 or fewer students,
[00:02:33.510]which is about 60% of our total instructional load
[00:02:38.489]for the institution, be fully in-person,
[00:02:41.990]where all of the students will be in the class every day.
[00:02:45.370]So we're excited about launching into the semester
[00:02:48.320]in that way, starting here just in a couple of days
[00:02:51.473]and looking forward to a great semester.
[00:02:54.110]We also have had the opportunity
[00:02:56.843]to provide greater risk mitigation going
[00:03:00.310]into the spring semester, realizing that, you know,
[00:03:03.530]the end of January is different than the middle of August
[00:03:06.279]in the season of the year that we're in,
[00:03:09.290]and that we're largely confined in doors this time of year
[00:03:12.590]and will be for, you know,
[00:03:14.300]the period of time ahead in the semester.
[00:03:17.410]And the fact that the pandemic, obviously,
[00:03:20.683]has been peaked out, if you want to think of it that way,
[00:03:24.650]here in this time of year, in the last few months.
[00:03:27.769]So we've set up, and we're able
[00:03:31.160]to develop an in-house testing system
[00:03:34.321]with PCR-based saliva testing, rapid turnaround testing
[00:03:38.793]on campus through our Veterinary Diagnostic Center,
[00:03:42.520]for all of our community to provide re-entry testings.
[00:03:47.310]So as our students and our faculty
[00:03:49.430]and staff are returning to campus,
[00:03:51.280]have been doing that for a best part
[00:03:53.410]of the last week and a half now,
[00:03:55.460]in preparing for this semester, they're being tested
[00:03:59.410]to assure that we have a baseline level of information
[00:04:03.233]for risk mitigation purposes.
[00:04:06.080]And that's gone amazingly well.
[00:04:07.989]We expect by the time classes start
[00:04:11.293]that just upwards of 20,000 tests will have been done
[00:04:15.050]over the last 10 days.
[00:04:17.510]I had mine on Tuesday.
[00:04:19.470]And it's just been amazing to watch
[00:04:22.733]and see how that has developed to provide
[00:04:24.657]that added level of safety for our campus community
[00:04:28.960]coming back into the semester with greater in-person classes
[00:04:32.835]in the winter time of the year.
[00:04:34.500]So very excited to have our students back.
[00:04:37.320]We're anticipating a great semester ahead.
[00:04:39.790]Our enrollment is looking like it's actually up.
[00:04:42.402]And we're very, very pleased about that as well
[00:04:46.770]to continue delivering on our mission.
[00:04:48.954]We're visiting today with the chancellor
[00:04:50.450]of the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Dr. Ronnie Green.
[00:04:52.813]Dr. Green, let's look back to December a little bit quickly,
[00:04:55.830]here is something that happened on the Innovation Campus,
[00:04:58.263]was a visit from the Department of Homeland Security,
[00:05:01.730]and that helps shine a light on some of the work being done
[00:05:04.210]within the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
[00:05:06.593]to prevent bioweapons from being used
[00:05:09.230]to bring down the country's food supply.
[00:05:11.480]Can you bring our listeners up to speed
[00:05:13.040]on what kind of research is being done within that area?
[00:05:15.201]Well, Bryce, we're very pleased
[00:05:19.000]that back before the holidays in December
[00:05:21.810]that we've had a visit from David Richardson,
[00:05:24.430]who is the assistant secretary
[00:05:26.110]of the Department of Homeland Security or DHS.
[00:05:29.605]And he actually leads within DHS.
[00:05:32.785]They're countering weapons of mass destruction effort,
[00:05:37.710]and Office is part of the department, where their mission is
[00:05:42.750]to prevent, predict and deter biological
[00:05:46.670]and chemical nuclear threat
[00:05:48.490]to American health and economic security.
[00:05:50.520]And as we well know, in agriculture,
[00:05:54.170]we well know in Nebraska, the safety and protection
[00:05:57.530]of our food supply and our food supply system
[00:06:00.243]is a potential or vulnerable target to bioterrorism.
[00:06:06.240]We've been on top of that, as your listeners will know,
[00:06:10.810]for now well over 20 years, as a concern
[00:06:14.670]because of just the concentration of how disease,
[00:06:17.920]in particular, could be a threat to our food supply.
[00:06:22.020]So when David visited the Institute
[00:06:24.580]of Ag and Natural Resources back in December,
[00:06:27.127]he was here, primarily, to learn about our capacity
[00:06:31.159]in this arena and what we're doing to help,
[00:06:34.570]to kind of continue to think about the future
[00:06:37.220]of protecting food production
[00:06:38.880]and plant and animal agriculture, what he refers to,
[00:06:41.720]and we often refer to as food agvet,
[00:06:44.277]over the next 10, 15 years ahead.
[00:06:47.969]We have a tremendous amount of expertise
[00:06:50.711]in the institution that works around this area,
[00:06:54.455]where we work on food safety, in particular,
[00:06:58.340]and the safety of the food system,
[00:07:00.799]and everything from plant pathology to veterinary science,
[00:07:05.040]animal science, entomology, agronomy,
[00:07:07.363]across disciplines in that way.
[00:07:10.660]17 different research centers
[00:07:12.641]in our Institute of Ag and Natural Resources
[00:07:15.328]work in the space, in everything from,
[00:07:20.410]you know, food safety, particularly, right at the end
[00:07:23.110]of the food chain, to even slight changes
[00:07:26.880]in how the environment changes would affect the safety
[00:07:32.270]of our food supply and the growing part of that sector.
[00:07:35.784]We also are, I think your listeners will know,
[00:07:39.430]are well known in the area of drought
[00:07:41.970]and mitigation of drought, an area of concern, obviously,
[00:07:47.690]to us at the moment, where we're experiencing drought.
[00:07:52.139]That is a concern.
[00:07:55.640]So, you know, you can think of it this way,
[00:07:59.482]you know, I'm an old cattle guy, as your listeners know,
[00:08:04.855]if we're worried about pathogens getting into, for example,
[00:08:09.510]our feed yard system in the end
[00:08:13.140]of the beef production chain,
[00:08:14.879]it has to be of a critical concern to us.
[00:08:19.469]So this area is a area of emphasis and importance
[00:08:25.270]at the university.
[00:08:26.230]And it was great to have the visit from David,
[00:08:29.630]from DHS back in December.
[00:08:32.180]Dr. Green, as we begin
[00:08:33.013]to wrap up our conversation, the Nebraska Innovation Campus,
[00:08:36.280]where we're proud to call one of our homes here
[00:08:38.019]at the Nebraska Rural Radio Association, was in the news
[00:08:41.310]because there was a major announcement toward the,
[00:08:43.620]I don't know if that was jammed in between the holidays,
[00:08:45.430]but late in December, a proposed USDA Center, this is
[00:08:49.310]something that Congressman Jeff Fortenberry was working on,
[00:08:51.710]and I know, it has a potential to be a big deal
[00:08:54.000]out here in Nebraska Innovation Campus
[00:08:55.610]and for the university.
[00:08:56.740]Well, Bryce, it sure does.
[00:08:58.500]And we are in the stages of planning and discussion
[00:09:01.510]with the US Department of Agriculture and Research Service
[00:09:04.760]as we speak about this.
[00:09:07.980]You know, as you've mentioned, that we were very pleased
[00:09:11.930]that in the appropriations bill in Congress,
[00:09:15.421]just here about a month ago, that there is initial funding
[00:09:22.270]for the planning for a new USDA Center
[00:09:27.080]to be constructed on the Nebraska Innovation Campus.
[00:09:31.291]We are working in scoping that now
[00:09:34.520]with the Agricultural Research Service.
[00:09:36.793]I'm very, very, very pleased about that.
[00:09:40.356]This, we think, will ultimately end up being
[00:09:44.270]something over a $200 million effort when it's brought
[00:09:49.350]into fruition for a new USDA National Center
[00:09:53.780]for Ag Innovation.
[00:09:55.474]We will be talking a lot about it
[00:09:58.500]in the coming time ahead as it develops,
[00:10:02.410]but it's anticipated that there will be a new,
[00:10:05.700]completely new, federal lab in this area
[00:10:09.710]within the AgResearch Service.
[00:10:11.410]So we already have some AgResearch Service scientists
[00:10:15.220]co-located with the University of Nebraska
[00:10:18.040]on the campus in Lincoln in the area
[00:10:21.171]of grass breeding, basically.
[00:10:25.400]And then, of course,
[00:10:26.360]the National US Meat Animal Research Center,
[00:10:29.050]the largest livestock research center in the world
[00:10:32.630]is co-partnered with us here at Clay Center
[00:10:36.276]and has been since the 1960s.
[00:10:39.660]So very excited about this,
[00:10:41.465]and we'll be hearing and talking a lot more
[00:10:44.490]about it as it develops in the time to come.
[00:10:47.870]It's a big deal for the university,
[00:10:49.250]for the City of Lincoln,
[00:10:50.150]and certainly the State of Nebraska.
[00:10:51.620]Dr. Green, we appreciate your time today joining us
[00:10:54.020]on this week's chat with the chancellor.
[00:10:55.560]Well, Bryce, appreciate it.
[00:10:56.980]Like I said, we're excited to be back in school and
[00:10:59.991]have the opportunity for our students to be back
[00:11:03.250]in their learning laboratory
[00:11:04.990]at the University of Nebraska Lincoln,
[00:11:06.581]and we're looking forward to a great semester ahead.
[00:11:10.030]Dr. Ronnie Green, the chancellor of the University
[00:11:11.750]of Nebraska in Lincoln joining us,
[00:11:13.180]and I'm Brian Doeschot reporting on the Rural Radio Network.
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