KRVN Chat with the Chancellor
Chancellor Rodney Bennett talks about what it means to be a land-grant university, investing in high school ag education and continuing to develop the pipeline of students to the ag workforce, and connecting interdisciplinary programs with entrepreneurial opportunities to build on the spirit of the land-grant mission.
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[00:00:00.330]Bryce Doeschot here on the Rural Radio Network.
[00:00:02.580]And it is time for our weekly chat
[00:00:04.050]with the Chancellor Program.
[00:00:05.280]This week we're pleased to be joined
[00:00:06.420]by the Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
[00:00:08.790]that is Dr. Rodney Bennett.
[00:00:10.860]You know, I never get tired of hearing you say
[00:00:13.560]the Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[00:00:16.440]You know, for a guy like me
[00:00:17.850]who for the last 30 years has really been committed
[00:00:20.610]to public higher education
[00:00:22.800]and really trying to use that opportunity
[00:00:25.200]to influence young people all across the state,
[00:00:28.110]not just in Nebraska, but really every state
[00:00:29.970]that I've worked in, it just never gets old
[00:00:33.420]hearing that you're the chancellor of what I believe to be
[00:00:37.230]one of our country's most important universities,
[00:00:39.510]and that's University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
[00:00:41.700]So when you said that in that moment,
[00:00:43.260]I just sort of smiled way down deep inside,
[00:00:45.630]like he's actually talking about this old kid
[00:00:48.960]from East Tennessee that, you know,
[00:00:51.210]went on to actually make something out of himself.
[00:00:53.340]That makes me very proud.
[00:00:54.840]And I know my mom and daddy and grandparents
[00:00:56.790]and all the people that invested in me
[00:00:59.160]57 years ago are very proud.
[00:01:01.680]So I thank you for that.
[00:01:03.180]That's a great way to get my morning started off,
[00:01:05.370]and I just appreciate the way you teed that up.
[00:01:08.160]So thank you.
[00:01:08.993]Well, it's been several months on the job, by the way.
[00:01:10.710]On that note, how has the transition been?
[00:01:12.960]It's been a seamless transition.
[00:01:14.760]You know, we started July 1st, so we're what,
[00:01:17.130]90-plus days into our chancellorship.
[00:01:20.190]I can assure you and your listeners
[00:01:22.200]that there are no shortage of things to work on.
[00:01:25.440]And we're coming into the office every day
[00:01:27.900]to include many Saturdays and Sundays
[00:01:30.303]that we're working on things
[00:01:31.740]that hopefully are advancing public higher education
[00:01:34.980]across the state of Nebraska.
[00:01:36.900]And we are very excited and happy
[00:01:39.000]and really feel a sense of honor
[00:01:42.780]to be able to lead this effort.
[00:01:45.090]It's such an important effort.
[00:01:46.650]We're gonna kind of focus on some ag topics
[00:01:48.810]when it comes to our chat with the Chancellor today.
[00:01:51.150]And I'm curious, you know, a lot of our listeners
[00:01:52.950]know the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
[00:01:54.480]is part of the land-grant system.
[00:01:57.090]Wanna get your thoughts on the importance of that
[00:01:59.100]here in 2023, what it means to be a land-grant institution?
[00:02:02.670]Well, it was one of the principles I think
[00:02:04.830]that really led me to want to be a part
[00:02:07.350]of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[00:02:10.620]I think when you think about the land-grant mission
[00:02:13.980]and designation, both in letter and in spirit,
[00:02:18.060]I think it just sort of guides you
[00:02:19.770]to this sense of how does the university use the resources
[00:02:23.910]that are available to it
[00:02:26.010]to elevate the citizenry across the state.
[00:02:29.520]Obviously, that includes agriculture and natural resources,
[00:02:33.840]but there are so many areas of important work
[00:02:36.210]that we're engaged in here,
[00:02:38.280]that if you connect that to the land-grant mission,
[00:02:41.700]it sort of elevates and improves the lives of everybody
[00:02:45.900]in the state of Nebraska.
[00:02:47.070]I'll give you a couple of examples of that.
[00:02:49.380]I've been talking a lot recently about K-12 education,
[00:02:54.540]especially third grade education, I guess,
[00:02:57.900]because my mother for almost 37 years
[00:03:01.140]taught third grade or second or third grade,
[00:03:04.470]depending on what the principal needed for any given year.
[00:03:07.260]And she always talked about helping young people
[00:03:09.450]learn to read, helping young people learn to spell,
[00:03:12.900]helping young people learn to do mathematics and the like.
[00:03:16.800]And there are so many new teaching pedagogy,
[00:03:20.730]pedagogical methods that we're exploring at the university,
[00:03:24.660]that we know move the needle
[00:03:26.850]in terms of how young people learn and grow
[00:03:29.820]and sort of experience their lives.
[00:03:32.100]And so when I think about the land-grant mission,
[00:03:33.900]I'm thinking about how do we take what we're doing here
[00:03:37.410]and apply it across the state in a way
[00:03:39.480]that improves the lives of every person in the state.
[00:03:43.050]And so that's an example
[00:03:44.190]of just helping young kids be able to read,
[00:03:46.800]who might be struggling for whatever reason,
[00:03:49.230]and using the opportunities of research
[00:03:52.410]and our researchers here and our faculty here
[00:03:54.930]to help elevate a kid and a family
[00:03:57.090]who might need help in that particular area.
[00:03:59.580]So the land-grant mission gives us a lot of runway
[00:04:03.540]to explore a lot of different areas.
[00:04:06.480]And we have truly world-class,
[00:04:08.550]I know a lot of times people think
[00:04:09.780]that we talk about world-class this and, you know,
[00:04:12.360]world-class that, but we really have
[00:04:14.700]some of our country's most innovative thinkers, you know,
[00:04:18.270]most prolific researchers
[00:04:20.640]who are engaged in all fields of human endeavor.
[00:04:24.030]And that land-grant mission gives us the runway
[00:04:27.270]to apply what we're learning here, studying here,
[00:04:30.570]researching here, in a way that makes it better
[00:04:33.870]for the people who are helping us to do what we do here
[00:04:36.600]through their tax dollars.
[00:04:38.040]You bring up the education front from K-12,
[00:04:40.950]and it reminds me of something
[00:04:42.390]Vice Chancellor Boehm shared with us,
[00:04:43.830]perhaps it was a year-plus ago, time seems to fly,
[00:04:46.710]it was the university's investment
[00:04:48.870]into high school ag education across the state of Nebraska.
[00:04:52.320]FFA and ag education curriculum has continued to develop.
[00:04:55.500]There's now more than 200 chapters.
[00:04:57.390]I know there's been a couple staff hires
[00:04:58.710]to try to better support those local ag educators out there.
[00:05:02.130]Where does high school ag education
[00:05:03.600]come into the importance of this conversation,
[00:05:06.000]tying back to the land grant,
[00:05:07.440]and investing in those rural communities in the state?
[00:05:09.420]Yeah, Bryce, I really hope that your listeners
[00:05:11.460]will connect with what I'm about to say here,
[00:05:13.740]'cause I have such a strong conviction for it.
[00:05:17.310]Part of what I think is important
[00:05:18.960]is thinking about the pipeline,
[00:05:21.480]thinking about how we educate and prepare
[00:05:25.170]and inspire young people to see themselves
[00:05:28.680]continuing a family sort of legacy and tradition.
[00:05:34.350]For many families,
[00:05:35.490]it goes back four or five generations or longer.
[00:05:38.910]But I think as young people sort of see the world today,
[00:05:42.630]for many of them, it's becoming much more difficult
[00:05:45.930]for them to see themselves doing what great-granddaddy did,
[00:05:49.560]for a lot of different reasons.
[00:05:51.150]So part of what our work at the university,
[00:05:53.790]the land-grant mission, the university in general,
[00:05:57.690]what the work that Mike Boehm and IANR is involved with
[00:06:02.490]is thinking about that pipeline
[00:06:04.200]and thinking about how we expose and inspire
[00:06:08.220]and support young people to see themselves
[00:06:12.360]having a fulfilling career
[00:06:16.230]in agriculture and natural resources,
[00:06:18.510]and to use the technology that's available to them,
[00:06:23.130]using the relationships that we have to have
[00:06:25.440]with the governance structure,
[00:06:26.880]whether it's the Senate or Congress
[00:06:29.070]or the Office of the President in Washington,
[00:06:32.160]to think about government regulations
[00:06:34.200]of how that impacts people
[00:06:35.880]who are doing the work every day,
[00:06:37.860]so that young people can see themselves having a career
[00:06:41.520]and sort of being the leaders in this area
[00:06:44.130]for the next generations.
[00:06:46.950]I'm glad you brought that up.
[00:06:47.910]The other day here on the network of stations,
[00:06:50.520]had a chance to visit with a young man
[00:06:51.870]from Gothenburg, Nebraska.
[00:06:53.700]He's a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
[00:06:56.220]and he and his co-founder of a company
[00:06:58.110]are working to develop wireless technology
[00:07:01.290]to monitor cattle tanks all across Nebraska.
[00:07:03.900]They have a prototype out there right now.
[00:07:05.910]He's part of a program
[00:07:07.050]called the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program
[00:07:09.540]which is located at the university.
[00:07:11.310]And as you mentioned, there's not necessarily,
[00:07:14.190]I suppose there's obviously always interest
[00:07:16.170]in returning to the farm,
[00:07:17.610]but there's a lot of students out there
[00:07:18.750]interested in paving a new path forward.
[00:07:20.550]And this is a great example of a student trying to do that.
[00:07:24.180]The question that you're asking me, as I heard you ask it,
[00:07:27.930]really leads me to this idea of interdisciplinary education,
[00:07:31.950]of how things are related, how things are connected,
[00:07:35.760]how this comprehensive educational opportunity
[00:07:41.040]that we're providing at UNL
[00:07:43.470]helps students in many facets of their life.
[00:07:46.110]And so the idea of the connectivity
[00:07:49.950]and interdisciplinary activities
[00:07:52.110]I think is really the way of the future.
[00:07:54.330]And I think that's what our young people are looking for.
[00:07:56.490]They're looking for a way to integrate robotics
[00:08:00.270]or artificial intelligence,
[00:08:02.790]or, you know, the use of water,
[00:08:05.820]the use of all of these really innovative
[00:08:08.700]and creative techniques that they're learning about
[00:08:11.520]throughout their course of study here.
[00:08:14.520]How do we help them sort of shape that
[00:08:16.830]into something that's new and exciting
[00:08:19.500]and gives them sort of the runway
[00:08:22.140]to invest over the next three or four decades
[00:08:24.240]of their lives.
[00:08:25.073]And I think the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program
[00:08:30.150]is just one of many opportunities
[00:08:32.700]that are available at the university to help in that regard.
[00:08:35.550]The other thing that I wanna say
[00:08:36.780]is we've had really robust conversations
[00:08:39.210]about entrepreneurship at the university.
[00:08:42.180]You know, we have great examples of students
[00:08:45.210]who have gone on and created outstanding companies
[00:08:48.750]and organizations and having a great impact
[00:08:51.420]across the state and beyond.
[00:08:53.430]But we've really been talking a lot
[00:08:54.900]about how do we connect interdisciplinary activities
[00:08:59.460]along with the spirit of entrepreneurship in a way
[00:09:03.180]that distinguishes the University of Nebraska system
[00:09:06.690]and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
[00:09:09.060]from the six or 7,000 other schools across the country,
[00:09:12.360]what makes us different, unique, and distinctive.
[00:09:15.240]And I think sort of zeroing in
[00:09:17.790]on interdisciplinary and entrepreneurship
[00:09:21.360]is just a wonderful way of doing that.
[00:09:23.700]I know that your listeners are familiar
[00:09:26.558]with Jeff and Tricia Rakes and the Rake School.
[00:09:30.270]Part of what that work is about
[00:09:32.280]is interdisciplinary approaches.
[00:09:34.410]Part of what that work is about through the Rake School
[00:09:39.480]So really thinking about using those
[00:09:42.780]in the spirit of the land-grant designation to elevate
[00:09:47.670]I think is really something that's on the forefront.
[00:09:51.120]And I think we're gaining momentum.
[00:09:52.740]And it'd be interesting to see,
[00:09:54.000]it will be interesting to see
[00:09:55.740]over the next two or three years
[00:09:57.150]how we shape and mode that in a way
[00:09:59.820]that really does some pretty unique things
[00:10:02.400]across the state of Nebraska.
[00:10:04.170]Dr. Rodney Bennett
[00:10:05.003]from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
[00:10:06.510]our guest this week in the weekly chat
[00:10:08.190]with the Chancellor's Segment.
[00:10:09.660]I'm Bryce Doeschot reporting on the Rural Radio Network.
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