from the dean

Looking Back: The Ag Magazine

Dean Smith

By now, most of you have heard that I am stepping down after this year. As the search for a new dean progresses, I am fielding many questions about what was best, worst, most difficult, significant, or fun about my 13 years in this office. Certainly, one of my winners in the category of Most Satisfying Long-Term Project would have to be this college magazine.

Before I started as dean, we produced a variety of magazines, each focused on a specific part of the College: alumni, extension, or research, those types of subjects. But I was looking for a single higher quality publication that brought together the many parts of our land-grant mission. And thanks to the skills and energy of our writers, photographers, and designers in Agricultural Communications Services I got just that. I am particularly grateful to three talented and patient editors (Deborah Witham, Martha Jackson, and now Carol Spence) who allowed me to be as meddling and biased as I wanted to be about content. They pushed me, however, to complete each of these columns personally, even though every one was past deadline.

One of our goals was to showcase the talent and achievements of our students, alumni, faculty, and staff. We have great material to work with, and in twelve years have never run short of new content. It is always a challenge to represent the full breadth and variety of what our college is and does. Yet, in The Ag Magazine there has been space and time to cover it all beautifully, so that diversity became a treasure, not a challenge.

The Ag Magazine has been filled with college news and useful information, but for me it has been more about the stories, stories about remarkable people doing interesting and important things, and about what changed as a result of their work. Those tales were told not just with good writing, but also with beautiful photography and design.

We all know this is an age of seconds-long communication: tweets, text messages, one-pagers, sound bites, and instant answers from Google. The most important stories of our college, however, cannot be told in 140 characters. The explosion of interest in local foods, the revolution in a tobacco-based economy, the globalization of agriculture, or the reclamation of surface-mined lands are the sort of difficult, complex stories best consumed at your own pace. So even as we design a new website and deploy cutting edge communications technology for our new College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, for my money the most complete, attractive, and compelling representation of the College will continue to be on these pages. I know there remains a great future for one of my favorite long-term projects.

M. Scott Smith
Dean, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment