from the dean

What's in a Name?

Dean Smith

In December, the University Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the College of Agriculture to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. The change will become effective on July 1.

Discussion about a new name began quite a while ago, when the College of Human Environmental Sciences and the College of Agriculture merged in 2003. Many believed a name change was needed to better communicate the evolving scope of our degrees and programs—changes that resulted not only from the merger but also from our response to new needs and opportunities. The College, however, reaches out to so many different stakeholders in so many different ways, at first we could not agree on a name that fully includes all we do.

So I set the question aside, promising to bring it back on the agenda after a few years. That happened in 2011. We sought opinions from many voices outside the College and from all the faculty and staff in the College. As the wheels slowly turned, it became apparent that almost everyone insisted on retaining “agriculture,” and the new words that repeatedly came forward were “food” plus either “environment” or “natural resources.”

Only about a half dozen land-grant colleges like ours have retained the name “College of Agriculture,” most adding to that “and Natural Resources” or “Life Sciences” or “Food” or some combination of these.

The advantage of the new name should be to clarify that, while we continue our fundamental ties to production agriculture, we have expanded our horizons to include all the pervasive and essential enterprises based on renewable natural resources. Why did this broader vision arise? Because we were following the wider and more diverse interests of those we serve, including a new and rapidly growing population of undergraduate students. Looking across Kentucky, our concepts of “agriculture” now include not only farming, but also agribusinesses and the full reach of food systems from local to global.

Does this mean we are pulling up our traditional roots and moving on? Not at all. I believe this signals that we are reacting to a changing world of agriculture with a commitment of continuing service and support. In fact, we plan to increase the use of our long-time slogan “We Grow Ideas.” You will still see all of our familiar logos like the 4-H clover. And no matter what the formal name, I know most of our friends, as they always have, will know us as UKAg, the Extension office, or in many circles just “the College.”

M. Scott Smith
Dean, College of Agriculture