Letter from the Director

Ohio State ATI Alumni,

This will be my last letter to our Ohio State ATI Alumni as the Interim Director. You may think the following is “over the top” as my Aussie mates would say – I, however, have much to communicate to our great alumni after having been in this role for 3 ½ years.

In my August 2015 letter to you, I indicated the faculty hiring process had a particularly important emphasis over the spring and summer months of 2015. As a consequence of the faculty searches there have been five new faculty members employed at Ohio State ATI that have already joined Ohio State ATI and there is an additional faculty member that has been employed who is scheduled to join Ohio State ATI in August 2016. In each search, we were able to attract the preferred candidate to join Ohio State ATI. I am most pleased to have these new programmatic leaders join our Ohio State ATI faculty to address and further advance our student service mission. You will learn more about the individuals employed in these positions elsewhere in the present edition of the Ohio State ATI Alumni News. 

One of the new faculty members has been employed in a joint appointment between Ohio State ATI and the Department of Horticulture and Crop Sciences (HCS) with a 75% appointment at Ohio State ATI and a 25% Ohio State University Extension appointment with HCS. This faculty member will focus on turfgrass management. Another joint appointment is between Ohio State ATI and the Department of Animal Sciences with the focus being on teaching in both academic units. This faculty member will have the responsibility of covering some of the teaching responsibilities that Dr. Wesley Greene had before his retirement in 2015. To the best of my knowledge, these are the first two joint faculty appointments between Ohio State ATI and other academic units of the College – from my perspective something that should have occurred a long time ago. 

There are ongoing changes in the mission to advance our College’s “One Campus” mantra for Ohio State ATI and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). There has been an integration of the campus operations component of Ohio State ATI and OARDC on the Wooster campus under the leadership of Dr. Dave Benfield who was previously in the role of Associate Director of OARDC and is now Associate Vice President for Agricultural Administration. Dr. Benfield not only has responsibility for operations on the Wooster campus – he also has operations oversight for facilities on the Columbus campus, Molly Caren Agricultural Center where the Farm Science Review is conducted as well as the various Ohio State agricultural experiment stations throughout Ohio. The shift of operations oversight responsibilities for Ohio State ATI and the other academic units of the College to being Dr. Benfield’s responsibility allows for the Director of Ohio State ATI and other academic unit leaders of the College to focus on the academic missions of the departments, School, and in our case Institute. Under Dr. Benfield’s leadership, there are ongoing plans for addressing physical facility renovations at the Grace Drake Learning Laboratory (Ohio State ATI agricultural production units), as well as Skou and Halterman Halls. There is also ongoing dialogue about building new facilities that would accommodate both OARDC research and Ohio State ATI teaching activities in the same buildings. There are certainly more plans being advanced than I can recall during my tenure at Ohio State ATI with regard to the great need to address deferred maintenance issues that prevail throughout the College – and particularly with many Ohio State ATI facilities.

The College leadership has decided to do a national search for a new Director at Ohio State ATI. As many of you know, I have served in the role of Interim Director at Ohio State ATI for 3 ½ years and plan to continue in this role until 1 August 2016. For personal and professional reasons, I have chosen to not be a candidate in the national search and current plans of mine, and supported by the College, is to take a yearlong Faculty Professional Leave to Australia after which I will return to the Ohio State Department of Animal Sciences (I previously served as its chair for 11 ½ years) as a faculty member at the professor rank.

When I joined Ohio State ATI as Interim Director, I communicated to the faculty and staff that I was not going to function as if I was in an interim role and was going to advance the student service mission of Ohio State ATI to the greatest extent possible during my tenure, however long that would be. As a result of this approach, much has been accomplished in working with our Ohio State ATI faculty and staff as well as faculty and staff throughout the College and College administration.

New Faculty and Staff Hires - We have employed nine new faculty members during the time I have served as Interim Director – over 1/3 of our present Ohio State ATI faculty body. There have been numerous important staff hires during my tenure at Ohio State ATI including leadership for the library, and academic affairs along with many other key staff positions. Two very important positions that were filled that have allowed me to be successful in my administrative role is that of Ms. Jeanne Osborne as Assistant Director of Academic Affairs and Ms. Michelle Villers in her role as Office Associate supporting the Ohio State ATI Director. 

Administration of the Institute/Promotion and Tenure of Faculty - An initial endeavor when I joined Ohio State ATI, was to draft a University required Pattern of Administration that the leadership of Ohio State ATI and the College would use in administering various aspects of the Institute. Furthermore, we drafted an Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure document  so that the practices and processes we used in employing faculty, and considering faculty cases for promotion and tenure were consistently followed by the Ohio State ATI, College, and University administration as well as our faculty who are integral in these decisions. There have been six faculty promoted from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor or from Associate Professor to Professor while I have been Interim Director and from my perspective there needs to be a great emphasis by future leadership at Ohio State ATI to especially focus in working with those faculty at Associate Professor rank in helping them achieve in their scholarly activities so that they will be promoted to the rank of Professor in a timely manner.         

Change of Control of Ohio State ATI Accreditation– Ohio State ATI was been accredited under the national Higher Learning Commission Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) rather than the Higher Learning Commission Open Pathway program in the manner that accreditation occurs at Ohio State Columbus and regional campuses at Lima, Marion, Mansfield and Newark. Because of changes that occurred during the Ohio State Quarters to Semester conversion process with the need for considerable accounting of student learning assessments necessary through the Columbus campus, there was much redundancy in the reporting processes for learning assessments and otherwise to the Columbus campus and for the Higher Learning Commission accreditation processes. As a result, we provided a proposal with a massive amount of documentation to the Higher Learning Commission for a Change of Control from the AQIP to the Open Pathway for Ohio State ATI accreditation purposes in the same way as occurs as the other Ohio State campuses. This Higher Learning Commission has approved the Change of Control contingent on making the advancements for accreditation under the Open Pathway program and there will be a Focused Visit in late March 2016 by the Higher Learning Commission to assess our progress in this regard.

Performance Evaluations – I have placed a priority on conducting high quality performance evaluations throughout my career. The dialogues I have in these reviews are key to me working effectively and efficiently with faculty and staff in helping them be more successful in their career endeavors. I believe I continually improve in my effectiveness in conducting performance assessments and am most pleased with the engagements and impacts that have occurred at Ohio State ATI as a result of performance evaluations being a priority.

Collegiality – Many have asked me how I define collegiality and I have often stated it is those who function to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts in the case at Ohio State ATI – Institutional synergy. A few years ago I found that Aristotle was the person who coined the phrase – “creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of the parts”. Collegial relationships among colleagues are key in having a work life climate in which employees enjoy working and for the success of these employees in their career endeavors. I have always said that for development of a climate of collegiality a leader needs to realize they are in a marathon and not a sprint expedition. I have had emphasized to me by many who have been at Ohio State ATI for many years that there is an enhanced culture of collegiality with greater consideration for each other than they recognized before I joined Ohio State ATI. I hope this is the case because I realize the importance of appreciation and consideration of colleagues in developing high quality relationships that allow us to get greater satisfaction in our professional endeavors. If I have had any success in this regard – I have been truly successful as the Ohio State ATI Interim Director for the past 3 ½ years  

It has been highly stimulating in working with the faculty and staff at Ohio State ATI during my 3 ½ years as Interim Director. I have gained a great appreciation of how well Ohio State ATI does in addressing our student service mission because of the great commitment of our Ohio State ATI faculty and staff to our students’ wellbeing. The commitment I have in being the leader of Ohio State ATI is evidence of my belief in the integral role the Institute has in training students to be successful in their career endeavors and personal lives – and most importantly the stimulation I get in working with our faculty and staff in their trek down life’s pathway.
Those of you who know me well realize the value I place on high-quality relationships in both my professional and personal life. I feel blessed to have developed all the relationships I have with those at Ohio State ATI including emeritus faculty and staff as well as the great external stakeholders of the Institute and, believe me, these relationships are something I will value for the rest of my trek down life’s pathway.

Take care and cheers for now.

James E. Kinder
Professor and Interim Director