Dawn Thilmany knows the College of Agricultural Sciences like the back of her hand. After all, she’s been a member of the community since 1997 when she came on board as an assistant professor. As an agricultural economist and professor within the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Thilmany was initially seen as the ‘alternative person,’ she jokingly notes, in the college for her expertise and interest in specialty crops.
“[Early on] I was identified as someone who could get support for specialty crop development and work on questions that came in about organic or local foods,” says Thilmany. “For a while they called me the ‘alternative person.’”
Through her expertise in agribusiness management, agricultural marketing and regional economics, she’s had broad reach throughout the departments in the college, which has given her a unique perspective at what makes the college tick, and just as important, what makes it a success.
“What has always made me proud of CSU is, if you look at other land-grant institutions, almost nowhere else do I see evenly balanced attention to under-grad education, graduate education, research and extension,” she says. “There’s almost nowhere else that has done it. That’s the very essence of ‘Come to the Table.’ The table will be bigger and more inclusive if there’s no problem too big or too small to tackle.”
As someone who grew up on a farm, Thilmany is grateful for the good life agriculture afforded her, but soon after leaving the farm, she realized not everyone was as privileged, a notion that drives her efforts in agriculture to this day.
“I got a little bit of an opportunity to do international travel and realized that food security was not something that we should take for granted,” says Thilmany. “I was starting to meet people who wanted that pathway [into agriculture] but weren’t born into it. How do we let people still have access to that? People who feel like they want to make that contribution to the world. It’s important to me because food is one of the basic needs we’ll always have. It’s an important relationship with our health, economy, and our culture.”